Sponge Cake’s Zane McClean helps make Bar-K a thriving music venue
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Sponge Cake (Photo by Annette Moon)

Tucked away off East Costilla Street, in between the purple King’s Chef castle and White Pie Pizzeria, lies Bar-K. It’s a delightful place where you can grab a fine cocktail and play some games, including pool, ping pong and more. When the weekends are upon us and the lights go down, the basement game room transforms into a fun, intimate Downtown music venue. They’ve been trying to grow beyond occasional shows and it’s been going well. Great acts such as Slim Cessna, Cheap Perfume and Theories have graced the stage and there are more to come!

Bar-K opened in 2016, and though they’ve put on a few gigs through the years, it’s always had a pop-up venue feel, which is not a bad thing at all. But many people wanted to see the place become a bona fide venue in town. One of those was Sponge Cake Guitarist Zane McClean.

“I started booking at Bar-K in late summer of 2022,” says McClean. My band played our first show there and I told [owner Ken Binning] that we had to open a venue space in the basement and he said, ‘I’m thinking you’re right.’ That’s where it was born.”

“We hope to see it turn into a full-fledged venue, a place people are excited to come see shows on the weekend as well as a place people are excited to play at,” McClean says, adding, “Most importantly though, we just want to make a fun spot where people feel safe to be who they are and express themselves.”

Through the past year, the venue has made a few improvements. “We have a stage now, which is nice,” McClean says, adding they’ve fine-tuned the audio “so there’s a big improvement in sound.”

By helping with booking, he aims to make Bar-K a place that welcomes everyone and wants to take care of the bands and the community that supports the venue.

“The most important thing to us is community support. This includes having fundraisers and benefit shows, giving our bands 100 percent of the doors, and providing a safe space for others,” McClean says.

“We just want to make a fun spot where people feel safe to be who they are and express themselves.”
— Zane McClean

He adds that there have been a few shows over the past year that stuck out. “Some of our favorite shows so far have been Slim Cessna, our mini Punk Fest and our benefit show for the Club Q tragedy.”

But this isn’t just about the past, it’s about what’s to come as well, and there’s some particularly cool shows to get excited about.

“There will be a mini indie fest on March 18 with Charioteer, Cabin and others, as well as Timmy Cappello on June 9. You know, that sax player from The Lost Boys? We’re gettin’ him to play a set!”

But why wait? You can catch a killer punk rock ’n’ roll show at Bar-K this Saturday, Feb. 11, courtesy of Total Cult, Art Snow and Hellburner.

There’s a handful of other events going on this weekend, too. On Friday the 10th, catch the local psych rock of Stereo Ontario along with Funscreen and Same Dude at Vultures. Barefoot Family Caravan will also be jamming down the house at Vultures on Saturday. Or you can head to Lulu’s on Saturday for the soulful stylings of Mike Clark and The Sugar Sounds.

Though the weekend is over, don’t forget to come out to Vultures on Wednesday, Feb. 15, for an awesome midweek show with Viewfinder, Autumn Creatures, Midwife and Edith Pike. It will be an excellent evening of post rock, dark folk, indie rock and more.

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