Archive | September, 2010

The National sing Anthems and a first trip to Gas Town

17 Sep

For some reason I always had it in my head when thinking about the move to Vancouver that I would go to many concerts. This didn’t make an awful lot of objective sense since I don’t go to at all many at home where my financial situation is far more stable. But with this in mind I started doing little bits of Last FM research to see who was going to be in Vancouver when I was and very early on I discovered that The National and The Walkmen would be arriving shortly after me and playing something called the Malkin Bowl. Unfortunately I lacked any means of buying tickets online and when one of the dates sold out months ago I assumed the second night, announced shortly afterwards, was a lost cause too. Luckily a few days before said show, my favourite New Zealander of all time told me that there were still tickets and that was it really, there was no way we weren’t going.

At this stage we already knew that the Malkin Bowl was an outdoor theatre in Stanley Park (we had seen it on that first visit) and Vancouver played a blinder by providing us with a really lovely evening: warm and still with the odd cloud framed in the sunset. The Walkmen were about halfway through their set when we arrived and instead of going straight in we sat outside on the grass, among a crowd of decidedly hipsterish picnicers, and from that comfortable vantage point could hear them perfectly. Strolling in to catch their last song we found the Malkin Bowl to be smaller than expected and the crowd incredibly relaxed. Several people had spread blankets out at the back and were watching from the ground. We could easily have edged our way closer to the front but everybody in the crowd had so much respect for personal space we didn’t feel right about doing so, besides the venue is actually small enough that from where we stood, at the very back of the standing folks, we were about 5m from Matt and Co, near enough to see every change of facial expression.

The band kicked off the show with Runaway and from the moment they began to play they had the entire crowd mesmerised. It wasn’t a concert to go mad dancing- everybody was too busy staring at the stage and the amazing things happening there. There was a ridiculous amount of talent present, as well as the band there was the amazing Padma Newsome (has her own band called the Clogs apparently, must check them out) on violin and keyboard, and a brass section. It never occurred to me how much goes into every National song until I saw  one being created. Every song was beautifully rendered, the sounds they made far outstripping the recorded version, the perfect accompaniment to a gorgeous night, in fact it might have been the night itself that cinched it, the backdrop of stars just made every song seem that bit more elegant and special.

The band breezed through the best of their back catalogue: Fake Empires, Mistaken for Strangers, Karen, Squalor Victoria, an intoxicating Mr. November. The only time my friend and I took our eyes off the stage was to look at each other and say ‘EPIC!’ The crowd went just as mad for new favourites off  High Violet, Terrible Love, England and Vanderlyle Crybaby had already been receiving special attention on my ipod, there’d been stirrings of hmm yes I like this song, but in Stanley Park it turned into love and they got full National anthem status.

The only minus to an otherwise plus packed evening was the show’s early finish. Nobody was ready to leave when the band finished their encore but I’ve since learned Malkin Bowl has an early curfew and it wasn’t long after ten when we were making our way back to the bus stop, going blow by blow through our favourite bits and getting overcome by a fresh wave of awe over the brilliance of them every few minutes.

On the bus we started considering our options for post party merriment. The simplest thing was to hop off on Granville, where all the most wonderful nightlife is said to be and take our chances on wherever was making the most noise. At some point we got talking to some Canadians who had been at the concert and asked them where we could go that would provide good tunes for a bitta dancing. They put us off the clubs on Granville, telling us Thursday was not the best night to try them out and advised us to come along to the Cambie, a pub in Gas Town, instead. Gas Town is an older, less shiny part of the city which we were rather eager to see anyway. While not the  sweaty dancefest we’d envisioned when we decided to go out the Cambie is definitely going to become a haunt. It’s a proper old fashioned pub: dimly lit, loud with chat, scruffy furniture and playing the most delightfully cheesy music. Thursday nights are for students, which means $12 pitchers of extremely drinkable honey ale and an absolutely brilliant atmosphere. We sat with our new Canadian friends but soon got talking to other patrons who were all noticeably up for the craic, though they did look at us like we were serial killers when we got up and started dancing despite the obvious lack of a dancefloor. It was the pub’s own fault for playing The Beatles Ob La Di, you never hear that out at home, we couldn’t NOT dance. We calmed down afterwards by playing an arcade game called Shoot the Elk. That’s right, there is a real live Canadian game where the object is to shoot as many deer as possible while sparing the cows (there were turkeys as well but I’m not sure if shooting them was a plus or a minus on the score front). I was woeful at it. But must thank those lovely Canadians for providing such worthy entertainment after that amazing concert, and for buying us rather alot of food. They sell hummus in pubs here you know.

Early Days (it still feels like holidays)

7 Sep

Feeling a little bit sheepish coming into this entry as it’s been almost a month since anything remotely banterish got a mention on here but I do have some excuse for the last week’s absence at least- I finally arrived in Vancouver and minutes to spare have been few and far between (it didn’t help that my brain was well and truly melted with jet lag). But the next hour looks as though it’ll be pretty empty of distraction, so while it’s all still fresh in my head I guess a run down of the craic so far is in order.

I’ve got to say the first week here has been of pretty high quality in terms of antics and laughing and general merriment so I hope I can do it justice. Vancouver is an obscenely beautiful city. I honestly don’t know how people here manage to go to work every day and do the things that make the whole place run so smoothly because I can’t stop looking around me and staring at everything: the trees; the buildings; the sky- everything is so brilliant, even the light here seems to be of a different quality, almost clearer, than at home (though I may be just seeing things with particularly enthusiastic eyes). My apartment on campus is a 5 minute walk from Wreck Beach and mountains on the skyline give a bit of an epic backdrop to outdoor goings-on. An outdoor going-on I’m particularly focused on at the moment is the National concert in Malkin Bowl this Thursday, which a friend and I just today bought tickets to. The setting looks gorgeous- an outdoor theatre in Stanley Park- so fingers crossed for a warm evening and a clear sky. We’ve already spent a day in the Park, located by the shore in town, and it was teeming with shiny happy Vancouver folks running and cycling and soaking up the sun and gorgeousness.

(haven’t really got the hang of putting photos into posts as you can see, but you get the idea- the park is lovely)

Plenty of animals were milling about too, the squirrels here are so brazen! It’s only been a week and I’ve already seen about seven of them run up to people without the least bit of hesitation, yesterday we actually saw one sitting on a bin eating what appeared to be a paper bag, apparently this diet is working for him as he was by far the largest squirrel I’ve ever seen, I’m only devastated that I didn’t have my camera with me.

We’ve also been down to Granville Island for touristy adventures, the main attraction (for us anyway) was definitely the Public market, where we picked up fresh fruit and hummus and general deli amazingness before heading down to the docks for a makeshift picnic followed by an attempted pub crawl back to UBC. Inevitably we only ended up going to one bar, the Granville Island Brewery, before going in the wrong direction and eventually getting picked up by a bus back to college. Luckily there was some beer from the aforementioned pub at my house (they make their own, it’s definitely drinkable, Brockton IPA variety for the win) which led to a very pleasant session and our first night time trip to Wreck beach. Student socialising here, as far as any of us can gather, doesn’t centre around clubs the way it does in Ireland so in the absence of a major house party (or indeed a Frat party because those exist in this mad country) the beach is sort of the place to go when in search of night time fun (I imagine this is only the case when it isn’t raining, which is soon to be never!). We weren’t disappointed, some resourceful Canadians had lit a bonfire and three guys with serious musical talent were providing dark, antireligious but nevertheless rather brilliant tunes while other folks jumped around and made smores.

Smores at night time isn’t one I’d encountered before. It’s rather a wholesome image compared to beach parties at home (we never had fires, shame on all those people who had been scouts!) and while I wouldn’t say those particular Canadians were having a family friendly evening it’s been glaringly obvious since we’ve arrived that drinking just doesn’t figure in nights out here as much as it does in Ireland, or even the continent. I’m quite looking forward to a couple of months of moderation though it does take some getting used to. The last few nights we’ve been having little get togethers in apartments and this has been brilliant for getting to know people but I miss dancing like a mental and I’m looking forward to going Downtown at the weekends and going to the odd club. The college club, the unfortunately titled ‘Pit’ has been visited twice. Both nights proved a good laugh, we’ve met a lot of really fun people through the international orientation and a good group can make any location fun. The dancefloor is right in the middle of the venue which makes it lovely and easy to view all the entertaining shapes being thrown. There’s a really good atmosphere among all of the international students that I’ve encountered and a lot of effort was put into helping us meet each other which meant that I felt absolutely comfortable dancing in the usual loon manner with people I’d only met about 24 hours before. Loved the music too- a nice bag of tunes some old enough that I remember dancing to them at underage discos, but pleasant associations like that are what make songs like that so fun to hear. Shorty got Low was a serious highlight. But that said I don’t reckon I’ll venture back there for a while, the window to hang out at Wreck Beach is pretty narrow, there are Frat parties to experience, and going to the Pit too often would definitely spoil the hilariousness of the place, I feel it’s gonna be a Coppersesque destination-not one to go to more than once a week, but once there a place of very energetic fun.

This week has definitely been a brilliant start to the year here, with classes starting Wednesday I’m really excited to see things get even more fun as more people show up all over campus and we get fully into the swing of college. Looking forward to seeing some Canadians in their absolute element and sussing out where the best bant in Van is to be had.