Squamish Valley Music Festival looks to make a statement

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Eminem, Arcade Fire, Bruno Mars, Arctic Monkeys, Nas, Lykke Li, Foster the People, Broken Bells, the Roots—remove half the acts from this list and the 2014 Squamish Valley Music Festival is still knocking it out of the park. “There’s a bunch of big names on there, no doubt about it,” festival talent buyer and coproducer Erik Hoffman tells the Straight. “I think for a property this size we just wanted to take it up a notch and make a statement.”

And that statement is…?

“I think that Squamish is all grown-up and it’s truly here to stay on the North American large-festival landscape. That’s what the statement is,” he answers.

“We’ve definitely stepped into the big leagues,” adds executive producer Paul Runnals, noting that Squamish’s fifth-year graduation, lineup aside, is also reflected in the infrastructure expansion and additional land secured by the festival this year for camping and parking.

Moreover, with the attention of festivalgoers split this summer with a certain recent event that rhymes with “Memberton, Runnals is keen on promoting what he calls the “organic growth” of Squamish since its debut in 2010.

“I think what happens when you grow like that is you learn about fans around here,” continues Hoffman, “so, operationally, some things will be different from festivals that come into the market big or midsized. Also, we’re both here in B.C., we work here year-round, and we know the music landscape quite well, and I think Squamish speaks to what folks from this province are really into.”

Indeed, Hoffman and Runnals have clearly honoured their commitment to balanced programming, with Chvrches, Thievery Corporation, and Austra contributing to a wide slate of electronic acts, and the Head and the Heart, Tokyo Police Club, and Sam Roberts Band among those bringing a more guitar-oriented vibe to the bill. Somewhere in between we have hip-hop (Atmosphere), singer-songwriters (Mayer Hawthorne), dirty-ass R & B (Black Joe Lewis), genre-expanding weirdness (tUnE-yArDs), and even a little Afrobeat by way of Norway (Nico & Vinz).

As ever, Squamish draws on the local music scene for a healthy portion of its bill. Runnals notes that the festival has nurtured a number of Vancouver’s heavier hitters, like Mother Mother, over the years. Both the Zolas and the Matinée make their return in 2014, with the latter showing up next Thursday (August 7) for what Hoffman dubs “the friends of Squamish evening”. The first night is capped off by First Nations superstars A Tribe Called Red, coming back to capitalize on a triumphant appearance in 2013.

As for 2014’s headliners, Hoffman has dreamed of nabbing Eminem for years—“He doesn’t play very often, this is the only Canadian date this year, so yeah, it’s just a big deal”—while Bruno Mars, he promises, will be there to “convert some haters”.

“Trust me. It’s a thing,” he continues, laughing. “If you haven’t seen it, you might be like, ‘It’s a pop act.’ No, no, no—it’s serious business. And he’s putting up the whole show. It’s the full spectacle. It’s driving Paul crazy, but it’s gonna happen.”

The Squamish Valley Music Festival takes place next Thursday to Sunday (August 7 to 10). More information is at www.squamishfestival.com/.

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