Music coming to the mountains 

Mountain West Music Fest to take place Aug. 21-23 in Whistler

click to enlarge More Music Last  year’s Whistler Music Festival had an impressive line-up, but didn’t draw the crowds that organizers had hoped for.  Photo by Brad Kasselman, coastphoto.com.
  • More Music Last year’s Whistler Music Festival had an impressive line-up, but didn’t draw the crowds that organizers had hoped for. Photo by Brad Kasselman, coastphoto.com.

All is not lost for Whistler's many music lovers. While Pemberton Festival may be on hiatus this summer, and the Festival Network has called it quits after the first Whistler Music Festival, a local company has stepped up with plans to put on yet another outdoor music event.

Sue Eckersley, president of Watermark Communications, is organizing the inaugural Mountain West Music Fest, which will take place from Aug. 21 to 23, featuring a diverse offering of four to five acts per day. The festival will kick off on Friday night with shows at local bars, and move to the outdoor realm of the Whistler Golf Club driving range on Saturday and Sunday, aiming to draw a crowd of 2,000 to 5,000 people per day.

"I think that, for me, there isn't enough great music in Whistler," Eckersley said. "There are only a few opportunities a year to go and experience a great festival scene, and it seems like it's such a good fit for this community. It seems such a shame not to have this opportunity available to Whistler and its citizens, but also to the visitors."

Though Eckersley wouldn't announce details of the lineup just yet - they're still in negotiation stages with many of the groups - she emphasized they have been careful to pick real "festival bands" that will appeal to a wide range of music lovers, and ones that already have loyal followings of fans expected to snap up tickets to the event.

"We're not going small in terms of the bands that we're looking at," she added.

One of the headlining groups has been to Whistler before, and Eckersley is confident that the two headliners would each sell 800 tickets to just the local crowd. The Rastrillos, a 12-piece Mexican reggae band, has been confirmed as one of the opening acts, set to take the stage on Saturday.

"The real challenge in the summer is that there are so many summer festivals that the good artists that we're talking about - the ones that sort of sit in that zone that makes sense for us - also make sense for a hundred other festivals."

While they haven't finalized ticket pricing, Watermark's aim is to keep the cost reasonable. They've already budgeted for staging and sound, received permission for placement on the driving range from Tourism Whistler, and are in the process of securing sponsorships and partnerships to help mitigate the financial risks.

Eckersley has been kicking around the idea of a summer music festival for about four or five years and was thinking about trying to stage one last summer, before she heard plans for Pemberton Festival and Whistler Music Festival.

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