Saturday, August 02, 2008

Festival Season: Pemberton Wrap-Up

As I sat on a bus in the traffic in between Whistler and Pemberton, in what major media outlets would later call ‘ a logistical nightmare’, and behind a pickup truck full of shirtless ‘bro’s’, heckling those that took their chances walking, I wondered if this town would still be standing in three days. As I cursed the woman at the media check-in who assured me that the festival grounds were a ten minute walk, I began to realize just how much of a nightmare this could potentially be. Staff and concert goers alike were equally lost in the confusion. So we took it upon ourselves to track down a campsite and settled in a fairly open area at the back of the campgrounds, away from the dust bowls and refugee style tent city area. Well, we had already missed most of the acts of the first day, so drinking seemed like the best way to get down to work. The gracious liquor companies, who saved us from the overpriced beer tents, were more than accommodating to the media. Although I’m not sure I’d say the same for Joe-concert goer. Lines to get into the 19+ areas spanned two or three hours, resulting in some spectacular fence scaling and dashing techniques. I wondered if that’s what the U.S and Mexican border looked like. As I stepped into one of the closed off areas, I found myself surrounded by the seemingly musically challenged and would be Hunter S. Thompson’s. They ranged from fashion magazines to those breakfast radio hosts who make you want to shoot yourself in the face rather than have a cheery start to your morning. All of them going apes shit over seeing the Tragically Hip and Sam Roberts…again! When I mentioned that I was looking forward to covering the likes of Chromeo and MSTRKRFT, I was met more often than not with blank stares. Don’t get me wrong, there were journalists around that border lined hipster-dome, and I don’t expect everyone to be a huge fan of this new indie-electrio dance wave that has been taking the blog world by storm. Hey, I myself am pretty down with Sam Roberts. But is it too much to ask that these people have a general awareness of the new Canadian talent coming up around them? Well maybe not you, hot fashion zine girl, but the music people! Apparently, the answer is yes. That’s cool man, go and sing along to ‘My music at work’. I watched the guy in front of me tip our server with our other national currency, giving me a smile and saying, “It’s gonzo baby”. Better make that two rum and cokes.

I can’t say too much about Chromeo that hasn’t been said about every other performance we’ve seen of them. The sea of people demonstrating their fancy footwork can testify that the boys blew the roof off the tent that night with their own special blend of synth-dance pop that they do so well. Though I will say that it wasn’t as intimate as other shows they have played as they were set up behind what was seemingly an unmovable DJ booth, and separated a few more feet by a security fence. It didn’t seem to phase the dancing though.

The next morning consisted of trying to find some food we could afford, and a line that we could tolerate. We found neither, so we hitchhiked to Pemberton. Someone had spray painted ‘DIRT’ in massive letters right across the four stalls near our campsite. I decided that was a good indication to wait until we got into town. The day consisted of avoiding dust clouds, rum, and the occasional game of hacky sack with neighbors in the camp ground while waiting for the music to begin. Organizers had however begun to pick up the slack from yesterday. Security was tighter, things were getting cleaned, and things seemed a bit more controlled. Mates of State showed they could hit those harmonies and fill the place with sound by means of just the two of them and the occasional help of some strings. The Flaming Lips should play a show where they don’t have massive bubbles floating around and crazy shit blowing up on stage. Where absolutely nothing happens. That would be really unexpected, and would probably mess with the drug-riddled kids even worse. MSTRKRFT took control of the dance party that night, which had been completely charged up by a day of some quality DJ sets. JFK and Al-P kept their usual company of crown royale and cigarettes as they threw down their set. Was that a shout out sample from Ghostface on the intro?

The campgrounds were not as hectic in the early morning hours as I had anticipated, but they were not without character. As one burly dude stumbled around and slumped down on the ground next to me, he mentioned how he didn’t want to see ACDC because they were “fucking head bangers”. It was an appropriate thing to say, as they were not playing at the festival, or anywhere at the time for that matter. He then went on about slitting throats and hobbits or something and proceeded to pass out on top of one of our tents. It was easier to move the tent rather than the guy, and let the medics take care of it.

The final day saw plenty of tired faces as well as those still ready to take in some of the biggest acts of the festival. Vampire Weekend started off the afternoon right, and I really enjoyed the first live performance I’ve seen of them. The airy upbeat sound of ‘Oxford Comma’, and ‘Walcott’ really got fans and new listeners alike bouncing around and set a great mood for the day. I attributed the non-existent encore to the fact that they had played their entire album. The crowd grew restless as N.E.R.D was delayed due to the continuing traffic chaos. When they finally did arrive, they came Chad-less. The guys blamed traffic but this is their second Canadian appearance where he hasn’t shown up. Hmmm I don’t know, but even Jay-Z was telling the crowd that our border security needs to mellow out a bit. Pharell made the best of it by getting as many women on stage as possible, and performing as long as they would allow. I think it was evident to everybody which girl was going to get the backstage tour. And Speaking of Hova, he got the crowd throwing them diamonds up into the night sky. If you’ve seen any footage of Glastonbury, it was pretty much, well, exactly that performance, minus that great rendition of ‘Wonder wall’. I almost forgot, Coldplay was there too.

All in all, it was a pretty good few days up in the mountains. Logistically, yes, there were a number of issues, but that’s to be expected in a festivals inaugural year. Losing MGMT and Brazillian Girls definitely hurt though. With them on the lineup it would’ve been a fairly good balance between the lesser-known acts and the superstars to appease the varying tastes. Pemberton festival has a future, and it is almost definite that it will happen again in 2009. My hope is that it continues to support up and coming artists and gives Canadians the chance to hear something that wasn’t on the top 40 that week. Only time will tell if Pemberton will fall amongst the ranks of the elite festivals, or winds up being a predictable affair with acts you may remember from the 1990’s.

…There was also Guitar Hero and a giant robot spider thing which surely only has one reason to exist. And that is to destroy the human race.

- Matty B.

Surkin ft. Chromeo - Chrome Knight

1 comment:

Andrew said...

awesome write up, what a story.