Concert promoter sets up headquarters in Lund

Paul Mercs plans to use local property for music camps and more

Out in Lund on Finn Bay, concert promoter Paul Mercs has specific plans for a piece of property he is developing.

“Next year, we’re starting some music camps,” said Mercs. “There will be music-business camps, songwriter camps, that type of thing, and a solid lineup of instructors for young people who can get involved here.”

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Mercs entered the music business at a young age. The first show he ever worked, in 1970, was the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music in England, a three-day counterculture music festival where Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Jefferson Airplane performed.

Mercs was 23 years old when he promoted his first show in Vancouver.

“I didn’t realize I was in the music business until I was close to 50; I was just doing what I loved.” he said. “By the time I was 24, I had started to work with artists I was a huge fan of.”

Mercs said he has been a fan of contemporary musician and multiple Juno award-winning Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith for a long time. Bob Dylan, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Chris Martin are also big Sexsmith fans, he added.

“I haven’t promoted a Ron Sexsmith date before and I think he’s one of Canada’s treasures as a songwriter and performer,” said Mercs. “He’s a true artist.”

A Sexsmith concert on Thursday, May 18, at Max Cameron Theatre is the first on a circuit Mercs wants to create between Powell River, Courtenay, Campbell River, Nanaimo and Victoria.

“My idea is to probably do five or six shows over the course of the winter here,” said Mercs.

Ever the promoter, Mercs said he would not announce any names of musicians who might be coming to Powell River in the future, other than to say he will likely provide more information about the circuit’s lineup around the time of the Sexsmith show.

Some acts might not know where Powell River is, but Mercs said that could work to his advantage in booking shows, as it did with booking Sexsmith.

“They’re looking for a different experience, so that’s a good sell for me,” he said.

Sexsmith confirmed that in the last few years he has made an effort to go to places such as Powell River and other locales he has never visited.

“I hear it’s remote,” said Sexsmith. “We’re taking a ferry and everything, so that’s exciting.

Mercs is currently putting on a 40th anniversary North American tour with Canadian singer-songwriter Raffi, who is best known for children’s music.

“We have Raffi sold out in two shows in Philadelphia and a show sold out in Pittsburgh,” he said. “We’re doing tremendous business in Canada and the United States. What happens at a Raffi show is multigenerational.”

Raffi’s show is a family affair, including grandparents, parents and children. He also uses his special connection with his audiences to voice his opinions, said Mercs.

“He’s not afraid to speak out about political things that are of interest to him, and environmental issues,” said Mercs. “From my perspective, not enough artists are doing that in this country, or in America for that matter.”

Mercs admits that while developing his property in Lund, he does not go out often to see live music around Powell River, but said he has seen Cam Twyford’s Little Pharmer and Lukah Bouchard, who have both impressed him. Also, he said, Scout Mountain Bluegrass Band is the “real deal.”

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