Deer Lake needs more live shows

My first real introduction to the city of Burnaby was at a White Stripes concert at Deer Lake Park three years ago.

Being at the time a newly minted Vancouverite after years of living in Whistler, I hadn’t until then had any particular good reason to come and explore B.C.’s third largest city, and I found myself blown away that such a fantastic outdoor venue was located here. It was like Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl with sunset views or the Gorge Amphitheatre with better beer on tap and no border lineups. I was surprised I’d never even heard of the place before.

Audiences came out in droves to see Kenny Wayne Shepherd play Deer Lake Park in 2010. (Larry Wright photo)

I’ve since gone to see two more of my favourite bands – Modest Mouse and R.E.M – play there under sunny skies and, in order to test the theory that sound carries well over water, also spent a memorable evening with my girlfriend enjoying Feist for free floating in an inflatable raft.

So, naturally, one of the first things I did after accepting a job at the Burnaby Now a few months ago was log on to Ticketmaster’s website to see what acts would be coming this summer in the hopes of writing about it. (Scoring free concert tickets is one of the few perks of the media biz, and it sure beats attending city council meetings.)

It was a bit of a downer to discover the only three big scheduled events were the Symphony in the Park, the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival and Hedley, which seems to me a real waste of primo concert space (not to mention revenue for the city) to let it sit empty most of the summer while Malkin Bowl seems to host A-list acts every other weekend.

When I asked my editor about it, she said that it partly comes down to politics and that some council members don’t want to risk upsetting park lovers and/or voters who live near Deer Lake with too many shows.

Fair enough. It is first and foremost a park, after all – and, as I discovered, sound does travel well across the water, but it isn’t as if the park is surrounded by a dense residential area. Buckingham Heights isn’t exactly Metrotown, and it’s not as if concerts would be blasting until the wee hours of the morning in any case. Nobody wants to have Hedley in their house uninvited or find drunk teenagers barfing in their begonias, but it seems to me like there is plenty of room for compromise in order to bring more big names to town.

A little rain didn’t prevent thousands of people from catching Hedley in Sept. 2010. (Larry Wright photo)

The City of Burnaby has a maximum of 10 concerts it will allow at Deer Lake every year, but there have only ever been a handful.

Of course, there are many other factors in play here, most of which have to do current economic woes.

Virgin Fest, for example, didn’t come back this year due to poor ticket sales, and Lilith Fair was very nearly cancelled altogether before being moved to West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park from its Pitt Meadows location at the last minute.

Even still, a lot of money has recently been spent renovating this lakeside concert space. It would be a shame not to get more use out of it.

(This story was first published Sept. 25, 2010. © Copyright (c) Burnaby Now)

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