'Everyone is fighting the same battle right now' 

Whistler creatives weigh in on how venue closures are impacting them

click to enlarge Whistler artist Andrea Mueller has plenty of practice working from home. - coastphoto.com
  • Whistler artist Andrea Mueller has plenty of practice working from home. coastphoto.com

Update: The Hairfarmers have scheduled a livestreaming concert for Friday, March 20, at 5 p.m. They will be collecting donations for Whistler Community Services Society. Watch it here or here.

If you're looking for "Grateful Greg" Reamsbottom during the COVID-19 pandemic, check his Pemberton garage.

Twenty-three of The Hairfarmers' shows—that's all of them until mid-May—have been cancelled, so, instead of performing, he has time to work on the classic muscle car he's restoring.

"That would've been way more, but we normally take a two-week vacation in April," Reamsbottom, singer for the popular Whistler bar band, says. Their cancelled shows included high-end corporate events, weddings, parties, après, and regular Whistler gigs. "There's nothing you can do about it," he says. "You've got to do what's best for society and the community at large. A lot of the private events are all talking about a postponement, not a cancellation ... They're all in the same boat. Everyone is fighting the same battle right now."

While many of the bars and restaurants that hire local musicians in Whistler shut voluntarily over the weekend, on Tuesday, March 17, B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered all bars closed.

Like all self-employed people right now, musicians and artists are feeling the pinch of gigs and shows drying up.

With 20 years of music experience behind him, Reamsbottom says he's in OK shape. "If you haven't saved up and been wise with your money, you're probably very screwed," he says. "It applies to everybody. We've been very fortunate. We've been very busy and very successful for a long time. We should be OK for a while."

Instead, plans are underway for The Hairfarmers to livestream a concert with viewers able to donate to a to-be-determined charity.

"It will be fun," he says. "We'll have monitors set up so people can comment. We have fans in the U.K. and Australia who have said they can't wait for this. We won't feel like we're playing to no one."

While singer-songwriter Marc Charron was driving to a show in Whistler on Tuesday, throughout the day he had gigs being cancelled until a total of 26 were axed. (He spoke to Pique before the provincial announcement of bars being closed.)

"I'm expecting it to get cut off, but right now I'm in a position where I can still say, 'No,' but I'm saying, 'Yes,'" he says. "I'm low risk and I've checked my temperature three times a day for three or four days."

But being a full-time musician is inherently filled with uncertainty, he adds. "I kind of feel it's been day-to-day since Day 1, since I first started," he says. "Who knows what next month brings."

Whistler artist Andrea Mueller has likewise had time to prepare for both uncertainty and self-isolation. In 2018, she became a full-time artist and had to learn how to adhere to a work schedule on her own.

In an Instagram post on Tuesday, she shared her advice, including choosing to make the best out of the situation rather than being a "sad sack."

"You CAN take this time to learn something new," she wrote. "Start a new project. Revisit what six-year-old you loved to do. Call a friend."

Over the phone, she had more pearls of wisdom for those who suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves working from home.

"It sounds really dorky, but, for me, I found it really useful to have a planner," she says. "I was putting in goals for the month and planning how to get there. There are things that artists can do—their back-end work. Musicians, do you have a website? If you don't, it's time to do that. There are free platforms to make yourself more professional and credible. You don't spend money, it's time. And it's time we're not usually afforded."

While she's still working on paintings she's been commissioned to do, her popular paint nights have been put on hold.

"Those are a big deal for me," she says. "I have a little baby here that eats formula. Formula isn't free. I'll have to come up with other ways to provide. Speaking to a lot of friends with small businesses, they're struggling. We all still have to pay rent."

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