by Stevie Wilson | Whether you love a good rush of adrenaline or prefer to just sit on the sidelines and watch, there’s no denying that the Wooden Coaster at Playland is a true Vancouver landmark. Towering over the eastern end of the fairgrounds, the ride has been serving up thrills for guests for 56 years, remaining one of the PNE’s most popular attractions to this day. What’s more, it’s an interesting piece of civic history, one that has not only stood the test of time but has also been accessible to (nearly) all ages.
Renowned coaster architect Carl E. Phare designed the coaster in 1958, one year after the original PNE amusement park, Happyland, was closed. The wooden coaster was intended to replace his earlier model, The Giant Dipper, which had been demolished in 1948 to make room for the Hastings Racecourse. Phare was an extremely knowledgeable builder; before he created this new ride for Playland he had worked on 28 other major coasters and had also overseen operations at Seattle’s own Playland Park.
Born in 1885, the Missouri native had been a well-known player in the roller coaster industry since the beginning of his career shortly after the turn of the century. He was widely acknowledged as having been one of the greatest minds in the trade. This wooden coaster was the last design of his career, and stands as a testament to the incredible quality of his designs and engineering skillset. The construction cost over $200,000 at the time of its completion and relied on a building team that was said to have been comprised of 300 Norwegian shipbuilders. When the ride opened it was the largest in Canada, drawing thrill-seekers from across the country and the world. The winding track is built of fireproof Douglas fir and features the original 1900’s-style rider trains. Compared to its modern steel competitors, this ride is known for its variable ride times and louder operation. The coaster was constructed on-site, which is quite a feat considering it measures about 22 metres high, and is recognized as a “coaster classic” amongst the aficionados at American Coaster Enthusiasts, who in 2009 awarded the ride a Coaster Landmark Award.
The coaster’s track spans 1 kilometer in length and reaches speeds of up to 80km/h. It also boasts a maximum drop height of 20 metres. Movie and television buffs will recognize the ride from the (classic) thriller Fear, the film Riding the Bullet (it played the Bullet), and the TV show 21 Jump Street. But it isn’t just adrenaline junkies who recognize the importance of this unique site. In 2003, it was listed on Heritage Vancouver’s “Top Ten Endangered Sites”, and in 2013 was included in the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s “Places That Matter” commemoration. If you’re ready and aren’t afraid of heights, let it take you for a ride. It might just be the most fun you’ve ever had with history.
Special thanks to Amanda Ribeiro & Colleen Dunbar at the PNE
by Grady Mitchell | Vancouver trio Girlfriends And Boyfriends have released a new, long-awaited single called A Flower. It’s a dark and plaintive track that embodies modern New Wave, complete with splashy drums, reverbed guitar, and grim, sonorous vocals.
Although they’ve developed that signature New Wave style, the band began very differently. When guitarist Pete Panovic founded it, everything was straight Brit Pop. “All the songs ended up sounding like Oasis,” he says. Bassist Grant Minor joined in 2007 in response to a Craigslist ad, and most recently Adam Fink joined after the original drummer left the band. With the lineup now solidified, they’ve dived headlong into New Wave and post punk.
They’re not the first band to revitalize a past genre, although they’re among the best to do so. Bands like The Smiths and The Cure played on the radio when they were kids, and now, decades later, they’re emulating the New Wave heroes that shaped their early tastes in music. It’s not the first time New Wave in particular has boomeranged back around, the band says, citing the slew of covers done by nu metal bands in the late 90s.
So why won’t New Wave just quit? Simple, the band says: it’s just great music. They also consider the New Wave era the golden age of producing. It hit the perfect balance point when technology allowed for a cleaner sound without completely erasing the human element, before songs were programmed to a beat and polished to death. “There was still a realness to production in that kind of music,” Grant says. To recreate that realness they linked with Vancouver producer Felix Fung, who specializes in just that.
Felix, the band’s “fourth member,” was critical to the darkness and longing of A Flower. “It’s a personal song,” Grant says, “it’s about a failed relationship. Nine out of the ten songs on our record are about failed relationships.” So what’s the tenth about? The band starts to laugh. “Social media!”
The new record is finished, though we most likely won’t hear it until early 2015. In the meantime, however, they say we can expect another single soon. To support Girlfriends And Boyfriends and explore their sound, visit their Bandcamp.
The Vancouver Lexicon – our A-Z dictionary of local slang, myths, legends, and such – might appear to be complete, but we mean to keep adding to it every week. Today we aim to highlight six more localisms that everyone in British Columbia should know about. They are Cheater Floor, MacBlo, Social Kitchen Restobar, White Towels, Craft Beard, And Eau D’Alberni.
The GOODS from River Market
New Westminster, BC | LEGO holds a very special place in our hearts and it brings out the little kid in us all. To celebrate that little kid, River Market is holding a two day LEGO building spectacular. They are inviting the community to come together and build 18 tiles which will form together into a postcard style mosaic commemorating summer. This event coincides with the Curious Flea, their signature vintage market, which takes place on August 30th and 31st.
Since opening its doors late in 2010, River Market at Westminster Quay has encouraged a healthy sense of curiosity. The 72,000-square-foot market is divided into the Hungry Floor — with tempting tastemakers like Wild Rice Restaurant and New Westminster landmarks such as the Paddlewheeler Pub — and the Curious Floor upstairs, where visitors can try a circus class at Vancouver Circus School, learn an instrument at Music Box, take in a temporary art exhibit or rent desk space by the hour at the Network Hub. Now there are even more opportunities to play and explore and we want everyone to join us in this LEGO building adventure. Read more
by Stevie Wilson | In 1931 the Shell Oil Company opened this auto garage at 231 East Pender St. – it’s 20th location in the province – as the Lion’s Gate Service Station. The tucked-away business was originally run by Thomas Chang, whose name will be recognized by Chinatown history buffs as the son of Chang Toy – more commonly known as Sam Kee. Chang passed away in 1953, and the business was transferred to H.H. Leong who renamed it Henry’s Service Station. In 1959, Max Goldberg Supply Ltd, a nearby business located at 424 Main St., bought the building and continued to operate it as Henry’s until it closed in the 1970s. The company continued to use it as a storage facility until 1989. The Goldberg family had significant ties to the Strathcona and Chinatown neighbourboods; in addition to their 50-year commercial tenure, Max’s son, Harry Goldberg, sat on the Chinatown Planning Committee for many years.
Today, the building is in extreme disrepair and is already slated for demolition to make way for a new condominium project, but under the filth and graffiti remains a long-forgotten piece of Downtown Eastside history. Look closely and you’ll notice the structure’s unique Chinese-inspired architectural elements, including a curved hip roof, carved brackets in the bay corners, and similarly rounded rafter details along the exterior. In 1933, an additional fifth bay was opened on the eastern side of the station; the slightly wider design and more intact construction is still discernible. The parking lot’s uneven plane indicates where a gas pump island once sat, which also explains why the structure is set so far back in the lot. Much of this area is quickly disappearing in the wake of the G-Word, so keep an eye out for this and other forgotten sites while you still can.
The GOODS from The Biltmore Cabaret
Vancouver, BC | The Biltmore Cabaret presents a special summer double bill on Thursday, August 14th. In the sweetest deal of the summer, you are invited to enjoy Bry Webb (of the Constantines) for a special ‘Pay What You Can’ early show, with guests Olenka & the Autumn Lovers (Webb is on tour in support of his highly lauded new album, ‘Free Will’). Doors 7pm. RSVP on Facebook here. And then at 9:30pm, get set for the Tribute to the Ramones Pizza Part in celebration of the life and times of Tommy Ramone (RIP) and the entire Ramones crew. The Ramores, Slow Learners and Desolation Sound will play, and it just wouldn’t be a Ramones’ party without pizza. Come early to chow down on some choice slices. RSVP on Facebook here. Playbill/details after the jump. Read more
by Grady Mitchell | Robbie Slade is one-half of Vancouver electronic duo Humans, alongside beat maker and Montreal transplant Peter Ricq. “Pete’s prolific,” says Robbie. “He cranks out beats like crazy.” Robbie takes those beats and adds melodies and vocals, and together they achieve their booming, turbulently danceable signature sound.
Robbie honed his musical talents in a somewhat literal trial by fire. He was a feller fighting forest fires in northern BC, moving into areas to cut down dead trees so his crew could work safely. Alone all day in a smouldering forest, he wrote songs in his head as he cut. He held the melodies in his mind until he could write them down, sometimes days later.
Pete’s always been an electronic musician, but Robbie’s early interests were in folk and reggae. You can hear the influence of those genres on the throaty rasp of his voice, especially on tracks like De Ciel, from the band’s second album, 2012′s Traps. Robbie points out, though, that the lines between genres grow blurrier every day. “If you’re going to stop at folk, you probably don’t like music that much, because I’m pretty sure James Blake could get ya.”
Since Traps came out in 2012 they’ve collected more new gear and finished recording a new, as-of-yet untitled album. Will it be dancy? “Moreso than ever,” Robbie assures. Unfortunately, it won’t be out until February. Until then, you can hear more Humans at their site, or you can catch them on August 16th at the Two Acre Shaker in Pemberton.
Head to the Rio Theatre on August 21st to take in the Vancouver premiere of A Film About Coffee, the new documentary that is being celebrated by coffee wonks the world over. Bonus: 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters will have a crew on hand dispensing unique heirloom varieties of coffee. Via our friends at the Rio: “The movie has been selling out screenings this summer around the world, from Portland to NYC to that place called New Zealand, so we’re stoked to bring it to Vancouver.” Doors open at 7pm and the movie starts at 8pm. Tickets and details after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from The Chinatown Experiment
Vancouver, BC | There are major changes underway with The Chinatown Experiment and this month is a preview of what’s ahead. See the line-up below for all the upcoming new pop-ups, starting off with free coworking for all. Stay on top of it all and receive updates by liking The Chinatown Experiment on Facebook. Drop in on any (or all) of the pop ups to support local entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. If you snap the action and have it up on Instagram, get their attention by tagging @chinatownexp.
August 5 – 14 | FREE COWORKING @thisopenspace | #thisopenspace
We’ve opened our doors for ten days of free coworking. You can sit with us all day and practice your GyShiDo, or just drop in to say hello. Bring your laptops, sketchbooks, painting easels, and whatever else you need to get s**t done – we’ll take care of the essentials – tables, chairs, and super quick WiFi. There’s coffee next door at The Shop and down the street at Musette Caffé. You can bring your own outside food or grab a bite at our friends Bestie and Pazzo Chow. We’re also working on something exciting launching on September 1. Come hang out with us to find out more about what’s going on at #thisopenspace. Open weekdays 9am – 5pm.
August 15 – 21 | platFORM PRESENTS: THE 1 SALE | #platFORMclass
This summer, students from the SFU’s Beedie School of Business and Emily Carr’s Design program have teamed up to create sustainable market-viable products in a six-week long collaborative program. The trans-disciplinary teams will be launching and showcasing products that address issues such as sustainable travel, social isolation, textile waste, cosmetics packaging, and food packaging. It all takes place in a one-week pop-up storefront. The opening night pitches start August 15 from 6pm – 10pm and the platFORM 1 Sale is open Saturday to Sunday 11am – 9pm and Monday to Thursday from 12pm – 8pm.
August 23 – 24 | CAROL KELLEY’s WOOD+WINE | #carolkelley
Carol Kelley’s designs are a reflection of a rural upbringing crossed with a modern lifestyle. The furniture pieces are a family collaboration. Her father, a self-taught log home builder (very cool) and a trained fine woodworker, sources and salvages trees from the land where the family was raised. Each pieces is the cut and dried locally in an adjacent mill. Kelley then brings them to Vancouver for finishing in a shared East Van studio. Opening night is August 23 from 7pm to late. Come thirsty, there will be a cash bar. The store is also open Sunday from 11am – 5pm.
August 25 – 27 | ALFONSO ARNOLD PHOTOGRAPHY | #alfonsoarnold
Local photographer Alfonso Arnold returns from a recent trip to Myanmar for a three-day photography exhibition. Alfonso is inspired by artistic, and social diversity. He shoots for commercial, and fine art clients with a strong passion for people and landscapes. Along with a full time studio, he is an instructor at Lasalle College Int., and the photo coordinator for the bi-annual, Eco Fashion Week.
August 28 – 31 | ROSE & LEA POP-UP SHOP | #roseandlea
Laura & Natasha are a mother-daughter blogging duo from Vancouver. They’re behind the lifestyle blog Rose & Lea – writing about art, baking, and beauty amongst their other passions. For four days only, they are taking their online blog and bringing it to life in a pop-up storefront. Expect them to share their passions by having gourmet-baked goods for sale, as well as their unique style of painting inspired by the beauty found in everyday surroundings. They paint whatever happens to inspire them at that moment in time – their designs are always feminine, and uniquely Rose & Lea.
Opening night party is on Thursday, August 28 from 7pm – 9pm. Weekend store hours are 11am – 7pm Friday to Saturday and to 6pm on Sunday.
by Andrew Morrison | As a summer project, my eldest son James and I have been walking around the city with a copy of Fred Herzog Photographs (Douglas & McIntyre, 2011) and trying to shoot the exact locations where the master framed up his most iconic shots. It’s a book that we both love because a lot of the pictures were taken really close to our house in Strathcona and all around the Downtown Eastside. Because of our familiarity with the territory, most of the locations have been easy to pick out. Others are proving far more difficult because much of what was once there is no more. Truly, working on this has really brought home how dramatic the changes to this city have been over the last 50-60 years. And yet, in some places, it’s uncanny how it has remained largely the same. There’s plenty of summer left and a lot more Herzog haunts to explore, so expect the gallery below – complete with higher resolution side-by-sides and descriptive captions – to expand.
by Grady Mitchell | “I want anyone to feel like they’re allowed to like art,” says Jeff Hamada, the Vancouverite behind Booooooom, one of the world’s leading online archives of contemporary creativity. That’s why he started the site six years ago, and with millions of visitors each month – well, mission accomplished.
Along with a bottomless reserve of enthusiasm, one of the main reasons Jeff launched Booooooom was in response to the elitism he encountered in art school. He’s adamant, however, that he won’t spoon-feed art to the masses. When someone tells him “I love everything you post on your site,” he considers that a failure. The trickiest part of the whole Booooooom operation is balancing people’s expectations while introducing them to new, challenging work. The last thing he wants the site to become is an echo chamber endlessly reinforcing its own opinion.
What he does want, he says, “is to provide an opportunity for people to encounter something they’re not really sure about. I want the site to be more like an appetizer than a main course; for them to be hungry to discover more on their own.”
The Booooooom selection process doesn’t involve formulas or focus groups. In his mind, selecting only things you know people will like isn’t curation. Instead, a curator works to take people somewhere. Jeff uses the analogy of a river with five stepping stones. If the viewer stands on the first stone and Jeff’s on the fifth, he’ll lose them. If they’re both huddled on the same rock, nobody gets anywhere. But if Jeff stays one step ahead, eventually they’ll make their way across. The idea is to maintain that healthy gap and lead viewers along.
The key here is tacit, or intutive, knowledge. “Know how,” Jeff calls it. Like cooking an old family recipe without measuring ingredients, or ollying a skateboard, it’s something you learn to do from repetition. Viewing art, Jeff says, is similar. Anyone can train to do it if they spend the time it takes to look and think.
You don’t even have to like the work. There’s something valuable in trying to understand what others see in something, Jeff says, even if you don’t. Hell, especially if you don’t. To take an extreme example, let’s look at Nickleback. “If so many people like Nickleback,” Jeff says, “Who’s right about Nickleback?” Let’s not ponder that dilemma too deeply, just let it illustrate Jeff’s broader point: “It’s important to put yourself in the position of questioning.”
Good taste can only take you so far. The real thing that makes Booooooom stand out from so many other sites is the community. Like learning to study art, it’s something that’s built over time. The work of building it wasn’t actually hard, Jeff says, it’s just that there was a lot of it. From day one, he emailed every artist he featured (he still does). He didn’t ask for anything, just let them know he enjoyed their work. Send two or three emails a night over a couple years, eventually you’ll have a community on your hands.
Today, he uses his following to engage artists and art lovers through challenges and contests. The latest is Drawing On The Past, where he challenged readers to draw an influential person, place or thing from their life and write about it. In return they could win a limited edition Booooooom bag made in collaboration with Herschel Supplies. Jeff hopes to launch even larger creative collaborations in the future. Or, in his words, to at least have his ideas “rejected by bigger and bigger clients.” Whatever you’re doing, Jeff argues that getting shot down every once in a while is critical. “Rejection is a huge part of knowing that you’re still pushing it. If I succeed ten times in a row, to me that’s a failure. I’m not trying hard enough.”
He also hopes, someday soon, to take Booooooom from a strictly virtual space to a physical one. Less of a straight up gallery, he’s thinking, and more of a community hub where people who dig it can get together. If you haven’t already, give the website a visit. You can also check out Jeff’s personal work here.
Tuff City | Place/Nickname | The nickname of the town of Tofino, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Usage: “I’m heading over to Tuff City this weekend…”
Kids On The Block | Exclamation/Warning | A pass-it-on call yelled out on the DTES whenever young children are present.
Usage: “Put that shit away, man. Kids on the block!”
Cheater Floor | Legend | Back in 2011, we told you about Chinatown’s many Cheater Floors: ”The story goes that during the construction boom in Chinatown at the beginning of the 20th century, property taxes were levied against building owners using a formula that multiplied the footprint of the building by the number of its floors. The stunted 2nd storeys didn’t count toward this total, and thus provided tax-free storage and ancillary space. The term emerged from the xenophobia of the 1950s and not-so-subtly suggested that Chinese property owners were deliberately hiding a secret floor. The appropriate nomenclature is ’2nd floor mezzanine’, and there is little to suggest that builders at the time could hide an entire floor from a building inspector, nor were there any discernible property tax incentives to do so.”
Usage: “I told my kids that the Cheater Floor was where they put kids who cheated on their homework…”