If you imagined Whistler in the mid-'90s as a laidback, Wild West ski town, think again.
While some aspects of the nascent resort were less corporate than today, it turns out the municipality was not too keen on unsanctioned busking.
Nearly 25 years ago, brothers Stephen and Peter Vogler would play guitar and busk around the village—much to the chagrin of bylaw officers. "A long time ago, I was busking and I had my case open and (they'd) come and say, 'You can't busk here,'" Peter Vogler remembers. "I'd close my case and say, 'I'm not busking.' They'd come back and say, 'Well, you can't have a case in front of you.' So I took chalk and drew a square in front of me on the pavement. Then they'd say I couldn't do that. So I put a (pile) of coins there ... This went on for over a year and a half."
The disagreement culminated in a "sting" where four officers followed Vogler and confronted him one day. That incident stuck with him when he and Stephen later sat down to come up with a name for their lively ska band—and the Hounds of Buskerville was born.
"(The band) is coming up to its 25th anniversary," Vogler says. "It doesn't feel like it. It's been a journey of improved musicianship. I think we write better songs (now)—but not always."
While the lineup has changed over the years ("Stephen retires every now and then," Peter jokes), it's now a fairly solid quintet with Peter and Stephen sharing guitar, bass and vocal duties, "JayOh!" (Jason Overy) on drums, "Mister Cakes" (Leroy Pierpont) on horns and "Kostaki" (Kostas Roumeliotis) on saxophone.
At this point, "we can play four hours straight of original material," Vogler says. "What it comes down to is this music is made for dancing. It's for tossing beer around and having a great time. I think of it this way, I'm on stage and I'm the preacher and the audience is the flock. If we do it right we can turn it into this great communion. People bounce out of their stressed-out heads."
That proved to be true back in January when the band opened up for veteran Vancouver punks D.O.A. at the Prospect Pub in Pemberton. "That re-inspired us," Vogler says. "It was killer. We thought we should get this going again."
To that end, the band now has two local shows coming up. They're set to play Dusty's in Whistler on Friday, April 6 and they're back at the Prospect Pub on Saturday, April 7.
The former will have a special historical spin on it, Vogler explains.
"At the Whistler show, we're doing The Burnin' Ska Revue. The history of the music is really awesome. I'll talk for 10 minutes or so about (each) era of ska music then we'll illustrate that wave of ska with half a dozen songs," he says.
Ska actually predates reggae music and has three distinct eras, he says. "It started out in the late '50s in Jamaica and then in the '70s it moved inland and got a bit punk-ier. Then in the '80s and '90s, it reached America, Germany and Canada. That's the third wave," he says. "(The show will be like) the most fun history class ever."
He's experimented with the format in the past—and can rattle off a range of historical fun facts—and while he might have worried that all the talking was getting in the way of dancing, the crowd felt differently. "I asked people if it was OK, if my talking was boring and they said, 'No way dude, that was awesome.' We've played that music for years. We know what it is, but a lot of people have no clue," Vogler says. "I'll do at least a couple covers so people recognize the song, then some originals. We mix it up and keep it loose."
Catch the show at Dusty's on Friday, April 6 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. The Prospect Pub show at the Pemberton Hotel is on Saturday, April 7. Advance tickets are available at the hotel.