British Columbia

The legion goes punk: Music fans asked to join Royal Canadian Legion so live concerts can continue

Live music fans in Prince George, B.C., are being asked to become members of the Royal Canadian Legion, so the organization can continue to host punk, folk and indie rock shows.

Licence limits number of non-members who can attend live music events at Prince George, B.C., Legion

A performance at the Prince George Legion. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Live music fans in Prince George, B.C., are being asked to become members of the Royal Canadian Legion.

For the past few years, the city's downtown Branch 43 has been hosting punk, folk and indie rock shows on a near weekly basis.   

But it turns out its liquor licence doesn't allow it to throw open the doors to the public. Instead, it is operating under a club licence, which means the majority of people in attendance must be either members of the legion or its official guests.

Now, local music promoters and the legion are teaming up for a membership drive, so the concert series can continue.

"I've been a member for awhile now," said Danny Bell, a musician and promoter operating under the name Mad Loon Entertainment.

Bell said he first started visiting the legion because "it was one of the only places in town that had a free pool table." But as he got to know the people who worked there, he learned about the struggles it was having raising funds to keep operating.

Drummer Danny Bell and Prince George Legion service officer John Scott. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Aware of the need for more places to showcase live music, Bell saw a win-win opportunity: he could take advantage of the space to host visiting and local musicians, and the legion would get a new source of revenue through tickets and the sale of food and drinks. 

John Scott, service officer for the Prince George legion and vice president of the B.C.-Yukon command, said the concert series has been a boon to his organization.

"We're an aging group," he said.

"Our aim is to help veterans. The club is there to help us do that."

Bell said he's benefited, as well, from getting to know military families and those who work with them. He said he hopes other people who've been attending the concerts will take the further step of signing up for a $55 annual membership to support, not just the music, but the work the legion does for veterans.

Scott said membership has long been open to anyone, not just those with a military background, and the idea of having young music fans join the legion's ranks is energizing.

"I'm excited, and I know all our members are excited," he said. 

"It's going to give us a new life and we need to bring in young people from all walks of life to support us."

For the past few years, the city's downtown Legion Branch 43 has been hosting punk, folk and indie rock shows on a near-weekly basis. But it turns out they aren't licenced to allow general audiences in for these events, so now local music promoters are encouraging their supporters to sign up for Legion membership in order to see shows ranging from hardcore punk to surf rock. 8:14

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About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.

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