By Nicole Fitzgerald
Who: The Hairfarmers
When: Dec. 29-31
Where: Merlin’s & Dusty’s
Four years in Whistler and I had never experienced a full frontal après with all the trimmings of live music, jugs of beer and a round table of friends.
Last month, I was anointed into the longstanding tradition practised by ski bums seeking perfect alcohol bliss amidst tall tales of ripping it up on the mountain.
I was ordained by the Après Gods themselves, The Hairfarmers.
Now I realize there are two entities within the identity (Grateful Greg and Guitar Doug), but the duo is sort of like yin and yang, with the two halves coming together to create a whole — lot of fun.
Both made from Dusty’s rib, the two are one in their long hair, playful banter that always leaves unfinished sentences picked up by the other. Like brothers sometimes, the “bad” one (try to guess which at the next Hairfarmers show) always likes to throw a loose cannon musical offering into the set, leaving the other to Janga his way through the challenge, which keeps shows fresh and the musicians lively. They both ride Harley’s. Greg was the first. They both dedicate their careers solely to music. Doug was the first. And now they have been crowned Best Band in Pique Newsmagazine’s Best of Whistler poll, with both crossing the finish line at the same time.
Covers are the mainstay of the Hairfarmers lineup, but the boys rise above the common cover strummer with a repertoire of more than 2,000 songs. They’ve got so much music in them they could play a four-hour concert of just Grateful Dead cover tunes. They could play a country night with at least a dozen encores in their musical score. And if they don’t know it, they’ll jumble their way through it if you are willing to hum along.
These two boys are not just musicians. They are entertainers who have seen so much they probably have inside information on everyone in town.
Maybe that is why the Hairfarmers were voted Best Band. Everyone feared for their wives, I mean lives.
I’ve seen these two long locked gents perform at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, MY Millennium Place, Merlin’s patio in the summer and at charity benefits, but something different happens when the Hairfarmers step onto a stage looking out on ski-boot-clad snow crowds. They rise to God-like proportions and instead of burning incense to the almighty, pints are raised and the congregation sings along to cover hymns of Sweet Caroline and Johnny Cash.
Part stand up comedy routine, part music juke box, the Hairfarmers are an experience that international travelers actively seek out on returning to Whistler. But the Hairfarmers phenomenon isn’t restricted by Canadian borders these days.
“We’ve had several classified top secret parties in exotic locations that we can’t tell you about,” Greg informed.
Highlights for 2006 included last New Year’s at Merlin’s — and probably this year’s as well. Merlin’s is one of the few bars in town that rings in the New Year with Whistler’s hottest band and only a $5 cover charge, the same as any other night.
“The Hairfarmers are booked for New Year’s until 2010,” Greg said. “They know glorified beer salesmen make money.”
Other 2006 Hairfarmers highlights include the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski School beach party at Merlin’s, World Ski and Snowboard Festival après shows at Citta’ and the director’s cup party at the GLC. The boys also set a personal record of 11 shows in six days.
Grateful Greg said the audience is as important as the performers at a Hairfarmers show.
“It’s not often in the world anymore, that you can go and act like a total maniac, let your hair down and have fun, and no one is going to call you up from the office and tell you what a bozo you were,” Greg said of the Hairfarmers après shows. “Have a blast. No one wants to be the first to get out of their seats to dance, but as soon as you get one table going, everyone is up; everyone wants to get in on the fun. It takes willing people to make this happen.”
With their trusty fun-seeking radar, a Hairfarmers show always delivers an awesome — some might say holy — experience where music carries on the rush first fed by a day riding the mountains.
“Skiing before après keeps you in touch with why you are here,” Greg said. “It keeps the glow on your face. You can see it. We love to ski and get up there and it’s a big part of why we are here and still doing it.”
The Hairfarmers perform Friday, Dec. 29 for après and evening sets at Merlin’s; Saturday, Dec. 30 for après at Dusty’s; and Sunday, Dec. 31 for après and New Year’s Eve at Merlin’s.
“Hang on to your liver!” Greg joked.