Live concerts hitting the high notes 

More visitors to Whistler drive a string of successful live concerts

click to enlarge PHOTO BY REN ROB - Full House Royce Da 5'9" performed to a packed house at Garfinkel's on Thursday evening. It was just one of a string of sold out concerts in Whistler this winter season — a good news story for local music venues.
  • Photo by Ren Rob
  • Full House Royce Da 5'9" performed to a packed house at Garfinkel's on Thursday evening. It was just one of a string of sold out concerts in Whistler this winter season — a good news story for local music venues.

Last Wednesday Garfinkel's was packed with impassioned heavy metal enthusiasts who were gleefully moshing away at the Three Inches of Blood concert.

The crowd demolished a guardrail separating the stage from the crowd, in part because the dance floor was so crowded there was nowhere for people to move, but into the rail.

It was one of three sold out shows Garfinkel's had hosted that week. On Thursday, Royce Da 5'9" sold out as well. On Monday, the Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon sold out. That same night, across the village, Chali 2NA sold out the GLC. In what has been an unheard of case in Whistler in the post-Olympic reality — two sold out shows in one night? live concerts have been hitting a high note this winter season.

It's a good news story for the two clubs hosting most live shows in town and a positive indicator for the local economy's health. Last September, Pique wrote a story documenting the difficulty promoters were having selling tickets to their shows. Now, nearly six months later, it appears that their worries may have been purely seasonal.

"The town is busy with the winter season," says Dom Boucher, general manager for Garfinkel's. "Even on a Monday or a Tuesday when we do a show (it's busy). In the summer or the dead season and stuff like that, when we do a show on a Monday, we only have a certain amount of local people who go out. Now, there's tons of random people on a Monday."

Mike Wilson, general manager for the GLC, says that the influx of visitors to Whistler drives the economy — and drives money into the pockets of the locals. GLC's live shows appeal to locals far more than they do for visitors, so if the economy is good the shows are far more successful.

"With the resort being busier than it probably has been in a couple years, it's driving the economy and people are working. They're willing to spend that extra $5 or $10 to go see a band and buy some drinks as well."

All but one of the club's shows has been successful, including two back-to-back comedy shows. Chali 2NA was nearly sold out before Pique ran coverage of the concert, and the rest of the tickets sold out that night. The Matineée sold out three-quarters of their tickets, which Wilson says is "pretty good" for an up-and-coming act.

Whistler locals are notoriously fickle for what shows they will attend and how much they're willing to pay. Wilson says he's wary of selling tickets over $20 because people usually won't come, but the Beats Antique show in January, which sold for $25 a ticket, was another sold out set.

"We were the smallest venue on their tour and we really had to push hard that this was going to be a really good show... (and) to get people out to realize that they're going to see these bands that are playing a 200-seat venue when they're usually playing anywhere from 500 to 1,500 person rooms," he says.

Both clubs report a boost in business this winter, and are busier than they had been the year before. Boucher says his regular weekend nights have been at capacity.

Wilson says his new Smirnoff House Party on Friday has kept the club busy during the weekends. It takes just a quick look around the village on any Friday or Saturday night to see that most clubs are sporting lines outside the front door.

Boucher says Garfinkel's has been having its most successful winter in a number of years, having regained some credibility within the Whistler scene by rebranding itself, revamping the club's interior and in boosting its marketing efforts by working with a whole new team of people specializing in pumping their weekly nights and their live shows through social and print media.

The bulk of their success so far has been in part due to the acts they're hosting. Raekwon, who has released a string of critically successful albums in the past three years, was a significant score for the club and for Whistler.

"I think we stick with the plan," Boucher says. "I tried to do different acts that didn't fit well with (the) Garfinkel's demographic. Now I try to stick with the plan. What is Garf's? Garf's is hip hop. Garf's is a bit more (hard)core. Some stuff will work at GLC but will not work super well for Garfinkel's."

Wilson says that several of the GLC shows were repeats from previous years and guaranteed to do well because they're familiar with the acts. S

She Stole My Beer, a band that was legendary in Whistler over a decade ago, was sold out before Wilson put the concert posters up.

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