At Pemberton on Saturday, July 18
There was a palpable sense of anticipation in the air as you approached the Pemberton Music Festival on Saturday for Day 3. Riding on the shuttle from Whistler to the festival, you passed a sign that said it all: “Welcome to Pemberton, You Lucky Bastards.”
The horsehead-sporting festivalgoers were in for a real treat today. On the docket was hip-hop's current It Boy Kendrick Lamar, still incredibly relevant music and fashion icon Missy Elliot, and Jack Ü—the duo comprised of Diplo and Skrillex, two of the biggest and most exciting producers in the world, and... oh, shit. Sorry, I read the schedule wrong. This was the day featuring none of the festival's topline talent and was to be headlined by Jane's Addiction, Weezer, and a few other acts you probably don't give a fuck about unless you're stuck in the early ’90s
But as Mike Usinger aptly noted in his review of Day 2, the music at this fantastic event is almost secondary, and it’d practically be impossible not to have a good time. Even if, on paper, the lineup was a full day of acts you despised in high school coming back to haunt you.
As you walked in the gates around 2 p.m., Earl Sweatshirt was already hurling racial epithets and leading those at the Pemberton Stage in a rousing chant of “I’mma fuck the freckles off your face, bitch.” In front of a smallish, but enthusiastic crowd, the critically acclaimed rapper later asked “Y’all smart enough to learn a song right now?”
Unfortunately, we weren’t as it involved a very complicated hook. Like we’re talking four lines. Unperturbed, Earl Sweatshirt performed “Grown Ups” off his latest LP I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. (The irony of performing songs off this album outdoors was not lost on the ex-Odd Future member.)
It should be noted that the artist born Thebe Neruda Lanu Kgositsilee was actually not wearing a sweatshirt, as that would have been absolutely insane. There was no escaping the heat and sun. While it didn’t deter many from wearing fuzzy Pikachu costumes, if you’re a pasty white guy who applies SPF 80 sun block with a paint roller, you likely didn’t make it through Sweatshirt’s whole show.
Walking past the Whistler Stage, you asked yourself was Moon Taxi seriously covering “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine? Or was that sunshine-induced psychosis coming on? Quick, double-time to the Mount Currie stage for Father John Misty.
The bearded, suited, and absolutely hilarious Father John Misty opened with the title track off of his latest I Love You, Honeybear. As great a musician as he is, it can’t be stated enough how exceptional J. Tillman’s between-songs banter game is. He’s probably funnier than anyone who performed on Pemberton’s Laugh Camp stage this weekend, and you almost wish his “chorus-less hits” would end sooner so you can hear him joke around some more.
“Look at this adorable poop,” he remarked at a mini-totem an attendee was waving that had the poop emoji on it. “What did we do for thousands of years of civilization before we could tell people what smiling pieces of shit we felt for them?”
He then grabbed the totem and waved it around while singing “Bored in the USA”. The song features a canned laugh track, but it was hard differentiate that from the cackling coming from the audience.
At the Pemberton Stage there is no fucking way Bleachers were covering “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. That must be a heat stroke coming on. Run, don’t walk, to the misting tent, which was on the way to Bass Camp where Ryan Hemsworth was about to begin.
The Haligonian DJ-producer was getting things going with a rather mellow set of R&BDM. (Is that a thing?) At least one woman with a rainbow-coloured LED unicorn SpiritHood was duly impressed.
While the Bass Camp is the single most dangerous place in our province for people prone to seizures, it’s also the place you’re least likely to hear Rage Against the Machine or Fleetwood Mac covers. So it’s worth the risk. Unfortunately, my visit there was brief and it was time to hoof it back across the field for Jane’s Addiction.
Let’s give the 56-year-old Perry Farrell his props. Lollapalooza, which he founded, is at least somewhat responsible for North America’s insatiable appetite for music festivals. And him and guitarist Dave Navarro undeniably still have charismatic stage presences, even though Ritual de lo habitual came out 25-years-ago and they probably could have done that set in their sleep.
Farrell wailed, and his voice held up. Navarro delivered ample guitar solos, and may have even made eye contact with the audience once or twice.
Random weirdness during their set kept things interesting. Specifically two dominatrix-looking types who made sporadic stage appearances to molest each other while wielding what appeared to be lightsabers or possibly large anal probes. And then during the show’s final number “Stop!”, two Suicide Girl-types were suspended 20-feet in the air by hooks that went through piercings on their backs.
Yeah, that’s a thing. Live a little, you prudes. (Anyone else absolutely terrified about goes down on the Jane’s Addiction tour bus?)
If you’re into gimmickry, Alice Cooper, a 67-year-old who is famous for being in Wayne’s World, delivered the surprisingly awesome show of the day. The shock rocker escaped from a straitjacket, impaled someone, and even found time to sing a little despite being decapitated by a guillotine.
The highlight of the show was when he got electrocuted during “Feed My Frankenstein” and transformed into a 10-foot tall monster. A guy and a girl next to me, dressed up as Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, began doing “we’re not worthy” bows at the end of the song.
Ending his set with “School’s Out”, of course, Cooper received many more “we’re not worthy” bows and signs of the beast from the faithful. When the applause died down, you could clearly hear Weezer performing “Hash Pipe” on the next stage over, which obviously means you run in the opposite direction to see Chet Faker at the Bass Camp.
You’re probably right to be somewhat suspicious of Chet Faker. He’s a white dude from Australia who makes hipster R&B and broke through with a cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”. But the “No Diggity” cover provided a rousing sing-along opportunity, and he followed that up with another favourite, “Drop the Game”, a track he did with Flume.
Sure his music sounds like the sort of thing cheesy dudes put on when they’re trying to be seductive, but in spite that—and no bass drops—Chet Faker satiated the sweaty, shirtless, and party hungry crowd. They liked the way he worked it.
While Broken Social Scene played on the festival’s largest stage to only a few hundred people, the biggest show of the day with Ludacris went down at the Bass Camp. I couldn’t even fight my way close enough to be able to see the Atlanta rapper.
This was one of those rare festival moments where I wish I was with a buddy so I could sit on their shoulders. (I’d even flash my tits if Luda asked nicely.)
“I got too many hit songs. I don’t remember them all,” the star of three Fast & Furious sequels boasted.
For an hour Luda delivered non-stop club rap hits like “Area Codes”, “Pimpin’ All Over the World”, “Southern Hospitality”, and “Stand Up” as well as tracks he’s guested on like Usher’s “Yeah!” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win”. While doing that, he gave shout-outs to alcoholics, weed smokers, and women with real asses.
“This might very well be the loudest motherfucking crowd I’ve ever performed in front of,” Ludacris exclaimed before ending with “Move Bitch (Get Out the Way)” and “Get Back”, songs he was reluctant to perform as he feared they might start a riot. They didn’t, but it was close.
As darkness descended upon Pemberton, the testosterone managed to go up yet another notch at the Bass Camp with trap DJ-producer RL Grime. Smoke blasts, lasers, strobes, and LED visuals ensued while RL Grime dropped explosive numbers by Drake, Kanye, Kendrick, and Jack Ü as well as his own original tracks and remixes.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to wear a pink hardhat while dancing with a gigantic Molson Canadian patio umbrella, this as good as it gets. And if you’re not, you still likely walked away with a wicked contact high.
The final act of the evening was 51-year-old Paul Oakenfold, who, eons ago, was the biggest DJ in the world. Starting his set with “Generate” by Eric Prydz, he kept the party going till well past his bedtime with progressive bangers. Shortly into Oakie’s set, a guy beside me remarked “He’s old as shit, but look at this. He’s still got it.”
He does. And sure, the Day 3 lineup was heavy on old dudes. But it didn’t stop the Pemberton Music Festival from delivering the wildest party in the province to us lucky bastards for the second year in a row.