This past weekend was the grand opening of the new Olympic Plaza Whistler with a free show by Kathleen Edwards and Sam Roberts Band at the outdoor venue. Free show outside at Whister, BC? On a Saturday! Just try to keep me away, haha.
None of my friends could or wanted to go, and I wasn't able to suss out a place to stay on such short notice (the show was only announced on Monday, at least to my Vancouver-bound knowledge) so I rented a car and went up just for the day.
Packed a wee lunch, scooted past Nestor's because there was some kind of street fair happening, parked like a kilometre away from the Upper Village (because I am NOT paying for a whole day's parking at Whistler) and set out for the liquor store. Bought two beers and found out where the venue was exactly.
"The show tonight?!" the guy behind the counter exclaimed. "Its right there! See those stairs beside the Post Office? Up there!"
Could Not Be Easier.
"See you at 9:05 when I'm off," he called after me. Sure thing, Joe!
Up the stairs I checked out the venue, scoped out the sightlines and where I would probably want to stand later. There was a few people already basking in the sun on blankets but that always happens. Its a pretty big, wide-open grassy space surrounded by a concrete plaza. Tons of room.
My beers nestled in the cooling comfort of my freezer packs, I hoofed it back up the hill and headed down the Lost Lake trail. I had a nice lunch and acquired a good beer buzz among the families at the beach and teenagers goofing around on the raft.
View from my lunch spot, not bad at all!
Back to the car to drop off the lunch stuff and load up my water bottle with a bit of vodka. Meandered down the hill in the afternoon heat feeling very relaxed.
Once again at the venue I decided to hang back. There was a ton of kids about and I figured there would be a massive shift after the opening act, Kathleen Edwards -- who usually plays acoustic guitar -- when it was getting dark and the parents would take their kiddies home.
The Olympic Plaza Whistler before the sun passed behind the mountains:
There was a bunch of speeches first, some by Olympic athletes, others by politicians, all roundly ignored. Sorry, I like to respect our Canadian athletes but not when I'm expecting a show! Just get on with the music already, thanks. I must admit the wee bit of pyro and horizontal fireworks were pretty cool.
Kathleen Edwards played well and sounded good but had a real challenge with the disinterested crowd. Do Whistler people never go to concerts, or are they all just so freaking cool that they don't enjoy shows?? This isn't a podcast in your living room people, show some enthusiasm!
She chided the crowd gently for their apathy then told a story about when she was opening for Willie Nelson and it was kind of the same thing; people just sat there waiting for the headliner to come on. Let's just say the story involved some yahoo yelling, "Show us your t*ts!", a seeming requirement when a woman takes the stage at a rock show, and leave it at that.
Given that the festivities started an hour late and there was a bunch of unscheduled speeches, I figured I had a good 20 minutes for set change before the Sam Roberts Band would come on. Quickly I found an establishment that served beer and ordered one.
"Just one," I thought to myself, "because you're driving the Sea to Sky Highway back to Vancouver later."
Well, because life is never that simple I was soon befriended by a Brit fellow and his girlfriend. Announcing, "You're all right!!" he bought me a whiskey which, being Canadian, I couldn't very well refuse. While all this was going on I heard the strum of guitar, downed my beer, pointed to my new friends where I would be on the grass, and delicately navigated my way in the dark.
As I had hoped/expected, once past the crowds encircling the field there was actually lots of room. I picked my way carefully through the blanket-sitters -- and laying-downers! I am NOT kidding, lying down wrapped in a blanket. What the freaking hell are you even doing there? -- to pretty much exactly the spot I had picked out in daylight.
The show was really good, the sound was great, Sam worked hard to get the crowd excited but was mostly confronted with hushed awe from the younger crowd, and practiced indifference from the more senior. OK its not the Dead, I get it! And the 60's are over, we know. But its still good. Honestly.
The level of popularity the Sam Roberts Band now enjoys usually means a crushing crowd close to the stage, so I end up farther back where there is room to move around and I can see. This time I really enjoyed having several metres of room around me to dance about, while still being close enough to see the actual performers rather than just the screen.
Alas, all good things eventually end. It seemed to me that the show was shorter than was advertised. But hey, when something is free you get what you get! I went away happy. Stopped to get some water and a strong tea, and proceeded on the 20 minute hike to the car.
The next day I found the setlist posted on Sam Roberts Band official Twitter and we did indeed miss one song for the encore and we totally missed the 10 minutes of atmospheric jam they often do at the end. So that's a shame.
The real pity is that most of the Whistler people probably don't even know they missed out, and probably wouldn't even care. Oh well, it was a really fun night for me.
There's a bunch of good photos of the show at this guy's photostream on Flickr:
For those who don't know who Sam Roberts is (I will assume they must be not Canadian), here's his video for "Detroit '67". It's funny and weird and also poignant: