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Marching right on time

Street Entertainment gets ready to March with two free live concerts in Whistler Village



Who: The February March

When: Aug. 11, 6 p.m. in Mountain Square

When: Aug. 12, 3 p.m. in Village Common

Admission: Free

There are very few things you can count on in life.

Phil Bell, lead guitar for The February March, showing up on time for a gig is one of those rare things. Working on cruise ships, he quickly learned his floating stage would set sail without him.

Listen for this Brit’s “kick ass guitar solo” with The February March on Saturday, Aug. 11 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in Mountain Square (across from Lululemon) and Sunday, Aug. 12 from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Village Common as part of Whistler Street Entertainment presented by Higher Ground Entertainment.

“Kick ass” are Bell’s words, completely non-biased words, he adds in good humour, but listening to the title track of their latest album, City of Glass , kick ass describes every aspect of their music. A music critique from The Province described the foursome of Bell, frontman Joel Battle, drummer Kevin Jones and bassist Nick Jones as: “a cut above the average.”

The February March, whose original incarnation was Formula (a U.S. band with the same name forced the moniker switch), rocks out festivals, concerts, and radio and television waves alike, including the Western Canadian Music Awards, New Music West, World Ski and Snowboard Festival, opening for Hedley and Marianas Trench , and radio play in the top five on Vancouver’s 99.3 The Fox, Toronto’s 104.9 The Edge and Vancouver Island’s CFox, CBC and The Q. Joining the soundtrack for Falcon Beach was almost added to the band’s credits, but instead a more locally-recognized television series signed on.

“I think if you look at it in product placement, it is just another medium to get into,” he said of television play. “Eventually you want to be as accessible as you can be… In saying that, your live show is still the main thing. That’s what people want to see.”

Seven songs from City of Glass were recently chosen for Whistler, the CTV television series. Whistler won’t hold that against them, their music dials in anything but candy-pop listening.

“Our first management tried to make us into a pop band, obviously by looking at us, we don’t exactly have the physique for a pop band,” he said.

Nor the empty sound.

Think somewhere between Cold Play and the Rolling Stones, harnessing strong melodies and solid arrangements with plenty of layers. Lyrically, songs move past girlfriend-boyfriend parodies and instead hit the cold streets of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Street Signs was nominated for B.C. Homeless Week.

“It’s such a beautiful city,” Bell said of Vancouver. “There is such trouble in the East Side though. It’s not a class distinction like in England, but an economic one… We want to raise awareness about this.”

As the band’s name implies, The February March isn’t afraid to make a political or humanitarian statement. The name also pays tribute to recording City of Glass in February and March at Bryan Adams’s Mushroom Studios in Vancouver under the guidance of producer Mark Henning and management of S.L. Feldman & Associates (rep for the Crash Test Dummies, Diana Krall and the Barenaked Ladies ), with backing from the Swiss label B&C Entertainment. As stipulated by the label, the four boys hunkered down day and night for months on end to write 50 songs, 11 of which made it to the album.

“They demanded we write 50 songs for the album, then we choose from the cream of the crop,” Bell said. “A lot of English bands only have one good song on the album. It’s usually the first and then the second song is something like ‘I like daisies.’”

Already the four0piece band is working on their next album, with more Canadian and U.S. tours on the horizon.

“Nobody told me how big Canada is,” Bell said, laughing. “In England, two inches on a map can be done in a day. I didn’t realize I was signing up for 15-hour drive between Winnipeg and Regina. It didn’t look that far on the map.”

While Bell gets his coordinates, Whistler will zero into music that knows how to work a hook both on music charts and the stage.