If you're one of the many closeted fans of the musical reality shows on the major television networks (think American Idol and America's Got Talent), you'll be able to get a fix of live competition for the next little while as the Crystal Lounge plays host to a weekly talent search.
The second annual Whistler's Got Talent competition kicks off tonight (Sept. 30) with local musician Dave Morris organizing and emceeing the event. Morris has called Whistler home for almost 16 years and has made a living as a full time musician for almost four years. If you've been in town for any length of time, chances are you've probably caught a show with Morris (he also goes by "Dr. Dave" and plays in the Spy vs. Spy duo).
One of his hangouts is the Crystal Lounge, a small, unassuming space tucked away beneath the Crystal Lodge. In fact, Morris got his start performing in front of crowds at the beloved local watering hole during a very similar competition that was organized by "Rockin' Randy," a local character who ran the long-closed music shop, Bestsellers.
"This was years and years ago. It was my turn to go up and I got up on the stage for the first time at the Crystal there, and I promptly banged my guitar against the mic stand - daaang," he recalled with a laugh. "And then swore. And that was my introduction to live performance.
"But after I got that little embarrassment out of the way, everything went really well."
Since then, Morris, like many other local musicians, has made a name for himself playing gigs at a wide range of clubs, pubs and restaurants.
"I think we're lucky to live in a town that there is entertainment, where people want to come - it's part of the culture! They want to see some local entertainment and music."
We're also fortunate there's a good assortment of local bars and restaurants that have taken entertainers under their wings (think: Crystal Lounge, Black's Pub, Firerock Lounge, Creekbread, Nita Lake Lodge, Players Chophouse, Merlin's, Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Tapley's and the GLC, just to name a few).
"Pretty much on every night, especially mid-season, you can see some live music, for sure!"
Last October, Morris decided to give back to the musical community, joining forces with the Crystal Lounge to organize and host Whistler's Got Talent, a weekly talent showcase. The concept was well received by the community, with a strong turnout from performers and a packed house of music lovers who turned up to check out the talent.
The competition was so well-received, in fact, that Morris has decided to keep the format essentially the same for the second year. Musicians will go head-to-head during three preliminary rounds held on consecutive Thursdays, starting this week. They'll be vying for a spot in the finals on Thursday, Oct. 21. Winners of each of the qualifying rounds and the finals will be selected by a panel of judges who will base their decisions on crowd response, technical ability, presentation and originality.
Aside from the sweet-ass Takamine guitar being offered up as grand prize by the sponsor, Kokanee, participants have a chance to get some on-stage experience in Whistler, and have the potential to get noticed on Whistler's music scene.
"One of the perks of this event from the Crystal Lounge perspective, a lot of the contestants end up with paid gigs at the Crystal Lounge, which is one of the funnest places to play in Whistler," Morris added.
The format of the competition is very welcoming: it's open to all musicians - solo or groups - of all genres, whether they play original or cover material.
"We're really looking for a great live performance. We don't want to put any boundaries on it, and I think it really paid off last year. We had a blues band from Mount Currie... we had different styles, and also with allowing group and solo acts, we really saw a lot of great music. We don't want to put limits on it and say, 'no, you can't do this and you can't do that.' All we really want to do is see some good talent and give away a guitar."
And Morris points out that the crowds at these competitions tend to be very supportive, so rookie entertainers don't have to worry about being booed off stage.
So far, quite a few musicians have signed up to compete, but there's room for more. Stop by the Crystal to fill out an entry form. It's free to compete. Even if you're not in the running, come check out a few of Whistler's hidden gems over the next few Thursday evenings.