Pemberton Festival, July 18th-20th 2014 @ Pemberton B.C.
on July 23, 2014 1:19 PM in
After attending the inaugural Pemberton Festival in 2008, and enjoying one of the best weekends I’d ever had, it is safe to say that I was more than a little disheartened to learn that it was to be cancelled the following year, and the one after that.
And the subsequent years to follow…..indefinitely.
This was terrible news.
Then, in the late stages of 2013, news broke of its imminent return in July of 2014.
As an annual event.
Upon first arrival the most notable difference from 2008 was the distinct lack of gridlock on the one main artery that runs through Pemberton. Uncountable hours could be lost in that first year trying to fight traffic should you decide to leave the festival grounds for any reason, a fact made far worse by the stifling heat we had experienced that year.
Right away things are looking up.
When festival goers bought their ticket this year they received a wristband with a serial number & chip embedded inside that, once registered online, facilitated very easy travel in and out of the festival grounds by merely scanning your wristband at the readers stationed at the entrances. A nice touch.
With the wide array of food vendors set about the place there was never an issue trying to fill your stomach should the need arise. Although it was clear that, for one reason or another, nutrition wasn’t always the top priority among a lot of the patrons. I’m not judging….I may have been one of them.
Another great improvement from 2008 were the multiple beer gardens dispersed throughout the festival grounds. At the original there were 2 beer gardens; 1 between the Lillooet & the Mount Currie Stages, and 1 between the Live Tent and Barn Dance Tent. Lineups at either could grow to lengths that could enable you to celebrate a birthday before getting to the brew. This year saw no fewer than 7 beer gardens spread out fairly evenly among the multiple stages and tents. There was almost never a lineup to get into any of them and if you ever had to wait for more than 1 or 2 people to order once inside it was a rare occurrence. Great work Pemberton.
More stages and tents were added as well this year. Acts were spread out between the Blackcomb, Whistler, Mount Currie, and Pemberton stages as well as having the Laugh Camp Tent and Bass Camp Tent where you could go to get your fill of stand up comedy and dance music respectively. Both excellent additions.
Of course with so many options spread out around the substantial festival area it is highly unlikely that you would be able to catch every act you wanted see. An unfortunate but expected price to pay for such an impressive event to be a part of.
A few other features that added to the pleasing aesthetic of the place were multiple art features scattered about, along with a zip line and water slide. As darkness fell you could also notice faces being projected onto the foliage of the trees behind the Mount Currie stage, some even winked. They were subtle enough though that you can guarantee there were more than a few people in attendance on mind altering substances that were curious as to whether anyone else was witnessing the same thing they were.
Hilarious. Very nice touch.
With Soundgarden taking to the Pemberton stage at the very early hour of 6:30 on 1st night of the festival they didn’t receive the crowd numbers that they both deserve and are used to but that didn’t stop the Seattle grunge pioneers from rocking the hell out of the place. Opening with the classic Badmotorfinger track “Searching With My Good Eye Closed”, they were clearly in fine form. From there they didn’t miss a beat jumping straight into “Spoonman” from their fourth studio effort, Superunknown, the album they are currently touring for in support of its 20th anniversary. Touching on tracks that spanned most of their quite substantial career, you were sure to walk away quite pleased if you were a Soundgarden fan.
Nine Inch Nails took to the Pemberton stage to close Friday night with their typical manic assault on the eyes and ears of those in attendance. If you have never had the pleasure of witnessing NIN in their element they’re an act that should not be missed. Trent Reznor and the boys consistently bring some of the most awe inspiring visuals with them to their shows to go along with their often crushing tunes. Opening with “Copy Of A” from their latest, Hesitation Marks, they then went directly into “Sanctified”, a track from their debut album Pretty Hate Machine, immediately spanning a 24 year time differential. On top of sounding great, there were 5 screens that moved about the stage to add to the ambiance. Sometimes spread randomly about the stage, sometimes forming a solid wall of light behind the band to accent their silhouettes as they performed. At one point two screens moved in front of Trent temporarily concealing him as he sang, before separating in the middle as the song picked up tempo to expose both him and a screen behind him with a close up of his face as he screamed into the camera. Quite the sight indeed. The energy during the set was electric. Although there was a good spread from most albums, the set was weighed most heavily with tracks from The Downward Spiral, an album they’re currently touring for with Soundgarden which is also in support of its 20th anniversary.
Don’t feel like calling it a night after the headliners close down the Pemberton stage? Fear not, the Whistler & Blackcomb stages along with the Bass Camp Tent tended to keep the party going with DJs that would have you shaking your ass until around 2 am. The Bass Camp Tent was a feast for all the senses with lasers, lights, screens, and bass that had the ability to rattle the teeth right out of your head. It should definitely be checked out at least once even if you’re not the biggest fan of electronic music.
At one point on Saturday I was in the beer garden by the Blackcomb stage and managed to catch a bit of Gold & Youth’s set. I was not familiar with this act but they performed a very impressive rendition of Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” that is definitely worth a mention. Superb job guys.
Snoop took to the main stage Saturday night after being introduced by “his homey” Bob Saget. Clad in Henrik Sedin jersey from the Vancouver Canucks and gold rimmed heart shaped glasses, Snoop hit on a big fatty joint onstage as well as a wide number of his classics that had the momentous crowd singing along in unison. He even included tributes to both 2pac and Notorious B.I.G. by covering their tacks “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted” and “Hypnotize” respectively. It was a set that was deserving of holding the headlining time slot.
Deadmou5 closed the main stage Saturday night just as a light rain began to fall but it didn’t dampen the crowd’s spirits. I must say that although I thought his set was pretty damn good, I was left with the feeling that he that he would have been better utilized on either the Whistler stage or in the Bass Camp Tent. This turned out not to be an uncommon feeling upon talking to other festival goers after his performance. Again. I’m not saying it was a bad performance at all, there were lots of great visuals to go along with his trademark bass drops, but it just didn’t feel like a headliner.
The same cannot be said about the next act that took to the Whistler stage.
Girl Talk came on about an hour after Deadmou5 finished and probably drew the Whistler stage’s largest crowd of the weekend. With giant green hands and a couple giant feet in red & white sneakers sticking up from the stage, it was really quite an odd sight to first behold. Fitting though, as what was about to transpire was not something many have ever witnessed. Gregg Gillis, AKA Girl Talk, took to the stage accompanied by about 20 or so people set to party behind him while he did his thing. Gillis is a producer from Pittsburgh that specializes in mashups and digital sampling. Starting out his set in a headband, red hoodie, and grey jogging pants, it soon became clear that he had overdressed. The hoodie didn’t last long, as he shed it for a plain white, albeit sweat soaked, wife-beater. This man can’t be more than 150 pounds and is pure unbridled energy, hair, and sweat that didn’t stop gyrating or rocking out for a minute of his set, sometimes even getting right on top of the desk that housed his computer and going at it. Regardless of your preferred genre of music, this is an act that everyone should bear witness to at some point if they have the chance. Besides being an incredible party in itself, there will probably be a minimum of at least one point in this madman’s set where you will hear a piece of a song you know & enjoy mixed in with the rest of the quagmire or tuneage. We heard everyone from Kelly Clarkson and Biggie to Marilyn Manson.
Girl Talk’s set was so intense and so much fun that it wasn’t hard to picture Deadmou5 watching in disbelief from the crowd thinking – “Fuck…..”
The diversity of all the acts performing over the course of the weekend ensured that, if they were so inclined, a person could catch acts they normally would not have. Hell, they may even end up liking them! I know that’s what happened for me with Girl Talk.
Vancouver native Matt Good played a pretty chill still for the most part, but still rocked when he needed to, on the Mount Currie stage Sunday that had his faithful dancing and singing along to his classics. A very good set.
Jay Pharoah of SNL fame had the comedy tent splitting their sides in fits of laughter during his Sunday set. I don’t watch SNL and was not familiar with him but man am I ever glad I tagged along with my buddy to check him out. Nailing impressions of everyone ranging from Barack Obama, Denzel Washington, and Eddie Murphy to Lil Wayne and Jay Z, Pharoah is a master behind the comedy mic.
It may have been a daunting task for a lot of people to have to follow Jay’s very impressive set in the comedy tent, but it did not phase the Trailer Park Boys one bit as they came out guns blazing and immediately had the crowd roaring.
This was one of those situations where a tough call had to be made; I wanted badly to stay for the entire TPB set, but also wanted to catch at least the last half of Modest Mouse on the Mount Currie stage. Having seen the Boys from the Park before and never MM, I cut out about halfway through and motored over there. I am very glad I did. Great set by the boys from Washington State.
Time now for the final headliners of the festival.
The mighty Outkast took to the Pemberton stage around 9:30. Even though my personal taste tends to lean more towards the rock/metal end of the musical spectrum in general, I had been looking forward to this as I figured they would probably put on a pretty good show.
Understatement of the decade.
Outkast absolutely SLAYED their set! Having never seen them before I have nothing to compare this performance to but if this wasn’t their A+ game then at the very least it was a hard A!
Clad in a black Outkast hoodie, ball cap & massive gold chain, Big Boi took the stage followed closely by Andre 3000 who was decked out in a black jump suit along with a white wig and white sunglasses that matched his giant, almost glowing white smile. That smile would be prominently on display throughout the show as they both appeared to be giddy with happiness.
The pair opened with “B.O.B.” from their 2000 effort Stankonia and the crowd was instantly enthralled. The hits kept coming as the duo powered on through hits like “Hey Ya!”, “Roses”, and “So Fresh, So Clean”. At one point not long into their set the two took up residence inside a giant cube set in the middle of the stage. As it was lit up to look like some kind of big aquarium, the 2 circled each other on foot inside trading rapid fire rhymes at a breakneck speed. I was frequently blown away by both of these lyrical masters as they each rhymed through verses at a machine gun pace never missing a beat or a syllable. The crowd was clearly into it too, singing along at the top of their lungs and dancing up a frenzy. It became quite evident well into the set that the girls especially were very much enjoying themselves when, almost on cue, every girl on every set of shoulders began flashing their breasts toward the stage to the point where a guy would think he was at a Mötley Crüe show.
By the way, kudos to the people behind the cameras at that point. I don’t think there was a single pair that were missed on the big screens flanking either side of the stage. Well done camera folk.
Frank Ocean was the final act to perform Sunday night over on the Mount Currie stage. My group and I took the performance in from afar stationed in one of the beer gardens. Even though it seemed like a decent set in general I was left feeling like a lot of the build up to it was over-hyped.
There were many great acts to be witnessed all weekend long for sure, but if there was to be a title for best performance it would have to be a 3-way split between NIN, Girl Talk, and Outkast. All 3 mind blowing in their own right.
The only blemish on an otherwise flawless weekend was the death of 21-year-old Nick Phongsavath of Regina. Nick was found in his tent Friday night. The IHIT team was brought in to investigate what was initially called a suspicious death and locked down the scene. It has since been determined that foul play is not a contributing factor in the young man’s passing.
Regardless, it is a horrible situation for anyone to have to deal with. Thoughts and condolences out to his family and friends.
In closing, Pemberton Festival, you guys did a fantastic job putting together this epic event. The planning was heads and tails better than the ’08 version and moving forward I only see it getting better with every passing year.
NOT every passing 6 years.
See ya in 2015 Pemberton!!