Acoustic popularity on the rise 

Bills clean up at Western Canadian Music Awards

By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: The Bills

When: Friday, Oct. 27, 8 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $25, $22, $15

Running against multi-platinum artists such as Jann Arden and Michael Bublé for the 2006 Entertainer of the Year award at the Western Canadian Music Awards, The Bills weren’t holding their breath.

The folk fivesome wasn’t even at the awards ceremony last Sunday in Winnipeg. The B.C. boys were hard at work touring their newest album, Let Em Run, in Vancouver, part of yet another one of their North American tours.

So when a fellow musician at the awards ceremony called to tell The Bills’ lead vocalist Chris Frye the band had won, Frye was stunned.

“We didn’t find out until after our (Vancouver) concert,” Frye explains amidst a sound check for an evening show in Taslow. “We were up against Canada’s biggest stars. We were very surprised and very pleased when we found out we won, literally because of the status and profile of the other groups.”

The Bills bring their award-winning, distinctly west coast acoustic adventures to Whistler’s MY Millennium Place Friday, Oct. 27 as part of the Real Canadian in Whistler series.

“It’s a fusion of all different kinds of global roots styles and it leaves a lot of room for improv,” Frye said. “It’s very rhythmic. We generate a very exciting sound without the use of electric instruments and drums.”

With band members keeping their ears and fingers warm on side projects in different music genres, The Bills’ sound erupts like a safari as listeners explore North American traditions mixed up with European stylings, Latin rhythms, bluegrass beats and the wandering melodies of the Romany peoples.

“We’ve even got rock ’n’ roll in there, with influences like good old Led Zeppelin,” Frye said. “We draw from it all, but generate it on acoustic instruments.”

Violin, guitar, accordion, standing bass and harmonizing vocals have come together to create a high-powered ride of breathtaking musical explorations, from an intitimate theatre setting to a festival crowd of 10,000 music revelers North America wide.

Even before the Western Canadian Music Award, The Bills’ music had already begun to gain momentum, just in time for the band’s 10 th anniversary this year.

Let Em Run was nominated for a 2005 Juno Award for Roots/Traditional Album of the Year. The album, originally released in 2003, was re-released in England and the U.S., corresponding with European and U.S. tours as the band takes their Canuck vibe further and further a field.

“I think that is what we’ve done is begun to create our own sound over the last 10 years,” Frye said. “We are now playing a style of music that is definitely rooted in our home area: the west coast of Canada. We are now creating something we can all call our own and that is distinctive.”

With the popularity of acoustic music on the rise, The Bills’ music — delivered half instrumental, half with vocals — is jumping on the global bandwagon.

“I think there is something real about acoustic music,” Frye said. “People can connect with it. They often feel inspired themselves to be involved in the music. If you have a stage lined with a wall of amps, it can be intimidating. Acoustic music makes you feel more a part of it.”

Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for students and seniors, and $15 for children under 12 years old.

For tickets, call 604-935-8410. Check out music samples at

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