Let’s be honest: a big part of the reason we go to the Powell Street Festival—at Oppenheimer Park and nearby venues next Saturday and Sunday (July 30 and 31)—is for the food. But those who haven’t been to the 40-year-old Japanese-Canadian gathering in a while might be surprised by what’s now on the menu: salmon teriyaki and those addictive octopus balls have been joined by high-grade ramen, crazy-complex Japadogs, creamy Coconama chocolate, artisanal sake, and much, much more.
The festival’s programming has also been renewed under artistic director Mark Takeshi McGregor, a new-music flute virtuoso with an interest in the interdisciplinary arts. Listeners can still get their spirit shaken by the sound of massive taiko drums—Chibi Taiko, Katari Taiko, Roku Shichi Taiko, Sansho Daiko, Sawagi Taiko, Jodaiko, and the taiko-rock duo LOUD will all be performing—but there are other, quieter options to consider. Australian-born, Tokyo-based koto player Miyama McQueen-Tokita can spring from the traditional repertoire to the most avant-garde of sounds, and she’ll do just that both solo and with local experimentalists Chordophone. Dharmakasa, most recently seen opening for Anoushka Shankar, is devoted to expanding the world of the shakuhachi, or bamboo flute. And, contrary to its name, the Hyperdroids quartet offers a very human fusion of spoken word and music.
Dance troupes, choral groups, documentary-film screenings, staged folk tales, and a belly-dance duo will contribute to the mix; kimono makers, practitioners of ikebana flower-arranging, bonsai growers, and calligraphers will also be showing and selling their wares.
Add in martial-arts demonstrations and a sumo contest, and you’ve got one of Vancouver’s most wildly eclectic and entertaining festivals—and a real ray of sunshine in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood.