For Brian Rosen and the WhatNow, their show at the Royal this Friday night has a little extra meaning as their favourite stage sits amid transition.
The WhatNow was born on the Royal stage in 2008 and since then have become a mainstay at the local bar at a crux in its illustrious existence. It’s not hard for lead singer Rosen to get nostalgic about that first show.
“I remember local guitar legend, Kelly Fawcett, was our sound man and the guy who booked us,” says Rosen. “At first he wasn’t convinced he should give us ‘newbies’ a chance with a Friday night, but with the help of our awesome friend Tracy Franklin, he was talked into it.”
Rosen came from Canmore in 2007 packing songs and a mission to put together a band looking to perform. They were only a four piece band for this first show. Rosen, Jesse Lee on Bass, Rob Funk on Drums, and ex-member Joel Pelltier on percussion. Later they acquired Ty West on electric guitar, and Ben Euerby on saxophone and keyboards, creating a climate for groovy jams and a full-band sound.
“We were a refreshing unique act to enter the Nelson music scene,” says Rosen.
The Royal became their favourite place to play — a walk-in-off-the-street open room designed for bands — “live music central,” says the singer songwriter.
“Our good friend Paul Hinrichs took over booking and ownership of the Royal a few years ago, always having faith in us,” says Rosen.
Hinrichs has watched the WhatNow grow from their days of appearing on his weekly Kootenay Co-op radio show.
“It’s been a big year for them, and I remember thinking at their album release party for Choose Your Choice (2012) how far they’d come,” says Hinrichs. “The support for developing artists is really what gives Nelson its musical pulse. People typically focus on the headliners, but personally, I get just as much satisfaction watching my friends’ band grow.”
Eventually, staff became close friends with the band and then, the band became staff. West is head bartender and Rosen even recently joined the crew as host and doorman.
“I wanted to be a bigger part of this awesome venue for the last few months,” he says.
A big part of the Royal scene is Lee, rumoured to be on the stage at the local bar more than anyone. He plays with the WhatNow, his band Lint, with Jenny Robinson, Shane Philip, Shane Koyczan and anyone else needing a solid bass player in a pinch. He spins records as Rafferty Funksmith and enjoys the crowds with Clinton Swanson at the after work swing parties — another Royal mainstay.
“The Friday swing crowd is super fun to play for because they are voracious dancers. They’re up from the beginning of the show to the end, which is satisfying for us as musicians,” says Lee.
Just back from touring Canmore and Banff, Rosen hopes to see the floor packed Friday night as the WhatNow dedicates their show to the end of an era.
“We are going to melt the walls away with psychedelic jams and sweaty grooves,” he says. “No opening band for us at this show. We are going give as much as we can.”
Tickets are $5 to $10 at the door. Doors open 8 p.m. and show starts around 9 p.m.
Brian Rosen and the WhatNow are nominated for a Kootenay Music Award in the “Best Roots and Blues” category. Vote for them here.