Up above Whistler in British Columbia, Pemberton Music Festival triumphantly returns this year for the first time since 2008. This year, the festival features one of the best overall music and comedy lineups of the year, and we are proud to provide coverage through photos and summaries all weekend.
California indie pop group Foxygen are one of those bands that you kind of have to see to believe. On the record, the group has a starkly unique pop sound, mixing 60s and 70s psychedelic pop and disco texture with an Iggy Pop sensibility. But live, the pieces all come together to form a clearer whole. At the keys, Jonathan Rado in his fur coat looks like Bob Dylan gone off his rocker, while polished guitar, bass, and drums decorate the background as if pulled from a for-television 70s performance, with backing singers and dancers off to stage left. But in front, Sam France is a man possessed. Part Iggy Pop, part Johnny Rotten, part pale flamboyant angel from another world, he is a sharp contrast to everything else on stage. Crossing the stage erratically, almost throwing himself off stage numerous times, strangling himself with the microphone cord and stand, and jumping off of everything in sight, there’s zero continuity. His interim banter is so ADD it’s almost impossible to respond to. For “Teenage Alien Blues”, he’s Saturday Night Fever on top of the drum set before jumping off and pretending to have a back failure hitting the ground. The live rendering of Foxygen gives flesh and blood to their music’s undertones. A classic, glistening era disrupted by the immediacy and moment-to-moment disarray of punk music - there’s perhaps no better way to capture the essence of life. Foxygen burned through a short but impactful set kicking Sunday off to an excellent start.
The Pemberton 2014 award for most overwhelming positivity goes to Toronto hardcore heroes Fucked Up. After burning through Glass Boys single “Paper The House”, Damien Abraham jumped down from the stage giving out free hugs across the entire barricade, all the way up across the lawn on the left side of the Blackcomb stage. Thankfully, with a 100-foot microphone cable handy, Abraham could bring the party pretty much anywhere, including a circle pit fifty feet away from the stage for “Echo Boomer”. Between blistering cuts, the band praised Vancouver hardcore for being the truest form of the art and name dropped a handful of acts displayed on T-shirts and denim jackets throughout the crowd. Abraham dedicated their one-off 2011 single “I Hate Summer” to anyone who has been subject to image discrimination in any way. “Find something that makes you happy”, Abraham encouraged the crowd with a massive bearded smile, “Find whatever that thing is, because life is too short”. For the band and their crowd in this moment, that “thing” is the music blasting from the speakers and the mosh pit occurring against the railing. Damian only broke happy once, when he saw a pair of spectators looking down at phones. “You better be tweeting about this show or exchanging contact information”, Damian laughed. He’s right though - with the incredible communal celebration three feet in front of them, why lose the chance? With a rousing rendition of David Comes To Life classic “The Other Shoe”, no one was lost in technological isolation - it couldn’t have been a more appropriate track. Fucked Up broke normative festival behavior and got everyone to pay attention to each other - a great reminder on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Taking the Bass tent in the early evening was West Philadelphia born and raised dance mastermind Baauer. Sure enough, the tent was packed to the brim with high schoolers ready to do the “Harlem Shake”, so any spectators or those on the fence about the set had reason to be skeptical. But Baauer’s unanticipated meme track only made an appearance by request at the very, very end of his set, and even then only for about 45 seconds. On the other hand, the first 59 minutes of Baauer’s set were pure magic. The young producer is changing the face of the electronic scene with every new track. While it seems that the majority of the bass music community operates on a bro-centric spectrum of who can make the loudest, most obnoxious boom in a crowded room just to show off, Baauer goes above and beyond that with his work. Sure, there are the massive, ground-shaking bass drops like on his off-beat remix of Flosstradamus hit “Roll Up”. But Baauer’s music is all about anticipation and defying it. Tracks like the brand new “Clang” show that a minimalist, atonal collection of bass-tinged clang noises can make you want to dance back and forth purely on impulse. There’s no doubt that Baauer is set to be a progressive voice in dance music this year. But for the here and now, he’s just here to sing “Ante Up” with a tent full of fans and show off a diverse set informed by dance and hip-hop history with a forward-minded intention.
St. Vincent was none too apologetic about the artsiness of her show when she took the main stage Sunday night. Using the same step-like backdrop as her riveting headlining tour in support of the new self-titled record, and utilizing the same live instrumentation setup, really the only differences in Annie Clark’s presentation were the new hairdo, the mountain behind her, and a 5 digit crowd in front of her. Ripping through the blistering guitar lines on “Rattlesnake” and “Birth In Reverse” with seeming ease, the crowd was entranced through and through, even those who were experiencing St. Vincent for the first time. Granted, St. Vincent as a project isn’t the easiest one to pitch in a festival setting - there’s a lot of art in the details that isn’t blinding lights, pounding bass, and countless sweating bodies crushing you. But the patron saint of modern art rock made new converts today, playing an excellent set heavy on the new record and Strange Mercy that had the crowd captivated. But of course, at the end of her set, it was time to get serious and go out with a bang. For the magnanimous “Your Lips Are Red” guitar solo, Annie jumped on a security guard’s shoulder in attempts to crowd surf with guitar in hand. But when security wouldn’t have it, she leaned back into the abyss and waited for security to rush to her aide, and thus, performed the solo on a mountain of security hands until they laid her out on the stage around 5 full minutes later. Never one to be underestimated, Annie Clark played a wonderfully unpredictable set worthy of a crowd twice the size.
Modest Mouse have remained pretty silent about the prospect of a new album, but it’s hard to stay mad at them for long with the set lists they’ve been throwing down. Tonight’s set at Pemberton was no exception - seriously, check this out. Isaac Brock and the band rocked the Mt. Currie stage to the floor. Upending the Kendrick crowd and the Tyler crowd, we definitely saw Mt. Currie at max capacity here, with people jumping along to “Float On” ranging all the way back to the common ground toward the (unbelievably profitable) poutine truck. The band throws down just as hard as ever, and not a single fan went home disappointed with this set tonight. Holding the crowd all the way through even into the intro of Outkast’s set, Modest Mouse are keeping us enthralled until their next round.
There’s no place on the massive Outkast anniversary tour where they haven’t been confronted with expectation at the forefront. With their return at Coachella, there was the expectation of “how is it even going to go?”. After Coachella and reviews that Big Boi and Andre seemed distant from each other on stage and unconvinced, there was expectation that things might be the same for the rest of their festival-topping endeavor. But with whatever expectation Outkast brought with them to Pemberton on Sunday night, all expectations were blown away. From beginning to end, the duo worked like a well-oiled machine in and out of twenty-five classics and gave a festival performance worth the whole ticket for. Easily the biggest crowd of the festival weekend, the entirety of the Pemberton population packed forward to dance along to “ATLiens”, “Ms. Jackson”, “GhettoMusick”, “Roses”, and the whole nine yards. Big Boi and Andre alternated between rocking back and forth across the stage and operating inside a cube of light with a table and chairs inside. The mixture was great fun - sometimes taking over the world and sometimes just chilling together at the table spitting lines back and forth, Outkast felt like a family affair, not two old friends estranged for years attempting to rekindle an old flame. In that, this Pemberton performance was a sweeping success.
After a bit of schedule switch-up, Pemberton Festival ended with not Outkast, but freshman R&B star Frank Ocean. Diehards had to leave Outkast an hour before the end of the set if they wanted a decent spot. The stage was pure simplicity - just a crate of records and a record player set up behind a microphone. The stage tech dropped Dylan’s “Stuck Inside A Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” as Frank took the stage to wild applause. But as Frank moved around the stage, picking a record out of the crate and placing it on the table gently, there were no gimmicks or crowd-baiting techniques - he was just a guy playing his records and singing along. With each track, a screen of light bathed Frank in a different shade as he crooned along to the track. But otherwise, Frank Ocean’s set was just a man and his songs. The lights never overtook Frank as a performer, and the quiet of his demeanor made each track all the more impactful. At times, it was impossible to hear Frank over the couple thousand adoring fans singing along from the crowd, but Frank just smiled, continuing to croon through each track like it was the first time he’d sung it. “Grey Matter” was a bit of a tease, as there was an extended break before the spot on the record where Andre would have come in if he did make a cameo, that was a bit too much to ask (understandably). Rather, Frank wrapped up his set just as solo as he started. For the encore, he came back to do deep cut “Wise Men” to a dead silent audience. Pemberton Music Festival ended with the softest kiss possible. Frank Ocean closed the last page of this weekend’s excellent festivities in marvelous fashion.
That’s it for this year’s Pemberton festivities! Check out our full set of photos from Sunday here.