The Tragically Hip, Humans, Chromeo get things going at LIVE at Squamish
LIVE at Squamish at Logger Sports Ground and Hendrickson Fields on Saturday, August 25
Following the previous night’s rootsy and rowdy Friday Night Hootenanny, which highlighted a small roster of B.C.-based talent, LIVE at Squamish’s first full day of activities brought a range of artists from all over the continent.
Vancouver still got to start the party, though, as local boys Young Pacific had the task of opening Saturday's show with a brief set at the Meadow stage, a modest affair situated in between the two main stages. The group kicked off its set with a three-part vocal harmony that brought to mind Fleet Foxes more than it did the Beach Boys, and what followed suit was a brief taste of the troupe’s homey indie-pop catalogue.
An accident on the Sea-to-Sky Highway held up both incoming concertgoers and performers, so the scheduling seemed a little off for the first part of the day. Instead of the rapid fire back-and-forth organizers anticipated, it was nearly an hour before the next act of the day, Gold & Youth, hit the Garibaldi stage.
The quartet tinkered with a moody neo-new wave sound hinting at early Interpol, which may have played a little too noir underneath the blazing sun. That said, multitasking member Louise Burns put on a stunning mid-set performance when she dropped her regular bass and keyboard duties to man the mike on the pulsing “Jewel”.
Walking toward the massive Stawamus stage, which featured an idyllic and breathtaking view of the Chief, you’d have heard some sort of nightmarish country-dub concoction coming out of Current Swell. The hippies in attendance were grooving to the outfit’s ultra laid-back vibe, but the real party was back over at the Garibaldi stage, where soul stunner Charles Bradley had the crowd losing their goddamned minds.
Walking out in a rhinestoned, red gas-station attendants’ jumpsuit and a military-issue white coat, the singer dropped to his knees and wailed his way through “Heartaches and Pain”, “Loving You, Baby”, and “Why Is It So Hard?” for the adoring fan base that filled the field in front of him.
“If it wasn't for you, I would never have this chance,” he said, welling up a bit before delivering a heartfelt “I love you!”
While there was plenty of action going on music-wise, there was so much more to see around the festival grounds. A bunch of painted-up ladies in neon lingerie pushing pink lawnmowers, for instance, kicked out a choreographed cancan near the food court. A chainsaw demo yielded one lucky gal an elf-size alder chair, courtesy of Squamish Days Loggers Sports organizer Bryan Couture. Most impressively, when not selling Elephant Ears, a girl working a booth for Squamish’s Two Birds Eatery put on a whirly hula-hoop clinic whilst clutching a coffee in one hand, and a ciggy in the other.
Wintersleep's prog-tinged, atmospheric pop was almost as captivating as the sideshow activities, especially when singer-guitarist Paul Murphy managed to get the crowd to sing and clap along with the band's biggest hit, “Weighty Ghost”. Back at Garibaldi, L.A.’s LP (aka Laura Pergolizzi) held her ukulele high as she and her band galloped through her anthemic closer “Into the Wild”. She capped the high-energy heartwarmer with a tender, tuneful whistle.
Only a couple dozen onlookers caught Rococode’s performance over at the tiny Meadow Stage, but the Vancouver quartet still smiled their way through a polite pop set. Just a few hundred feet north, however, electro diva Lights (aka Valerie Anne Poxleitner) stomped and bounded with a confident swagger as rows of piggybacked fans sang along to the synth-swirling “Timing Is Everything”.
It’s hard to hate on a band when the crowd is giving it so much love, but the praise for boogie unit the Sheepdogs was somewhat baffling. Perhaps the laid-back festival atmosphere was too forgiving, which is probably why the group rambled on for extended jam sessions. One organ and guitar solo adventure hovered somewhere around the 10-minute mark, and somehow made the Doors’ “Light My Fire” seem modest.
The Meadow stage finally kicked into full gear for Lotusland duo Humans, whose knob-twisting and drum-pad clacking set finally packed out the minuscule dirt lot. Seconds after starting into the melodic pulse of set closer “Avec Mes Mecs”, a crowd of fans, including some wearing sombreros and one guy carrying a cartoony cardboard cutout of a hipster, stormed the stage to shake it with the band. The kerfuffle eventually unplugged all of the group's gear, but the throng kept chanting along to the track’s all-too-telling vocal hook "who knew all we had to do is party?"
Canadian greats the Tragically Hip kept the momentum going with a greatest hits–displaying set that united young and old. Band leader Gord Downie walked on-stage in a snazzy pinstripe suit, but as the show progressed, he eventually wriggled out of his buttoned-up attire. The group sweated it out hard on classics like “Grace, Too” and "Courage". “At the Hundredth Meridian”, meanwhile, had Downie doing a Mr. Roboto hand jive before fast-rapping like Twista on the midsection, which was sped up soul revue-style.
A toned-down performance of “Ahead by a Century” yielded cheers from the crowd, but something suggests many were more excited by the generously proportioned lady that flashed the jumbotron than by Rob Baker’s tasteful fretwork.
So how do you follow one of the country’s most beloved bands? Obviously, at least if you’re Chromeo, you juice the energy levels past 10 with your sexy brand of retro funk. The Montreal two-piece's performance let loose NPG-approved synth wriggles, talk-box vocals, and sly dance moves. Some ultra-erotic winged angels and sparkle-bra–adorned baton twirlers worked it on a nearby platform, while countless concertgoers sweated it out up front.
Many more of us, however, packed it in unashamedly following the all-day affair, ready to rest up for the final day of LIVE at Squamish.