For its second foray in Canada, HUKA Entertainment put on an excellent weekend of music in the Pemberton Valley July 16-19 2015. This time around the lush meadows saw an increased number of fans and sold out camping. Despite rumors circulated of cancellation due to wildfires in the province, everything went according to plan with the only evidence of fires up the valley being the orange glow of the sunset and the occasional fire helicopter. The four day event saw a wide diversity of music and fans to suit, including enough Rock, Rap, and EDM to keep everyone happy.
With a stacked lineup, music was spread over four days with headliners each day requiring fans to show up mid-day Thursday to see all the favorites. Needless to say, the party escalated quickly with J.Cole and Bassnectar topping off the first night and setting the bar for the festival’s hip-hop vs EDM battle. With one of the loudest bass camp setups I’ve heard, it was clear that HUKA spared no expense on the sound. While the majority of the younger crowd didn’t venture too far away from the all-day back to back thumping of the bass camp, this review focuses mostly on other live acts at the festival.
An alternating schedule between the Pemberton and neighboring Mount Currie stage provided an easy transition between acts, with alternatives at the whistler stage and a constant party raging opposite at bass camp. In such a centered setup there was some interference between stages, but the convenience of standing in the middle of the grounds and letting your ears guide you to what sounded best was hard to beat. Friday afternoon warmed up with a soulful set from Shakey Graves, ushering in the rest of the day’s lively rock sets. The legendary Charles Bradley followed with a large dose of loving for the limited crowd. While his Extraordinaires laid down soulful rhythms Bradley drew out passionate vocals and seduced the crown with time-tested dance moves, finishing off his set with a round of hugs from the audience.
The funky tUnE-yArDs followed with their unique combination of drum loops bass and experimental vocals, providing a refreshing alternative to the heated sets earlier in the day. However, one could not help but overhear the hard beats and excitement of Run the Jewels dropping across the way, including tUnE-yArDs lead Merrill Garbus proclaiming them as one of her favorite groups. Following these acts, the Alaskan group Portugal. the Man laid out a high energy set with harmonic vocals and howls from the Iditarod clad Zachary Carothers. Included in the mix was a twisted Another Brick in the Wall cover.
The Oregon based Indie folk band, The Decemberists were clearly the best dressed in the festival, which must have been quite hot on the sunny Whistler stage. Nevertheless they played an excellent set including a wide range of sounds and a fair bit of progressive rock despite the heat and a brief technical difficulty axing the bass during two songs.
Following the Decemberists and Passion pit was Kit Cudi and Dada Life. Rocking an Iggy pop tee and clearly having the best time of anyone around, Kid Cudi put the audience into a deep rhythm while bouncing all over stage.
Next up was the Black Keys, dressed well with a very regal backdrop and well laid out stage. Vocals were heavily drawn out during this performance with frequently extended riffs and plenty of reverb.
Following the Black Keys was Tiesto and the String Cheese Incident playing opposite ends of the festival. As one of two sets of two hours each, String Cheese played an excellent and lively set starting mostly bluegrass and working into psychedelic as the set continued on under dim blue lights complementing the groovy sounds. Check out a recording on live cheese (http://www.livecheese.com/live-music/0,12727/The-String-Cheese-Incident-mp3-flac-download-7-17-2015-Pemberton-Music-Festival-Pemberton-CA.html).
The final act for the night, Galactic featuring Macy Gray played a blend of soul and funk. Macy’s voice enthralled the audience while her wit provided entertainment against the backdrop of beats coming from the bass camp. Casually dressed in a fancy robe, Macy came on and off stage as a diverse set of songs was laid down by Galactic.
Day three of the festival brought on the heat with the heavy-hitting acts Jane’s Addiction, Alice Cooper, Weezer and Ludacris. Many festival-goers sought the refreshing glacial silt waters of the ice cold Lillooet river nearby or took a ride down the water slide in the middle of the festival. Organizers had numerous options to cool down in festival as weekend highs hit 38 C (100 F) including a mist tent providing a tropical shower experience conveniently located closest to the bass camp. Pemberton firefighters also patrolled the grounds with squirt guns refreshing those unwilling to pry themselves away from the day’s music.
At the southeast corner of the festival, the Mount Currie stage felt the hottest and only warmed up as Weezer played their evening set. Starting with classics and blending in songs from all over their old and new hit list, the crowd reacted with enthusiasm and loud vocals, singing along to many of the sounds of the 90’s and beyond. An encore of Buddy Holly played with more grunge and lower vocal pitch made for an excellent finish with the crowd going wild and the whole band joining in on the drums.
Mixing up the EDM scene, Ludacris started his set off at the bass camp with all sorts of samples including Daft Punk and even some Nirvana. He gathered a sizeable crowd under the evening bass camp shade and probed the audience for guidance as to which of his so many hits he should play. Following the rowdy Luda party, String Cheese Incident started their second set. These guys have a good routine going, spending a few days at a festival, jamming with the audience, and going on excursions during the day. At Pemby fest, that included helicopter rides, golfing, lake swimming, and mountain biking for the guys of STI. They went on to play another great set with fewer but drawn out songs and a finish with Colorado Bluebird Sky.
Right after STI, Sound Tribe Sector 9 lit up the nearby Whistler stage with their instrumental blend of danceable rock and electronic jams. Moody lights set the soundscape for an entrancing show featuring solos and a diverse combination of genres. At times producing a somewhat similar sound to the DJs in bass camp but made live with real instruments and absolutely perfect coordination. This provided a perfect lead into the night’s headlining hip-hop act after a lengthy mic check for the trio of De La Soul.
With an awesome live presence, vinyl spinning, and generous crowd participation, De La Soul took the late night spotlight and taught the younger generation a thing or two about hip-hop. They started off forcefully, even requiring photographers to let loose to the frustration of security, which was quite an amusing sight. No time was spared in getting through awesome classic and newer tracks. It was clear these guys still have it and know how to keep the party going late into the night even after a hot draining day. Concluding with an impressive freeze frame, the trio left a palpable sense of anticipation for the final day’s hip hop acts.
With a high sun even more oppressive than the previous day, the heat of Sunday saw a clear lethargy of fans around the site with the mist tent and free water stations providing necessary relief. Dan Mangan started off his set sympathizing with fans after coming from the far north of Canada with little sleep. However, he and his band Blacksmith proceeded to put on an energetic show with interludes of Dan Mangan’s more emotional songs. Of note was a drum solo introducing an upbeat version of “Post War Blues.” Giving much credit to the band which has previously been under his name, Dan Mangan and Blacksmith definitely helped to rev up the energy as the day’s heat slowly began to fade.
Following Mangan, Ed Sharp and the Magnetic zeroes took the nearby Mount Currie stage and began a highly interactive set. The casual dress and beahviour of lead vocalist Alex Ebert saw him running around the audience and handing the mic off to get a bit of excitement, emotion, and lyrics from the crowd. One enthusiastic fan even had the chance to sing a song while another told his own story to Alex and the crowd. As the set finished off, the audience sung along the female portion of the widely acclaimed song ‘Home’ albeit it at a slower and somewhat emotional pace.
Up next, Missy Elliot was one of the more highly anticipated acts with fans lining the audience and packing the backstage viewing. Introduced with a masked team of talented dancers, the curtain dropped to a beaming and lively Missy dropping lyrics into a bedazzled M.E. mic. Immediately the crowd was in full hip-hop party mode with hands up all over the venue and the searing sun setting in the background. During dance interludes wardrobe changes kept the scene fresh and coordinated with the ever-changing backdrop. While the audience jumped to the beats and Missy quickly transitioned between hits, it wasn’t until she switched into “Loose Control” that the audience really erupted and all converged into the party up front. With a shoutout to those not with us anymore and some fantastic dance solos by her team to finish off the set, Missy really jump started the night giving out the full hip hop package.
Next up were Hozier and Jack U at opposite ends of the festival. Being one of the headlining EDM acts, Jack U gathered an impressive crowd as the finale of the non-stop marathon in the bass camp. Scrillex and Diplo delivered mind-numbing bass, ear-splitting screeches and high excitement for the sweaty and scantily clad audience. Meanwhile, Hozier was satisfying the screams of the festival’s younger females with simple yet emotional vocals. Delivering great riffs and melodies, Andrew and his accompanying band produce an excellent live bluesy sound, leaving one wondering why the cheesy vocals can’t quite match up with the soulful instrumentals.
Finishing up the festival was a repeat from last year’s Pemby fest, Kendrick Lamar, jumping onstage after a dramatic video introduction backdrop. Backed by a band, Lamar delivered his show with force and aggression playing his hits and quick to the pleasure of the core hip hop fans. This set was followed by a lengthy talk with the audience before some final beats to call Pemberton Fest 2015 a wrap.
PEMBERTON, BC – HUKA Entertainment’s reincarnation of the Pemberton Music Festival went off July 16-20th 2014, with a big splash into the music festival scene! While the remote location in BC’s Coast Mountains and late lineup release may have lessened the masses of partiers descending on the small town of Pemberton, the festival went off with excellent organization and concluded with over 75,000 enjoying stellar music and amazing scenery. Despite an agonizingly long trek to camping and some funky scheduling, artists and fans alike were impressed and elated post-festival.
Thursday warmed up the venue with great hard rock sets by Rolla Olak, Gord Downie and the Sadies, and Matt Mays. Meanwhile across the venue, Break Science and Dan Deacon lit up the dance tent with heavy and energetic beats. In between, the Boom Booms of Vancouver put on a lively show as the sun dropped below the horizon.
Pemberton Fest Photos
Friday brought on the first of three full days/nights of music. Blondie put on a classic act with hits such as End to End with old music video footage playing as a backdrop. Meanwhile Cage the Elephant captured the majority of the afternoon crowd with a highly energetic set concluding with some crowd-surfing and crowd-walking. Drumsticks and even a guitar went flying into the crowd at the end of this electrifying performance.
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Following were great sets by Soundgarden and Empire of the Sun were Above and Beyond, Kendrick Lamar, and Canadian indie favorite Stars.
Following a break in the stellar acts, the much anticipated Nine Inch Nails began their set with nothing but a single mic on stage. As the act progressed, stage hands secretly assembled and tore down equipment and backdrops to make for a dynamic visual experience throughout this electrifying show.
A peculiar one hour break followed before the late night sets came on including EDM, hip hop, ambiance, and groovy beats with 3LAU, Schoolboy Q, XXYYXX, and Griz. 3LAU took full advantage of the audiovisual setup, blasting fast beats and uplifting lyrics. The groovy sax-infused beats of Griz played late into the night. More strange scheduling placed Best Coast opposite of Griz, drowning out their ambient rock, which one would think is better suited to afternoon or early evening timeslots.
Saturday started off with a somber mood while news circulated of a fatality in the campsite the previous evening, reminding everyone to look out for each other and keep safety as a priority. The music, however, did continue with great sets by Dinosaur Jr. and Wild Belle. The sibling duo fronting Wild Belle played a passionate set with superb vocals, the type that sound best projected across open fields to an enthralled audience.
With crowds gathered around the Pemberton stage eagerly awaiting Snoop Dogg, a few tracks were played by his hype man before none other than Bob Saget walked onto the stage. Sparing the crowd his dirty standup humor, he quickly introduced Snoop and grabbed a quick photo with his phone. Snoop proceeded to mainly perform covers to the pleasure of the familiar crowd and barely dipped into his reggae material.
Following Snoop’s causal style was the Canadian rock favorite Metric with a long and electrifying set that engaged the audience lyrically and emotionally.
As the night fell, Deadmau5 took center stage as the only act in the twilight timeslot and impressed the audience with an extravagant audiovisual display, utilizing three mega screens to display haunting themes and propaganda followed by fantasy racing video game scenes to keep viewers entranced throughout his melodic beats.
The final day of PembyFest boasted the best lineup of the fest, but naturally suffered from numerous schedule conflicts. Starting things off was the local Pemberton formed band Dakota Pearl, who battled their way into the festival against other area bands. They played a passionate blend of twang and punk, self described as ‘farmcore’.
A supreme collection of artists made up the day’s most soulful act with Hallelujah Train featuring Daniel Landis, Pastor Brady Blade, and Gospel Choir. Vocal harmonies were supreme and even an improvised “Where will I be” went off perfectly for the collective group’s first time through.
Next up on the Pemberton stage was Reggae rockers Rebelution with more vocal harmonies and rhythms. These guys put on a diverse and exciting show bringing in many instruments into their wall of world dub melodies.
For the final sunset set Modest Mouse and a Justice DJ set were scheduled opposite the venue. While the masses headed for the dance tent, a large crowd rocked along to a great Modest Mouse set including an extra grungy version of ‘Shit in Your Cut’ and a groovy incarnation of ‘The Good Times are Killing Me’
Immediately following Modest Mouse, Outkast took lead of the festival as the only twilight act. Bursting out of a cage, Andre 3000 and Big Boi delivered hit after hit as the crowd went wild and obeyed their every command. Each made a brief solo performance, but they really shined in their rapid lyric delivery and perfect coordination. Having a band in the background made for a very live set, easily defending their top spot on Sunday’s lineup.
Frank Ocean finished off the festival after a schedule change with an intimate set. While hard to follow the banger set from Outkast, Ocean’s romantic finish drew a large crowd to send off the final night together.
Pemby fest really went off as HUKA Entertainment’s inaugural attempt, delivering top notch audio and cutting edge visual displays reminiscent of well established international festivals. Amenities such as hot water sinks, a waterslide, and zip-line combined with great staff and security provided an excellent festival experience. Nearly all groups complimented the region’s beauty, which always boosts artistic inspiration. You can certainly expect many artists and fans to be eagerly awaiting next year once the kinks are worked out!
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