A musical roadtrip down Route 99 

Village Square stage to play host to local talent – old and new – during Paralympics


From the looks of the musical roster of the 2010 Paralympic Games, Whistler Live! organizers are right: the party isn't over yet.

On top of some well-known national artists - like Kathleen Edwards, the Weakerthans and the Trews - that have been booked to perform at the Whistler Medals Plaza, there's a ton of homegrown, B.C. talent also taking the stage betwee March 12 and 21, and many have special connections to Whistler.

Kristen Robinson, festival programmer for Whistler Live!, explained that they wanted to unearth a few classic Whistler bands and nudge them out of semi-retirement for one big show on Village Square Stage during the Paralympic hoopla.

"The 10 opening slots are all Sea to Sky bands, so that was our commitment to Sea to Sky artist integration. And then with that also came the opportunity to be able to make sure that we were showing a bit of Whistler's history in the bands that have played here over the years," Robinson said.

Route 99 is very much a classic local group. It was founded by longtime Whistler residents Peter and Stephen Vogler, who began playing under the Route 99 name more than 20 years ago, heading out on the road on busking trips to Vancouver, Washington and along the Oregon coast.

"We were up and down from Whistler and Vancouver a lot in those days and we actually started playing with another guy who played accordion, and he was from Vancouver, and that's why we did those road trips down to the States," Stephen recalled. "But when we started to play up here and kind of migrated from busking into bars and bistros, we slowly gathered members."

The group eventually grew from two-man trips into a five-piece band that played everything from folk punk and country rock to R&B and ska. The band included Todd Vague on drums, Cam Salay on bass and banjo and his brother Joe "Sal" Salay on guitar.

"We were playing upstairs in Citta' one night and we used to have a little drum kit... that we'd each sort of take turns at, and this guy got up out of the crowd and said, 'oh, I drum,'" Stephen recalled. "And he got up behind there and we were blown away. He was doing this solo - we were like, 'oh this is incredible!' - we turn backwards and notice he has a beer in one hand."

Needless to say, Vague was hired on the spot. The Salay brothers joined the crew shortly after that. Together, the group came up with an assortment of original tunes inspired by life, surroundings and stories from the Sea to Sky corridor. They played some pretty crazy gigs in Whistler.

"We had a lot of fun and were a bit of a cultural institution back then," Vogler recalled. "We used to host the jam at the Boot for about a year and a half and we'd play tons of gigs around town."

As a whole, the band hasn't graced local stages in recent years, though the members have continued on with music. Vague plays drums for local band Brother Twang. The Vogler brothers moved on to form the Hounds of Buskerville and Cam Salay joined the Paperboys. But for the Paralympics, they've decided to come out of retirement, so to speak, to play a special show.

"This will be really fun, because it's a reunion for us!" Vogler said.

"The Vogler brothers and the Salay brothers haven't played together since way back then," Vogler said, adding that they're all planning on getting together beforehand to rehearse.

They're scheduled to play on Wednesday, March 17 - Saint Patrick's Day - at 3 p.m., so don your green and get ready to enjoy a very special show.

"It's really nice that Whistler Live! is digging into what cultural things have gone on here in the past and showcasing... Whistler's roots," Vogler said. "So we'll be going on a little road trip down Route 99.

"...We might even have some surprise guests show up!" Vogler hinted.

Route 99 is just one of many bands with serious Whistler roots scheduled to perform as part of the Paralympic musical programming. Also included on the roster are the Paperboys, a Vancouver-based band that's been bringing their eclectic musical fusion to the area for many years. She Stole My Beer is a rock and roots jam band that had a huge following when they played reguarly. Cease & Desist is a versatile party-rockin' band that was performing with Randy Bachman in Vancouver during the Olympics. Cease & Desist still plays the occasional après gig at Monk's Grill.

Of course, there are plenty of Sea to Sky musicians who still play regular gigs around town who will be part of Whistler Live!, like Papa Josh, Whole Lotta Led, Brother Twang and Still Smokin'.

"I think it's going to be an amazing lineup, again," Robinson said. "I really think it's going to reflect the spirit of the Paralympics, the spirit of Whistler."



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