Stomping Grounds: The Royal Albert Arms Hotel

On a day in May when an American preacher predicted the end of the world it may have been the end for one of North America’s most iconic venues. 

Shortly after an Evil Survives concert the city forced the closing of legendary punk-rock venue the Royal Albert Arms after a water line ruptured.  So far, Albert owner Daren Jorgenson has refused to repair it, calling it a city responsibility and thus leaving the beloved venue and my favourite place to watch music in limbo. I won’t go into details about Jorgenson’s financial woes because unlike some club owners he’s certainly not the face of the Albert.

The people who played there, worked there, went there. Those are the people who are hurting most from the closing of the venue.

From it’s dingy bathrooms, to it’s sloping beer-soaked dance floor, to it’s poll of wallpapered band stickers, the dimly lit room has been the setting for some of the greatest shows I’ve ever been fortunate enough to witness.

Out of all the venues in Winnipeg I felt more at home in a sea of broken beer bottles, punk fights and ear-shattering music then anywhere else.

Nomeansno, Propagandhi, UK Subs, The Vibrators, Subhumans, Dayglo Abortions, the Unwanted are just a few great shows I’ve seen and that’s just the punk.

From Japanese noisy post-rock pioneers Mono to weirdo-psych artist The Robot Ate Me (one of my favourite birthdays ever) to America’s funnyman Neil Hamburger - I can’t say I ever saw a bad gig.

Some of my favourite local acts were born and died there. The Quiffs, the Vagiants, Hot Live Guys are just a few.

The shows aren’t the only thing I’m missing.

I miss Johnny Sizzle busking outside.
I miss shooting the shit with Fat Matt before walking in the door.
I miss checking out what Sam had booked next week.
I miss watching Greg Rekus tweak the levels until he found the perfect ear-splitting sound mix.
I miss bravely bumming a cig off Winnipeg’s greatest bartender of all time, the legend only referred to as “Q.”

I remember telling Randy Frykas’ the director of Call to Arms: The Story of The Royal Albert that it was an important film to make because who knows what the future of the Albert would be. Although it’s hard to capture the entire 100 year history that surrounds a building like the Albert, Frykas does manage to tap into how a lot of people feel about it.

This may seem like a eulogy but I’m not exactly ready to bury the Albert quite yet.

Amongst the conspiracies, arguments and banter on the Albert’s facebook account one decree from Albert Artistic Director Sam Smith has given me hope. His posting was something to the effect of having your status read Royal Albert R.I.P. is a little premature.

So, I’ll continue to hope that the Albert will one day open it’s doors and have the best punk-rock party in the history of Winnipeg.