When he’s not busy working as a local realtor or volunteer ski patroller, Peter Lalor likes to play the blues.
“I’ve been playing for over 20 years on various instruments—from keyboard and piano to guitar,” he says. “I played in several bands in town, mostly for fun, but semi-seriously. Then, when all the live music stopped during COVID, I was looking for a new direction—and going back to my electric guitar roots was where it took me.”
But it wasn’t until he chatted with Monty Biggins, a multi-instrumentalist and veteran Whistler musician, that a new modern blues band began to take shape.
“He’s the first person I ran it past,” Lalor adds.
His pitch: With very few Whistler musicians playing the blues, they would have a golden opportunity to perform some niche shows around the resort.
Biggins was in. But it took them some time to find the right drummer, eventually landing on Sean Clarke to round out their trio.
And that’s how The Cold Smoke—a play on their roots in both skiing and blues music—was born.
“It’s been a great success so far,” Lalor says. “I think what we see is people who are not expecting what they get. We see people coming in saying, ‘I wonder what this band is like?’ And we hit them with modern interpretations of blues songs. It’s something refreshing for them.”
The trio has been playing at the FireRock Lounge every two weeks, usually on Saturday nights, as well as the odd gig at RMU in the Upper Village, and at the Crystal Lounge.
Part of their appeal is the improvisation and creativity they add to their covers. They glean inspiration, in part, from modern acts like Gary Clark Jr., Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and Marcus King, though Lalor says he’s been “heavily influenced” by the big names, too, from B.B. King to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton.
“Both Sean and Monty are extremely talented musicians and they bring a lot—each of them brings their own style to the band,” he says. “It wouldn’t be the same sound with two other guys. I think we’ve found our voice with the set-up we have.”
One thing Lalor has learned as the group has started playing more gigs around town is just how many hours Whistler musicians log outside of stage time.
“All the performers in town … we spend another 10,000 hours [aside from performing] practising, getting good at it, and maintaining that level of quality,” Lalor says. “It takes hard work no one sees behind the scenes. I practise every day, Monty plays every day, and Sean is in another band. It takes a lot.”
But, over the last six months as a trio, it’s been worth it to offer a new genre and unique covers in the resort.
“We really are a New Orleans-style blues-rock trio, and that’s certainly unique for this town,” he says. “It’s nice to have an alternative, something completely different.”
Catch The Cold Smoke next at the FireRock Lounge on March 25, April 8, 22, and 29, at 9 p.m. They’ll also be at RMU on April 15 at 6 p.m.
Stay up to date with the group on their Instagram @thecoldsmokeband.