Calgary rock club Distortion celebrates 10 years with an asterisk

In relationships, any relationship, 10 years proves commitment.

But what if those 10 years are spread between four different others?

Is that commitment? Or does that make you a dirty, dirty, um, non-monogamist?

Well, actually, there really is no questioning the commitment when it comes to local live music venue Distortion and their relationship with the city’s local music scene.

It’s solid, special and has been consummated consistently over the past decade — albeit in four different locations and under four different names.

Club co-owner Mark Russell understands the mental gymnastics that may be required in marking such an odd anniversary but makes no apologies about how special the occasion is.

“We’re just celebrating 10 years of being allowed to do what we do in Calgary,” he says. “And it just happens to be in four locations.

“Not too many people can say they’ve done it, that’s for sure,”

No, that they can’t.

It’s actually more often than not the kiss of death when a venue has to move once, let alone three times. 

Usually it’s a case of the name following, the clientele going elsewhere.

In the case of Distortion, however, it’s something of the opposite, with the people behind it — fellow owners Sean Close and Andy Jay, with GM Katie Bevan — staying the same but the address and name something entirely different

From their original downtown spot as the Distillery Public House, they then became the  Distillery Rock and Ballroom (or D2) in the old Quincy’s location on 7th, before transforming into The D (or D3) in Eau Claire Market and then, two years ago, moving into what’s hopefully its final home and moniker, Distortion (D4), located at 3828 Macleod Tr. S.

Russell admits that all of those changes have brought with them certain difficulties, including this last one, which, he says, took about year before people caught on and regulars returned. 

“We rebranded and it took a good year,” he says noting that it took that time for the bands, promoters and fans to truly appreciate they were the same thing, just with a different name and in a different space.

“Now you can see all of the old faces, people who are like, ‘I love this place, I loved the Distillery, the Distillery was my home.’ ”

The 10-year anniversary of that home, those homes, will be celebrated in style and suitably this Saturday with a special show in that current spot.

The evening will feature music and shenanigans on two different stages inside the club. One stage, sponsored by Long & McQuade, will actually be an an attempt to “mimic” that of D1, and will hosted by Franky Frog Liquor, Jim Martin from Calgary Beer Core — who have made all of the D’s their home — and Russell, with musical acts as well as a “positive rap battle.”

“The first round you’ll be allowed to swear but it has to be nice stuff about the other player. In the finals, no swearing,” Russell says with a laugh.

The second, main stage will host local punk and metal mainstays such as Bloated Pig, Exit Strategy, Caveat, Conniving Cadavers and Exit Strategy — most of which are bands that have been around the local scene for the past decade and duration of the Ds.

And Russell’s own act BDFM will also reunite for the evening to perform their album Here’s to A Few, Here’s to A Few More in its entirety.

The musician credits Bevan with putting together the entire lineup for the evening, as well as pulling his own “goddamn band” out of retirement for the special occasion.

“She did it by asking us individually if we wanted to play,” he says. “And we all responded with, ‘Yes, but there’s no way the next person is going to say yes.’ And they did.

“So she did a good job on that.”

Bevan also put together a limited edition book featuring all of the posters from the clubs’ histories and a T-shirt to commemorate things, so it will truly be a night and anniversary to remember.

For his part, when asked what exactly he hopes that the club, in all of its forms and homes and names, ultimately means, Russell talks about all of the bands that have come through the doors, including bigger acts he’s been a fan of and been able to chat with after their shows, such as the “cool, down-to-earth people” in Authority Zero and The Bronx.

But he also singles out the hundreds, possibly thousands of local bands who’ve taken the stages that were “so intent, so true to their music.”

“First and foremost I’m super pumped on the amount of bands that have come and gone that are local,” he says.

“We’ve seen at them their first show, we’ve seen at their last, and some bands have just continued going and they’re big now.”

Much like Distillery, The D and now Distortion.

Still here, still home, wherever that may be.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on at Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at He likes beer. Buy him one.