Celebrating our sound 

Concert series offers up an impressive roster of Canadian talent that spans genres and country

click to enlarge Epic Experience Grand Analog takes the stage on Saturday as part of the Celebrate Live concert series.
  • Epic Experience Grand Analog takes the stage on Saturday as part of the Celebrate Live concert series.

What: Celebrate Live concert series
When: Feb. 12 to 15, 4 to 7 p.m.
Where: Village Square
Admission: Free!

What's better than four days of live music? Four days of free concerts smack-dab in the middle of the village. And that's just what's on offer during this year's Celebrate Live concert series, brought to town by the 2009 Cultural Olympiad to create some buzz for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are just around the corner.

Each afternoon from today until Sunday evening, Village Square will be flooded with music from a range of artists from across the country. The diverse bill features everything from folk and rock to unconventional hip hop, with Wil Mimnaugh, The Paperboys, Joel Plaskett, Wide Mouth Mason, Grand Analog, Buck 65, Bitterly Divine, George Leach, and Whistler's own DJ Dakota taking the stage.

Back to the basics: Grand Analog
What is Grand Analog? Rock? Hip hop?
Incorporating anything and everything into their music - dub, rock, ska and much more - this group certainly doesn't shy away from breaking genre barriers.

"The day and age of having a hard time... putting a sound into a genre, I think that's a good thing. Like, 10 years ago, that was a bad thing," said Odario Williams, the founder of Grand Analog.

"If you were to go to HMV 10 years ago, if Grand Analog came out then, the manager would be scratching his head not knowing what section to put it in, then just dump it in 'Alternative' because 'Alternative' was sort of the term that defined anything that was weird."

Odario, the self-described "ideas guy," actually tried to launch his Grand Analog project almost five years ago with a completely different set of musicians.

"I'm always coming up with ideas. I have titles of albums I haven't even written yet, I just have the title," he said with a laugh.

But things didn't quite pan out the way he had hoped.

"One day I just blurted out that I was going to start this rock band that was going to be called Grand Analog and its going to just be me with a bunch of dirty guys just making raw music," he explained. "I tried to find those dirty guys back then - couldn't find them."

That isn't the case today. Now, the group is Odario as the MC, singer and producer, his brother Ofield Williams as producer and DJ, Damon Mitchell on guitar, DJ Catalist on keys and as a producer, Warren Bray on bass, Joel Kaverklamp also on bass, B-Boy Breakz on bass and keys, and Darcy Ataman as producer. And this time around, the group came together more naturally.

"We just started making some music just to see if we would like making music together," he explained, "and 12 songs later, we had an album."

While it may seem like a lot of members for one band, Odario explains that there are actually two crews - one from his hometown of Winnipeg, and the other based out of Toronto.

"Each show will be a completely different show, depending on who can make it."

But next week, the whole gang is coming to Whistler. It may be because last time they came to town to play a show at Garfinkel's, Odario had such a good time.

"Let's just put it this way: I went to get pizza... and I told the guys, 'I'll be right back,' and I never came back," he said with a laugh. "...You can't make a plan in Whistler."

All of the members come from different musical backgrounds - rock, reggae, and house - which may help to explain their eclectic vision.

Odario and Ofield's dad was a reggae DJ, so they grew up on a steady diet of bassline infused with disco, funk and other forms of popular Western music. And today, Odario points out, hip hop is expanding its reach to different demographics.

"People of all backgrounds and ages are appreciating hip hop now, and I think our version of hip hop, our brand of hip hop, is pretty loveable, damn it!"

With a name like Grand Analog, it's safe to say that all of the members are pretty big fans of vinyl. But they've also managed to keep current, incorporating Serato into their live performances.

"Our recording process right now does include a lot of analog equipment, because we have to stay true to that, but if we want to stick with the times, we can't be stubborn," Odario mused.

The group's creative process is actually very progressive and collaborative. Odario comes in with the concept, passing it on to the rest of the musical "geniuses" in the group, who reinterpret his vision.

"In the day and age of file sharing, its pretty good. Like, if I'm in Toronto, and Catalist and I are working on something, I can send that idea to Damon and then he would try to emulate what I'm trying to accomplish," he explained. And sometimes the idea is taken in a totally different direction.

These days, the group has been busy in the studio, working on their new album and ironing out minute details, things that people probably won't even notice.

"You know, things you just can't let go until you're happy with it," Odario said.

But they're also gearing up for their upcoming Whistler 2010 countdown performance, which Odario said they are grateful to be a part of.

"Whistler is the party town of the country, hands down - I've said it in many interviews," Odario said. "And to play one of the ultimate parties is a good thing."

Grand Analog performs in Village Square at 4:40 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14.

Culture from coast to coast: Joel Plaskett

Joel Plaskett may hail from the east coast of Canada, but his '70s-style pop rock seems to resonate well with a universal audience.

The performer got his start with the Halifax indie rock group, Thrush Hermit.

"That band ran its course," Plaskett explained. "...We'd been playing together, the three core members, since we were like 14 years old, so we'd spent 10 years-plus in a band together, and seven of those years on the road and making records."

In his mid-20s and eager to explore more, musically, it was the perfect time to break away to embark on a solo career. A few years later, he launched his next big project: The Joel Plaskett Emergency.

Today, Plaskett performs both as a solo artist and with his band, The Emergency, which consists of Dave Marsh on drums and Chris Pennell on bass.

"I ebb and flow between solo records, where I'm doing more of the stuff myself," he said. "...It becomes a little more singular in that regard, and that sometimes is a really good thing. And sometimes I cherish the interaction I get with other people."

On top of all of this, the Juno Award-nominated performer also spends a lot of time on production, helping other up-and-coming East Coast groups, like Two Hours Traffic, with their projects.

"I've been enjoying getting more into producing, and I like working on arrangements with other people," he said. "It gives me time away from my own music, but also I learn something for myself."

The collaborative work tends to allow him to be more objective with his own work, and to help cultivate the East Coast music scene as much as possible.

"I know what it was like to have been in a band, I get considered a singer-songwriter now and then," he said, conceding that he finds that term a bit strange.

"It feels a bit adult for my taste."

The Joel Plaskett Emergency's 2003 full-length album, Truthfully Truthfully , put the group on the map, and a few years later, the hit single, Nowhere With You started getting heavy rotation on radio airwaves.

To date, Plaskett has released a total of six full-length albums, with another one - a triple album - on its way next month. This latest work is another solo endeavour, heavy on acoustics, with Plaskett taking on all of the writing and producing himself.

"I set up a studio and recorded the record myself, and I wanted to learn more about producing and recording, and I kind of felt like the material that I had would be more suited to follow my nose and not feel like I have to rehearse a lot of songs with a lot of people," he said. He invited other musicians in when they were needed.

Next up: the massive one-year countdown concert in Vancouver, where he'll play alongside fellow Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan, and a performance in Whistler as part of the Celebrate Live series, representing the East Coast of Canada.

"I'm really kind of blown away that I was asked," Plaskett said.

But don't expect a rock 'n' roll performance at Plaskett's Whistler show. To coincide with the upcoming release of his latest album, Plaskett's Whistler performance will feature an acoustic performance without his band, though two female vocalists, Rose Cousins and Ana Egge, who are featured on this latest album, will join him.

Plaskett will take the stage in Village Square at 4:40 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 13.


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