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Thirty rocks for DJ Peacefrog

Michel Chartrand is in a unique position to observe Whistler's shifting musical tastes


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Michel Chartrand, known far and wide in Whistler as DJ Peacefrog, has hit his top 30.

It has been three decades since he arrived in the resort and started performing at clubs around town.

The specific date is lost in the annals of time, he says, but there are definitely memories, with the conversation taking in the revolutionary shifts in club music and how it impacted Whistler.

He started playing in Montreal in 1983, came to Whistler from there, and is in a unique position to observe how we — the dancers and partiers frequenting the bars and nightclubs — have changed.

"Back then, it was more cycled. The winter was really, really busy, with hardcore skiers. You'd come to the end of the season and it would be really, really dead," he recalls.

Many bars took two or four weeks off and shut down completely at the end of each winter season. It would pick up again for the summer.

"Dance music wasn't as evolved as it is now, so there was a lot of Top 40, a lot of classic rock and blues. Buffalo Bill's had live bands every night," Chartrand recalls.

"My job was to open for the band and play between sets."

The furthest back Pique archives go with a mention of Chartrand is 1996, when a piece about dancing with "the sound gods or the bar dogs" mentions Peacefrog's importance to such proceedings.

The club scene shifted in the music world in the early '90s, when electronic dance music exploded onto the scene.

Whistler took its time embracing it, Chartrand says.

"Whistler is its own little bubble because we have tourists. They come to mainly ski, there weren't many clubbers," he adds.

"It might be their one night out in the year, so they weren't following the trends where I worked, to catch up with the dance music, all the scenes that were away from the classic rock.

"But it did come, and I find people now are more educated. Someone will come to me and whether they are 35, 45 or 50, most of the time their age doesn't predict their taste in music anymore."

The Internet downloads and the ease of finding music is one of the key reasons, Chartrand says.

"People can switch back and forth so easily. More stations and more choices, and people will listen to their kids music a lot more," he says. "They have unlimited resources for music and kids are comfortable with that, but it doesn't mean that the older genres are dead.

"I still see people in their early 20s who are diehard Led Zeppelin fans. My son loves Queen and Billy Joel, as well as the newer stuff. It is kind of cool that there are so many options now."

He says what is happening in Whistler's clubland is reflected by this diversity.

"In the crowd, you get all kinds of people," he says.

Does that make his job as DJ Peacefrog easier or harder?

"A lot of DJs have their style that they like or represent and that is all they do and they have their crowd. In a sense, for some people, getting ready for a night (of DJing) it is easier, but whenever someone is attached to a style of music they need to be at the forefront of it," Chartrand says.

He says he is more all over the place.

"For me, it's more like a house party. I can go from '90s hip hop to classic rock to house music. And then I go around over and over again," he says.

"My musical tastes haven't really changed. I've always loved all kinds of music."

These days, he plays "99 per cent of the time" at Buffalo Bill's.

"I enjoy throwing a party and getting people dancing. At the end of a night there are a lot of high fives."

When his children were younger, he'd DJ at night and be around in the daytime for them. A pattern that has continued.

"It worked out well, apart from the lack of sleep," he laughs.



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