Mumford & Sons bring Squamish Valley Music Festival to an electric close
At Loggers Sports Grounds and Centennial Fields on Sunday, August 9
The clouds that covered the Loggers Sports Grounds and Centennial Fields Saturday mercifully parted on Sunday, giving Squamish Valley Music Festival fans a quadruple dose of vitamin D. At the end of the day, folk-rock favourites Mumford & Sons would deliver a charged up performance, the band’s first in B.C. since the release of its electric-guitar–heavy new LP, Wilder Mind.
First up, though, was Kamloops quartet Gleneagle, which won its slot through the fan-voted Bud’s Up contest. Few people made it to the Garibaldi stage to taste their meat-and-potatoes country rock, but the hootenanny was enjoyed by a handful of die-hards holding neon signs proclaiming their love for guitarist Bryden Scott. The Budweisers hoisted by fans in the front no doubt helped the set go down extra-smooth.
Toronto’s Bahamas was the big-stage entree at Tantalus, with sweaty leader Afie Jurvanen driving his band through breezy pop cuts likes “Caught Me Thinking” while facing the full force of the afternoon sun. The group’s minions included flower-crown children, proud geeks in Hawaiian-print Star Wars hats, and a balloon version of the Tic Tac–shaped cyclops from Despicable Me.
Decked out in a black-on-black ensemble, Jurvanen at one point asked if his sunglasses made him look like Roy Orbison or a total bad boy. He answered his own question with “I’m just feeling like a cool mother-hecking guy” before laying down a too-tame cover of D’Angelo’s “One Mo’ Gin”.
Since rebranding as Willa, Vancouver-based solo artist Ali Milner has dropped jazzy textures for more synth-based tones. Her Garibaldi Stage performance had her singing about being in love with a criminal with a good handle on his pistol. The stomping “Stay the Night” was carefree and catchy, but a lax attempt at “Tainted Love” hung heavy in the air.
On a semi-related note, can we put a moratorium on winking redos of dirty R & B classics? The end of Elle King’s set over on the Stawamus Stage found her transforming Khia’s famously filthy “My Neck, My Back” into a nauseatingly syrupy country redo. The arrangement was about the only thing cleaned up for the cover, though, as the skeleton–jumpsuit–clad singer warned parents to cover their kids’ “fuckin’ ears” for the sex jam.
Damaging eardrums at Tantalus was the amp-cranking Royal Blood, which melted the Tantalus crowd with its high-voltage power boogie. Many were knocked on their asses by the U.K. duo, especially during self-loathing crushers like “One Trick Pony”. Less potent was “Loose Change”, which walked the line between the missed-by-no-one Audioslave and knuckleheaded nu-metal riffery.
If you’re obsessed with your Fitbit, you probably noticed early on that the march between the two main stages, a 15-minute hike under the best of conditions, had you hitting your recommended 10,000 steps a day in no time. All that calorie burning went straight out the window the moment you hit the food-truck area, where you could nab yourself poutine in a highly dignified biodegradable dog bowl.
Buzzing back at Stawamus was Robert DeLong, a Seattle-based solo artist who worked the crowd with an arsenal of video-game equipment. When he wasn’t dismantling a drum kit or live-manipulating his vocals with sequencers, he used an old Wii controller to trigger various vintage arcade blips. Fittingly, DeLong leapt around the stage Frogger-style on “Don’t Wait Up”.
Though mellower in its approach, Sweden’s First Aid Kit would follow this on the Stawamus Stage with a 24-karat set of stellar folk. There’s a near-perfect quality to the vocal melodies of Klara and Johanna Söderberg, and the siblings were a treat to watch as they harmonized shoulder-to-shoulder on “The Lion’s Roar” and “Stay Gold”.
Sublime as First Aid Kit was, Klara added a bit of cynicism to the mix on “Master Pretender”, a song that she noted was about “growing up and realizing that life can be pretty darn shitty sometimes”. Out in the crowd, a trio of toddlers skipped rope with an unfurled fuchsia ribbon as their father, draped in a Swedish flag, kept watch.
There’s definitely something admirable about how Mother Mother can fire off crowd-pleasers (“The Sticks” or post-Pixies “O My Heart”), but it can come across as too well-rehearsed. Briefly abandoning auto-pilot mode, though, mohawked frontman Ryan Guldemond walked off the Tantalus Stage for a minute and brought back a blue bucket full of projectiles. “These are water balloons,” he said, hurling a handful of welcome wet-bombs into the crowd as the sun beat down.
Kaytranada seemed to be playing to the dinnertime crowd during his DJ set at the Blueprint Arena. He proffered chilled-out streams of tracks by the Internet and Thundercat, but the audience mostly chatted while sipping drinks in the gated beer garden.
In a heartbreaking bit of scheduling, both the Kills and Alabama Shakes played at the same time, and at opposite sides of the Squamish site. Festivalgoers were forced to choose which modern blues they wanted to hear, and few went with the Kills on the Stawamus Stage. That said, Alison Mosshart, Jamie Hince, and a couple of leather-clad percussionists came out swinging, delivering face-melting fuzz and raw animal aggression on tracks like “U R A Fever” and “Heart Is A Beating Drum” for the couple-hundred kids camped out by the barricade.
A couple of clicks away on the Tantalus Stage, thousands revelled in the rapturous sounds of Alabama Shakes. Singer Brittany Howard’s stunning performance may well have been the best of the weekend, the audience putty in her hands during songs like the super-soulful “I’m Yours”. During “You Ain’t Alone” the singer put down her sea-foam–coloured SG and furiously wagged a finger while singing “Are you scared to dance for me?” Given the swaying bodies on the field, the answer was obvious.
Then it was time for folks to stake their ground at the Tantalus Stage for Day 3 headliners Mumford & Sons.
Earlier this year, the U.K. folk-rock quartet made just as many headlines for ditching its Dickensian fashion sense as it did for going full-blown electric on Wilder Mind. For Squamish Fest, Marcus Mumford was dressed in a tasteful button-up shirt and jeans; bassist Ted Dwayne offered a contemporary take on Marlon Brando motorcycle chic (but ended up looking about as rebellious as the tam-topped guy from the Barenaked Ladies); guitarist Winston Marshall went GQ with a fine-fitting suit; and keyboardist Ben Lovett apparently has a newfound affinity for sleeveless jean jackets.
More importantly, though, the group delivered a mix of new and old for the faithful, starting off with Wilder Mind’s “Snake Eyes”. Following that atmospheric opener, frontman Mumford shouted, “We fuckin’ love Canada, man! We came here for a party. You up for it?” This was the cue to kick into the group’s patented, stomp-heavy crowdpleasers, including “I Will Wait”, “Below My Feet”, and “Awake My Soul”.
Mumford & Sons’ two-hour set dipped in momentum from time to time. After wondering how “Dr. Drake’s” set was the night before, Mumford and the band drifted into the listless, down-tempo “Ghosts That We Knew”. Evidently aware of the drop in energy, the frontman then announced, “Let’s stop dicking around.”
Highlights near the end of the band’s set included a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest”, which had the group joined by members of First Aid Kit and Bear’s Den, and a massive run-through of “Little Lion Man” during the encore. The latter’s chorus famously features the line “I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I, my dear,” but Mumford & Sons did anything but while bringing the Squamish Valley Music Festival to an electric close.
Aug 11, 2015 at 4:52pm
Royal Blood, WOW! Can't wait for them to produce another album. Their show rivaled Of Monsters and Men and Mumford as the best of Squamish for me. Too bad not many people saw it, but those who did I am sure left even bigger fans of Royal Blood!