Northwest Dance & Music Venues
Embassy Ballroom/Dante's Inferno - Photo Courtesy of Chris Wolfe
Retinal Circus
Also Known As: The Embassy Ballroom, Dante's Inferno, and The Elegant Parlour
1024 Davie Street
Vancouver, British Columbia

Some of the bands that performed at this place during those great years of NW music were:

3's a Crowd
Allmen Joy
The Animals
Black and White Power
Black Snake
Corky Siegel Blues Band
Country Joe and The Fish
Country Weather Band
Don Thompson Trio
Extoplasmic Assault
Easy Chair
Fast Freight Country Show
The Family Dogs
Family Tree
Fat Jack
Frumious Bandersnatch
Good Shepherds
Graeme Waifer
Grass Harp
Hydro Electric Streetcar
John Handy
Junior Wells
La Troupe Grotesque
Led Zeppelin
Mad River
Mock Duck
Mother Earth
Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck
Muddy Waters
My Indole Ring
Notes From The Undergound
Pacific Nation
Painted Ship
Paisley Rain
Papa Bear's Medicine Show
The Paupers
Peanut Butter Conspiracy
PH Factor Jug Band
Pretty Broos
Seeds of Time
Siegel Schwall Blues Band
Tom Northcott
Tommorrow's Eyes
United Empire Loyalists
Velvet Underground
Wanda And Bruce
Winter's Green
Yellow Brique Road

Velvet Underground at the Retinal Circus - 1968 (courtesy of Len McIver)

Image courtesy of Tom Anderson

Image Courtesy of Ron Graham

I attended a concert at the Retinal Circus on Davie Street in my late teens. The band that night was Country Joe MacDonald and the Fish. Most of the band made it, but as I remember the drummer got held up at the border over drugs or something.  This was a very strange place.  They used overhead projectors to project swirling colored water and oil images on the walls.

The Fish started their show with there trademark give me an "F" rant and it didn't spell FISH.  There were other strange visual effects as well but I don't remember those images.

The hall still exists and is now a bar named Celebrities.  It was completely refurbished in the last 5 years and is a designated heritage building, not because of its Retinal Circus fame, but because it is the oldest dance hall in the West End of Vancouver.

Vancouver was a big show town.  As a young person I saw groups like the Fifth Dimension, Diana Ross and the Supremes and even Jimi Hendricks. Jimi played the Pacific Coliseum, a hockey rink with no acoustics to speak of.  The opening band for Jimmy was The "Vanilla Fudge". They deafened us for about 45 minutes before Jimmy came on stage.  He played 2 songs and said "F**k it, I've got a cold" and left.  My hearing has never been the same since.

Judith Cole, May 2006

Poster Image Courtesy of Len McIver

I just thought I would mention an impromptu drop-in performance by Eric Burden and the Animals one night when I happened to be at the RC in 1967 or '68.  They were playing a gig in another club but stopped by the RC to play "House of the Rising Sun" for "the people" ... an unexpected pleasure.

 Andrea Mikulan, Abbotsford, BC, August 2007

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Last Update:  28 July 2015
Credits:  Garry Gramm, Ross Hannan, Judith Cole,  Andrea Mikulan, Rick McGrath Website, Gunnar Roger Stomperud, Sandi McRobbie, Tom Anderson, Len McIver, Ron Graham