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Pique n' your interest

It really is summer, you can tell by the music

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Don’t be fooled by the weather – summer is here. As everyone living in Whistler this past season should be well aware, the last way to pick the seasons is by measuring what Mother Nature chooses to dish out. Extended periods of sunshine in February 2001, record heavy snowfalls in April and cool rainy skies in June are a testament to that.

Instead the best way to get a feel for the time of year it is to look at a bulletin board. The plethora of Rooms for Rent notices in Whistler clearly reveals that the summer shoulder season is here because the powder hounds have left town. Scattered among them will be "mountain bikes wanted" and the odd "cheap skis" sign from some hopeful about to head to the surf.

However the main thing that lets you know summer has arrived is the abundance of posters, backed with radio advertisements, trying to lure you to music festivals. "So what if it hasn’t stopped raining and the closest you are going to get to your bikini is the solarium?" they seem to scream. "Summer is here and it’s time to get down and party!"

As consumers, we are spoiled for choice with multi-day festivals occurring all over the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Mainstream rock music tempered with a little techno and hip-hop on the side seems to be main menu for these events, but musical aficionados can also check out pipe bands, classical orchestras and folk music, to name but a few styles. If this is all a bit passé, there is always something like the Burning Man festival in Nevada, where pilgrims of "radical self-expression and radical self-reliance" meet in the desert for over a week of experimental community living and outlandish art. Don’t forget to bring lots of water and your bongo drums. Clothing, well that’s optional.

Sadly perhaps, Whistler and Pemberton are in a hiatus as far as camping festivals are concerned, with events such Summer Love and the Stein Valley festivals nothing but a memory. Still, if you have the money and the means, you can travel out of town and find your own 21 st century version of Woodstock, on a very toned down scale. Take last weekend when England’s Radiohead took to the stage in both Vancouver and Washington’s Columbia River Gorge. Being an advocate of overnight music festivals – after all, that’s when the real party begins, in the camp grounds after the band stops playing – I opted for the "Gorge experience." And now armed with experience, I can highly recommend it.

There’s something about being in a huge natural amphitheatre looking down on a stage perched on the edge of oblivion that fills you with awe. Or maybe it was the music. Unlike other bands that inspire you to leap up and down among the sweaty masses while clutching a burning lighter over your head, Radiohead brings on a swaying contemplation of life. Whatever it was, an illuminating thought did spring to my mind at the time.

"Hey, dreary weather must be the breeding ground for great musicians!"

For such a small country, little old England has produced some great modern musicians. In the immediate sense, groups such as Underworld, Blur and leading edge DJs such as Pete Tong, Paul Oakenfold and the Fat Boy. And let’s not even get started on the "oldies" such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Cure and The Beatles. Having lived there for a while, I think it’s because there’s not much else to do. Unlike Canadians, Brits don’t have the choice of skiing on some nice fresh powder day or sitting inside thumbing a guitar. The human spirit needs an outlet for its energy, creativity and daring, be it in sport or music, or it just dies.

Therefore in the absence of snow, I encourage all restless wanna-be bikini and boardshort wearers to go where the music plays and dance in the rain. If it’s been a long time then take some advice – fire-dancing is in but free love is not. Floppy hats are in vogue for the sun-smart and glo-sticks go with ’90s style ravers. And according to the radio ads at least, this summer’s must-have drinking festival accessory is a zippered bottle cooler – kind of like a wet-suit for beer. Cheers!

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