It has been almost four years since Sam Weber has been to Prince George. On his two previous visits, he succeeded in winning fans over with his smooth, slow-burn alternative rock. The rest of Canada is now alive to the Victoria guitar slinger with the voice like a Salish Sea fog and he has just pushed a new EP out into the water. One of the places he most wanted to perform it for was P.G.
"We met a bunch of people when we were there the first time and we've been trying to get back," he said.
He and his band have been down in Los Angeles working with go-to producer Tyler Chester. As a musician, Chester has worked with a spread of stars from Joan Baez to Christina Aguilera to Jackson Browne and he is a veteran producer as well. In fact, the comparisons between Weber and Browne make a compelling case. He could be called a cross between Steely Dan and the Grapes Of Wrath. Or a mashup of Springsteen's introverted side and X Ambassadors.
He could be called a lot of things, as long as it makes mention of his unmistakable command of the guitar and his way with stickhandling a lyric.
For those just getting started on Weber's music, a good place to begin are songs like Burn Out, August, Valentina, and Anybodys with its video starring fitness celebrities Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod in a hilarious pantomime.
Weber got another star to step up for him the other day, totally out of the blue and unsolicited. He's been smiling with the surprise ever since.
"Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas was on the George Stroumboulopoulos show and he said Ex Lover by Sam Weber was the best song of 2018.' We've never had any accolades or recognition like that. That meant a lot. And that just happened so we're like reeling from it."
Weber didn't even know how Jurvanen heard the tune. Music doesn't move around anymore like it did up to the early 2000s when it was a predictable line of radio and music video. Now music can't be aimed as surely by those who perform it, but it can also wander in ways unknown to the artist.
Weber estimates the peak of the music industry's power was the 1990s "right before Napster came along, and that was the collapse of that wing of the music industry. But I'm barely disparaged by that anymore because where we make money and where we find joy is in playing live. I never really have the expectation of making money off the recordings. We can monetize just travelling around playing music for people. We are completely happy with that."
It is also a shared experience. The relationship between artist and audience in a concert setting, large or small, is akin to an act of magic. And Weber said there is also a deep personal meaning among musicians when they lock into each other. The fans who don't play music probably don't know just how organic a live performance is. You might think you play the same old song one night exactly the way you played it the 100 nights before that. Live music is not like painting by numbers, though. Every note struck by a finger on a guitar string or snap of drumstick or inflection in a singing tone creates a different pathway to the next one and the next one, and over the course of a concert, another world is created using the songs as merely a familiar frame around the ever-changing kaleidoscope image of sound.
That inter-relationship between himself and his bandmates can feel like an angry mess or it can edify your spirit.
"We've been trying as a band to listen to each other and reach this hyperconsciousness thing," he said, with a shy laugh. "I know that sounds super new-agey and weird but if everyone in a band context is paying really close attention to each other, you can reach almost like a meditative level. You can react to each other. You reach this point when your mistakes can just disappear.
"We're not an eye-contact oriented band, but it can go as far as the relationships with the band members. It's about having strong relationships with those people personally so when mistakes happen they can just go by and not pull you out of the moment. Because when someone makes a mistake on stage, it is the responsibility of all the other players on stage to try and fix it, in terms of the fabric of the song. If the guitar player does something weird, the drummer can do something off of that and just make it this moment, rather than allow it to be an awkward situation. These are hard things to explain, but when you go out together and do 60 shows you start to dissect it at that level."
Someone who gets what they are trying to do is Canadian alt-rock darling Terra Lightfoot. She and her band have been solid pals of Weber and his band. When they found out Lightfoot was performing at this year's Coldsnap Music Festival, and they were in the general area themselves, Weber rushed to book himself into P.G. as well so they could enjoy each other's shows.
In a twist of fate, though, Weber is scheduled to be at the Prince George Legion tonight, the same night Lightfoot is playing her Coldsnap concert at the PG Playhouse.
To get at least a little time in the same room, though, Weber was invited by the Coldsnap organizers to conduct a free workshop with Lightfoot. That workshop happens from 10:30-11:30 a.m. today at the Omineca Arts Centre. Guitar players are encouraged to bring their own instruments; fans are encouraged to bring their clapping hands.