Since time immemorial, human beings have gathered together in winter months to share two things: food and music. The days get short, dark and cold this time of year, and we haven’t always had furnaces and fibre-optic Internet to stave off the elements. Meals and music nourish both body and soul, yet those without friends or family at hand can often miss out on this key source of community.
That’s why Stephen Vogler, founder and artistic director of the Point Artist-Run Centre (PARC) is resurrecting a beloved community tradition come Dec. 9: the All Original Orphans’ Winter Feast.
Good food, good music and good friends are the key ingredients for this event. A full turkey dinner and cash bar will be on tap, along with vegetarian options. As guests chow down, they’ll be able to take in a pair of eclectic Lower Mainland musicians: opening act Dino DiNicolo and headliner Jack Garton.
Both men are unconventional in their craft, to say the least.
DiNicolo has left his past on the electric organ behind to carve out his own style, one that is seasoned by the likes of funk, R&B, soul and jazz but resists falling into any of those categories neatly. He brings a stage to life using a bass and his own voice—that’s it. No guitar, no drums, no keyboard.
DiNicolo has become so proficient at his one-man show that viewers mistake him for a live looper, yet he uses no looping tool: just an effects pedal and his own abilities. Years of experimentation has led him to a curious discovery: many forms of music can be made to sound like jazz. Take everything away from your average pop song except the bass and vocals, and you’re left with something awfully like a member of the jazz family.
“You start to go long enough in your own direction, you start to realize that you're the only person or group of people doing this style and it hasn't really been invented yet even though I've been doing it since 2008,” says the Vancouver native about his career. “I’ve often used the phrase ‘rhythm and groove’ [to describe my music].”
Likewise, Garton finds it hard to put his artistic approach into words. He’s an accordion player, but his act tends toward all kinds of folk and roots music: Cajun, rockabilly, doo-wop, blues, the works.
“I like to get people dancing and singing along, and sharing great songs together,” Garton says. “That's kind of the thing I really like: connecting with an audience. All my songs are really personal stories: the things that I've found funny or sweet or heartbreaking in my life.”
Garton has heard many positive things about PARC. His friends in the Vancouver music industry, Carolyn Mark, Geoff Berner and Kitty and the Rooster, have encouraged him to play in Whistler for some time. Busy schedules prevented Garton from dropping by last summer, but when Vogler called again this year, he jumped at the opportunity.
DiNicolo also found his way to the Winter Feast gig through a mutual connection. He frequents the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Mallard Lounge and encountered one of the bartenders’ dads. The man, who is involved with PARC, recommended DiNicolo contact Vogler about performing.
From 2013 to 2019, Vogler and his team put on a popular Thanksgiving Feast at PARC that met an untimely interruption due to COVID-19. They looked forward to bringing the event back after three years away, but on-site infrastructure upgrades prevented them from doing so over Thanksgiving. Thus they decided on a Winter Feast instead.
“When I heard some of [Garton’s] recordings and then saw him live, I realized his music is really great,” Vogler says. “He plays accordion, trumpet and guitar, and writes really great songs, so that just fits in well. When we started this thing in 2013, it was the All Original Orphans Thanksgiving so we thought: let's focus on original music for this event.
“[Dino’s] a really unique musician too. Even though he does like a lot of small, loungy gigs, he plays all original music all the time, which kind of blew my mind, so I thought he'd be perfect.”
PARC has facilitated a variety of local events for well over a decade: from dinner shows to live theatre to art workshops to music camps. Vogler first pitched the idea of an artist-run centre in the Sea to Sky to a group of his peers in 2009, and they’ve been giving their cozy heritage lodge a purpose ever since.
“It brings a real sense of community because for one thing, it's the only old lodge left from that era when the town was called Alta Lake and there were fishing lodges all around. It's a bit of history, which is not easy to find in this town,” Vogler says. “Then also, it combines the contemporary art scene with that historic building and lets the community experience what local artists and visiting artists have to offer.”
The 2023 Winter Feast takes place on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. Dinner and show tickets are $45 apiece ($30 for guests aged 12 and under), while those only planning on catching the show pay $20. Find out more at https://www.thepointartists.com/