Stars in their eyes 

Whistler Music creates showcase with promise

Rustle the song sheets, and plug in the amps.

The first annual Whistler Music Search gets tuned up in March, featuring 15 local music acts hoping to be signed by record labels.

But you never know who could be listening in a Whistler audience.

"Most of these musicians play at open mic, so this is an opportunity for them to take their music to the next level," says Randy Phelan of Whistler Music.

Previously Phelan hosted open mic nights at the Pony Café in Pemberton and the now defunct Alpenrock. The Amsterdam Pub Café is now home to open mic every Wednesday.

The Whistler Music Search will be at the Crystal Lounge, starting March 6.

Clearly the demand is there – as well as a sense of enthusiasm.

"At home in Glasgow I’m a musician, so the first day I arrived in Whistler I went knocking on the door of the music store and asked where the gigs were held in town," says Jo Jo.

"Everyone has a talent, and this is mine. It’s nice to entertain your friends and say ‘look at me’ for an hour. Let’s face it, we’re all really show offs!" she laughs.

Each player plays a 45-minute set, forcing them to get a more organized set list beyond the usual three songs on show at open mic.

Canadian Snowmobile, Old Spaghetti factory and Coast Music of Vancouver have also expressed interest in sponsoring the event, which has been organized in just three weeks.

The seed for the idea has been around a little longer.

"It’s called a new music search, but really the players had already been found playing at open mic nights and gigs around town," says Andy Black of Whistler Music.

"There are loads of guys playing and practising in their cabins after skiing but you might never hear them, so it’s great to get them out of the cabins and into the spotlight for something like this," adds Black.

Contestants, who will be judged by crowd response, consistently emphasize that meeting other musicians is a goal.

"I’m hoping for people to hear my music who haven’t heard it before, and to find others to play music with," says Dan McNeil, a contestant in the first round.

"There aren’t enough bands in Whistler, but there are a lot of people who can sing," he adds.

The Cape Breton guitarist began funking up covers of Groove Is In the Heart and Eric Clapton around town since moving to Whistler last July.

"Perhaps some bars don’t look so fondly on solo artists, and I’d prefer to hook up with other musicians. It’s always more fun playing with a group of other people," he says.

A recently donated guitar from Yamaha Music, an electric acoustic, is also good motivation.

Marlys Clemiss, manager at the Crystal Lounge, sees the music search as a hiring opportunity.

"We’ve been supporting live music for the past seven years, and although I am booked into April there will be slots to fill down the road," says Clemiss, with reference to band bookings.

"It’s amazing there’s such a pool of entertainment talent in a town this small. The first three players at the March 6 showcase will all be new talent I haven’t yet heard," she adds.

New stage renovations and lighting improvements at the Crystal Lounge’s corner stage, completed three weeks ago, add some hype to the event.

Performers go on at 9, 10, and 11 p.m., with the order of appearance drawn at random by MC Andy Black.

The confirmed line up for the Whistler Music Search is Dan McNeil, Jo Jo, and Nye Sullivan on March 6; Scott & Wes, Todd Seager, and Aaron Mackee on March 13; Rob Funk, Glen Mishaw, and Ben Scott on March 20; Scottie, Gord Rutherford and the Flamenco Boyz, on March 27; Yosef Rouch, Dave Morris, and Sheri Seeley on April 3.

Interested parties can contact Black or Phelan of Whistler Music at 604-935-1800 to be put on the growing wait list.


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