Editors’ Picks: Best Cultural Experiences of 2023

We're cultured! This proves it!

Of course we work hard making you a magazine 10 times a year. (Speaking of which: have you signed up for your free print subscription yet?) But we play hard too. While some people call Vancouver “no fun city,” we know this is patently untrue, and we’ve got the receipts.

The Vanmag Editors’ Favourite Cultural Experiences of 2023

Not a photo of Boygenius but you get the gist. Photo: PNE.ca

Boygenius at the PNE Amphitheatre

Somehow, I had never been to a concert at the PNE Amphitheatre before this year. (Have I been avoiding the fairgrounds since I worked three summers inside the barn selling honey during my college days? Maybe.) But catching a show here on a perfect July day instantly cemented it as my outdoor venue of choice. Opener Carly Rae Jepsen (a truly underrated national treasure, put her on some money already) performed for an ecstatic, undulating crowd of dancers, backlit by the blinding sun. We retreated to the bleachers to watch the mopey angels of Boygenius as they took the stage at dusk. Sure, many people were having a good cathartic cry to “Emily I’m Sorry,” but I was beaming. A place to sit? A cool summer breeze? My Spotify playlist come to life? It was the millennial concert-goer’s dream. The planned amphitheatre upgrade will more than double the capacity (from 4,500 to 10,000), so please, come and join me next time. —Stacey McLachlan, editor-in-chief


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Hip.Bang!’s Home at The Cultch

First, a disclosure: I know the artists in the poster above personally. I went to see this show because my dear friends Tom Hill and Devin Mackenzie of local comedy duo Hip.Bang! created it with the very talented Patrick Shannon, who I’ve also had the pleasure of working with. But considering the other two of my top three cultural experiences in 2023 were Vancouver Fringe shows starring my fellow Vanmag editors Stacey McLachlan and Kerri Donaldson, this actually felt like the least-biased choice. Is it my fault I have very talented friends?

That said, even if I didn’t love the creators of this show, it would still be one of the most memorable theatre experiences I had this year. Audience members filled out a short survey about what “home” meant to them before the show, and elements from those responses were woven seamlessly into the performance. Home consisted of real stories, imagined futures, serious reflections on climate change and, somehow, a whole lot of hope. If you ever get the chance to see it, I recommend it wholeheartedly.—Alyssa Hirose, managing editor

Photo: Michael Slobodian

Kidd Pivot’s Assembly Hall at the Vancouver Playhouse

Is there a Crystal Pite show I haven’t floated out of, glowing from the inside out by the weird and wonderful and athletic and mystical performance I just witnessed? There is not. And so every new Crystal Pite show I see is the best Crystal Pite show I’ve ever seen—and the bar for that is very, very high to begin with. I nearly missed seeing her latest due to the mass run on tickets, but managed to snag a preview seat to Assembly Hall. The dancing is beautiful, yes, but Pite’s choreography for her Kidd Pivot dancers manages a kind of storytelling in a way I’ve rarely seen in modern dance. Assembly Hall tells the story of a group of medieval re-enactors, gathering at their community hall for what is likely to be their last meeting. They discuss, they battle, they shift into a world where the lines blur between what’s real and what’s fantasy. And some of the darkest moments—a possible battle-to-the-death dance between a human and a bird of prey, for example—can flip immediately to laugh-out-loud humour as another dancer walks in and interrupts the so-called battles. And I can’t wait for her next, best-ever performance to be announced. Just save me a ticket or three?—Anicka Quin, editorial director



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Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour at BC Place

I would certainly describe this experience as not only cultural but also life-affirming. It was a performance that felt almost religious: the venue (or rather, the House of Chrome) was buzzing with the Beyhive army, each of us dressed in sparkling silver per her majesty’s request, for a night filled with vocal riffs, runs and vogue-style ballroom dancing. Matching the dedicated fervor of the Swifties, Beyonce’s fans showed up in full force—except during the song ‘Energy’ when she sings ‘look around, everybody on mute,’ and a few over-enthusiastic people cheered, missing the cue to bring the arena to complete silence as per her other concerts. Her performance was legendary, and while there are plenty of bootlegged YouTube videos and now even a movie documenting the concert, it was the energy (callback!) and the camaraderie born from a mass gathering of strangers, united by a shared love for Beyonce (and perhaps dancing, splurging on concert tickets, sparkling sequins, and feminism—but you get the idea), that truly stood out. Even as I continue to pay off my nosebleed-seat ticket, this remains my top experience of the year and one for the books. You’ve got your work cut out for you, 2024!Kerri Donaldson, associate editor