Live at Squamish, BC festival – Day Two Review – August 21st, 2011

Why visit a festival? Simple. Live music outdoors. It’s practically impossible to beat unless you’re also being offered free narcotics and alcohol.

In addition to a great line up of acts, Live at Squamish included a Silent Disco, which many hadn’t experienced beforehand. What’s a silent disco you ask? Simple; you listen to what the DJ’s spinning through wireless headphones. You can adjust the sound to your own comfort and go from there. Though fairly empty throughout the day, when night fell, the disco got packed. Complete with glow sticks and glow stick jewelry (glow stick bands that you could wrap around your limbs or make circled chains out of), the Silent Disco was a great break from the festival’s normal vibe.

As with the Saturday, picnic crowds sat on their blankets, gazing at the Stawamus stage as if they were watching theatre. Avoiding standing on fingers was a necessity as well as a temptation to get people on their feet.

Brasstronaut kicked off the Stawamus stage, and METRO Presents winners The Belle Game started the day at the Garibaldi stage. Both groups introduced the day properly, but it was surprising that as The Belle Game’s set came towards a close that the group announced they have but one more song left, before being informed they didn’t. When they informed the small (but engrossed) crowd, the audience responded with boo’s.

Shane Kozycan put on four shows during the two day festival and if you missed all of his performances, you truly lost out. The spoken word artist recited several different pieces, each different with each set. His words were heartfelt, entertaining and poignant. I was also intrigued by Panda Watch who came on stage afterwards. The group set up wearing Panda Masks, and it turned out that when they kicked off their set, they weren’t Panda Watch, but in fact Vancouver’s Said The Whale, disguised and apparently that way so that they could experiment with some new material…

Luciterra were wowed fans despite a relatively small audience (Stawamus usually dominated). However despite the smaller audience, the fusion belly dancers and Chris Murdoch (the group’s smooth magic ball artiste) kept the crowd mesmerized. So much so that the audience managed to obtain an encore. An encore at a festival for a dance troupe? That’s unheard of, but that’s what they managed – which sent ripples throughout the rest of the day’s schedule, Murdoch referred to it as their, “First encore ever.”

House DJ Luke Mckeean took the stage a little while after. Starting considerably later than expected, he had to compete with Black Mountain on the other stage and was losing in audience size. Although he had a smooth and cool set (complete with dancers on stilts and girls with hula hoops) it wasn’t until people started wandering away from The Dudes‘ set that his audience grew. At one point Mckeenan took the mic, annoyed, and stated, “It seems DJ’s are the only ones that don’t get introduced here. What’s up Squamish, or should I say what’s up Vancouver? I’m Luke Mckeenan…” It felt a little petit for him as the LCD screen in front of him kept stating “Luke Mckeenan.”

Mckeenan’s set continued on to Dubtribe Soundsystem who also started a little later, but seamlessly as Mckeenan’s music transitioned into theirs. Kneeling above an MPC and their MacBook Pro, the duo sang their material from a knelt position. Odd, but it sounded great.

Surprisingly a few Stawamus artists performed their sets 10-15 minutes early, like The Zolas and Black Mountain. My assumption is that was to ensure everything following could be on time. But when artists start early at a festival, it knocks everything else out of whack. Both sets were strong, but you could see Amber Webber was initially a little bit phased when a topless woman sat dancing on a man’s shoulders, pierced nipples and either drawings or tattoo’s outlining her chest. Isn’t that typically reserved for male singers? Not that I minded.

The night’s headliners blew the audience away. Metric came out strongly, utilizing the energy of “Black Sheep” early on in their set. They replayed (but with the entire band) a good portion of Saturday’s acoustic set and also churned out an enthralling version of “Dead Disco.” As part of Metric, Haines is extremely animated on stage. Very energetic and extremely vocally consistent.

Initially she had little interaction/banter with her audience until about midway through where she utilized her microhphone’s opportunity to utter a mushy little speech about how we’re all “listeners” and not “fans,” and how she just loves music. During the speech, you could see eye rolls and such but seconds later listening to them continue their material, you realized how factual what she’d said was. Extremely solid set. From Metric onwards, the grounds were very easy to navigate as nobody was lurking, they were listening.

Weezer were of course one of the night’s highlights, and more than that, they were the mainstage headliner. Despite their 15 minute late start, Rivers Cuomo et al came out strong, running through their nearly twenty year discography of hits.

There was their now typical Weezer early set cover song, which during Sunday’s set was Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” pulled off extremely well, and their almost perfect Radiohead cover later on of “Paranoid Android” which didn’t work due to Cuomo’s singing. Thom Yorke is nearly impossible to cover properly, and doing a mesh of Cuomo’s singing and a loose attempt to slightly resemble Mr. Yorke didn’t work. Musically Weezer nailed the cover, but not the singing.

From “Say It Ain’t So,” “Hash Pipe” and “Beverly Hills” through “Troublemaker” and “My Name Is Jonas,” the entire band achieved the goal of a live show; presenting their material as better than on their recordings.

The one and only Major Lazer took the Garibaldi stage on time (to many people’s surprise due to the delays earlier in the day). If you’d stayed to enjoy Weezer’s set in full, you would have missed a good chunk of Diplo and Switch’s monster, the bass of which could be heard towards the back of the Weezer crowd.

Loud and clear sound (including the bass), great mixing and tons of “Major Laz-er” samplers made for a fantastic and entertaining set. Plus the “man himself” serving as the hype man, and a sexy dancer doing everything from simple dances to hand stand leg flails to the beat (in heels). Superb.

In all seriousness, despite it’s price-tag, Live At Squamish was great event and should be supported to help it grow and remain a staple of the music scene in BC. The fact that the openers of the Garibaldi stage on both days were local contest winners was fantastic, because they were deserving of more exposure. I however would have some up and coming DJ’s begin the festival and slot them later on to really get people aware.

Live At Squamish apparently earned nearly $1,000,000 in revenue for Squamish over the weekend, with the attendance up a good percentage from last year. The organizers have announced next year will be happening, and the festival is expected to continue to 2016 at the least.

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