After Whistler’s recent KISS fiasco, many people may be raising their eyebrows at the mention of another large-scale concert proposed for the region.
But Live Nation, an international musical event company, wants to bring a three-day music festival to the Pemberton area this summer, and has already received the support of local government to move ahead with plans.
Shane Bourbonnais has been working in the music industry for almost 17 years, and in 2000 started with the company that eventually evolved into Live Nation.
Now the president of North American touring and business development, Bourbonnais encourages skeptics to look into Live Nations’ track record for putting on successful live music events, explaining that the company recently merged with the House of Blues, and will produce over 1,200 shows in Canada this year.
“Essentially, we’re the largest live entertainment company in the world.”
In October, Live Nation signed Madonna as a new client, and Bourbonnais is currently working on a 77-show worldwide tour for pop artist Avril Lavigne.
When asked to find a site for Live Nation’s first Canadian multi-day music festival, Bourbonnais first looked to Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and Alberta. But while driving home from Toronto last summer, it dawned on him that the Sea to Sky corridor could host the event.
“I went, ‘You know what, this is where it should be — this is the perfect place for it!’”
But plans for the concert are still in the works, and Bourbonnais says they are still looking at two other sites in Ontario, though he is personally hoping the Pemberton location works out.
“I’ve been involved in entertainment in Whistler so long, with my old days at Labatt’s, and it was one of those things that I’ve always wanted to try to do, is bring something really special to the area.”
He believes KISS organizers were too quick to announce their concert plans, and says Live Nation is trying to ensure the groundwork is taken care of before promising a concert.
At recent SLRD and Village of Pemberton meetings, board members and councillors raised questions about things like traffic, security, emergency waste management and noise plans, as well as overall site plans and environmental impacts. Bourbonnais says they will be looking at these logistical issues before selecting a site.
“We’re right now short-listing environmental consultants to work in our planning committees and to give us all of the information that we need to make this festival as green as possible and to minimize the impact on the land. The goal is really to leave it in a better state than it was when we got there,” said Bourbonnais.
“…We really want to make this thing a long-term event, so we’re not cutting any corners — we’re making sure that everything is done properly.”
They are currently finishing a traffic study to determine the number of people who can come down the highway, which will be submitted to the Ministry of Transportation for approval within the next few weeks.
Bourbonnais also has a vested interest in ensuring the event is a success if it’s held in Pemberton — he lives there with his wife and two-year-old son.
“That’s the best insurance policy that the community has that this is not going to be a KISS debacle, because I live here and I care about Whistler and Pemberton.”
He confirmed that Coldplay is a potential headlining act for the festival, but says they haven’t started to book talent yet because they’re waiting to ensure venue and location are in place.
“The problem is, if we start to book our talent and we don’t have everything nailed down, we put ourselves in a bad position.”
So far, the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“If we were greeted with open arms like this all the time, our jobs would be a lot easier,” said Bourbonnais. “It’s been phenomenal. The people of Pemberton have really embraced us, and that’s why I’m really hoping to be able to deliver it.”
The festival could be an annual economic driver for the area.
“The goal is for this thing to be so successful that... everyone knows the dates and it becomes a huge tourist draw for Pemberton and Whistler.”
Bourbonnais says they hope to select a site and finalize budget details shortly after Christmas, at which time they’ll be able to make an official announcement to the public.