Dusting off the new horse 

Soft opening a hard secret to keep

WHO: The HairFarmers

WHERE: Dusty's

WHEN: Dec. 16

Although this new palatial patio-pub combination will be rocking with the sweet strains of Whistler's HairFarmers at its unofficial grand opening Saturday (which on its own is cause for party), you might be more overwhelmed by the fact that in less than six months, the old Dusty's at the base of Whistler Mountain in Creekside has been turned into a state of the art bar & grill built with apres-ski in mind.

A rustic, all natural wood interior with a large sheet-metal Dusty's sign hanging over the long bar, Dusty's is now open for business. Right on schedule with 225 licensed seats.

But with the official "Grand Re-opening" taking place Dec. 21 on an invitation only basis, I suspect this weekend's festivities will feature a touch more Whistler character because it is open to all comers, and will feature an up and coming duo led by long-time Whistlerite Guitar Doug. His band, Skydog, you'll partially recall, closed down Dusty's in all its glorified and well publicized debauchery last spring.

"It should be noted that they'll be a regular thing every Saturday," said Paul Street, manager of Dusty's. "And they'll do the Kokanee Meltdown apres-show every Saturday afternoon at one of the mountain pubs. What we'll do is some funky video about their show Saturday night. And in the video, we'll do some crazy stuff like going into Kyber's or whatever. That will play during the Meltdown apres," Street said.

With its grand patio facing in the direction of the ski-out to the Creek, "the show" at Dusty's will go on. That being the apres-sport of watching skiers and boarders on their final run of the day.

During a photo session for this article, Street let me wander through the new Dusty's unchaperoned. And, despite its largeness and newness, Intrawest seems to have built a new pub with a warmth and intimacy. The open, beam design lets the floor-to-ceiling space of the main room seem grand but in Creekside character at the same time. And the upper balcony that wraps around interior of the building, looking down on the dance floor, provides both seating and an excellent view.

"Very few places seem to hold their character once they've been turned into something new," Guitar Doug explained. "And this is good. The good thing about the old room was it never had an ego. But now, it seems they have a bit of wealth and created something unpretentious.

"I think, it's the point of realization that, they've really put out a nice apres place," Doug added. "I mean, it's full-on apres."

It should be noted that during the summer of 2000, Guitar Doug and Grateful Greg made great gains in the entertainment industry, picking up Kokanee as a full-time sponsor, and that's what the meltdown is all about. Kokanee bar stools made out of wooden half-barrels line the bar. In the HairFarmer's case, corporate sponsorship couldn't be better served. To say this duo has a unique musical magic going on is an understatement.

Although most songs are cover versions, Greg's high, almost falsetto vocals work enormously well with Doug's gritty, rocky, mountain style, which he's been perfecting for almost 15 years in and out of the Whistler Valley. Percussion was another thing missing from the solo Guitar Doug show, and Grateful Greg brings that to the table, or the stage.

"It's nothing special. It's just rock 'n' roll," Doug said.

We'll see.

With a well placed, semi-circular stage at the head of the dance floor, the new Dusty's also comes with a more permanent performer's platform, ready to accommodate most solo acts, duos and small groups. Additional staging might have to be added to the 2001 New Year's Eve party that features Vancouver cover band Faith & Desire.

Street says he's been working with local entertainment agent Larry La Porte on some major shows for the high season. But for now, it's a secret.

If you can't wait until Dec. 16 to check out the new Dusty's, then come in Dec. 15 for a 1980s spin session with DJs Suzy Snosurfer and Dave T. from Whistler-Blackcomb's marketing department.

"I guess I was trying to keep it kinda' quiet but I guess that's all over now," said Street. "So much for the soft opening."

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