A long-distance cyclist’s checklist should include:
• a tent;
• a sleeping bag;
• and a drum set.
The first three items are usually packed in a pannier on a bike rack. Not the last one.
But Port Moody’s Chris Blaber has taken his snare drum, bass drum and cymbals along for the ride as he spreads the word about environmental conservation across British Columbia.
His vehicles of choice for his mission are his bicycle and music.
Blaber is a percussionist and composer. A knee injury got him into cycling while joining a performing arts company called Scrap Arts Music increased his passion for helping the environment by repurposing throwaway items.
He put them all together for a one-hour, one-man show utilizing compositions by fellow Lower Mainland musicians to educate audiences.
He started his journey by going up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler, Pemberton and Lillooet before heading down to Kamloops and the Okanagan Valley.
He’ll be doing shows in the Vancouver area in the next couple of weeks, including one July 19 at the Gallery Bistro in his hometown of Port Moody. After that, it’s off to Vancouver Island for a few weeks.
“I had to either do this stuff now or not do it," Blaber said in a phone interview last week with The Tri-City News from the banks of the Similkameen River, just outside of Princeton. "It’s been ruminating for a long time, doing a cycling tour with music. And Scrap Arts is what brought in the advocacy part
And his climate change message is one many across B.C. can understand.
“Out here just talking to people in the valley, the difference that’s going on with the fires and high water events,” said Blaber. “Those kind of events are always in the back of our minds that it could happen. It could happen now, or next year. It’s scary stuff.”
Blaber has done short bike trips before but nothing of this magnitude — certainly not hauling 140 lb. of gear and musical instruments through the sand and gravel of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. He preaches repurposing by demonstrating how adding small reusable objects to an instrument can create many different sounds.
For instance, he collects bottle caps he finds at the homes of the people he stays with along the way and puts them on a string, then dangles them from his high-hat cymbal to create more of a rattle. He puts a bag of marbles on the other cymbal or a plastic circle on his snare drum to get a “dry” sound, which shortens up the sound of the thwack every time he hits them.
“It’s actually been amazing. At [one stop], they were really amazed at the amount of sounds that I could get out of my three instruments and I was able to maintain interest for the hour-long show,” said Blaber, who moved with his family to Port Moody when he was five years old and attended Glenayre and Moody elementary schools, then Coquitlam's Gleneagle secondary.
“You can go and find most of the info about climate change locally through science reports,” said Blaber. “But my show is the emotional. I use music to create an emotional reaction to what’s going on.
"That seems to be what’s missing to the conversation. It feels too distant, feels too abstract. This seems like a different way to approach it that hasn’t been explored.”