Best of Vancouver 2019: Going Out

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      Best signs of the city’s Musqueam past weaving its way into the future

      Siblings Robyn and Debra Sparrow have been using paint on concrete instead of threads to carry on the ancient weaving traditions of their ancestors. This summer, Musqueam artist Robyn designed a three-section crosswalk, on Granville Street between 68th and 70th avenues, that reflects timeworn textile hues of white, black, sonoma sand, brick red, and yellow. The public artwork is a good reminder, even as you walk through busy traffic, that the spot sits close to the ancient Musqueam village of ćsnam. Meanwhile, fellow well-known weaver Debra painted textile patterns onto two towering cement pillars of the Granville Street Bridge near the Granville Island Public Market last year.


      Best film use since Deadpool of Vancouver as a city that’s not Vancouver

      Vancouver may be known as Hollywood North but it rarely plays itself in films and TV. It’s taken the role of Vancouver, Washington, in the tragically popular Fifty Shades series; the fictional crime-ridden town of Riverdale in Riverdale; and, perhaps most notably, a moody New York City in Deadpool. And though it’s fun as hell to see the Georgia Viaduct ripped apart on the big screen, Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe has recently swooped in to take the “cultural product with the best, most recognizable use of Vancouver” crown away from that Marvel film. Why? For one, the Ali Wong–fronted rom-com ditches overused settings like Gastown and downtown in favour of local gems like New Town Bakery and the Biltmore Cabaret—often with hilarious results. And, really, it’s just way more fun to play “spot the distinctly Vancouver site masquerading as a fancy hotel or restaurant in San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles” when you’re also enjoying a film that’s moving the dial forward for Asian-American representation.


      Best reason to binge-watch Bates Motel

      Sure, the impalings, slashings, shootings, and stabbings are great, but the real reason to watch a young Norman Bates dive into his work on Bates Motel is the backdrop town of White Pine Bay in Oregon. You’ll notice that White Pine Bay looks a lot like Metro Vancouver, which makes sense, because that’s where the Psycho-inspired, Netflix original series was shot for five seasons starting in 2013. As you work through the episodes, you’ll have no problem recognizing the 2400 Motel on Kingsway, the docks of Steveston, Via Tevere Pizzeria in East Van, and the stately Hycroft Manor off Granville Street. In what seems like a missed opportunity, no scenes were shot at House of Knives, West Coast Wigs, or Splashes Bath & Kitchen. Sadly, the built-in-Aldergrove replicas of the Bates home and motel as first seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho were demolished after filming wrapped for good.


      Best jam space with benefits

      Pandora’s Box Rehearsal Studios
      1890 Pandora Street

      As anyone who knows the history of the Replacements, the Murder City Devils, and Vancouver’s infamous Bludgeoned Pigs knows, nothing gets the creative juices flowing like a bathtub full of alcohol. If it hadn’t been for the magic of liquor, the world might never have seen Jim Morrison, Hank Williams, and Alice Cooper become legends. Pandora’s Box isn’t the only jam space in town, but it’s one of the best for no other reason than its location. The space features 18 rehearsal rooms for you and two, or three, or 19 friends to get together and realize your dreams of becoming the next White Stripes, Green Day, or Polyphonic Spree. Drums and bass amps are found in every room, which means saving valuable setup time, with guitar amps available for rent if you don’t own your own Fender Twin Reverb or Marshall. But the greatest thing about Pandora’s Box (founded and built by local scene vets, including members of La Chinga and Terror of Tiny Town) is its location. The space is just off Victoria Drive in the heart of booming Yeast Vancouver, which means it’s within stumbling distance of Parallel 49, the Callister Brewing Co., Odd Society Spirits, Storm Brewing, and Doan’s Craft Brewing. Loosen up with a couple of pre-practice drinks and you’ll become convinced stardom is inevitable as you launch into that industrial punk-rap reworking of “There’s a Tear in My Beer”.


      Best proof Vancouver has entered the Twilight Zone

      While Vancouver may be thought to be in an alternative universe for any number of reasons, ranging from the insanity of the real-estate market to weather that differs from that in the rest of Canada, we do have proof that The Twilight Zone is based in Vancouver. The new iteration, that is. The latest revival of the classic TV series that launched in 1959 was shot in Vancouver from October 2018 to March of this year. Season 1, narrated and executive-produced by Get Out filmmaker Jordan Peele, premiered on April 1 and included appearances by hometown stars Jacob Tremblay and Seth Rogen. The series has been revived twice before; the 2002-03 version was also shot in Vancouver. Perhaps visitors to Vancouver should be greeted with “You are about to enter another dimension. Next stop, the Vancouver Zone!”


      Best signs movie theatres are still in demand

      The decade began with the impact of technological changes being seen locally as Vancouver lost numerous long-running movie theatres, from the Ridge Theatre to the Empire Granville 7. But a number of new cinemas have seen opened up—with more developments this  year. On April 3, Cineplex opened a new cinema at the Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver featuring seven traditional auditoriums and four adults-only VIP cinemas. Meanwhile, the Vancouver International Film Centre announced on September 4 that it will receive more than $1.4 million in funding from federal, provincial, and municipal governments to transform its atrium into a multi-use space. The renovations will include the creation of an approximately 40-seat microcinema, a virtual-reality and augmented-reality lounge, and an improved concession. Sometimes Netflix just can’t replace the draw of the communal moviegoing experience.


      Best reason for more positive local represent-Asian

      The all-Asian lead cast of Crazy Rich Asians was definitely something to celebrate, helping to counter the dearth of Asian stars in Hollywood movies. But there was still that movie title. And for Vancouver, it could not have come at a more unfortunate time. With anti-Asian sentiment at an all-time high in the city since the days of anti-Asian riots, the Chinese head tax, the Japanese-Canadian internment, and the Komagata Maru incident, and racially charged local debates over hot topics like Metro Vancouver real estate, money laundering, and immigration, Vancouver really doesn’t need any further fuel added to those fires. With a sequel planned based on the next novel in the trilogy by author Kevin Kwan, entitled China Rich Girlfriend, and most likely a third movie based on the final novel, entitled Rich People Problems, it’s not likely to end there. What may be promising is that the commercial success of these films will continue to propel the careers of their stars, who will, hopefully, appear in a variety of other roles. And let’s hope that more positive and diverse Asian-Canadian representation can find its way into local media and beyond.


      Best place to hear a $250,000 piano

      Orpheum Theatre
      601 Smithe Street

      Call it a 100th-birthday present to itself: the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, which just celebrated its centennial, has just acquired a spankin’-new keyboard, painstakingly shipped from Hamburg. The Steinway Model D concert grand piano comes in at 3,000 pounds and had to spend a month acclimatizing at the Tom Lee Music warehouse in Richmond. Crafted for crystalline clarity and the ability to carry notes throughout the 2,700-seat Orpheum, it will play host to the fancy fingerwork of music stars from around the world.


      Best way to tap your inner Mondrian or Matisse

      Mobil Art School
      60–268 Keefer Street

      What if you didn’t have to be enrolled in university to study painting with a local art star like Etienne Zack, dig into sculpture with porcelain master Tanis Saxby, or take an art-history course with MFA educator Sean Alward? We’re talking life-drawing drop-ins, digital-camera how-tos, and even drinking-and-drawing get-togethers with local art legend Neil Wedman. Best of all, no exams. This new and inviting artist-run Chinatown space is all geared toward making quality art education accessible to the masses. True to its name, Mobil also goes out into the community, taking its talks to groups around town; check out its Instagram for some of the wicked stuff it’s inspired everyone from seniors to kids to create.


      Mike Usinger

      Best budget moviegoing experience

      Movieland Arcade
      906 Granville Street

      Most of the classic theatres (Capital, Lyric, and Colonial) that once dotted Granville Street were demolished decades ago. One moviegoing spot has endured, however, even as places like the Plaza were turned into entertainment-district bars: the Movieland Arcade. As its iconic sign has promised since the ’70s, the arcade does indeed offer games and shooting—you can kill hours playing Addams Family pinball or blowing up zombies in House of the Dead. But it’s in the back that you get the real bang for your buck. Seemingly unaware that there’s a thing called inflation, Movieland still offers 8mm peepshow films for a quarter. You step up to a booth, plug in your money, and watch the time-faded action through a five-inch viewing slot. Your 25 cents gets you 60 seconds of a looped film, after which you cough up another quarter to keep watching. Movie titles—1 Guy, Two Girls and, umm, Lesbians—are written in felt pen on the booths. You might bust a nut but you won’t break the bank.


      Best reason to check your grandparents’ attic

      Los Angeles, New York, and London got most of the international attention when people talked about the early days of punk rock, but sleepy Vancouver also produced its share of legendary acts. Think first-wave heavyweights like D.O.A., the Pointed Sticks, Subhumans, Young Canadians, and Modernettes. Lesser-known but just as important were scene pioneers like the Dishrags, U-J3RK5, Secret Vs, No Exit, and I, Braineater. All of those bands made records, and some of them have gone on to become the most sought-after punk releases in the world. Take the Subhumans’ early and rare single “Death to the Sickoids/Oh Canaduh”: the seven-inch is currently listed at $1,381.50 on the record collectors’ trading site No Exit’s self-pressed eponymous 1980 debut, originally sold for $3.99 at gigs, can be yours if you’ve got $1,852.57—with a big part of the record’s value being that only 200 were ever made. The Dishrags’ Past Is Past EP is a relative bargain at $79.40. D.O.A.’s Triumph of the Ignoroids EP—the uncensored pressing on Friends Records—is going for $159.96. And your great-grandparents said that punk would never pay.


      Best hidden piece of local baseball history

      A grimy on-ramp may not seem like hallowed baseball ground, but looks can deceive. Under the Granville Street Bridge’s Hemlock Street entrance lies the former grandstand entrance of Athletic Park, a 5,000-seat wooden stadium built in 1913. (The approximate location of home plate is now occupied by a Minit-Tune.) Constructed by sports impresario Bob Brown for his Class B league Vancouver Beavers, the park would give White Spot founder Nat Bailey his start in the food-service business—selling peanuts—and in the 1930s, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig would take to the field there in a barnstorming exhibition. In 1939, beer magnate Emil Sick bought the park for his minor-league Vancouver Capilanos. They’d stick around until 1951, when the city took the land for the bridge and built a replacement field (now known as Nat Bailey Stadium) on the slopes of Little Mountain.


      Best way to time-travel

      As recently as the late 1970s, there were seven—seven!—local drive-in movie theatres. But times change, moviegoing habits change, and now there are only three left in all of B.C. Happily, one of those is still in the Lower Mainland: the Twilight Drive-In, located on 260th Street in Aldergrove. Open Fridays and weekends until mid-November (barring extreme weather), the Twilight continues to offer all the joys of the drive-in experience and serves as a real blast from the past. Bring the kids in their PJs, grab some popcorn, crank up the sound, and party like it’s 1959.


      Best way to curate a home art collection

      With more than 1,000 available paintings, photographs, collages, and other mixed-media pieces, the Art Rental and Sales Program—operated by the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG)—can transform any apartment, house, or condo into a veritable museum. Founded in 1952 by the gallery’s Ladies Auxiliary (now known as the Associates of the Vancouver Art Gallery), the service has its own thoughtfully curated collection, separate from the VAG’s permanent and visiting-exhibit pieces (which are not for rent). The program currently offers works by 121 B.C.–based artists, including Paul Wong, Kari Kristensen, Vanessa Lam, K C Hall, Gabryel Harrison, David Wilson, Rebecca Chaperon, and Kevin Boyle. Entrance to the program’s showroom at the VAG (750 Hornby Street) is free and it’s open to the public Monday through Friday. Rental fees start as low as $10 per month, with the average monthly fee around $80.


      Best punk/hot dog/baseball combo

      Are there two things that go together better than baseball and hot dogs? How about punk rock and hot dogs? Or punk rock and baseball? If you like all of the above or any combination thereof (and also pinball), What’s Up? Hot Dog! (2481 East Hastings Street) could quickly become your favourite punk-rock baseball hot-dog joint. What’s Up? is owned by musicians Jenna Hagarty and her husband Matt. Among other bands, Matt has done a stint in the Isotopes, the local punk outfit named after a fictional baseball team from The Simpsons. (The Isotopes are, in fact, also a real-life team in the East Van Baseball League.) If you can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than munching on a frank (or vegan equivalent) and watching MLB action on a big screen while the Clash and Ramones blare away in the background, this is your place. It also helps if you like pinball. And The Simpsons.


      Best local-music-inspired halloween costume

      It would be pretty easy to dress up as Nardwuar the Human Serviette for Halloween: just grab a microphone and don a tam-o’-shanter and you’re good to go. More creative types, however, might want to hit the October 31 party scene decked out in western-glam finery inspired by country outsider Orville Peck. A fringed mask and a Stetson hat will get you started, but for further motivation, pick up the Autumn/Winter 2019 edition of British GQ Style, which features Peck on the cover. According to the magazine’s website, the issue features a photo shoot in which the singer “wears a carousel of looks from Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Louis Vuitton, combined with iconic vintage western wear”. You, of course, can’t afford any of that, which is why thrift stores exist.


      Best we-knew-her-when moment

      We always knew Hannah Georgas was going places. (We even put her on our cover back in 2016 when she headlined the West 4th Avenue Khatsahlano Street Party.) We also knew that she was a fan of the National, mostly because she very publicly declared as much in her 2009 single “The National”, telling of singing along with the band at a concert. This summer, Georgas got to combine both of those things—going places and singing along with the National—when the group invited her to join them on the road as a backing vocalist. The tour kicked off, aptly enough, with a local show at Deer Lake Park on August 28. Not gonna lie, we teared up just a little.


      Best nonmusical release by local musicians

      Between putting out a new album, headlining a concert at Malkin Bowl, and touring the whole damn country, 2019 has been a pretty big year for Said the Whale. Alongside vinyl LPs and T-shirts at its merch table, the band has been selling a somewhat less expected item. The Cascadia Cookbook is an 80-page “culinary companion” to Said the Whale’s album of the same name, featuring recipes and drink pairings inspired by the record’s songs, plus photos by Lindsey Blane and the band’s own Jaycelyn Brown. Currently, The Cascadia Cookbook is available only at Said the Whale shows, but remaining stock (if any) will be sold online after the tour.