By: Emma Jean, Staff Writer
With artists unable to perform for large audiences, the gathering spaces that house them have been largely left empty in the face of COVID-19. The Fox Cabaret (the Fox), Main Street’s independent club and home to many Vancouver musicians, comedians, and artists, is no exception. Forced to close their doors in March of 2020, The Fox has been effectively sitting empty ever since, with no avenue for gathering safely.
After a tough year, the Fox is back in digital format, through an online fundraising special called The Sounds Of The Fox Cabaret. Darlene Rigo, managing partner and director of the Fox, addressed viewers at the beginning of the video. “I can’t tell you how hard the shutdown has been on me and my coworkers.” She continued, “The prospect of paying rent and other costs in a very expensive city [ . . . ] has really taken a toll on all of us, and we really miss the Fox.” The pre-taped feature, put together by a group that Rigo referred to as “people who really care about the survival of the Fox,” is available by donation on YouTube, and showcases local talent for whom the Fox has been and continues to be home.
One of those talents is the exceptional Tonye Aganaba, who opened the feature, and showed that staff members and audiences aren’t the only ones who revere and miss the venue. “I’m going to play a couple of songs, and each and every one of them reminds me of the Fox Cabaret,” Aganaba said, in a heartfelt introduction to their gorgeous, stripped-down performance. Continuing to reminisce about their experiences performing at the Fox, for audiences both small and large, Aganaba added, “This space is hallowed to me. It has so many special memories embedded in it.”
What followed Aganaba was a gorgeous and wide-ranging blend of genres and styles as one artist after another took the stage to safely perform on the Fox’s empty stage. The raw vocals and smooth synths of Blonde Diamond were a polished and commanding presence, even with no audience to command. Other musical highlights included punk-rockers Loose Fang, the slick, dreamy pop stylings of Jenny Banai and the tight, danceable, and down-right fun R&B collaboration of Teon Gibbs and IAMTHELIVING.
The night also hosted non-musical artists, like improv group The Sunday Service, who performed a short digital set from their homes and reminisced about the venue. “I miss all the staff and all the people at the Fox, and I also miss hoping to get the one parking space behind the Fox if no one’s there,” joked member Mark Chavez.
Shanda Leer, who often performed drag at the Fox and hosted their many themed dance nights, also made an appearance in the online special. Leer name-checked his favourite door people and promised that he, as well as his disco nights that have become “the number one dancing destination theme for the city,” will be back at The Fox as soon as possible.
It feels cliché to describe the COVID-19 pandemic as a tough time, but it never stops being true, especially for live music venues and performers. It’s safe to say some digital fun with a purpose is much needed. If you want to support an independent venue and discover some amazing local talent, The Sounds Of The Fox Cabaret is a great way to do just that.
The Sounds Of The Fox Cabaret is available now on YouTube, and donations to The Fox Cabaret can be made by e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.