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What's on in Whistler during the Games

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Imagining what our town will look like during the Olympic Games has been a difficult feat for most; that is, until recently, when the programming details for the entertainment at Whistler Medals Plaza and now other Whistler Live! venues, has finally started trickling down to the public.

And as the information emerges, it's getting easier to imagine what a day in the village might look like.

On any given day during the Olympics, people will be able to head to Village Square to partake in the ultimate après session (free and unticketed) with an impressive range of national and international artists performing until the sun goes down. The Whistler Live! team, responsible for coordinating all of the entertainment and programming at the live sites scattered throughout the village for 27 days during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has just announced the lineup of artists that are booked to perform and the list is impressive.

The previously-announced acts include Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Alberta rancher- turned-singer-songwriter Corb Lund, Montreal indie band Karkwa, the French Canadian groups La Volée d'Castors and Misteur Valaire, Austrian songstress Valérie Sajdik, Bedouin Soundclash, Hawksley Workman, Jully Black, the Sam Roberts Band and the U.S. funk, rock and hip hop group, Galactic. As well, local artists like The Hairfarmers, Ali Milner and Animal Nation will be performing.

Now, organizers have added 23 more acts to their Village Square roster.

Joining the list are Matisyahu, Jenn Grant, Five Alarm Funk, Wassabi Collective, Hey Rosetta!, The Constantines, Two Hours Traffic, Wintersleep, Barney Bentall, Great Lake Swimmers, Elliott Brood, Inez, George Leach, Mes Aïeux, The Lost Fingers, Kuba Oms, Vishten, House of Doc, Damian Jr. Gong Marley, Chic Gamine, Kuban Cossack Chorus and Gorky Park.

The après sessions will start in the afternoon, but there is no set time for the music to begin as Whistler Live! organizers want the flexibility to work around the CTV sports feed.

"So if men's alpine starts at 10:30 a.m. and goes 'til 2 o'clock, well we know Manny's (Manuel Osborne-Paradis) going to win the Super G ... we're not going to turn off the sports feed to go put a band on!" Festival Director Kristen Robinson explained.

"We've taken all the best of all the feeds that we've gotten from CTV and all the sports that we... feel that the community wants to see, so that's the 'one foot in the stadium' experience. Go to Village Square, watch alpine skiing live or watch gold medal hockey or all these different pieces. Where there's holes in the CTV sports schedule, that's where we've laid in all of our après entertainment."

On days like Feb. 28, the final day of the Olympics, only one band - Blue Rodeo - is slated to perform because the gold medal hockey games and closing ceremonies will be taking place. But on other days, when there are up to three groups booked to perform, the sporting events aren't as high profile.

"We tried to really keep this fusion of sport, art and entertainment - they're all headliners, you know - but making sure we were thoughtful and clever in our programming approach."

But Village Square is just one of the sites where entertainment will take place each day. Whistler Live! also includes Town Plaza, Village Common, CTV Mountain Square, Skiers Plaza, Blackcomb Bridge and Whistler Medals Plaza. The medals plaza is an official VANOC venue and so you will need a ticket to get into it.

"All of Whistler Live! - the six and a half integrated sites - they start from 9 a.m. and go 'til 11 p.m.," Robinson explained. "There are 14 screens throughout the network. We've got our Village Common studio where we'll have our announcers bilingually interviewing artists and going to video and taking the CTV feed, and we're working closely with Much Music... The whole stroll will be active from 9 a.m. 'til 11 p.m."

After checking out sporting events on the big screens and taking in the après performance at Village Square, anyone who has managed to snag one of 5,000 free tickets each night to Whistler Medals Plaza can make their way to the other end of the village to catch the medals presentations. The gates at the medals plaza will open at 4:30 p.m. daily, with a DJ entertaining the crowd until ceremonies start at 7 p.m. A half-hour later, the headlining act of the night will take the stage to give a performance that will wrap up at 8:30 p.m.

Then, if you still haven't had your fill of fun, make your way back to Skiers Plaza where an amped up Fire & Ice show, dubbed Fire & Ice Remix, will wrap each and every night with a serious bang.

The Whistler Live! team wanted to showcase something that was uniquely Whistler, profiling skiers and riders and "Olympicizing" the existing weekly show, taking things up another notch by adding in DJs and electronic acts and extending the show to run from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. each evening, except during opening and closing ceremonies.

"I think that we're trying to take the best of the best of everything that Whistler offers and certainly Fire & Ice and our partners at Whistler Blackcomb just offered up an opportunity to be able to... finish the night after Whistler Medal's Plaza and the victory ceremonies, and put an exclamation mark on the evening!" Robinson said.

Whistler Live! has named Ace MacKay-Smith, a well-known character from Whistler's party scene, Creative Director of the Fire & Ice Remix performances. MacKay-Smith is a DJ, filmmaker, videographer, dancer and skier and will bring a wealth of these experiences to the table when developing the show.

"She's going to get the best out of all the dancers, performers and artists because she is one!" Robinson added.

MacKay-Smith DJs inside the GLC during the regular Fire & Ice show, so she knows the ropes, but the Olympic version will be quite different than the average performance.

"It won't be the same as what they do now," MacKay-Smith said, adding that the skiing portion of the show will be tightened up a bit and kept to about 45 minutes each night. Then, the second portion of the performance will feature some big-name DJs, which will be announced on Dec. 31.

"I guess this stage is going to be more the electronic, hip hop, DJ vibe, compared to some of the other stages, which are live or acoustic or rock or folk," MacKay-Smith added. "...It'll kick off the rest of your night a little bit."

MacKay-Smith recently held an audition for visual performers who would perform as part of the first part of each Fire & Ice Remix show, looking for local dancers (go-go, freestyle and break dancers), hand drummers, solo musicians, fire spinners and hoopers to step onto the outdoor stage during the Olympics and Paralympic Games. It drew a strong turnout from local performers - 32 acts turned up - and they've managed to recruit quite a few people from within the community.

And for many, the fun won't end with the Fire & Ice Remix in Skier's Plaza.

"We're hoping that everyone will go to the great nightclubs and bars afterwards," Robinson said.

"In theory, the victory ceremonies happen, you've seen this great headline concert, you stroll out of their from Whistler Medals Plaza and drop into Skiers Plaza, you see this other great show and carry on for the rest of their night."