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The other church of the mountains

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The lives lived, and those postponed, of Guitar Doug

Who: Guitar Doug

Where: Everywhere

When: Après-ski

It’s Monday late afternoon/early evening – the magic hours referred to around these parts as après-ski, even by those that didn’t go anywhere near the hill.

Down by the day parking lots a faint roar, like a soccer game or an outdoor rock concert, is barely audible.

Setting out along the path toward the Benchlands, it starts to get louder. The two genteel women mincing across the covered bridge in Eddie Bauer boots have to speak over the din to agree that it "sure smells woodsy here."

Continuing up the path the roar starts to take the shape of a familiar tune. Increasing proximity reveals it to be Hey Jude .

As the patio at Merlin’s comes into view, the sound is deafening. A host of tipsy revelers offer Paul McCartney’s classic ballad to the gods of goggle tan days.

Directing the ragtag choir is a hippie Archangel, a golden haired minstrel with an electric acoustic six-string, faded jeans and a winning grin that locals treasure and visitors never forget. He takes them through a couple more, then packs up to appreciative cheers. Always leave them wanting more.

Maybe it’s presumptuous to consider Guitar Doug’s patio après sessions akin to a religious experience. The laid-back local would probably scoff at the idea. But his uncanny ability to work a room reads like that of a backwoods revival preacher.

A sunny patio atmosphere is often a big part of the equation, but he’s equally adept with the crowds that are drying out from a disappointing day fighting pelting rain and sticky schmoo. They’d rather toast and sing along than cry in their beer when Doug’s on hand.

The magic isn’t limited to Merlin’s either. The roar follows Doug Craig from venue to venue, for après and evening sets, whether he’s duelling with Kyla Uyede’s fiddle, harmonizing with Hairfarmer partner "Grateful" Greg Reamsbottom, or jamming out with his rock/bluegrass/Celtic/reggae/groove band incarnations. The man has even started creating electronic drum ’n’ bass tracks. DJ Doug – why the hell not?

In terms of his history, what can be said that hasn’t been said already? He’s in his late 30s, he’s been in the Whistler area since 1986. He plays all over the world during the off-season and he’s played more shows around here than he would ever want to count. Besides, he’s not a statistics kind of guy.

Something relatively new is that he graduated from the very same high school as me. Paul Kane in St. Albert, Alberta. I was born and raised. He relocated from Montreal. He’s got a few years on me, so we never crossed paths in the hallowed halls of teendom.

But the mild, middle class suburbia on the edge of Edmonton doesn’t change much. It’s easy for me to see how our Alma Mater couldn’t keep Doug in a desk. He kept running off to Jasper, then sauntering back and still kicking ass on his assignments. He was that guy. Teachers love students like that.

He was destined to travel. Did Europe, Banff, and eventually Whistler.

Earlier aspirations to return to Edmonton at the end of his first season in Whistler and study law at the University of Alberta are often played for mind-boggling contrast against his current non-lawyer-like persona.

But he simply raises an eyebrow when asked. He’s not going to play that card, suggesting that out there somewhere is a parallel universe where a golden haired trial lawyer with a winning grin is renowned for the way he can get the jury on his side. Almost like he knows all their favourite songs or something. And a parallel universe court reporter that sits and wonders about Lawyer Doug playing easy-going cover tunes for ski-town partiers in the warm spring sun.

Catch Guitar Doug on Whistler patios, other continents and in parallel universe courtrooms.

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