By Nicole Fitzgerald
Whistler welcomes don’t get any better. Only days after getting off a plane from Edmonton, musician Rachel Thom not only finds herself in a new life with a new job, but also a new title as this year’s winner of the Whistler’s 2007 Battle of the Bands.
“I really hoped Whistler would give me more inspiration,” said the former Albertan. “I had writer’s block in Edmonton. I was hoping the mountains would give me some ideas and get me rolling again.”
Ideas and encouragement it turns out, with the 18-year-old beating out more than 19 musicians with her soaring vocals and acoustic guitar. Her winning set included originals such as Problematic Life, One Lonely and Let Us Stop, along with one cover of The Hideout by Sarah Harmer.
“It’s talent like yours that keeps me in the music business,” said Battle judge Neil Shankman, CEO of REMG Entertainment Corporation, after Thom’s performance.
All finalists received helpful critical feedback from the four-person judging panel, including second-prize winner Jesse Wilson and third-prize winner Tracey Saxby. The Pemberton youth band Transmission Party also rocked out a memorable tune called Three Disco Balls in a Microwave that landed the boys the Audience Choice Award.
“All musicians were so supportive of each other,” said event co-organizer Kate Mason of Whistler-Blackcomb. “They shared equipment, stuck around for other people’s sets. Everyone was really great. There is just so much talent out there.”
Amateur musicians from all walks of the musical score competed over the three-night event hosted by LUNA, a non-profit organization that hosts weekly non-alcohol-related activities for youth 18 to 29 years old. Although only in its second year, the popular competition has already grown from the small youth centre staging to its current home at the Rainbow Theatre.
For Thom, the experience has been an inspiring one.
“I just want to get writing,” she said of her euphoric state. “I’m already working on something. I just want to keep writing and get my recording stuff (organized) in Whistler and start my third album. And just keep playing for people and get the word out and see where it goes from there.”
When Thom isn’t working the counter at the Beetroot Café, she is writing or playing anywhere that allows underage performers. As part of her winnings, she gets to perform a live solo concert this Thursday, March 8 at Merlin’s. She is scheduled for an early show at 5 p.m. because she isn’t of legal drinking age. Second place winner Wilson will step up to the mic afterwards at 7 p.m. for a set of his own.
Thom will also perform and be interviewed on Mountain FM as part of the grand-prize package later this month.
“There is so many places here that are open to hearing local talent,” she said. “I thought Whistler was a good opportunity for me music- wise. I just can’t believe it happened this fast though.”