In some parallel universe there is a Whistler where the many talented resort musicians carving out a career for themselves wouldn’t have to play Lynyrd Skynyrd covers to half-interested tourists just to pay the bills.
Originality would be championed, the media coverage would be ample, and artists would be judged based solely on their art, not how much money patrons spend on drinks.
Of course, we know the reality is a little less rosy for the hardworking resort rockstars-to-be, so it’s a good thing an event like Whistler’s Music Search exists to showcase the wide range of talent our mountain town has to offer.
This year, over a dozen acts will duke it out over the next month for musical supremacy, and $1,000 worth or recording time at Pemberton’s Bunker 7 studio, with the runner-up taking home a spanking new Takamine electric acoustic guitar.
For event organizer and host Jon Shrier — a long-time staple on the local scene and a former music search runner-up — the best way to win over the judges is not through technical abilities but rather an engaging stage presence.
“I want to steer away from it being a show where technical ability is going to secure a win. When you’re looking at an act and they look comfortable, happy and they’ve put in the work, then it shows up in the performance, I don’t care if it’s a song with three chords only,” he said. “I think the best thing you can do as an artist no matter what you’re performing is connect with your audience.”
With two-time winner, guitar virtuoso Mike Fromontreal not returning to defend his crown this year, the field is wide open, and features a diverse cross-section of Whistler’s current musical talent pool, with performers Rob Ebbs, Francisco Palomo, Daniel Shaw, and others ready to take the stage at the Crystal Lounge.
“I am inspired on a daily basis by the artists that come in and out of here. It’s a huge reason I’ve stayed and continued to make this my homebase,” Shrier said of the town he’s called home for over 15 years. “What I find in Whistler is there’s an eclectic blend of people from all over really putting different music out there. We’re not a country town, we’re not a folk town, we’re not a pop town or a grunge town.”
Recently formed rock and blues outfit Black Train will also perform in the contest for the first time, and frontman Russ Thomas thinks his familiarity with the Crystal crowd will serve his guys well during the competition.
“We play at the Crystal every Sunday and we usually rock the house, so I’m hoping we can get that same audience participation,” he said. “We’re definitely gonna bring the blues for sure.”
Starting Thursday (Oct. 3), acts will be asked to play at least three songs — originals or covers — for the panel of judges. Two from each night will advance to the finals on Oct. 24, where Shrier said “there might be a last-minute theme I’m going to introduce to challenge the finalists.”
No matter who ends up winning or losing, Whistler’s Music Search will serve as a high-profile showcase of the many established and emerging artists in town, something of which Thomas is convinced the resort needs more.
“There are a lot of underground bands that don’t get the recognition they should in Whistler, he said. “Hopefully that’ll change.”
The contest kicks off at 8 p.m., and runs for the following three Thursdays at the Crystal Lounge.