After six years, the return of Pemberton Music Festival held at the base of Mt. Currie in beautiful Pemberton B.C. Canada, July 16-20, 2014, welcomed over 20,000 attendees to Canada’s largest music, camping and comedy festival. Under new ownership by New Orleans based HUKA Entertainment, Pemberton Music Festival pulled out all of the stops with a dramatically redesigned festival landscape, imaginative art installations and activities with a staked lineup of nearly 100 artists.
Reminiscing about the first Pemberton Music Festival held in 2008, then owned and operated by Live Nation, the festival has been dramatically reorganized by HUKA Entertainment, The Village of Pemberton and land partners the Sunstone Group and the Lil’wat Nation. It is interesting to witness the near demise, revamp and evolution of a festival that most of us had written off, with the first Pemberton Music Festival turning into a logistical nightmare lacking security, staff, parking and ample facilities. HUKA Entertainment should be applauded for their impeccable attention to detail, wild creativity, superb lineup and logistical planning.
Pemberton was transformed into a musical playground – an all ages summer camp of sorts where attendees could play in the adult sized Somersby Ball Pit, ride down the custom built waterslide, zip line over the festival, rip around on ATV’s, shred at the skate park with host Tyler The Creator and even river raft. Familiar art installations from the Do Lab, Trippy Tree’s and Funkitonforms stepped up the visual and interactive art for a Canadian festival, providing everything from shade structures to light shows.
The six enormous stages dazzled crowds by the performances of Nine Inch Nails, Outkast, Soundgarden, Kendric Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Justice, Grimes, Empire Of The Sun, Blondie, Girl Talk, Deadmau5, Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, RL Grime, Randy Newman, Bob Saget, The Trailer Park Boys…the list goes on and on and on! Pemberton didn’t miss a beat with their festival lineup spanning the musical genres of modern and indie rock to hip hop, rap, electronic and comedy. Artists were booked to play anywhere from one to two hours, giving ample time to catch everyone you wanted to see with little overlap as shows were staggered typically every fifteen minutes to half hour. The production value on all six stages was a visual and sonic masterpiece, facilitating artists to bring their own production designs to the festival. Girl Talk, Empire Of The Sun, Deadmau5 and The Flaming Lips brought their larger than life psychedelic stage designs, dancers and performance art. Stages were closed and re-opened at various times to allow for custom stage design, encouraging crowds to explore the festival grounds and all six stages.
Performance highlights included Sound Garden who we were without a doubt a major lineup highlight, Nine Inch Nails, Grimes, Young The Giant, Hey Rosetta, Wild Belle, Baauer, Justice, Snoopdogg, The Boom Booms, Outkast, Griz, Blondie, Frank Ocean, Gold and Youth, Girl Talk, Sloan and Deadmau5. It was hard to ignore that the electronic sets were completely packed wall to wall and several rock performances were left to play to sparse crowds of die-hard fans. As much as we are fans of electronic music, we couldn’t help but feel slightly confused over the lack of people at many of the midday rock sets. A major topic over the past year that has popped up again and again is the question if rock music is dead? In all honestly the answer is no, and it will never be, however you could witness firsthand the massive shift in the genre popularity contest.
The tragic and unfortunate death of 21 year old Nick Phongsavath on Friday, July 18, 2014, most definitely saddened the festival mood, with news travelling quickly through social media within hours of the incident. Many took the time to reflect and celebrate the life of the fellow festival member and festival organizers and police were quick to issue public statements surrounding the incident. On July 22, 2014, foul play was officially ruled out after initial rumours of homicide. Regardless of the heavy RCMP, paramedic, harm reduction and security presence on site and increased surveillance following the death, our hearts go out to Phongsavath’s friends and family for their loss.
Speaking with several campers the largest complaint surrounded road access, parking and shuttle service to transport campers into the festival on Friday. Unfortunately the infrastructure (one road in and out) does not help the onslaught of attendees arriving on the Friday afternoon and frustrations surrounding traffic congestion and wait times are understandable. The opening of the festival grounds on Thursday, July 17, was a great idea to encourage ticket holders to arrive early, however the crowds arrived in droves mid-day Friday. Over-priced water at four dollars a bottle, high ATM fees and liquor prices nearing ten dollars a drink were further complaints from the crowds, however the liquor selection was impressive including beer, cider, wine and cocktails.
The VIP areas were impressive with raised viewing areas, comfortable seating and private bars. The beer gardens were thoughtfully laid out with one near every stage with almost zero wait times. Staffs were incredibly polite and friendly and the beer gardens were never too full as there were many to choose from. The layout in the GA camping was some of the best seen to date. Clearly marked zones and roads that were well lit complete with woodchip paths to keep the dust down were a huge upgrade from the first Pemberton where campers clustered into a field with little direction or pathways to find your way to and from the festival grounds.
Aside from the incredible line up, logistics and production, Pemberton felt quiet at times. The festival grounds hosted just over 20,000 attendees and could be nearly tripled next year. The festival site is enormous and with six stages and countless activities we can only hope attendance will grow year after year. The rise in music festival popularity is giving many festivals a run for their money as competition grows, and with all things aside, Pemberton Music Festival is going to be a hard one to beat.
Published via Festheads ❤