Hear and Now celebrates local music

Festival puts Sea to Sky musicians centre stage this weekend

Last year when Arts Whistler set out to launch a fall music festival highlighting local talent, they kept it deliberately simple.

“We talked about naming it, but we decided that because it’s brand new, let’s call it exactly what it is,” said Maureen Douglas, executive director of Arts Whistler, of last year’s Whistler’s Local Music Festival.  “This year we thought, ‘let’s give it a fun name.’ It’s sticking and people are already referencing it as Hear and Now.”

There are a few other changes to Hear and Now this year as well. Last year, the festival was put together with help from a Canadian Heritage grant, but this year an added boost from the BC Touring Council through its Youth Engagement grant allowed organizers to diversify the lineup with both younger musicians and more women musicians.

“(We’re) engaging more youth and more female musicians,” Douglas said. “As soon as you go out and put some effort into it seeing what’s out there, it’s an awesomely balanced lineup.”

That means amongst the 18 bands playing over the two-day festival, running on Saturday (Sept. 23) and Sunday (Sept. 24), are younger acts, like Bad Habit, made up of Grade 7 students from Myrtle Philip Community School, and more female-fronted groups, like the new, all-women Venus Envy.

This year, organizers handpicked each of the acts, although going forward they hope to accept applicants as part of a jury process.

“We weren’t sure we’d have the funding this year,” Douglas said. “It was that Youth Engagement money that put us over the top. We got word on that a little later, so we took a look at last year, who was available, who couldn’t make it last year and we gave them priority.”

While there are some bands returning this year, there are also new faces. The lineup also features bands that represent the entire Sea to Sky corridor — from The Spiritual Warriors, whose members are from the Lil’wat Nation — to a duo from Squamish called Old Soul Rebel. Whistler favourites like Brother Twang, Some Assembly Required, FOMO and Blame the Weekend are also on the list.

“It’s really great because the musicians — beside from getting the showcase — they’ve been committed to what we’re doing too,” Douglas added. “It’s a modest budget; they’re working for an honorarium. Each musician playing makes the same amount. They say, ‘yeah we’ll do it because you’re trying to make something happen here.’ We’re delighted with that.”

Also new this year, all of the shows will take place in Village Square, with every act after the openers performing for an hour. “(They’ll) all get to see each other perform,” Douglas said. “That was one of the highlights they talked about — they loved being able to kick back after their set and check out the next few bands.”

In the end, that’s what the festival is all about — celebrating and supporting local talent, she added.

“Come out and dance,” Douglas said. “So many of these bands are fun. Get those running shoes on — you may be dancing on the cobblestone. (The event) is great for all ages, so come out with your kids. I can guarantee that’s who will be dancing first.”

Hear and Now is running in Village Square starting at 12 p.m. with the last band taking the stage at 7:30 p.m. both days. The event is free. To see the full lineup visit artswhistler.com/hearandnow.

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