The last weekend of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games drove the city of Vancouver into a frenzy of excitement and enthusiasm. Soon the LiveCity venues would close; no more free music, no more hosting by regional and corporate houses, no more big screens showing the feats of Olympic athletes. Other neighbourhoods in town emptied out completely as everyone headed downtown for the big party weekend anxious to catch the events before it was all over.
Finally I got the timing right and was able to get into the Yaletown LiveCity site without waiting in line for too long. The holy grail of all the LiveCity sites, Yaletown, is by far the biggest and is host to the most interesting and interactive exhibits. Three bands were playing, Matt Mays, a young fellow from Nova Scotia and his band, Chic Gamine, four women from Winnipeg, and Blue Rodeo, a long-standing country-blues band from Ontario.
Opener Matt Mays was supposed to start at 6:30 p.m., so I got to the venue at 5:30 p.m. quite pleased to find the line up both short and moving fast. After a pretty serious downpour all night and morning, the sky was drizzling in that light way that does nothing to deter Vancouverites, or west coasters, from the outdoors. At just after 6:00 p.m., I was at the security check and could hear the band had started playing. Good thing I was early!
Matt Mays & El Torpedo
A scruffy long-haired Mays had the crowd cheering and clapping along to his antics. Switching between burning up a guitar solo and balancing precariously on the risers at the edge of the stage, Mays’ high energy was immediately caught by the crowd. The five-piece, including keyboards, played along with equal enthusiasm. At one point the rain started coming down hard again, but no one cared. Soon it stopped, and umbrellas were put away. By the time Mays’ set was finishing it was getting properly dark out, and the light show came into full effect.
Toward the end of the last song, during which the band improvised a call-and-response “we’re going to win gold,” a reference to the big hockey game the next day, Mays got the crowd singing back to him. He then ended his vocal session abruptly by stepping off the stage and walking through the crowd around to back stage, spotlight following him as long as it could go. People in the crowd looked at each other in surprise.
El Torpedo played on, burning up their set to a fiery finish that got big cheers.
LiveCity Yaletown Houses
The whole thing was a little bit too corporate for me; Coca-Cola House, Panasonic House and Acer House. I guess these companies had more money to spend than various provinces of Canada in order to gain these prime positions. The lineups were insane, especially for Coca-Cola House. The Yaletown LiveCity is a family venue with no alcohol, so there were lots of kids running around with brightly lit rubber Coke bottles.
A friend of mine went into the Coke house the other day. She said there were a lot of features promoting green bottles and green production technology, which seems a bit hypocritical to me considering it takes something like seven bottles of water to make one bottle of Coke, including the plastic bottle. There were a lot of games, and you could get your picture taken with all kinds of screens, like as if you were in the Arctic and such. Once inside Coca-Cola House people could just mill around at will, and not led through by attendants like other houses. I stayed outside.
There’s nothing like four hot chicks singing in harmony, sometimes in French, to bring a crowd to the front of the stage. Based out of Winnipeg, with some members hailing from Montreal, the group focuses on percussion and A Cappella singing. In the back a drummer holds everything together by softly beating out rhythms.
The women take turns as lead singer with the others harmonizing along and playing various percussion instruments. Sometimes one will pull out a guitar or a hand drum. Otherwise its all about the voices.
The crowd was transfixed. I shuffled and grooved in my spot close to the front while most people around me just stared up at the stage. A group of young women to my left got rather exuberant at this display of female power, dancing and hooting along to the music. They went so far as the get involved with the stage banter. When the drummer was introducing the singers by name in a thick French accent, the young women called out for a French version. This resulted in a some back and forth with everyone – including the four women on stage – laughing at the spontaneity of it all.
Chic Gamine left the stage way too soon. There was no opportunity for an encore as the headliners needed to get their equipment set up. I did not stay for that. It was already 9:00 p.m., and the men’s gold medal hockey game between Canada and the US was to start at noon the next day.