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Casting a musical spell

Big John Bates and the Voodoo Dollz return to Whistler to rock the Cornucopia crowd at ARTrageous

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"Sometimes you can't speak to the audience," he said. "You know, if we're playing in Hungary, I don't know much Hungarian, so I have to be able to get everything through to them just visually."

Bates was in Vancouver earlier this week recovering from the group's latest tour, which started in March and saw the band traipsing across Europe and North America, twice, and swapping out bass players and dancers, occasionally.

"We played some huge places in Europe - we headlined for 10,000 people in Germany, we did 12 shows for 25,000 people - our new record's doing pretty well over there," he said.

Sounds like a bit of an understatement. Strangely enough, this Canadian band has a much stronger following in Europe and even in the United States.

"(Trash blues) isn't really recognized by people. Here, people go, 'oh, you're a rockabilly band" and that's far from the truth - I don't play any rockabilly guitar. But because we have an upright bass and a hollow body guitar, it looks rockabilly," Bates said.

They've headlined gigs and festivals in 15 countries, taking the stage with the likes of The Supersuckers, Th' Legendary Shack Shakers, Los Straitjackets, Corb Lund, Robert Gordon, New Bomb Turks, the Belrays, Koko Taylor and Jooles Holland, and played for some pretty unusual crowds, like the inmates of a federal prison in Belgium.

"That was one of the stranger ones," Bates said with a laugh. "For sure, that was pretty awesome."

They released their first album, a seven-inch vinyl, in 1999, and they just released their fourth album, Bangtown , in Europe last spring. Now, the band is getting ready to unleash it on the Canadian crowd.

Of course, Big John Bates and the Voodoo Dollz are just one piece of the puzzle that is ARTrageous this year.

DJ Vinyl Ritchie will be spinning before and after the band's set, and 30 artists from the Sea to Sky region have been tapped to contribute to the ARTrageous S2S Masterpiece Exhibit, portraying each artist's ideal masterpiece, and incorporating these definitions and perspectives into a piece that will be showcased in "visual debate" at this year's party. Plus, photographer Matt Walker is organizing the Photo Studio Experiment, where attendees can dress up (or down) to have professional photos taken with friends.

Canadian All Terrain will also be running a free shuttle service from the Whistler Village taxi loop every half hour starting at 8 p.m. taking passengers to Creekside. The last shuttle from Creekside to the Village leaves at 1:15 a.m.

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