Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Friday Quiz at the Park at English Bay

Note: the usual blogger is holidaying in Europe. I'm filling in in his absence. So let's kick off with a review of a relative newcomer in the Vancouver quiz scene.

Where: The Park at English Bay, 1755 Davie Street

When: The last Friday of the month, 9:00pm start time, which works out well as it means you beat most of the Davie Street Friday night crowd, and need only pay for an hour at metered spots (of which there should be plenty).

Registration fee: $3 per team member—though this is waived for repeat winners (see below)

Prizes: $100 gift certificate to Zulu Records, and a winner’s token (again, see below)

Format: Eight rounds of 5 questions with halftime break after round four

Food and drink: Usual pub fare. Note for vegetarians: the veggie burger is, nominally, the only veg entre on the menu. It’s juicy, plump, and literally oozing with flavor—in other words, a little too good to be vegetarian. Proceed at your own risk.

Downtown’s trendy Davie Village is the setting for one of Vancouver’s newest pub quizzes, the FRIDAY QUIZ at the Park at English Bay. Despite the name, the quiz is actually a once-monthly event (held the last Friday of the month) at the Best Western Sands’ in-house gastropub. The venue is spacious and nicely appointed, though the spatial layout leaves something to be desired, as some tables have no line-of-sight to the quizmaster.

On that note, the evening is expertly emceed by trans-Atlantic transplant Benji Duke. The sideburned Englander boasts over 600 quizzes worth of hosting experience, which is evident in his entertaining stage banter. The production also benefits from the use of a backing soundtrack of quiz-appropriate tunes such as the theme from Countdown and that BBC News music.

As to the quiz itself, the pacing is good and the questions are fun, original, and, like the Cayman Islands, not too taxing. This brings up the FRIDAY QUIZ’s only possible blemish, which one might characterize as the tendency towards “soft” questions. “Soft” here serves double duty, meaning, at various points, either dead easy or not-quite-factual-enough for quiz material.

Of the first kind, there are a few too many questions of the head-slapping, can’t-miss variety, as well as those that can be pretty effectively “meta-gamed” by canny teams. For example, one question asked “what would kill you first: no sleep or no food and water?” and the answer must be sleep because it’s totally counter-intuitive but just crazy enough to be true. The sleep question also illustrates the second type of “soft” question, as it calls upon chain email folk wisdom (see also: a duck’s quack doesn’t echo, and no one knows why or you eat nine spiders in your sleep every year), rather than hard facts, which is probably best avoided when real prizes are on the line.

Paired with an abundance of multiple choice and true-false questions, the upshot of this pattern is a very easy quiz and not much opportunity for anyone to pull away from the pack. When I attended, only five points separated first from last at halftime in a field of a dozen or so teams, and no team scored lower than 15 out of a possible 20. Of course, this improves the chances that any team, from the half-interested barflies and sloshy cougars to the overeducated hipsters, can win any given night, which can hardly be a bad thing.

Speaking of the winning team, FRIDAY QUIZ’s $100 Zulu Records gift card is, on its own, a strong candidate for the richest prize in all of Vancouver quizdom. On top of that, the winning team also receives a nickel-sized pin as a token of their victory; trade in six of them, and your team is exempted from registration fees—for life.

The top and bottom of it: The FRIDAY QUIZ will make a fine addition to any Vancouver trivia fancier’s quiz calendar, thanks to its cool presentation and glittering cache of prizes. It skews a bit on the easy side, but all the better as a warm up for a Friday night out downtown.

A Challenger Appears!

So, as I said before, I'm on vacation for a while, and won't be reviewing any quizzes in Vancouver. Fortunately for you, I still know people who are. My good friend Mike will be taking the reins as  deputy Quizmaster while I'm away. He should have a review up shortly. Of a new quiz in town? Who knew? I didn't!