For the Georgia Straight’s 18th annual Best of Vancouver issue, our editorial team has spent months on the lookout for good deeds, weird urban details, and various howlers to highlight. Here’s our contributors’ picks for Best of Vancouver 2013.
Best provocative pooch
Never has a canine sculpture sent a city into such conniptions. Montreal artist Gisele Amantea’s seven-foot-tall white-porcelain poodle rose this year on a pole high above Main Street and 18th Avenue (in front of 3333 Main Street), and residents haven’t stopped barking about it since. The outcry was mostly based around the cost, about $62,000—or $97,600 for the entire public-art project along Main, which was jointly funded by the City of Vancouver, the feds, and TransLink. (That project, hilariously, also included trolley buses wrapped in imagery that made them look like giant, rolling, pink-crocheted poodles—the kind of cozies your granny used to put over the tissue box.) The vitriol was barely contained: a choice post on the Our City Our Art public-art program’s website said, succinctly, “VOMIT... HOW DARE THEY!” Still, Our City Our Art actually ran out of the “I [Heart] Poodle” pins it made to support the sculpture, and someone launched a Twitter handle, MainStPoodle, that to this day has about 433 followers and counting. Sorry, but we think the installation is awfully clever, a tongue-in-cheek symbol of all that is funky, kitschy, and retro-obsessed at the hipster hub in which it sits.
Best Illuminares-style festival in the suburbs
For a quarter-century, Trout Lake has its annual Illuminares Festival, with a few digressions, put on by the Public Dreams Society. Now fans of lanterns and other glowing lights who reside on the south side of the Fraser River have their own version to which they can look forward. For two years running, the Corporation of Delta and Polygon Homes have sponsored the Luminary Festival, which includes lantern workshops, a lantern parade, children’s activities, displays, food vendors, and a concert in North Delta’s Sunstone Park, which features a pond surrounded by walking trails and playgrounds. The latest event (September 7) featured a grooving jazz-rock band heavy on the Santana influence whose funky sounds were mirrored by the dance moves of an Afro-wearing stiltwalker with a glowing Hula-Hoop. We also liked how they cleverly served cotton candy on a glowstick.
Best demonstration of the thriving local music scene
Ten stages and 50 bands gave Vancouverites plenty to do during a daylong festival on West 4th Avenue in July. The newly expanded Khatsahlano! Music + Art Festival lineup also offered confirmation of Vancouver’s thriving and talented local music scene. Headliners, including Gold & Youth, Brasstronaut, and the Pack A.D., drew massive crowds; acts like the Matinee, Portage & Main, and Rococode offered up plenty for their fans; and emerging artists were featured on stages sponsored by the PEAK Performance Project. With local bands also featured prominently at other festivals, like the Squamish Valley Music Festival and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, we hope to see this gem of an event continue to expand in providing a spotlight for local talent.
Best reason to hang out under a bridge after dark
For a brief period this summer, four pianos quietly appeared in various public locations around Vancouver. Countless amateurs and quite a few professionals took advantage of the opportunity to perform for the public, and the pianos quickly became a treasured open secret. Perhaps the most popular of the instruments was found under the south end of the Cambie Street Bridge. That location along the heavily trafficked False Creek seawall made it a favourite for buskers who, before long, were bringing entire bands down to play alongside the piano. The police turned a blind eye to the sporadic evening concerts, and the crowds thanked them for it.
Best idea for making the city a storytelling Mecca
In 2009, writers Lizzy Karp and Karen Pinchin decided to create a sense of community by putting on a night of music and stories at Little Mountain Gallery. It marked the birth of Rain City Chronicles, which has since become a thriving series held at different locations around town. “There’s actually not a place where writers or people interested in writing meet,” Karp told the Straight at a Kitsilano coffee shop when discussing the origins. “It actually started from there.” There’s always a theme at Rain City Chronicles that ties the tales together, such as hotels, Chinatown, and weddings and funerals. The events have attracted high-profile raconteurs with writing flair, such as Kevin Chong, as well as local celebrities such as Dal Richards. There are also regular folks who have never stood up in public and shared their personal experiences. “People in Vancouver like to be given permission to do things: to be told that this is a space where you can come and you can engage with people,” Karp said. “Some of the best stories that have been told have been ones from people that you wouldn’t expect.”
Best (and most expensive) British Columbian Bollywood blowout
Sure, we’ve had some fun local Bollywood shows in the past. But this year we had a sizable chunk of Bollywood’s gliteratti converge here for the inaugural Times of India Film Awards at B.C. Place. All the big names in the biz—from Katrina Kaif and Priyanka Chopra to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and King Khan himself (Shahrukh Khan, and if you didn’t know that, tsk tsk)—were there. But it didn’t come cheap. Nor without controversy. The B.C. government spent a pretty penny on the whole shebang: a hefty $11 million, in fact.
Best way to win an election
Have your government put on B.C.’s most expensive Bollywood blowout a month before voting day, ensuring your party captures crucial swing seats in Surrey and Vancouver-Fraserview.
Best (and most needed) singles night
Regular readers of the Georgia Straight’s I Saw You section will know that the most commonly cited place for missed love connections is transit. So it would be a logical step for TransLink to throw a singles night on SkyTrain. There could be specific trains for women and men seeking each other, women seeking women, and men seeking men. Throw in a few of those hunky short-shorts–wearing bus drivers and everybody would want to catch a ride on the love train.
Best way to fake you’re rich
Snag an invitation to the annual Le Dîner en Blanc event. Then go to Wal-Mart, buy a cheap white dress and white shoes, and nobody will be the wiser.