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Music with a message

Joel Kroeker and The Clumsy Lovers take stage to end 2007-08 Performance Series
Joel Kroeker

Who: Joel Kroeker & The Clumsy Lovers

When: Saturday, May 10, 8 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $22 adults, $19 students & seniors

MY Millennium Place has played host to a wide range of acts this year, thanks in part to the efforts of the Whistler Arts Council (WAC).

Since 1987, the council has organized an annual Performance Series as part of its mandate to offer a wide range of arts experiences to Whistler residents, including theatrical, dance, musical and comedic performances.

Ali Richmond, marketing coordinator for the Whistler Arts Council, explained that this year, they have tried to diversify their selection of performances and appeal to a broader range of people.

“Last year, we did a lot of classical music and this year we had Matt Andersen and Jim Byrnes, and it was more blues. And now this one is more roots folk, which will probably attract a whole different audience …” said Richmond. “We want to get some sort of feedback and see what brings out the biggest crowds and see what kind of music the people of Whistler are looking for.”

Now, WAC is presenting a double bill performance to wrap up another successful series: Joel Kroeker and his three-piece band will bring their popular alternative rock to the stage, complemented by the folk-inspired rock of The Clumsy Lovers.

Kroeker has been a full-time musician for the past eight years, producing three full-length albums over that time, including his most recent, Closer to the Flame , which will be released in Europe this year.

He co-wrote a top-10 hit in Quebec, Déjà vu, with Dany Médar last year, and was nominated for Outstanding Pop Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year at the 2004 Western Canada Music Awards for one of his earlier albums, Melodrama .

While Melodrama had a wide range of musical and lyrical content, Kroeker said Closer to the Flame is more focused on an individual’s journey.

“As a songwriter, we always feel like we sort of mature over the course of albums, so I feel like this album is probably lyrically more focused,” said Kroeker.

But there’s a lot more to his music than meets the eye.

Kroeker also has a Master’s degree in ethnomusicology — the study of cultural aspects of music and dance — and has spent a considerable amount of time traveling.

He recently returned from a two-month trip to India, Nepal, Cambodia and Laos, where he was a guest musician on a documentary.

These travels signify a shift in Kroeker’s music.

“I’m kind of going in the direction of trying to document sort of cross cultural stories in song,” he explained.

During the two-month trip, Kroeker traveled and worked with a local NGO, looking at relief projects related to water.

Now, he’s in the process of writing for a new album, and will be using these travels as inspiration for his music, and as a way to bring awareness to situations around the world that he doesn’t think are accurately or thoroughly portrayed by North American media sources.

“In some ways, the music is an excuse to talk about the situation and maybe try to raise some money for it, but it’s basically just raising awareness, because actually going to a place, you just see so much more clearly than sitting here,” said Kroeker.

He shouldn’t have any problem finding material to draw on from his travels — he visited the Red Soil Village in Cambodia, witnessed the inner workings of relocation programs for nomadic tribal groups in Laos, and was in Northern India, which is often referred to as “Tibet in exile,” during the Tibetan protests in Katmandu.

“We saw the actual beginning of the 114 person march,” said Kroeker, “We got there that night and saw the march and then the next day, a BBC reporter came running in and said they all got arrested and were put in separate jails all around India.”

Aside from raising awareness of global issues through his music, this singer and songwriter is working on offering more tangible support to people in developing countries through co-writing opportunities.

“Co-writing with people from developing countries means they get SOCAN cheques — royalties,” Kroeker explained. “They get four cheques a year, then.”

While Kroeker performed a bit during his travels, the audience here in Whistler is a world apart from the people he performed for overseas. But Kroeker says that doesn’t matter, because music is universal.

“People are moved by music no matter where you are,” he said. “That’s really the amazing thing about music — it’s so powerful in so many different ways. It can be healing in music therapy, or it can be ritualistic, or it can be just aesthetic enjoyment, or it can be awful if it’s bad music at the gym — it’s such a diverse phenomenon.”