‘To give back to him’: Upcoming Dylan Willows Celebration concert honours Victoria radio host

Photo: The Zone at 91-3
Dylan Willows at the Phillips Backyard Festival Series.

Dylan Willows knows music well, and that’s what’s set to fill the air at a downtown Victoria theatre next month to honour the local, long-time radio host who recently called it quits following a difficult journey with cancer.

A Celebration of Dylan Willows is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at Victoria’s Royal Theatre on Broughton Street, where a line-up of performers will take the stage to collect funds for the beloved radio personality and his family.

The concert starts at 8 p.m.

A host at 91-3 The Zone for 17 years, Willows signed off the airwaves for good on Feb. 15 following an emotional goodbye to listeners. That’s when he shared that the cancer he thought he beat two decades ago had returned.

READ PREVIOUS: ‘Much love’: Dylan Willows announces last show at The Zone amid cancer diagnosis

The radio station, where Willows co-hosted “The Morning Zone” with Jason Lamb, later posted the message to Facebook, saying he has terminal stage 4 melanoma.

“Not without a lack of trying and hard effort from myself and my family and the staff at BC Cancer,” said Willows in the message. “I’ve dedicated my entire life to being on the radio, and I don’t regret one millisecond of it.”

‘A real shock’

Morgan Brooker and Stephen Franke of Blue Heron Music are organizing the event, and the former says he was disappointed to hear Willows was signing off.

“It was a real shock,” Brooker told CHEK News Tuesday. “We all were really hoping that he could pull it together. Unfortunately, those cards weren’t dealt to him.”

It prompted him and Franke to start event planning.

“(I’ve been) working in the music industry in Victoria for 15 years, and Dylan’s always been a pillar in the music industry and really lifting up the local talent,” said Brooker. “He’s done so much for our music community, and we just wanted to put something together to do a little bit to give back to him.”

‘Part big brother, part booster’

So, organizers have banded together to honour and thank him by way of a celebration event that includes performers Current Swell, Jon and Roy, Jesse Roper (via video link), Miina, Astrocolor, The Bankes Brothers, Liinks, Vince Vacarro and more, states an announcement on the theatre’s website.

“Dylan Willows of The Zone is the rare breed of broadcaster who refuses to hide his musical and municipal roots,” organizers wrote in the announcement.

“Part big brother and part booster, the Claremont Secondary grad advocated for countless Victoria acts during his decade as the director of The Zone’s Band of the Month program, many of which are uniting for this special event.”

They tout Willows as “a key component in the arts and culture” in Victoria, recalling his work with VIC Fest, which he co-founded in 2011 to celebrate Vancouver Island’s culture, and the Capital Ballroom, a music venue he co-owned until 2019.

“This concert in his honour lets him know that musicians and music fans in Victoria are still listening,” said organizers. “It is a way for everyone he touched to say thank you for two decades of service and commitment to the community.”

It was in early December 2023 when Willows announced he was taking a month-long break from his show at The Zone to undergo treatment for uveal melanoma, a rare cancer that can affect structures in the uvea of the eye, notes the Canadian Cancer Society.

He was off the air that month but later returned in the New Year, eventually sharing he would once again be shutting down his mic — only this time, forever.

“To see the day I have to walk away from not only this radio show but from my partner in crime, Jason, and from my extended family here at the Zone and my even greater extended family of all the Zoners,” Willows said on Feb. 15.

“Unfortunately, today is the day.”

Tickets on sale Thursday

Tickets for the Willows celebration, which start at $34.75 each, go on sale Thursday, Feb. 29 at 11 a.m. Online sales end one hour before the performance start time, and some may be available from the box office.

One hundred per cent of proceeds will go to Willows and his family, according to organizers. They say this is a high-demand event, so the ability to Select Your Own Seat will not be active online during the presale and initial onsale.

“When he made his announcement in February, we realized we had to put something together. This whole event came together in under a week, and the outpouring from the community has been fantastic,” said Brooker.

“We work with a lot of the bands on the bill,” he added.

“Everyone is reaching out to us asking how they can be involved, and a lot of Dylan’s family and friends are reaching out to see how they can help us.”

A link to tickets is here.

Photo: rmts.bc.ca

Ethan Morneau

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