For whatever reason, it seems like Whistler has had a difficult time distinguishing itself as a premier destination for concerts.
While Pemberton put itself on the map with a memorable festival in 2008 and Live at Squamish continues its successful run into another year, Whistler’s attempts to attract visitors via ticketed events and free shows alike have ended up in disappointment.
Meanwhile, we’ve heard from concert promoters in Whistler over the past year who say it’s getting harder and harder to sell tickets. Despite all of the great qualities this resort has to offer, perhaps it will never be a place that people associate with a strong music scene.
With the recent change in approach to the Whistler Presents free concert series, it seems that the municipality holds that view.
We found Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden’s recent comments intriguing — that Whistler Presents is no longer being viewed as a room-night driver, but rather “just one of the many things going on in Whistler in any given weekend. It’s meant to supplement what’s already going on.”
In other words, the concert series that was so highly-touted last year has been pushed down the pecking order when it comes to animating the resort.
Apparently, the big-name acts that graced the stage in Whistler Olympic Plaza for the RMOW-produced shows in 2011 didn’t bring people to Whistler as hoped.
But it was also somewhat short-sighted last year to think that a lineup mostly comprised of classic rockers and other artists past their prime would create gridlock on the Sea to Sky Highway. The music scene has changed significantly since the Barenaked Ladies ruled the airwaves. Those most eager to see live music these days will travel for new, exciting and critically-acclaimed acts, not a once-great band plodding along without all their original members.
So while it’s disappointing that the investment in this concert series has dropped — according to the municipality, the overall concert budget coming from RMI funds was cut by more than $125,000 for this year, if you include funding handed to third-party producers putting on shows associated with other events — we are encouraged by the artistic direction the municipality is taking for the summer series in 2012.
Officials at municipal hall told The Question this week that, in setting the lineup for the free shows, they “strive to bring programming that appeals to a range of ages and demographics.”
Taking a close look at the music that will be on offer during the concert series that appears to be the case. There’s a good mix of different musical genres that will be represented in comparison to last year — from hip-hop, folk, country, rock and just about everything in between. The few hundred enthusiastic fans lined up at the front of the stage for Friday night’s (June 29) series-opener with Dan Mangan certainly seemed to appreciate the change.
And while music-first events like Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler have failed, concerts that come as a package with other events such as the World Ski and Snowboard Festival have been a hit. That’s why we think it’s smart for the RMOW to kick in money for events like Crankworx and the GranFondo Whistler to put toward shows.
As well, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) had a successful run of Whistler shows in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, drawing thousands of spectators. We hope that will be the case again when the VSO is back here for municipally-funded shows in a couple of weeks.
Whistler might not be considered a musical hotbed today, but we think the RMOW’s approach this year is at least headed in the right direction.