Photos and story by: Jordan Calvano
You couldn’t help but wonder what would happen at Pemberton Music Festival this year. The incredible lineup brought on by HUKA Entertainment caught the attention of festival lovers seeking their next big thrill, but behind headliners like Outkast, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, and Deamau5 was a stench left on the grounds below Mt. Currie in 2008 that stopped the progression of Pemberton for six long years. Many experienced the amazing lineup overshadowed by massive logistical errors first hand that year, while others simply heard the stories from friends or across media outlets. Regardless, it was clear that each person attending the festival had some understanding of what went down in 2008.
This year though, the festival took a huge turn in the right direction. More camping was made available, new roads had been built, and there was a clear sense that Pemberton was dying to win fans over again with activities for everyone. I took the long trek up from Portland, Oregon to Pemberton, B.C. with hopes of capturing the event, and this is my story.
On the first night of live music at Pemberton Music Festival, it was Break Science who truly pumped life back into disheveled concertgoers after dragging their gear a few miles from the parking lot to their campsite. Many campers were still setting up their tents or taking a breather after the long hike, but those able to attend witnessed an intimate, energetic performance at the Bass Camp stage just as the sun was setting. The NY based duo held nothing back, letting loose their blissful amalgam of live drums and glitched out synthesizers while unleashing tracks from their full length LP Seven Bridges including “Who Got It,” “Brain Reaction,” and “Trapeze,” along with their recent take on Cherub’s “Tonight” and an unreleased remix combining elements of “A Walk” from Tycho and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Kendrick Lamar.
When you see Cashmere Cat scheduled for a 12:30-1:30 PM performance, there is no doubt that you will instantly double take. It seemed odd that Mr. Kitty Kitty himself would play such an early set, but it actually worked and served as a perfect way to get the dance vibes flowing early. The Norwegian producer stepped to the decks with his ubiquitous composure that verges on emotionless, standing their quietly while unleashing anthemic tunes from both his Wedding Bells and Mirror Maru EP’s including crowd favorites like “Kiss Kiss,” “With Me,” and “Pearls.” Alongside these originals, Cashmere also dropped “Party Girls,” his remix of “Do You,” Rustie’s “Slasherr,” and vocal samples from Drake, Kanye West, Future, Bando Jonez, and Spice Girls. His long hair flowed, he never said a word, and the crowd lapped it all up with a massive smile.
Shifting over to the Mt. Currie stage, the Colorado heavyweights known as Big Gigantic stepped up to their instruments and quickly gave the Pemberton crowd something to get rowdy about. The field was relativity empty when they began, but this all changed when Dom Lalli and Jeremy Salken begin their audio assault while ripping through upbeat originals like “Let’s Go,” “Clvdbvrst,” “Sky High,” “The Night Is Young,” “Blue Dream,” and “Touch The Sky,” alongside jaw-dropping remixes of Aloe Blacc, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Beyond that, Big G also put their unique live spin on songs from What So Not, Disclosure, and Knife Party, mixing live drums and saxophone while inducing frenzy amongst the audience.
On Saturday, festivalgoers got to experience a diverse lineup that shifted across different genres and even generations. Artists like The Tontons, Wild Belle, Tory Lanez, Dinosaur. Jr, Metz, TV On The Radio, and Violent Femmes were all options, allowing listeners the ability to experience a wide range of music wherever they explored.
Once 5:00pm rolled around, the heavy hitters truly began to bring the big guns out and took the Pemberton festival grounds on a wild adventure. RL Grime played a massive hour and a half set, but it was truly the last 30 minutes that displayed just how diverse his arsenal really is. Without mercy, Grime mowed through cuts from Gessaffelstein, Rustie, Zombie Nation, Kanye West, and Flux Pavillion, dropped massive remixes of “Mercy” and “Satisfaction,” before closing things out with his What So Not assisted anthem “Tell Me.” You could say he killed it.
After RL Grime tore up his 5:00-6:30 PM time slot on Saturday at the Bass Camp, there was no way we could pass up seeing his good friend and collaborator Baauer take on Sunday’s afternoon trap session. The fresh-faced producer quickly proved that he was no one-trick pony, leaving the entire audience bouncing up and down while unveiling anthems from genres across the board including dubstep, trap, future bass, drum ‘n’ bass, rock, and a heavy dose of hip-hop. This included vocal samples from artists like Pusha T, Young Dro, Migos, A$AP Ferg, Kendrick Lamar, Lil’ Wayne and Danny Brown, hyping the audience up while fitting nicely in between his collaboration with Just Blaze and remixes of AlunaGeorge, Disclosure, and Flosstradamus.
Other Standouts: Grimes, Empire Of The Sun, Kendrick Lamar, GRiZ, Wild Belle, Chance The Rapper, Deamau5, Lettuce, Lindsey Stirling, Outkast, Frank Ocean.
- Blondie quickly approaching the stage and opening with “One Way Or Another.” You couldn’t help but laugh.
- Cage The Elephant’s vocalist causing an absolute ruckus while performing. This included diving into the audience multiple times, walking across the crowd, unintentionally whipping everyone in the security and photography pit with his microphone chord, and jumping on his guitarists’ back mid shred session. He definitely came to party.
- Sizeable mosh pits breaking out unexpectedly during sets from RL Grime, Big Gigantic, and Tyler, The Creator. Guess Canadians really like to mosh.
- Bob Saget walking on stage to introduce Snoop Dogg and telling stories of how high he gets every time Snoop invites him over to hang out.
- Trailer Park Boys having a contest on stage to find Bubbles the ultimate party girl. They brought up four girls and had a joint rolling contest, beer chugging contest, and a liquor-transferring contest.
- Big Gigantic playing out the samples from Kanye’s “Dark Fantasy” which state “Can we get much higher,” right before dropping their remix of “Get Em’ High.” So epic.
- Chicken fights in the campground, hanging out at the sinkhole, and everyone trying to find Allen and Steve.
Closing Thoughts: After a bumpy six-year hiatus for Pemperton music festival that left Canadian music lovers disappointed, it became abundantly clear after the dust settled on round two that things had changed for the better. Sure, there were issues like the long walk to camping, but the Pemberton team put their heads down and were able to make improvements throughout the course of the festival including shuttles to help campers move their stuff.
Many festivals might have waited till next year to fix these errors, but Pemberton took immediate action and paid attention to what campers wanted. The festival succeeded by providing founders passes for those that had stuck with them since the beginning, involving the local community that was marred by the events of 2008, and providing up-to-date details on schedule changes with their easy to use mobile app. You couldn’t ask for a more gorgeous festival ground, and it’s clear that Pemberton will be back in 2015 and ready to compete with Squamish and Shambhala for B.C.’s supreme festival.
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