Blood, sweat and beers 

A night with Wil Mimnaugh

By: Dana Michell

Who; Wil Mimnaugh

Where: Crab Shack

When: March 13-14

Guitar playing is not all groupies and free drinks, you know. It can be a bloody sport at the best of times and Wil Mimnaugh can testify.

The guitar god from Calgary gave up the peaceful world of art, illustration and chalk board designs 10 years ago in exchange for a life of bleeding fingers, callused hands and even a sliced eye ball.

"Those strings can be like a cheese cutter," explained Mimnaugh, whose feverish playing resembles a frenzied Teppanyaki display.

"My right hand has been cut open a few times from really intensely striking the strings and my left hand doesn’t have any feeling in the finger tips anymore. I also split my eye open on a snapped string that whipped up and sliced the side of my face. I was like ‘wow these strings are really angry, but I kept on playing, it was kinda funny."

I winced as he recounted the pitfalls of the job but something tells me it’s barely a bad side for this self-taught talent. Night after night he breaks strings with passionate velocity, all with a smile, a raise of his glass and a quick wink for the crowd.

Mimnaugh is quite simply magnetic to watch and when I tell him so, he almost apologizes.

"I kind of forget people are staring at my silly movements when I play," he said. "My wife once told me I get these little twitches and I was like ‘wow I never noticed it.’ So I played a gig trying not to move but it really affected the whole set. I’m not a professionally trained guitarist, I don’t read music so I just go by sound. I can hear a whole band in my head when I’m playing and as I hear the song unfold, I just play my part so my style is just habit nowadays."

A constant question Mimnaugh gets asked is why he doesn’t consider joining a band. His answer comes down to freedom.

"The more people involved in a production, the less loose it becomes. I like experimenting with guitar sounds that might not be technically correct but just sound really cool, and in a band that would get lost as everybody is accountable to everyone else.

"After I finished (the album) Both Hands , they wanted me to tour with a band of 10 people and I was like, ‘no just give me a drummer and I’ll just kick the shit out of my guitar. I promise you I’ll do a great show.’"

And boy, has he kept his word. It’s just Mimnaugh and drummer Michael Bressanutti on stage, also self taught with a background of 10 years on the scene.

"Michael’s a hyper player, such a cool guy and so easy to hang out with," says Mimnaugh. "I’m so lucky to have the best of both worlds. I couldn’t be in that situation where you love your drummer but hate him as a person, that would really suck."

If you haven’t caught the magic of Mimnaugh, do yourself a favour and get down to the Shack. You’ll catch a unique performance of original songs and hear some incredible takes on obscure covers from the likes of Pearl Jam and Radiohead. Thousands of Mimnaugh fans guarantee you’re in for an audio and visual treat.

The Crab Shack has been bringing Mimnaugh to Whistler since the oyster bar’s early days in ’97 and the crowds just keep on coming.

"Whistlerites can’t get enough of him," said the Shack’s owner Scott Young. "A packed house is the norm when Wil’s here because he puts on a phenomenal show every time you see him, and he’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet."

As word has spread, the talent agencies have finally sat up and taken notice, with big-name Canadian bookers, S.L Feldman and Associates now adding Mimnaugh to their impressive roster, besides the likes of Dianna Krall, Avril Lavigne, Bryan Adams and the Bare Naked Ladies. They’ve got him a gig at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom this month, and a tour later in the year with blues great, Colin James.

"I really should be playing coffee houses in Vancouver," said a humble Mimnaugh. "I mean, I’ve been so lucky to have so many friends and fans in Whistler and Van that quite quickly the region has turned into a bit of a plague for me."

A contagious virus indeed – catch it at the Crab Shack for back to back shows next week.

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