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THE OLYMPICS AND ALI MILNER
Hold On To Your Hats...
The Olympic Games are just around the corner and just as it happens every four years, the crowd is getting anxious. While the snow seems to have chosen Virginia, the Games are in Vancouver, nonetheless, and why not? It's a beautiful city, one of the cleanest I have ever seen, and what's not to like about Whistler? Scenic, beautiful Whistler. Even without snow, it rivals the best of mountainous slopes, though it might be rough on the skis. Who am I kidding? The money they are pumping into the Games this year, that mountain will be covered in snow opening day. The corporate gods would have it no other way.
It's not all ice and snow, however. Bring together that many people and it is a party and when there is a party, there is a media circus. While the circus itself will focus on the athletes and events, they cannot ignore the entertainment. You can't throw a party without entertainment, after all, and Canada has geared up for the games (as they always do) by promoting their own.
Sure, the stars will be there, international biggies such as Nelly Furtado, the Stereophonics and INXS. Canada will also throw in their stars--- Barenaked Ladies, Loverboy (on a Canadian Hall of Fame run) and Burton Cummings. They will also toss in their future, the lesser knowns and locals like Bill Talent, Great Big Sea, Theory of a Deadman and Ali Milner--- names gaining ground in Canada but minus present day media hype. That's right. Milner's a local. After her performance February 17th at the Village Square main stage in Whistler, she will belong to the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen... Ali Milner
It's her job...
She's young, talented and dedicated and this will hardly be her first time in front of a large audience. She has left contrails all over Canada and has played other countries as well. Bob Segarini, musician in his own right (Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and Segarini the band), watched her play under trying circumstances in Toronto and made note of her talent and poise in the face of the club's battlefield scene. Loud conversation, laughing and clinking glasses were no match for her that night and those who were there to hear and not just to drink made their way toward Milner, a siren amidst chaos.
"Halfway through my first Alexander Keith," Segarini wrote in his column (named after his classic non-hit, 'Don't Believe a Word I Say), "a young, well-poised and confident redhead sat down at the piano, said a few words and launched into a song she wrote--- in fact, most of the songs she [erformed were written by her, and when I say songs, I mean songs. How can someone this young (she is still a teenager) write material that stands up to God Bless the Child (written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr. in 1939), which she also sang during her set, giving it a reading worthy of both Billie Holiday's and Eddie Harris's fine versions. I am impressed.
"The 400 conversations continued throughout her set, but a clutch of musos had joined me in front of her and the piano (including her justifiably beaming mother) and applauded wildly after every tune. Even with the party raging, the conversations all blurring together like a rap throwdown in a meth lab, she was completely focused, hitting every nuance, note and emotional brush stroke of the music and lyric. She didn't need and audience, she was there for the music. This young woman means every note she plays, every word she sings. This young woman is real. This young woman is special. Her name is Ali Milner."
That may seem high praise from a man who has spent his whole life in music and TV, who has heard the best and the worst throughout that life, like it or not, and who, through fate of career choice, is critic by decree. Actually, it is high praise, but praise earned.
Awaiting the big break...
I Dare You...
Milner's first album, I Dare You, hit the streets a few months ago and while a major label might have choreographed a campaign for success, Milner has no such backing. She relies on friends, family and fans, the last of which is growing with every performance and video hit on the Net. No, she is not Billie Holiday as one might deduce from Segarini's comment, but there is enough there on certain songs which make momentary comparisons valid. There is also a bit of Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington and a heavy late 50s pop influence which one cannot dismiss. Throw in girl groups and the production values of the early rock period and you begin to see the potential.
Whistler while she works...
The Main Stage will not be her only gig during the Games. Milner is scheduled to perform numerous times during the short stretch and has a chance of going viral, for sure. Not viral in terms of the Net with the fadism incumbent on such wildfire phenomenon, but viral in terms of personal contact. Athletes, supporters and fans from all over the world will have a chance to discover Milner, to hear her music, and a certain number of them are bound to take Milner with them when they return home. Well, not Milner, but you know what I mean.
It's funny, but I have never thought of the Olympic Games as a conduit for music until now, but there is potential there. While the people who attend are not a captive audience, per se, they will be focused. And like that athlete who has an amazing run in extreme snowboarding, Milner too will have her audience. She will no doubt come away with new fans. And they will come away with memories of Whistler and the local girl who made the party just that much better.