Five must-see acts at this year's Squamish Valley Music Festival
Perhaps because we’ve been lucky enough to have caught them in electrifying past performances, we couldn’t be more thrilled at the prospect of seeing them again.
We’re talking, of course, about Squamish Valley Music Festival's headlining heavyweights Queens of the Stone Age and Gogol Bordello, both of which have blue-chip reputations as complete party starters. As a bonus, this time they’ll be playing in the shadow of the Squamish Chief, one of the most dramatic made-by-Mother-Nature backdrops this side of Red Rocks in Colorado.
As Seth McFarlane might say at the Oscars, QOTSA and Gogol Bordello need no introduction, so we’re not going to bother wasting valuable cyber-ink here. Instead, here, as chosen by the Straight, are five other well-established must-see acts playing this year’s Squamish Valley Music Festival, taking place August 9 and 10 at Hendrickson Fields & Logger Sports Ground. If you haven’t seen the following yet, you’re about to get lucky.
Place of Origin: New York City
Slot under: Tropical pop for the impeccably dressed
A few years back, the impeccably dressed men of Vampire Weekend made history when they landed on the cover of Spin. Big deal you might say—that’s something everyone from Alanis Morissette to L7 have pulled off in the past. What made Vampire Weekend special was that the quartet hadn’t actually released a record at that point, which spoke volumes about the blizzard of buzz the group was generating. For a change, the hype was actually justified, as anyone who was lucky enough to catch singer-guitarist Ezra Koenig and company at Malkin Bowl back in 2010. The group’s third album, Modern Vampires of the City, hits the streets this May, with the early word promising something that’s both simple and bare but also loaded with cinematic strings, hand drums, soaring keys. Confused? If so, let’s put it like this: when Vampire Weekend plugs in, you only have to close your eyes and get ready to be transported to sun-baked foreign shores, an Old Navy shirt tied around your waist, a yellow bird in your hand.
Place of Origin: Vancouver
Slot Under: Lotusland’s favourite son
So much for the age-old argument that nice guys finish last, especially when they start their career lost in the overrun coffee-shop-folk ghetto. Right from the point he first surfaced with 2007’s singer-songwriter outing Postcards & Dreaming, the word on the street was that Dan Mangan was a genuinely decent human being. Given that, one had to wonder what the hell he was doing pursuing a career in the music business. By 2009, it was obvious Mangan was more than just another pleasant fellow with a guitar, with the aptly titled Nice, Nice, Very Nice spawning the surprise (not to mention bloody excellent) sing-along hit “Robots”. From there, funny things began to happen. Rather than playing it safe with his 2011 third album, Oh Fortune, Mangan got daring, his songs examining death and other decidedly dark topics, the strings-and-horns adorned songs more grandiose and experimental. His reward? For a start, Vancouver’s favourite son proved one of those rare artists who actually gets what they deserve in this world, quickly moving from club shows to the Vogue and then having the guts to not only headline the Orpheum and Queen Elizabeth theatres on separate occasions, but to actually sell them out. Nice. In fact almost as nice as the prospect of seeing Mangan outdoors in one of the most gorgeous settings in the province.
Place of Origin: Seattle
Slot under: Rap for people who wouldn’t ordinarily like that sort of thing
Emerald City MC Macklemore has been in the game for a long time. Well, actually, he’s been in and out of it, but let’s not dwell on the OxyContin years or that regrettable cough-syrup phase. For all intents and purposes, though, Ben Haggerty and his right-hand man, producer Ryan Lewis, are newcomers, having released their first album, The Heist, a mere five months ago. This is music with a message, from the marriage-equality anthem “Same Love” to “Thrift Shop”, which flips hip-hop’s rampant materialism on its ear. The latter also happens to be fucking hilarious, and damn catchy to boot. Everybody now: “I’m gonna pop some tags/Only got 20 dollars in my pocket…” Incidentally, Michael “Wanz” Wansley, the deep-voiced middle-aged dude who sings that single’s hook and bridge, was living a quiet life as a software engineer before “Thrift Shop” topped, like, every chart everywhere, making him an instant star. As he sings on the cut’s infectious chorus: “This is fucking awesome.”
Place of Origin: Los Angeles
Slot under: Reunited backpack-rap legends
Arguably, Jurassic 5—the SoCal underground-rap crew consisting of Cut Chemist, DJ Nu Mark, Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir and Marc7—picked precisely the wrong pop-culture moment to call it a day. In 2007, Kanye West’s Graduation handily outsold 50 Cent’s Curtis. In the eyes of many observers, that marked the death of gangsta rap and the ascendance into the mainstream, at long last, of the alternative hip-hop that the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, OutKast, and—yes—Jurassic 5 had been pioneering under the radar. That same year, J5 disbanded, putting a cap on a 14-year run of tongue-twisting rhymes and progressive beats, as showcased on albums like Quality Control and Power in Numbers. Now, after reuniting to perform at South By Southwest last year, the group is back, and while that fact won’t have anyone asking “Kanye who?”, it’s a most welcome return indeed.
Place of Origin: Los Angeles
Slot under: Synth-laden indie-rock supergroup
Divine Fits is the unlikely collaboration between members of Austin indie-pop act Spoon, the sadly disbanded Canadian groups Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, and Ohioh punk-rock band the New Bomb Turks. The supergroup’s resulting 2012 offering A Thing Called Divine Fits is equal parts Handsome Furs and Spoon, with vocalists Dan Boeckner and Britt Daniel taking turns on the mike throughout the album’s 11 upbeat tracks. Not much of the poppy piano backing of Daniel’s other band will be found here, nor will the grittiness of Wolf Parade, but this supergroup offers a catchy sound that fans of both bands can get behind. (Think Spoon, featuring a lot more synth.) Singles like “Would That Not Be Nice” and “My Love Is Real” also make an ideal summer soundtrack, which bodes well for this outdoor August appearance.