A&E » Music

Takes a village, town and resort to make a band

Musicians get every kind of opportunity in the Sea to Sky region



Often when spectators go to see a band the venue is almost as important as the music.

It has to be close to home, a place where buds can meet and get a drink, comfortable and friendly, with a good dancefloor/stage/acoustics set-up.

Flip that to see things from the eyes of the performers themselves.

Our best musicians can be found plying their trade up and down the Sea to Sky corridor. If Whistler is the epicentre of work opportunities, with enough musical venues in our hotels, restaurants, bars and festivals to satisfy a city of 200,000 — Pemberton and Squamish are no less important, if smaller, to musicians who see the potential.

Take singer-songwriter Will Ross. Winner of the Whistler Music Search in 2014 and, along with his fellow musicians in The Will Ross Band, a performer at the Pemberton Music Festival, he is actually based in Squamish.

He sees the whole corridor as one big performing opportunity.

"I have been lucky enough to make connections and establish myself as a go-to musician in the corridor at a lot of different venues," Ross says.

The 100-or-so kilometres between the three main communities and their venues are not that far to Ross.

"The Will Ross Band has driven up to play the Pemberton Hotel and it's a bit of a long distance, but if Whistler to Vancouver is 90 minutes and Squamish to Kamloops is six hours.... People do it all the time. It's not that far, but people think it is," he says.

The KnottyBurl, recently opened at the Chieftain Hotel in downtown Squamish, wants to capitalize on this, bringing in Ross to set up their live music night on Fridays.

There is a raft of Whistler bands lined up to perform, including The Railtown Prophets on Friday, Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. Iconic Whistler DJ Mat the Alien is also due to perform in the coming weeks, while Ross had his birthday gig there on Aug. 5.

Karina Leveque, the KnottyBurl's co-owner, grew up in Squamish and says she returned to the region because the music scene kept getting bigger and better.

The venue has been at capacity every night and this is due, in part, to the region's changing demographics.

"People are moving down to Squamish from Whistler and moving up from Vancouver. Musicians have been struggling for places to play," she says.

Ross agrees.

"In living here in the last four years, I've gotten to know so many talented musicians. With Karina giving me the opportunity here, it is the chance to share that love," he says.

"A lot of performers only play in Whistler right now and to get them to come down the corridor and get them out here is a treat for me. Getting known and getting support is what helped me establish my career; helping others is exactly what I want to do. There is so much talent around the corridor."

Another musician who spreads the musical love far and wide in the Sea to Sky is Greg Reamsbottom, a.k.a. Grateful Greg, of The Hairfarmers.

Year in and out he and Guitar Doug win Best Whistler Band in Pique's Best of Whistler vote, but Pemberton is in his blood, too.

Asked how the different communities here have impacted the band, Reamsbottom says in an email from the U.K. (where The Hairfarmers are touring) that it creates a fantastic, varied career.

There are too many stories to list, he adds.

"Each community has its own feel, but so does every venue (even in the same town)... we always do our best to read the audience and adjust our set to suit the vibe in the room," he explains.

"We actually never use a set list, we're always tweaking song selection on the fly, which is an approach we've developed over the 17 years we've been playing together."

In the beginning, Reamsbottom says, they were busy building their audience.

He has some advice for those wanting to live the Sea to Sky musical lifestyle.

"Build your client list. It's definitely good to have a large repertoire of songs and styles. Once you've done that the opportunities are endless," he says.