An interview with Colin Carrier
Photo credit and copyrights to Shane Collins & Gonzo Okanagan
I opened the door to Mission Tap House and there, at the bar, sat a lone figure, dressed in black.
I approached the barstool next to him and laid my bag down. He turned, smiled, stood and pulled me in for a hug. I took his shoulders into my hands and looked him over. Black glasses, salt and pepper hair, the guy looks better than ever. “Dude, you look great.”
“Thanks buddy. It’s good to see you.”
You might know Colin Carrier. He’s got that familiar face. Vernon born, Colin moved around from Calgary to Whistler and grew into a punk rock blasting, mountain biking, snowboarding, drink slinging, down to earth guy.
Colin was the manager and man behind the bar of Doc Willoughby’s from 2008 ’til 2020. Before the pandemic and before the changing of management and before the bar’s latest renovations, Doc’s was a place to see live music in a small, intimate setting. It’s menu was simple. Tasty. Affordable. Doc’s was a place to meet up with your friends and down a few pints. It was a place to let loose. There was something somewhat unique about it.
Being the house photographer for a few years, I’ve been to a lot of the shows and spent a good amount of time within the dark, dimly lit pub. It’s small dance floor would somehow be home to some of the wildest rock and punk rock shows I’ve ever seen. Back then, you’d have to slither through the dank, packed crowd. I could recall having my face smear across the back of some big, sweaty dude who was also trying to move within the packed bar. There were the bathrooms. I remember drunken nights stumbling into the men’s room and leaning my head against the wall while I released myself. There was vomit on the floor. Cocaine residue atop the urinal. Back then, it repulsed me. Now, I realize I’ve missed that filthy existence. Everything’s become so… sterile. There were the brawls that would sometimes spill out onto the street. Let’s not forget the flirting. The drunken kisses. The debauchery and depravity that would transpire on the dancefloor and up in the Greenroom. There were the deep conversations laden with bourbon, marijuana, cheap draft beer and there were the passionate debates that took place back in the smoke pit. It was a place where chaos could pull up a barstool and cast its spell.
Behind the bar, there was a stealth crew of bartenders moving with grace and speed. Like a ragtag crew of pirates, the staff at the door, on the floor, in the kitchen and behind the bar were some of the best service staff and colorful souls of its time. And at the helm was Colin, watching over the place with a captain’s eye. If you’ve been through those doors during that golden era, there’s a solid chance your drink was handed over by Colin.
I asked him if we could sit down and have a chat about those years of him behind the bar and what he’s doing these days, now that Doc Willoughby’s has been sold and is in a dramatic stage of renovation.
Jen comes over and hands us menus. I introduce myself and we realize we’ve met before. At Doc’s. Jen is a local musician and rocks the drums in her bands, Jenny and the Dicks and Frig Off. She knows Doc’s well and has stories of her own. She looks at Colin. “You were working at the DOA show, right?” Colin takes a sip of his water. “Yup. One of the best shows ever.”
She asks me what I’m drinking. “I’m on the water wagon tonight.”
I ask Colin, “how long have you been bartending?”
“30 years.” He covers his mouth and looks around. “It’s really weird hearing me say that out loud.”
I shake my head and briefly think back to all my nights in that place. I think of all the crazy stuff I’ve seen and done within the walls of that fine establishment. “You must have seen some shit over a 30 year span.”
He nods his head. “From my party and snowboarding days in Whistler up to my party and bartending days here in Kelowna, I’ve seen some wild shit, yes.”
We have a laugh and I ask, “What was one of the best shows that you’re been to at Doc’s?”
Still leaning against the bar, Colin took a moment for reflection. “Dude. That’s a tough one.” He looks up at Jen as she walks past with a tray of beers in her hands. “What do you think, Jen? Face to Face? Good Riddance? The Wild? SNFU? Voodoo Glow Skulls? Rude City Riot? Cancer Bats? Gob? DOA? Best show at Doc’s, Jen. What do you think?”
Jen hands the drinks over to a table of thirsty patrons. She returns and points a finger. “Obviously Jenny and the Dicks. (She winks at us.) “Cancer Bats with Sharptooth. That was a deadly show.”
Colin looks at me. “Wasn’t that the show where you-“
I cut him off. “Where I got squished by a falling tower of speakers. Yes, that was a show for the books.”
Colin asks, “What about you? Best show.”
“The Wild. That was truly a WILD show. Those guys were loud and fun. The lead singer dove into the crowd from the upper level. He poured Jägermeister into the mouths of attendees. He stood up on the bar and slammed a beer mid song. Any other venue and the security would have thrown a conniption fit. Not at Doc’s.”
We order some chicken wings from Jen and she replenishes our water.
“How did it feel when you knew that it was time to move on?”
Again, Colin takes a moment. “I think I was ready for a change, anyways, so it wasn’t as devastating as it may have been. Times change but it’ll always have a big place in my heart. I’ve seen wedding engagements at Doc’s, I’ve booked some of my favourite bands at Doc’s. I loved the holidays at Doc’s, I loved how everyone came together there and how many good bands came through those doors.”
I chime in. “I saw the last show the Tragically Hip ever played sitting at the bar. It was broadcast across Canada and I went to Doc’s all by myself but by the end of the show, I was lit, had my arms wrapped around strangers, crying and singing. Doc’s kinda felt like home.”
Colin shrugs his shoulders. “COVID came in and ruined everything, anyways. The bar’s had a long run. I’m curious to see what happens to it now. I miss those times. The way it was. Not just the bar but the life we used to know. Before 2020, I don’t know… things just seemed simpler.”
We sat for a moment. “I never even heard of the word, COVID back then.”
Colin sighs. “Fuck.”
“What will you miss the most?”
Jen joins us again from the other side of the bar. “I’m going to miss that little stage and that in your face crowd experience,” she says as she sets down some plates and napkins. “Doc’s and Fernando’s had a unique crowd to play to. When we’re on stage at either one of those venues, you had a crowd that could literally reach out and grab you. I miss that already.” She makes a sad face and walks away.
“I’ll miss working with everyone,” Colin says, looking up to the TV screen. “From the staff to the musicians that would come through and perform. Booking the bands. Ringing that bell above the bar, yelling out ‘Last Call.’ I love that shit. With all the shenanigans and with all the people who I’ve met during those years, I’m grateful to have been a part of it.”
“What won’t you miss?”
“I bet you won’t miss people like me.” Jen points to herself. “People getting wasted and trying to steal the art work on the walls.”
Colin laughs out loud. “That’s right! You tried to steal that titanic painting.” He shakes his head and looks at me. “Ya, I guess I won’t miss the behaviour of drunk people. I won’t miss the late nights. I think I’ve just had my time and it all came together as it was meant to.”
I nod my head. I guess that’s what it comes down to. We either cling on to what we know or accept that life has changed and move on accordingly. I think it takes a level of bravery to do so because it can be a bumpy road within the transition.
“So, what’s going on now? What are you up to these days?”
“No shit.” I take his card and look it over. “Good on ya, bud.”
“I went from listening to punk rock CD’s to brokerage audio books. I consumed as much information as I could. It’s like learning a new language. I had to immerse myself in it and I’ve discovered it’s a good fit for me.”
“You went and grew up.” I jokingly gave him a stern look.
“I know. The phone’s starting to ring, too. The market is wild and a lot of people are looking at Kelowna right now.”
I put my notepad away as our chicken wings arrive. They steam and sizzle in front of us. The Olympic highlights are on a TV overhead. “I assume the connections you made over the years behind the bar helps as a broker here in Kelowna.” I bite into my chicken wing. It’s doused in a dry, habanero rub. “I mean… you know, like, everyone in this town.”
Colin burns his mouth biting into the wing. “Hot!” He shrugs his shoulders and nods his head as he eats. “Well, it sure doesn’t hurt. In this business, just like most any other business, it’s all about knowing your shit, networking and customer service. 30 years behind the bar, you get to know people. Like, really know them. Customer service becomes something almost instinctual. This line of business is a lot different than being behind a bar. It’s a whole new path. I have lots to learn and that keeps me excited. I know it’s where I’m supposed to be and I’m glad I did the schooling and stuck with it. It’s time to move on from my old life and it’s as if it’s all come together. Like a natural order of things.”
For me, Doc Willoughby’s will forever hold a special place in my heart as well. Right now, as I write this article, the bar is going through a big renovation and I for one am curious to see what it will become. Restrictions are also being eased. I hope it opens up its own new chapter. Whatever happens with the space, it’ll never be what it was. And that’s ok. Things change. We change. Doc’s has changed. It was a colorful and wild chapter of the establishment’s history and just like Colin, I too am proud to have been a part of it.
I give Colin a hug and say my goodbye to Jen as we pack up and head for the door. It’s another crisp night in February.
Colin checks his phone. He missed a few calls from potential clients while we were having our chat. “Looks like I’ve got some work to do tonight.”
With that, we part ways. I return home to work on this article and Colin heads home to follow up on a few new leads in his new venture. I guess things sometimes just fall into place. It’s simply a matter of moving forward in what inspires us and having the courage to do so. I look forward to having my camera out in the crowd again. Maybe, just maybe, when the dance floor is bumping again, perhaps a bit of that chaotic mayhem will return and there, in the crowd, just by chance, maybe I’ll snap a photo and find Colin out there, somewhere on the dance floor and not behind the bar. My hope for that live performance experience has not diminished. I am very hopeful for the dance floors to be hopping again soon. I hope to see you all there, dancing once again.