The cream of Vancouver's musical crop sets its sights on the Squamish Valley Music Festival

Hometown heroes share memories of their favourite outdoor shows, as well as who they can’t wait to see up the Sea-to-Sky

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      Much to the chagrin of those who live to moan about the local weather, we’ve had a surprisingly great season so far. It’s been brilliant beach weather. Exotic-drinks-on-the-patio weather. Sweaty-live-music weather, actually. Who wants to watch a band play indoors when the greatest summer of our sad little lives in going on outside? Your best bet for catching great sounds in the glorious open air this year has got to be the Squamish Valley Music Festival, which takes place at the Logger Sports Grounds & Hendrickson Fields from August 8 to 10. In addition to killer headliners like Queens of the Stone Age, Vampire Weekend, and Gogol Bordello, an amazing lineup of B.C.–based artists will be taking the stage. We rounded up a whole bunch of them and asked them to tell us about their own favourite outdoor-festival experiences, and who they can’t wait to watch at Squamish.

      Tyler Bancroft is one of the two singer-songwriters who front Said the Whale (Ben Worcester is the other). The band’s next album, hawaiii, is due out in September and it promises to bolster Said the Whale’s reputation for delivering reliably top-notch indie pop-rock.

      Golden outdoor memory: “We played Ness Creek Fest last week in Big River, Saskatchewan. It was a single-stage affair on the edge of an overcrowded campsite full of stinky hippies (the good kind) and apparently actual grizzly bears (didn’t see them, though). After we played, it began to piss with rain, so we got properly inebriated, sat under a shelter and watched as the most ridiculous jam session unfolded before us. There was Sasha the Bosnian tweaker dude, stuffing his face with mushrooms and drumming on every surface he could find; Jimmy James, who must have time-warped from 1929, because he led the charge with parlour tunes I’ve only heard in black-and-white movies and did them with the conviction of a fucking Broadway performer; Marshall from Rah Rah, who apparently knows every country song ever written… I could go on and on describing the motley crew there that night, but words barely do it justice. At 7 a.m. we floated back to our campsite, slept for two hours, and got the hell outta Dodge.”

      Stoked about seeing: “Divine Fits gets my vote this year. Dan Boeckner and Britt Daniel are writing some of their best songs yet for this band, and they slay live. I’ve already seen them twice this year (both at SXSW) and I’m super stoked to see them again.”

      Adam Fink is the drummer for Gang Signs, whose darkly dreamy tracks will have you moping all the way to the dance floor.

      Golden outdoor memory: “Sub Pop 20th-anniversary fest. Beautiful Pacific Northwestern scenery. Every genre of music you could imagine. Highlights were Mudhoney sound-checking during the Fleet Foxes set, causing Josh Tillman (Father John Misty himself!) to start a drum-off against the unseen Mudhoney drummer, and a giant bald eagle landing just off the side of the stage during the middle of Iron and Wine’s solo set. It couldn’t have been choreographed better if it was in a Hollywood movie. So good!”

      Stoked about seeing: “Obviously, QOTSA and Gogol Bordello. Those two bands together combine our two favorite things, stoner rock and Gypsies. Also really want to see all the local bands we love playing with outside in the wilderness. The Ballantynes, one of our faves, are at the top of the must-see list once again.”

      Dan Mangan.

      Dan Mangan is not only possibly the best-loved musician in Vancouver, but also one of the most adventurous, with his Juno-winning latest, Oh Fortune, making one wonder how the hell he was once thought of as simply a singer-songwriter.

      Golden outdoor memory: “I know this is the most played-out and unoriginal answer, because fucking everyone in Vancouver was at this show and it changed all of our lives simultaneously, but Radiohead at Thunderbird Stadium on the In Rainbows tour in the pouring rain. It seriously relentlessly dumped buckets for the entire set and nobody was even remotely phased. The crowd just squished tighter together and we all stayed warm. As soon as the show was over and people diffused, the breeze slipped in and reality set in. But it was so worth it.”

      Stoked about seeing: “I remember my brother playing me ‘Concrete Schoolyard’ by J5 [Jurassic 5] when I was about 15, and I was like, ‘Whaaahahahaaat is this?’ So that should be fun. A little-known fact is I almost exclusively listened to hip-hop in high school. I also shaved my head and pretended I knew how to skateboard. Also, Gogol Bordello. I’ve narrowly missed seeing them play a handful of times. I shan’t miss this one.”

      Ian Bevis is the frontman of Bear Mountain, which weaves electronica and live instrumentation into seamless, hypnotic dance-floor anthems.

      Golden outdoor memory: “My favourite memory at an outdoor festival is probably eating mushrooms at the Gorge and watching the Dave Matthews Band jam out for, like, three hours. I’m not proud of it now, but those guys were so good back in the day! We can all learn a lot from Boyd Tinsley.”

      Stoked about seeing: “I’m probably most excited to see Divine Fits. Dan Boeckner is seriously a musical idol of mine. I first saw him with Handsome Furs in Victoria about eight years ago and I was blown away by the energy he had on-stage. He had the whole room in the palm of his hand, and after watching that and getting into his music, I knew I wanted to do something similar.”

      The Matineé.

      Matt Layzell fronts the Matinée, whose harmony-soaked, country-tinged rock makes you want to trade in your Toyota Prius hybrid for a ’66 Rambler and then hit the road to where the pavement turns to gravel and the air makes you wonder why you’re living in the goddamn city.

      Golden outdoor memory: “Does Plaza of Nations count? I saw Rage Against the Machine there in ’96 as a young, angst-ridden pup. Rage was at the height of their game and I remember the mood was electric, if not full-on frightening, as they tore into ‘Bulls on Parade’. It felt as though a riot could break out at any moment, and it almost did when many fence jumpers and gatecrashers overtook security and piled in. Then there was the guy who tempted fate and jumped into the crowd from one of the 40-foot pillars that supported the glass roof, and came crashing down to the concrete. I always wondered what happened to him. Anyhow, there was so much energy in the crowd and in the sky above, which was raining down on that glass roof, and the band didn’t let go of the tension for a second.”

      Stoked about seeing: “I can’t wait to dance the night away to Bear Mountain. We did a cross-Canada train tour with them last summer and they were responsible for some of our best memories­—like the impromptu dance party we had at 3 a.m. on the side of the train tracks in the middle of Butt-Fuck Nowhere, Ontario. Their stellar new album, XO, has been in high rotation in our tour van, and I expect, after touring North America with Bloc Party, they will be primed for the masses at Squamish.”

      James Boatman is a producer, engineer, visual artist, label owner, and the guy who’s probably going to remix your record and notch up your underground cred. That’s when he isn’t busy trotting the globe as one of the Lower Mainland’s most in-demand DJs.

      Golden outdoor memory: “Living on the West Coast, we are treated to golden outdoor moments almost every day, from my walks in Vancouver’s sunny summers to racing down the hill at top speed on one of Whistler’s snow-filled days. However, music-wise… DJing sunrise sets at outdoor festivals up and down the West Coast, each one a golden memory. At a certain outdoor music festival in 2008, I was not only lucky enough to DJ but somehow managed to get on-stage with the Flaming Lips as one of their Teletubbies. Now that was a golden moment.”

      Stoked about seeing: “Reignwolf! Have you seen this guy? Talk about an entertainer. Whoa.”

      Dustin Bentall and his band, the Smøkes, are what you get when your roots are in Tom Petty–style Americana while your head is a little bit more in the here and now.

      Golden outdoor memory: “A few years back, I got to play a show at Ambleside Park in West Van that Sarah McLachlan put on. It was a fundraiser for her school of music and she had Sheryl Crow and Neil Young up to coheadline. Later on, after we had played, I managed to make my way into the exclusive backstage area. As I was just sitting there, doing my best to look like I belonged, I heard the sound of an unamplified Wurlitzer being played. Lo and behold, I looked over at the trailer beside me and Neil Young was sitting in his trailer with a Wurlitzer piano, just playing a few chords warming up his hands. It was really incredible. I just got to soak that in for a minute or two. Golden moment!”

      Stoked about seeing: “Well, gotta say Matt Mays. Mostly because we’re old pals and have done hard time on the road together, but also sadly because I gotta be on a plane first thing Friday morning to play Edmonton Folk Fest. So I’m gonna miss the chance to see all the other rad bands playing at SVMF.”

      Dominique Fricot.

      Dominique Fricot has been writing emotionally cathartic songs and delivering them in his plaintively gorgeous voice since the days when he led the Painted Birds. His new solo material is just as resonant.

      Golden outdoor memory: “I went down to Coachella in 2010 with six pals—one of which being Adam Fink of Gang Signs, who I believe is also in this article. We called ourselves the 7 Twins and had one of the most incredible weekends of our lives. Grizzly Bear, Mutemath, Thom Yorke, Jónsi, Beach House, Muse, Vampire Weekend, and strings of helium balloons that would float diagonally into the atmosphere until they would somehow arch back down to the ground hundreds of metres away.”

      Stoked about seeing: “It would have to be a tossup. I’m probably most excited to see Queens of the Stone Age, because I’ve been a fan for a few years and a friend of mine said they were the loudest band he had ever seen—as in, so loud that his chest hurt. Upon reflection, I don’t know why this is a selling point for me but it is… The other band that I really want to see is Gogol Bordello. From the festivals I’ve been to, it’s always a misfit band like Gogol Bordello that gets the real crazy shit started. I’m hoping for something appropriately outside of the box and zany to occur.”

      The Boom Booms.

      Aaron Ross makes every day seem like a Brazilian street party as the frontman of the hard-sweating, world music–loving Boom Booms.

      Golden outdoor moment: “So many! Jumping in the frigid waters of Atlin Lake this summer at the festival of the same name gave me a body high far beyond coffee—the ultimate hangover cure! But I think the most golden festival moment was a few years ago, when last-minute $300 tickets had just landed us in Barcelona to begin busking around Europe. Serendipity had provided us a massive music festival beginning that same day, and I’ll always remember strolling down some little cobblestone street with cervezas when all of a sudden a Brazilian samba band turns the corner, faces us, and begins blasting the most badass percussion ever. Everyone was hypnotized. We all stared, smiling and stunned, then suddenly they smashed through the stillness with a stampede of synchronized dance moves. I’m not sure how many moves we stole, exactly, but there was a few. Crazy Spaniards.”

      Stoked about seeing: “A Tribe Called Red. I hear it’s an incredible and profound dance experience, and I love what they are doing—taking back their culture. I heard one of the guys wears a Braves baseball jersey to serve this end. Also, they are cracking down on the gentle, naive festival hippies who get offended when someone tells them it’s inappropriate to wear items with spiritual significance such as headdresses. Idle No More brought attention to many important issues, and there is still a long way to go as far as finding cultural understanding. I’m happy that more and more people are seeing the value and beauty in Native cultures, and, especially as we move toward being ‘green’, that they see, ‘Hey, there is a hidden culture right under your nose with a spirituality that honors Mother Earth.’ There is lots to learn from that.’”

      The Belle Game.

      Katrina Jones plays keyboards for the Belle Game, meaning she’s responsible for some of the most seductive sounds in the band’s striking pop-noir arsenal.

      Golden outdoor memory: “After playing Squamish Valley Music Fest two years back, we stayed to watch Weezer. Being one of my favourite bands, I was genuinely starstruck when I saw Rivers [Cuomo] take the stage. A few songs into their set, I had my back turned to the stage for a minute to speak to a friend, only to turn around to a giant spotlight focused on Rivers, who was now standing right next to me in the crowd. I freaked out and screamed as he sort of just wandered around the area I was standing in, shyly serenading the crowd. Next thing I knew, he was gone, as I saw the bouncers lift his tiny body back onto the stage. It was all too quick, but it was definitely a golden moment in my books.”

      Stoked about seeing: “Bear Mountain! Because we’re in love with them and they’re always so awesome live.”

      DJ K-Tel performs under a name that suggests those ’70s compilation records where the Bay City Rollers ended up sandwiched between Bad Company and the Bee Gees. No wonder his steamy live sets bust out everything from gin-joint blues to spliffed-out reggaeton to panty-removing funk.

      Golden outdoor memory: “My first outdoor event was the Monsters of Rock, which introduced me to how they can have so many amazing artists at a festival. The Lollapalooza fest with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Ministry, Jim Rose Circus, and Red Hot Chili Peppers was such an amazing show. But the top winner has to go to the Flaming Lips at the Pemberton Festival. Those guys know how to put on a super-amazing show, both musically and prop-wise. Their dancing mascots, beach balls, and endless confetti cannons, all set in the beautiful Pemberton Valley, made for a moment not to be forgotten.”

      Stoked about seeing: “I’m really excited to see Pretty Lights! In the world of electronic music, things can get pretty boring and repetitive. His music is always pushing things a little bit, while still maintaining true to harmonies, melodies, and song structure. Look forward to seeing how he brings this live to the stage.”

      Fine Times.

      Matthew Moldowan is the crisply dressed vocalist for Fine Times, a band that makes your average dance-pop act look and sound like a bunch of tin-eared trogs.

      Golden outdoor memory: “South by Southwest this past March. Five days of playing and watching shows ended up taking a side stage to six hours of hang time with the people of bus stop #705. Our last two nights in town were capped with three-plus-hour waits for the city bus back to our place. And, by what means I’m not sure, we ended up waiting with the exact same dozen or so, completely random assortment of people on both nights. The conversations we had were amazing, though mostly unprintable. However, the standout moment came on the first night, when our bus finally came into eyesight, only to get locked in by an errant car that had suddenly thrown on its flashers and parked in front of it. The collective rage of the group at that moment was palpable, such that when the guy next to us yelled, ‘Yo, man, move that shit,’ everyone immediately took the cue and began chanting in unison, ‘Move that shit,’ until the guy moved his shit. That line’s remained a staple in the band since.”

      Stoked about seeing: “Jurassic 5. Because their quality control captivates my party patrol.”

      Yukon Blonde.

      Jeff Innes sings and plays guitar with Yukon Blonde, whose sophomore album, Tiger Talk, has left folks wondering who gets more play in the band’s tour van: the Buzzcocks, Fleet Foxes, or the Flaming Lips.

      Golden outdoor memory: “It has to be the Flaming Lips at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver, in ’07 or ’08. I’d never cried at a concert until then, and I really feel that it may have influenced the way that I look at rock ’n’ roll. A close second is Arcade Fire at Coachella in 2005. That whole festival changed my mind about live music in general and is definitely one of the main reasons I’m in Yukon Blonde. My best friend and then-bandmate met his future wife there and went to South America with her. I phoned Graham [Yukon Blonde drummer Graham Jones] from there, super-inspired to start something new. But also, the festival and just my attitude then was just right. Actually, that’s my favourite concert.”

      Stoked about seeing: “I’m eager to see Band of Horses, of course. But I’m really excited to see Dan [Mangan] the most. He’s such a wonderful performer and now he’s a dad, so I’m wondering if that has inspired his passion to elevate in some way. Every time I see Dan, he just inspires me. It’s as though the road and the general trials and tribulations of being in a touring band are just pebbles beneath his feet. He doesn’t sweat that shit. Off-stage, cool as a cucumber. When he plays, he’s as hot as a jalapeño! Ha!”