Heading out to the Squamish Valley Music Festival this weekend? It might be prudent to ask yourself this question before you do: “Am I a Woodstock-type person or am I more of an Altamont kind of guy?” Ancient history or not, an archetypal narrative was established when these two pioneering outdoor concert events were held back in 1969. It still holds true to this day.
On the one hand, Woodstock was the spontaneous explosion of youth culture hitting critical mass. It was a true tribal gathering, like a convention of Aquarian children from all corners of the Americas announcing their collective vision of a shimmering new tomorrow, played out to the bright, cutting-edge sounds of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and, of course, Sha Na Na.
The message? The road here will be long and treacherous, and by day two you will be covered in shit, but who cares? Come get your tits out, don’t take the brown acid, and the world is ours.
The Altamont Speedway Free Festival happened four months later. As history has comprehensively recorded, the Rolling Stones wanted a piece of the revolutionary action and hired Jack Ruby’s lawyer to make it happen (nothing ominous about that). But the hastily assembled concert was a violent disaster, played out to the dark, cutting-edge sounds of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and—if they’d actually gotten on-stage instead of declaring the whole thing a “bummer” and taking off like a bunch of big, hairy cowards—the Grateful Dead.
The message? The road here will be long and treacherous, the road back even worse, you’ll be covered in more than just shit, you silly fuckin’ hippie, and everything’s a screaming, murder-soaked nightmare on Earth. Especially if you’re speeding and you pull a gun on a Hells Angel.
See the difference there?
If you’re temperamentally more attracted to the latter scenario—and to be fair, the idea of crazed bikers beating on the Jefferson Airplane isn’t really that awful, on paper—then this week’s wingding at Squamish probably isn’t for you. If there’s one thing that the concert industry has really improved on since Mick Jagger stood there feebly begging everyone to “just get along”, it’s the part where you might get stabbed to death.
In fact, this three-time veteran can tell you that—beneath the serene gaze of the Chief—the Squamish Valley Music Festival (running August 8 to 10) is a paragon of sensible organization, healthy living, and all-around family-oriented good vibes. You want clean facilities? Great sound? Exotic foods made from the finest ingredients? It’s all there, along with a bill that swings from the brainy Afro-pop of Vampire Weekend to the fuck-me-on-the-spot EDM of the Funk Hunters.
They also happen to have a remarkably luxurious and comfortable kind of grass out there at the Logger Sports Ground and Hendrickson Fields, where the event will once again take place. It might not seem important now, but wait until day three and you’re looking for a comfortable place to rest your veggie-Thai-food-cart-enturbulated ass.
At Squamish, everywhere is comfortable, a state of affairs that all began when some freethinking longhairs took their electric rock music and defined the possible heaven and the real hell of this festival business almost 50 years ago. That whiff of something evil isn’t entirely missing, meanwhile: it’s just relegated to the stage, and largely in the vicinity of Queens of the Stone Age, Divine Fits, and Basketball.
And perhaps in the cloud forming around your veggie-Thai-food-cart-enturbulated ass, but that’s a whole other thing.