Review: Violent Femmes, Snoop Dogg keep Pemberton Music Festival alive on gloomy Saturday
PEMBERTON—The Saturday morning hangover probably wasn’t the kind Pemberton Music Festival organizers HUKA Entertainment would have wanted.
The gloomy skies, rainy spittle and gusty winds that permeated the site in the shadow of Mt. Currie throughout the day felt ominous following the death of 21-year-old Regina resident Nick Phongsavath, who died under suspicious circumstances inside the festival’s campground Friday evening, prompting an investigation from RCMP and IHIT.
Crowds were slow to manifest Saturday, which led to sparse attendance numbers for early sets by alternative rock veterans Dinosaur Jr., who played a powerful hour’s worth of fuzz bomb riffs that helped shake off the cobwebs for the few hundreds lining the front of the main Pemberton stage.
Another hype-worthy band, Toronto power trio Metz, saw a similar turnout in front of the Mt. Currie stage where the night before rapper Kendrick Lamar had made thousands of fans wait close to an hour before handing out one of the best sets of the weekend so far. Metz, despite their vigorous garage-punk attack (rubber-stamped by Seattle label Sub Pop), lacked a connection with the handful of fans there to see them.
Saturday was a day that took its time fully getting into gear. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that the festival once again picked up steam, with undeterred fans ranging from haggard-looking “bros” to spry teenagers to toddler-toting parents making an overdue appearance, ready to brave the potential downpour that never fully materialized. Sunny breaks even saw some hardier souls taking a turn on the site’s water slide or riding the zip line.
So thank Violent Femmes for finally putting a smile on everyone’s face again. The Milwaukee alternative folk-punk band ran a tight ship during a 90-minute set that included favourites like Blister In The Sun (which they played right off the bat) and set closer American Music. It was a perfect performance of jangly, energetic, crowd bonding tunes that leveled out many frowns.
In between Violent Femmes songs, you could hear Brooklyn rock group TV On The Radio playing a manic set of their own on the Pemberton stage, where a couple thousand fans were gathered and grooving hard to the band’s blend of hard-edge guitars and drums splashed with electronics and horns.
Speaking of electronics, the digital side of the musical spectrum was on full display Saturday with a huge performance by American EDM artist RL Grime (real name Harry Steinway), who had fans running across the site to catch his stratospheric set featuring classic remixes of dance floor favourites like Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction. Later in the evening it would be Canadian electro superstar deadmau5 and mashup expert Girl Talk who would get the crowd grooving well past our press deadline.
Other highlights in the early evening included back-to-back doses of marijuana-enhanced entertainment courtesy of comedian Doug Benson and rapper Snoop Dogg, who took his fans on an old school West Coast hip-hop trip with Big Pimpin’, Gin and Juice, and bits of California Gurls, the Katy Perry he guested on. (No Perry here, of course, but it should be noted Snoop was representing Vancouver sporting a Canucks jersey.)
Over on the Whistler stage, it was a sights-and-sound psychedelic odyssey with the Oklahoma rockers The Flaming Lips, who were back to Pemberton after playing the 2008 edition of the festival, bringing with them a superb light show augmenting material from classic albums The Soft Parade (Race For The Prize), Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (In The Morning of Magicians), and At War With The Mystics (Vein Of Stars, with frontman Wayne Coyne riding a plastic bubble atop the crowd).
Wrapping things up before the big deadmau5 bash were Canadian indie favourites Metric and Vancouver supergroup The New Pornographers, whose new album Brill Bruisers comes out next month. Their set (sans singer Neko Case) was unfortunately sparsely attended, most of the younger crowd giving hip-hop rising star Chance The Rapper a spin over on the Bass Camp stage.
The final day of the festival Sunday will feature Vancouver rocker Matthew Good, electro artist Baauer (of Harlem Shake fame), singer-songwriter Randy Newman, and a festival-closing set by rap duo Outkast.
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