Wayne Flebbe is having one hell of a time picking last year's best album. Ask him the question and his eyes widen, seemingly stunned as if images from his mental catalogue of 2011 releases are flashing rapidly before his eyes. He stares off deep into the ether.
"Oh wow. Favourite." He gives an exasperated sigh. "That's a hard one, you know. I've got a lot of favourites. Ooooooh." He places a hand to his temple and rolls the pads of his fingers on the small curls of his greying hair. "That's a hard one isn't it? I couldn't pick a favourite album."
And there's no doubt. The man is a music junkie of extraordinary proportions. For his 60th birthday this week, his friend Ace McKay-Smith is throwing a special edition of Big Sexy Funk 45 at the FireRock to celebrate his eclectic taste. His CD collection consumes an entire wall in his spare bedroom, and another quarter of the adjacent wall. His LP collection is stacked on a bay of shelves in his living room, storing thousands of vinyl records. Beside the shelves are more racks filled with 45s, some of them dating back to '60s, when he first discovered rock and roll.
And these are just the physical copies that he owns. There's a whole other continent located on the hard drive of his computer.
Since his brother Rick died suddenly in 2009 from a brain tumour, he's had no access to a vehicle, and therefore no access to Vancouver where most of his collection was purchased. For the 20 years before that, he and Rick would take weekly trips to the city and return with stacks of CDs of the latest music.
The brothers were inseparable. If you saw one at a live show in Whistler, the other wouldn't be far away. Rick was Wayne's protector, his unofficial guardian and his best friend. He relied on Rick for just about everything and together they fed Whistler bars with the latest and greatest music. It's a legacy that's easy to overlook but important not to.
Now, having hit 60 on Tuesday, Wayne has found his independence. He lives on his own in a refurbished basement suite in Alpine. The living room is decorated like a boutique record store: Debbie Harry's silhouetted face is displayed atop the crate of 45s. A signed poster of the Airborne Toxic Event adorns one wall. Music magazines sit in neat piles around the apartment and biographies of David Bowie, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones are displayed purposefully on ledges under his rounded coffee table in the centre of the room.
His knowledge is encyclopedic. He could hold his own in a game of musical Jeopardy! in a Williamsburg bar full of hipsters, if such a thing exists. Yet he can't pick a favourite album of 2011. In thinking about it, he flips through the music library on the computer, flashing recent albums by Frank Ocean, Fucked Up and Future Islands. Atlas Sound filters through the speaker woofers and segues into Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Niggas in Paris."