Midday Wednesday the gates of Pemberton Music festival opened, and in walked thousands of shirtless adventurers beginning their trek into the Pemberton Valley oven. The local festival goers walked into the festival complaining about hot weather, but the un-jaded attendees skipped into the outstanding glory of the Pemberton Valley with jaws dropped. For most of us in the campgrounds, a sea of beer pong tables acted as our primary cooling device, but for those who sought proper hydration there was always a water station within reach. By Thursday the campgrounds boiled into an overflowing party stew, each second bringing more sweaty hippies to spice our pot. But then, finally, 3pm struck and the festival gates had opened. It was time for us to play.
The festival ground entrances dumped attendees in front of Pemberton’s crowned Jewel: the Basscamp. Behind the booming arches of Basscamp sat the beer garden, jam-packed with games, washrooms, drinks and charging stations and underneath the impressive structure sat Beats antique storming the Basscamp with a series of wonky sounds. As the set progressed Beats Antique flexed their muscles, creatively twisting the brass and string instrumentation they had brought with them. But the most impressive feature was the beautifully tuned visuals beats antique had timed to their live set.
Suddenly, a flow of people pushed out of the Basscamp in a frenzy to catch one of the rarer acts of the festival, Billy Talent. The crowd over at the Pemberton stage was a whole different beast than Basscamp. The same people, formally losing their minds at Basscamp, turned into jumping maniacs in the midst of Billy Talent’s seductive angst. The Canadian born band jammed to Fallen Leaves, Try Honesty and River Below as the mass of double decker fans watched the screens sandwiching the enormous Pemberton stage.
But there was no doubt that we were no longer hearing rock music when UK Bass champion Flux Pavillion approached the decks and immediately sent a ripple of bass vibration across the valley. The crowd approaching Flux was caught in a moment of peace as the fiery sunset reflecting onto our glorious mountains wrapped around them. But then, without much time to waste, the brief serenity was smashed by an onslaught of head banging dubstep. The setlist included a flux rendition of We Will Rock You mixed elegantly into I Can’t Stop and closed out with the euphoric Gold Dust. As Flux wrapped up, the crowd began to split between the bassheads and the rap fiends, both equally excited for their headliners Bassnectar and J. Cole.
Bassnectar was my first time experiencing dance music back in 2011, and so it seems clear to me that Nectar has had a significant impact on my life, and now awaiting my 8th show I couldn’t help but feel a sense of shared euphoria amongst my fellow BC bassheads. Finally, the long haired legend grabbed the deck and released a subtle treble out to the crowd. The set opened with a dreamy tone, pulling out the beauty of his newest album Into the Sun with tracks like Chasing Heaven. The awesomeness of this set truly dawned on me as Lorin (Bassnectar) began to mix the sedative track Into the Sun with the nonstop quick paced rap of Now off his NVSB album. The noisy neon visuals of his 2014 tour overlapped elegantly with the visuals of his showcasing tour. Complete insanity was confirmed as fans looked overhead to see an inflatable couch, taken from the “Pemberton” lounge, and thrown up on top of the bouncing maniacs. But the madness only grew wilder in tandem with the vast production used. The Basscamp stage was loaded with lasers, and on occasion a spew of mirrored confetti would launch above the crowd to transform the purple lasers into an infinite boggle of lights. Considering the production, scale of the set, and quality of sound it seems safe for me to say that this was the best Bassnectar show I had experienced to date.
With an even hotter day upon us, there was a sluggish tone amongst the crowd. Nonetheless, Portugal the Man played a collection of their known songs like So American, but also added new beautiful covers like the tune “Dayman” from the ridiculous sitcom Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall to their set list. As the day cooled down more, rejuvenated fans began to flow into the festival. Kid Cudi refreshed the crowd with a set packed with classics. Soundtrack 2 my life, Wylin cuz’ I’m young, Marijuana, Solo Dolo, Cudi Zone and the list goes on.
Now, for the first time at Pemberton Music festival, there was only one stage hosting an act, The Black Keys. Sure enough, the crowd grew enormous throughout their unbelievably well composed set. Even in their slower songs the crowd, many of whom ended up at the Black Keys because there were no alternatives, seemed entrapped by the distinctly full sound coming from the band. The keys closed with Lonely boy and did a great job of filling the valley with an incredibly fun jumping, singing, group of rockers.
Then after the Black keys, what must’ve been 99% of the Pemberton festival crowd darted over to Basscamp to catch EDM king Tiesto. The remaining 1% of us hopped towards the mount currie stage for an intimate set from The String Cheese Incident. With Mickey Mouse smiles on their faces the band played a constant stream of dance music and the tiny crowd responded with sillier smiles, hula hoops and dance circles. Cheese jams like Song In My Head transitioned beautifully into unexpected cover tracks like The Beatles’ She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. The 200 person crowd got weirder, and goofier with every dance break and it was obvious that everyone, including SCI loved it. The two hour incident was coming to an end but not before SCI took some time to remind us just how beautiful we are through the gentle lyrics of their exclusively live track Beautiful.
“i want you to know
want you to know
so easy to see so easy to see just how beautiful you are
Saturday was the hottest of them all, but just like every other day in the Pemberton Valley oven dedicated fans equipped themselves with big ol’ nalgenes and trekked into the festival. Even atAlice Cooper’s later set the crowd huddled into the shade, but that didn’t stop Alice from preforming the most theatric set of the weekend. His set included magic, monsters, head chopping, blood squirting and more. Generally it would be hard to top the theatrics of the previous time slot, but the next one included fan favourite 90’s/00’s band Weezerand modern day composer and vocalist Chet Faker. Fortunately the stages were close enough that catching the beginning of Weezer for Say it Aint So, Hash Pipe, and Beverly Hills, and then running over to Faker for This aint a song about a girl wasentirely feasible. Both performances did an excellent job of creating a unique atmosphere for the crowd, Weezer with their oddly happy emo style of music, and Faker with his dark but dancey vocals and production. Towards the end of Faker’s setI noticed a stream towards Basscamp steadily increasing in size, this was the Luda hype.
The crowd eat up every minute of Luda’s set, and with that being said I have to note that, from an outside perspective, Luda and his crew made some very odd performance decisions. For one, Luda told the “pretty girls in the crowd that [he] would love to kidnap them”, to which the girl behind me immediately exclaimed sarcastically “Woo! Human Trafficking!”. Not to mention, his DJ took over and played Levels by Avicii the infamously overplayed song of 2011. All in all, I’d say Ludacris was the oddest show of the weekend, making the upcoming second night of SCI all that much more exciting.
Perhaps, the word of night one’s incident had spread because night two attracted an even larger hoedown. From the beer garden all the way to the washrooms people were arm slingin’ and partner swinging. For instance, I know one corner of the beer garden had a 40 person dance party composed of strangers holding hands and spinning at high speeds. After one and a half silly hours the crowd populating the Currie stage seemed to move in cohesion towards the Whistler stage for STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9). Sound Tribe was certainly one of the best and most unique live performances of the weekend, they beautifully combined a flow of rock, funk, electronic, and jazz. Deeper into their set they really brought out the lights, providing an extremely creative light show for the grooving audience. Paul Oakenfold remained as the final act of the night but the experienced DJ played an uncreative big room set, a big disappointment considering his deeper Trance roots.
The final day of Pemberton had arrived, and to everyones relief mother nature had decided to give us a break. Fantastic news for the BC raving crew because the Fullflex Express was rolling through Basscamp! Bright and early in the afternoon the back to back female powerhouse duo, Anna Lunoe and Mija, came out with a banging set. The set was intimate enough that basscamp fans could walk right up to the rail and play beach volleyball with Anna. The girls complemented each other elegantly, switching between Anna’s bounce and Mija’s bass became the duo’s yin and yang. Later in the day the Fullflex toned down for the dreamy live performance of Tycho. The band played to the chilled out crowd laying in the hammocks over at Basscamp. The music, the hammocks, and the sun all created the perfectly relaxed setup for the goofy antics of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zero’s. Edward’s show was in all likelihood the most interactive show out of Pembertons lineup. On multiple occasions Edward came towards the rail to ask fans to make a song up on the spot for the crowd. Then, During the last song of their set, the hit tune Home, Edward approached a fan and asked him to tell a story. The story brought many fans to tears, certainly creating an unforgettable experience for most.
Luckily for me, a friend suggested we go check out Chvrches after Edward, which I quickly identified asthe surprise set of the weekend. They played a super fun, upbeat set that got the burnt out crowd repeatedly jumping to their feet. After the gorgeous Chvrches sunset set the energy was still high as could be. It seemed like most of the Pemberton crowd was now rushing to Basscamp for Jack U. The eccentric set consisted of mostly Skrillex songs, only moving away to mix in tracks like the tetris theme song. The boys kept the surprises coming with the intro to the Lion King’s The Circle of Life followed by Skrillex’s own Bangarang. The final beats of the weekend pumped out of Basscamp, and the crowd braced to put all their energy into the final set of the weekend: Kendrick Lamar.
Kendrick did a fantastic job of keeping the crowd under his thumb, particularly because he was clear to hear over the bass of his beats. Although Kendrick played tons of classics like Moneytrees, I noticed that there was some disappointment amongst fans wanting to hear some of the newer tracks he put out on his recent album. Fortunately for those fans they were treated to an unbeatable performance of King Kunta. Before the show ended Kendrick handed his shoes to one hard rocking fan, and shared a laugh with a crowd as he remarked that he “had never left a show without [his] shoes before.”
Now, with the festival gates closing there was only one thing left to do. Head back to the campsites and watch the champion crowning human chicken fight: former champion of the campgrounds A$AP Rocky V.S. BarbEric. Ultimately, BarbEric claimed his victory, and the chanting fans of the Pemberton campgrounds could rest easy. Pemberton, you were beautiful, I’m already looking forward to 2016.