It took longer than it probably should have, but that's often how it happens with trips to Burning Man. But, as they say, it's better late than never.
That's right, Whistler: The Hairfarmers are Burners — finally and officially.
Greg "Grateful Greg" Reamsbottom and Doug "Guitar Doug" Craig, the newly converted, are sitting at the Dusty's patio having just returned home from their first trip to Burning Man. They were hired to play for three nights at a private camp and, whilst being "attacked by the wind," they played. They played with bandanas over their faces to filter out the playa dust. The dust would pool in their guitar frets every time they'd strike a chord, clouds of dust would pillow out like plumes of baby powder. They had Martians in a chorus line dancing side to side.
It was, as Craig says, like something out of Frank Zappa's most fertile imaginative moment.
"At one point, Greg was actually spitting dust out of his harmonica. You could see the notes. And every time we hit a big note, a tuft of playa dust would come flying out of the monitor. It was surreal," he says.
"It was almost like a farce," Reamsbottom adds.
Says Craig: "It was like a cartoon."
Adds Reamsbottom: "It's like, 'there's no way this is happening. It's too stupid.' But it was so stupid it was beautiful."
That pretty much sums up The Hairfarmers' 13-year career, as well. Theirs has been one absurdity after another: They've inspired barroom brawls and widespread outbreaks of public nudity in the same night. In the early 2000s, there would be lines around Merlin's hoping to catch them on their now-legendary Payday Fridays. Once, in Creston, the attorney-general flew via helicopter to shut their gig down.
These are the same Hairfarmers that have been voted Whistler's favourite band for the past 12 years. It's something of a rockstar reality for a pair of dudes that play other people's songs for a living — an irony that Grateful Greg and Guitar Doug are well aware of.
"Being an après ski band, it's not serious business at all," Reamsbottom says. "People are there in Whistler in general to have a good time, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel for them. You just have to spin it a little faster. And they get funny. They'll join the band in a lot of ways."
The Burning Man gig was just one of several hired out-of-town gigs this year. They've been hired for a whole lot of these recently. They've been flown to Sydney, Hong Kong and London. They've played all over the U.S. and Canada, completely unsolicited.
"That's one of the great things about being in one of the go-to bands in Whistler is the whole world comes here," Reamsbottom says. "It puts you in front of an audience that very few musicians would get otherwise. It's the bubble. It's the Whistler bubble and, love it or hate it, a lot of people come here. If they have the time of their life, they want to take it to where they are."