Vancouver musicians get the show on the road to LIVE at Squamish
You know what we love best about the summer? And, no, the answer isn’t drinking heavily on every day with a vowel in it, repeatedly calling in sick from Spanish Banks, or the five—that’s right, five!!—days of scorching-hot weather we’re guaranteed each year. No, what we love best are outdoor festivals. For some reason, live music sounds best under blue skies in the great wide open. For that reason, we’re beyond stoked about LIVE at Squamish, taking place this weekend (August 24 to 26) in the shadow of the spectacular Stawamus Chief. And you know what? We’re not alone. In addition to the imported likes of the Tragically Hip, City and Colour, Sheepdogs, and Kathleen Edwards, there are a boatload of local acts playing LIVE at Squamish. We asked some of our faves for their top outdoor-concert memories and who they’re guaranteeing as picks to click this weekend. Even though they’re busy enjoying summer, our local heroes were only too happy to take a break between poolside cocktails to respond.
Hugh Macdonald and Sean Bletcher are the head honchos in Facts, a band that updates skinny-tie new wave for the Pinterest generation.
Golden outdoor memory: (Macdonald) “When I lived in Melbourne, Australia, I totally lucked out and got into this epic New Year’s festival that had been sold-out for half a year. I was a foreigner looking for an epic New Year’s plan, and a feeble Google search yielded one guy on an obscure wakeboarding message board who was able to sell me an extra staff ticket for the entire weekend, at less than retail price! It was like winning the lottery of travel plans. I tagged along to the festival with this one local I kind of knew and camped out with his friends, who turned out to be a rad group of people. We partied all through the weekend and finished with the obligatory all-night banger through New Year’s Eve. I’ve never had so much fun with a group of strangers before.”
Stoked about seeing: (Bletcher) “Chromeo, since they are somewhat, kind of, the only band similar to our sound. We’ve been looking forward to seeing them live for a long time but never got the chance, and now we get to play a festival with them! We’ll be taking notes on how to properly shred on a synthesizer.”
Rich Hope puts a modern spin on shit-kicking country, gunshot blues, and greased-lightning rawkabilly, the result being potent enough to make you want to jump on a Norton bike and head to a roadhouse that smells like Marlboros, Jim Beam, and buckets of spilled blood.
Golden outdoor memory: “Maybe I spend too much time indoors, or maybe it’s because we live in a rain forest, but I haven’t seen too many outdoor shows. But at the first LIVE at Squamish festival, after playing a set on the second stage, I got a phone call from the promoter informing me that Bad Religion wanted me to come to do a song with them on the main stage during their set. I told him to go to hell, and that this was the most unfunny joke he’d ever played on anyone. However, minutes later I was meeting with [Bad Religion’s Greg] Graffin, [Jay] Bentley, and company, discussing arrangements for ‘Man With a Mission’. I hit the stage that night in front of thousands of people. I invite my friends on-stage all the time at our shows, and I thought it was cool that guys at their level would do the same. That’s what playing music is all about.”
Stoked about seeing: “Charles Bradley. At 63 years old, after living in the Brooklyn projects and toiling for years as a James Brown impersonator, he’s gotten his shot at the title and he’s not gonna take it for granted. I saw him at the Biltmore last summer and I can tell you that I’ve never seen a more authentic, grateful, and soulful human being on a stage in my life. It doesn’t hurt that his songs are topnotch as well, and his band is tighter than Lemmy’s cutoffs. Watching him live humbled me and made me wanna be a better musician. Do not miss this show.”
Jasmin Parker handles keyboard and vocal duties for Mother Mother, an outfit that probably needs no introduction.
Golden outdoor memory: “I wish I could tell you it was a crusty-punk show, but we’re not all that cool, unfortunately. When I was 14 I went to the Lilith Fair in Vancouver at Thunderbird Stadium. I was already singing and playing piano and writing songs at the time, so I was pumped about seeing women musicians strut their stuff. I grew up in a small town that didn’t really host many concerts by ‘big’ artists, so it was a big deal to me on many levels. I remember watching Paula Cole slay everyone with her piano chops and daring vocal stylings; she was like a lioness, so confident and seductive. I was thinking, ‘Oh yeah, that’s gonna be me up there someday.’ It was great for me at that impressionable and tender age to be inspired by women in music, especially in a live setting—even if it was like listening to a Women and Songs record.”
Stoked about seeing: “I’m especially stoked to see Charles Bradley at LIVE at Squamish this year. A friend sent me a YouTube last year of him doing his thing and I was totally moved and blown away. He’s so fiery and passionate; he seems to just ooze soul. There’s something about him that’s very raw and real, like he’s just truly himself and there’s no other way he could possibly be. I love that; it’s very honest. I really can’t wait to see him live! I’ll probably be the girl crying in the front row.”
Hedspin has risen up through the city’s DJ ranks to become a multiple winner of Red Bull’s Thre3style battle crown. If you like your urban music mixed and matched, often on the fly, you know why he’s one of Vancouver’s go-to party starters.
Golden outdoor memory: “About seven years ago, Stevie Wonder did a surprise show in a vineyard in Washington, just outside of Seattle. The stage was on the bottom of a grassy little hill with about 1,000 people sitting down on the incline, in tiered seating, drinking wine. There was no blood spilled, no panties being thrown on-stage, no gun-clap sound FX, no lasers, no peeing in public, no one shitting their pants—unless you brought your grandparents, which you could have—no crowd-surfing, and no aggression. Just Stevie. It was Wonder-ful.”
Stoked about seeing: “I really look forward to hearing Mat the Alien’s set on the weekend. He’s a DJ that I’ve looked up to for years and has always inspired me. I’ve only heard him play in club environments and have never heard him play in a festival setting with thousands of people. The last time I deejayed with him was on Halloween. He wore three different masks, pulled out a fake severed arm and scratched with it, banged on the midi pads with his face, and stunk up the DJ booth with his flatulence fuelled by spicy Kung Pao chicken. A true performer. He’s really good.”
Devin Miller is the frontman for Young Pacific, whose songs weld folk-rock jangle to tuneful indie pop, and he is not afraid to sing about rainbows, flowers, and dreams.
Golden outdoor memory: “My cousin Rick held a music festival in Elkford called Millerstock in the summer of 2009. No setting could be more truly Canadian wild—an old semitrailer for a stage, set in a lonely meadow beside a glacial river. More suited to a hushed Simon & Garfunkel concert, the festival had no boundaries. To describe the unique energy, there was a beer-shotgunning orgy during an acoustic cover of Elliott Smith’s ‘Happiness’. The hip-hop group Royalties Entertainment juxtaposed against the mountains made me realize how little any of these contradictions mattered. At the foot of the stage was my friend, on his back, rocked on free psychedelics and probably searching for Carl Sagan in the sky; a lone audience for the rappers. Later that night, when I joined the 500-plus wasted party kids running through the trees in their underwear, it confirmed how much small-town Canadians know how to have a damn good time.”
Stoked about seeing: “Charles Bradley. I saw him earlier in 2012, and I truly believe that when George Clinton kicked the funk off his spaceship back in the purple mists of 1979, it landed directly in Charles Bradley’s arms. Just seeing his raw emotion and smiles on-stage will be empowering as hell. A welcoming soulful celebration.”
Laura Smith sings and plays keyboards for Rococode, where harmony-laced pop-rock is the main course and compositional quirks make for a tasty side dish.
Golden outdoor memory: “Five years ago my main squeeze took me to Sasquatch for my birthday. It was my first time in the Gorge, and I did not give a shit about Arcade Fire. They really seemed like just another buzz band. Saturday night the headliners were Arcade Fire and Björk. Dusk turned to night and a warm gale blew up through the Gorge that swept the bands to and fro while they created their own sonic storm. I had never seen so much energy on-stage before; Arcade Fire was a pulsing wall of sound, Björk a cooing, batshit-crazy siren. Needless to say, my mind was blown, and I now own a few AF albums.”
Stoked about seeing: “Sunday night is looking good: Kathleen Edwards and Plants and Animals, followed by Mother Mother. MM will be playing songs off their brilliant new record; Kathleen Edwards is an incredible singer and songwriter, and her band is a group of handsome fellows who really know how to bring her songs to life. Plus, her guitar player Gord [Tough] carries around the best chili dark chocolate there is. I hope he will bring me some.”
Shawn Hall and Matthew Rogers perform as the Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer. Their new album, Checkered Past, strikes the perfect balance between tin-shack blues and radio-ready soul.
Golden outdoor memory: (Hall) “Woodstock ’94. I was just a teenager, watching Traffic, Tom Petty, and Jimmy Cliff with hundreds of thousands of people. I bought weed off of an accountant who was high on acid—and who was elated by the colour of Canadian money. After the festival, our car was buried in mud and some very opportunistic farmers charged $100 to tow our car out with their tractor. I ended the trip up against a police car in my muddy white undies.”
Stoked about seeing: (Rogers) “C.R. Avery, as long as he plays his blues ballad ‘Eat You Out’, which is about exactly what it sounds like it’s about. The lyrics are so descriptive that they would make Nina Hartley blush. Plus, if you talk during his set he will headbutt you, get back on stage, and keep the show rockin’. So it’s either going to be an attentive audience or a very bloody one.”
Colleen Rennison can deliver soulful vocals like a goddamn firecracker, which makes her the perfect frontwoman for No Sinner’s blues-tinted roots rock.
Golden outdoor memory: “I have to say my most vivid outdoor concert memory is Burning Spear in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I was living in Williamsburg at the time, and my friend Nastasia and I hopped on our bikes with a purse full of Four Loko and pedalled our asses to the biggest smoke-out I’ve ever seen. I mean, 4/20 at the art gallery? Eat your heart out. It was hot as hell, as it usually is in July there, and we were definitely a rarity, being unaccompanied white girls. We danced with some legit-ass old Rastas with dreads bigger than my friend Nas so we could get a toke. I had never seen so many dreads in one place and probably won’t again unless I go to Jamaica.”
Stoked about seeing: “Charles Bradley! We were supposed to open for him when he came to the Biltmore last September and I was so furious that I was going to a wedding in Ireland, I would have cancelled the trip just for the gig if my mother wouldn’t have beheaded me. I’ve been listening to his CD ever since and I don’t think there are many people out there you can see live like Charles Bradley anymore. If I get to meet him I’ll just die.”
Maya Miller pounds the skins for the Pack a.d., the coolest, most balls-out garage-pop two-piece since the White Stripes. Or at least the Black Keys.
Golden outdoor memory: “I consider seeing Thee Oh Sees and Turbo Fruits at SXSW in Austin a few years back as being outdoors, because you technically went indoors to emerge outdoors to watch them. I was the kind of hungover where even the slightest touch from anyone could have set me to convulsions and was literally dragged to see this show, which turned out to be the most equal parts awesome and terrifying. The ‘awesome’ was Thee Oh Sees, which I had never heard of and made me a fanatical convert in one set. The ‘terrifying’ was the lead singer of Turbo Fruits climbing up the stage scaffolding, wrapping his legs around the lighting bar more than 30 feet above the stage, all while still singing. I could barely look. I think I’m still traumatized. Thanks, Mr. Turbo Fruits.”
Stoked about seeing: “The Tragically Hip. I haven’t seen them in years, and I don’t count seeing the Tragically Hip tribute band that happens every summer at the PNE as seeing them—although their Gord Downie is eerily spot on.”
Kevin Shiu has parlayed a love of house music into an enduring career that’s seen him headline superclubs around the globe. We’re not condoning drug use, but if you must, what better time to break them out than during his mind-bending “Acid Brownies”?
Golden outdoor memory:
“In the summer of ’94 there was an outdoor party deep in Squamish called Summer Love. The headliner was the band Deee-Lite, the fashion trend was New York club kids, and lots of people were dressing up in costume. There were no cellphone cameras, no texting—just a few thousand people grooving to DJs playing house music all night long. The sun came up and you were surrounded by beautiful mountains. It was the Woodstock for our generation.”
Stoked about seeing: “Silent disco. The idea came from Europe—it’s like pressing the Mute button while watching a dance show. DJs play to you, and you only, via wireless headphone. Watching people dancing to music that’s not being played out loud is pretty weird, and when the DJ drops the bomb you can hear everyone scream! The best part is there will be no cops there to tell you to turn the music down!”
Jack Garton plays accordion and trumpet with the theatrical East Van mashup kings Maria in the Shower, the band as enamoured with Parisian café pop as it is with hillbilly-friendly Americana.
Golden outdoor memory: “Few things compare to the Nevada desert at sunrise, feeling overdressed in just my gold dance shorts aboard a purple fuzzy bus, witnessing a Divine-ly–inspired drag performance of ‘I Will Survive’ with a stranger’s breasts gingerly resting on my shoulders.”
Stoked about seeing: “I heard there’s a group doing Motown versions of Nickelback songs. That’s just weird. I predict it will create an indie black hole, when the collective energy of hipsters who hate Nickelback without any knowledge of their music collides with the energy of hipsters who love Motown without any knowledge of its music. This space-time fracture may initiate inexplicable phenomena elsewhere in the universe, such as causing Bob Dylan to enunciate clearly.”
LIVE at Squamish takes place at Hendrickson Fields & Logger Sports Ground from Friday to Sunday (August 24 to 26).