One for the punks 

Six bands, one stage, one night of punk rock madness for the masses


What: Whistler Punk Festival 2

When: Saturday, Sept. 5, 9 p.m.

Where: Merlin's

Cost: $5 before 9:30 p.m., $15 after 9:30 p.m.

If you're a punk lover who's lived in Whistler for any length of time, chances are that you've caught a show by Slush.

With Jamie Weatherbie on drums, Adam Leggett on vocals and guitar, Gavin McDermott on bass and Bryce McDiarmid on guitar, this group has been together since 1992, and has become something of a fixture on the local punk scene over the years, offering up 17 years of performance experience.

These days, however, they've been a bit harder to find.

"We played quite a few shows right at the start of the summer, but for the last few months we've actually been keeping it pretty low-key," Weatherbie said, explaining that some of the members have new families to adjust to.

"Now, we're kind of getting back in the zone for the next few months," he said.

They don't plan on getting back into the studio again to record until sometime next year.

"We used to record every year, but the last few albums, we've actually been taking close to two to three years in between because there's not enough time to write," he said.

But one thing Weatherbie has decidedly made time for, recently, is planning the second annual Whistler Punk Festival.

In the time they've called the Sea to Sky region home, the band members have watched the community's musical offerings and activities ebb and flow.

"I still think when I first moved to Whistler in the '98/99 season, I thought Whistler had a much better music scene than it does now," he opined. "I think it's getting better because I've been doing booking as well, bringing in some better bands, and so have a few other promoters in town. So it is getting better."

For the past five years or so - almost since Whistler's Boot Pub closed - Weatherbie said he's watched the local music scene slide downhill.

"We had Bob Marley's Wailers come to Whistler," he recalled. "There (were) just lots of really cool shows."

Weatherbie believes promoters need to focus on bringing quality acts that will speak to the Whistler audience and the community.

"The problem is, when you've got promoters that are willing to bring anything into town, and they tend to bring in acts that just wouldn't work in this town, and people are losing money," he said.

But he's optimistic that grassroots events like his own punk festivals will continue to propel the community's music scene upwards again.

Weatherbie decided to step up to organize local shows and events once the regular weekly punk night at Garfinkel's stopped last year. But he doesn't think that holding such frequent shows is good for the local punk scene.

"It's good and bad because if we have shows every weekend, usually the turnouts get worse and worse," he explained. "When people don't have that many punk rock shows to go to, when you have a real big one, our turnouts have always been flawless."

His plan is to host events less frequently, occasionally teaming up with CIA Productions to bring some bigger names to town.

His approach seems to be working. Last year's Punk Festival was a resounding success, with over 200 people turning up. Then, the follow-up wintertime event, SnowSlam, drew an even bigger crowd.

"When we did the Whistler Punk Festival last year, it was awesome! We had a great turnout and it was a really fun show. And then when we did the SnowSlam concert in... March or April, the turnout was amazing for that, too - we had seven bands, everyone was really into it because there wasn't a whole lot going on in Whistler," he recalled.

For round two of the Whistler Punk Festival Weatherbie has recruited six punk rock bands, each with a decidedly different style, to appeal to a range of local music lovers. On the bill are Raised by Apes, Slingshot, Impeders of Progress, Blacked Out, Garbage Bear and Slush, of course.

Weatherbie shamelessly admits that he selects the bands based on his own personal taste. And to give you an idea of what to expect, these guys have serious respect for any true old school punk rock. Hell, they even designed the poster for this year's festival with a nod to what they consider to be the greatest rock and roll movie ever made: Airheads .

Ticket prices for the event are really reasonable: $5 if you come early, $15 afterwards.

"The problem is that people can't justify paying $15, but when there's six bands playing, they all have to get paid," he said, explaining that they've opted to again offer a lower admission price to people who show up earlier, to catch the opening act before 9:30 p.m.

"For the SnowSlam show, the bar was three-quarters full before 9:30 p.m., which I've never seen in Whistler my entire life," Weatherbie said.

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