Vancouver — The second week of the 2010 Olympics Organizing Committee’s ambitious Cultural Olympiad is underway. Every night there is a long list of bands playing free in Vancouver, Surrey and Richmond, and at Whistler.
The Science World site has been dubbed “Mini Expo 86” by the mainstream press. The ‘golf ball’ at Science World is a remnant of Expo, housing an interactive science museum and iMax screen. The actual Science World venue has been taken over by the Russians for Sochi House, to promote their hosting of the next Winter Olympics. The rest of the Science World site; the park, parking lot, and roads leading to GM Place, is now one giant fun zone containing Maison du Quebec, Ontario House and Saskatchewan House. It is also home of Molson Canadian Hockey House.
This park is where Stephen Colbert chose to record two shows while in Vancouver. Thousands of people turned out to watch the taping, especially on the second day. From all accounts Colbert left town with a greatly improved opinion of Canada and the Canadian people than he had coming in. I guess our infectious enthusiasm won him over, not to mention our renowned ability to laugh at ourselves.
Big Screens, Cheering Fans, Live Music
Sunday night a popular band from Toronto played Ontario House. It was an ideal time to see them play because all the pavilions at the Science World site had big screens outside showing the Canada/US Olympic hockey game. Great Lake Swimmers is a folk-rock quintet with strong songwriting skills that has been earning a growing fan base in Canada. Last August they played the Vancouver Folk Festival to great reviews.
After my experience last week with the crazy long line up for Mother Mother and Daniel Wesley at LiveCity Yaletown I decided to leave early enough to get in. Vancouver buses during the Olympics have been less of a problem than expected, unless an event is letting out. Then you will be caught in an hour-long wait. Sunday evening I had no such problem, the #99 B-Line Express bus down Broadway came almost immediately and had plenty of seats available.
As I walked the few blocks down Main St. from Broadway to Terminal my attention kept turning back to the west, from where I had just come, as a glowing red sun set over UBC. It supposed to start raining again on Tuesday. Getting closer to the Main St. Skytrain station I could feel the excitement level increasing. Even the McDonalds, a Games sponsor, had the hockey game on.
Navigating the Community Celebration Zone at Science World
Turning down Main at Terminal I was confronted by a redecorated exterior to the ‘golf ball’ at science world, complete with Russian flags and Sochi brands. This location was a bit of a muddle to be honest, plus there was a lot of hoopla going on because the third period had just started and Canada was behind by one goal. Usually at times like this I flow with the crowd, expecting most people to be headed to the same place I am, but in this case there were too many possible venues.
As I passed the Maison du Quebec and Saskatchewan House I took note of line ups and how happening the sites appeared to be. If I had time later, maybe I would stop in. Molson Hockey House was the only place without a line, which the $95 to $200 cover charge might explain. There were plenty of people inside though, probably staked out from the beginning of the day. Ontario House was the last stop.
It’s actually two houses, on one side they are running a 4-D movie about Ontario. 4-D, it turns out, is a technology where screens appear in 3-D but you don’t need to wear glasses. It’s an interactive experience as well; when it is snowing on screen snow starts falling in the theatre. Line ups for this spectacle have been between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. Of course I stood in this line first! Just to make sure I confirmed with the people in front of me, and I was lucky that they choose to explain, “This is Ontario House, but this is the line for the 4-D movie.” They didn’t know where the line for the music was, so I moved on.
There was a total mash of people outside, just happy to watch the hockey game on huge screens with big speakers. By the time I got there the third period was almost half over and the crowd was getting tense because Canada was coming off a string of penalties. I got into the back of a very short line, directly in front of the biggest screen to watch the disappointment ensue. As soon as the game was over people came streaming out of the venue. After a short break, I’m assuming to mop the place down, my line started moving. It was 7:00, the band started at 10:00.
Great Lake Swimmers Live
Well, what’s a girl to do but grab a beer and scoop a spot at a table? Just as I put my pint down a group of four people carrying food asked if the rest of the table was available. We chatted intermittently while I updated my Twitter (@KetaK ) frequently as to the goings-on inside. Staff erected a big screen, dividing everyone from the front of the room and the stage. It was just for sound-check, one worker said. Apparently the band is bashful and doesn’t want people to watch them warming up.
Shortly after that I saw a couple of fellows pop out from behind the curtain, one of them looked a lot like the singer for Great Big Sea, a popular Celtic-style band from Newfoundland. I asked my table-mates if they thought so but they weren’t sure either. One girl said, “Why don’t you go ask?” Always up for an adventure, I agreed.
It was indeed them, and they were very polite. They said they weren’t sure if they were going to stay for the show, especially after I told them how late it would start. I returned to my table, all of whom were laughing in amazement. We then watched as people asked for autographs and had their pictures taken with the musicians.
Three hours is a long wait. I tried to not get dismayed as I saw people waltz in a half-hour before the band was supposed to start. I came way too early and drank a bit too much beer. Oh well, at least the price was not jacked up.
Finally the band came on, with their particular blend of folksy rock, or rocky folk depending on how you look at it. There was plenty of room in front of the sound booth to watch and groove. The sound was OK for a temporary venue. Those wanting to keep their tables at the back of the room could watch on two large screens. In addition to a fellow getting close-ups from the camera in the sound booth, there were fixed cameras on each side of the stage so the image would change angles regularly. I prefer the full-on live experience myself, milling around with the crowd on the floor.
Once the show was over I wasn’t ready to go home so looked for another place to go. Saskatchewan House sounded good, and there was no line. Library Voices were playing, never heard of them but am always willing to give a band a try. There were a lot of people on stage, at least eight, a number more usual for Ska music than rock. The players were all very young, yet what they lacked in technical skill they made up for with enthusiasm. I’m sure it helped that the crowd was enthusiastic, jumping around and dancing in front of the stage with abandon.
I was absconded by a group of friendly Saskatchwanners, who — after initial introductions — wanted to know how many people from Saskatchewan I know. Luckily I do have a couple of friends from there so was able to impress them with my knowledge of that province’s geography.
Suddenly I got very tired. Realizing it was 11:30 I made a hasty departure. A quick hike up Main St. to Broadway, a short wait for a crowded #99 B-Line bus, and I was soon home. The next show I want to see is Thursday. Wooden Sky is playing, again at Ontario House. If I have enough energy in the middle of a work week I will go.