At this point in the summer, how is anyone who attends music festivals not flat broke or in the hospital? Surely no festivalgoers in our province have $300 left in their bank accounts for tickets—and enough serotonin left in their brains—to pull off another weekend of partying.
Legions of people who, apparently, have endless supplies of money, insatiable appetites for flower crowns, and Andre the Giant–esque tolerances for drugs and alcohol swarmed the opening day of the Squamish Valley Music Festival. (Noticeably absent were about 80 lightweights from last weekend’s Boonstock Music Festival in Penticton.)
But how long would they last? Walking along a serene, winding trail to the fest’s entrance, a shirtless fellow in a clown mask wiped out, already too inebriated to walk at 2 p.m. If this was how the day was to go, the medical staff hopefully had numerous stomach pumps and enough activated charcoal to power a locomotive onsite.
This year, the annual blowout features an expanded site to make room for more revellers and more brands looking to “activate” through the power of event marketing. To give you an idea of how big the new festival is, if you smoke half a pack of cigarettes a day (okay, a full pack) and your legs are still sore after playing soccer with a group of 12-year-olds five days ago, it takes about 20 minutes to walk from the Stawamus Stage on one side of the grounds to the main Tantalus Stage on the other. (Or 15 minutes if you don’t stop for a smoke.)
This means you have to make some tough decisions because you can’t possibly see all the acts. I’m sorry Foster the People, it’s not my fault you were far away and your set overlapped with the guy who released one of the greatest rap albums of all time, the guy who played this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, and the DJ whose luscious, flowing mane has its own Twitter parody account (@TommyTrashsHair).
“Are you ready to get groovy? I can smell something in the air,” asked Lykke Li, the first of the festival’s heavy hitters to take the Stawamus Stage, before performing “Sadness Is a Blessing”. Surprisingly, she turned out to be the day’s most vocal proponent of weed. Shortly into her outstanding set the effortlessly stylish Swede asked, “Can someone pass that joint on-stage, please?”
Someone obliged and handed her a massive one. She took a pull off it and placed it on a keyboard to save for later. Li Lykke Timotej Svensson Zachrisson! I’m not sure how things go down at music festivals in Sweden, but here in Squamish, that is called bogarting a joint and it is not a cool thing to do.
Nas, who was playing right after our pot queen, received the second most shout-outs from Li. She kept going on about how excited she was to see the half-man, half-amazing-MC and even dedicated her set to him before “Youth Knows No Pain”. However, unless Elon Musk installed a hyperloop for the talent to travel between stages, it is unlikely she caught the legendary rapper.
“If you’ve heard of my first album, Illmatic, from 20 years ago, put your hands in the air,” said Nasty Nas early in his set. If you didn’t oblige, that was okay, as he was about to perform it in its entirety. With upward of 14 women sitting on men’s shoulders, Nas reached the third track of the album, the chorus of which is likely a motto for many a festivalgoer: “Life’s a bitch and then you die/That’s why we get high/’Cuz you never know when you’re gonna go.”
The 40-year-old rapper burned through Illmatic in 30 minutes, ending with “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”. He then dug into his vast catalogue, and after “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” he earnestly told us, “You know I love you.” Shucks, we were a little unsure, Nas, so it was nice to hear you actually say it.
Sure, you could hang around and hear another 20 minutes of classic rap, but there was a DJ with a fantastic head of hair playing at the dance music stage. There wasn’t anyone there when he started, but Tommy Trash’s locks looked great. As it got darker, though, the lure of bass drops and samples of Lil Jon screaming “Turn down for what” proved irresistible and people gradually fist-pumped their way there, even though Bruno Mars was about to take the main stage.
If some schlub read Bruno Mars lyrics off a sheet of paper, they’d come across as cornball pickup lines. However, his undeniable charisma, talent, and likability means every lady he drops one of those lines on would drop her panties. Rocking a fedora and the best smile you’ve ever seen, he opened with “Moonshine”, “Natalie”, then “Treasure”. Thankfully, his outstanding backup band, the Hooligans, abided by the age-old rule of one fedora per crew.
While performing “Our First Time”, Mars segued into versions of “Pony” by Ginuwine and the “Ignition” remix by R. Kelly, and it proved to be the grind-the-person-next-to-you moment of the festival. He followed that up with “Marry You”, which was the lift-the-nearest-female-onto-your-shoulders moment of the day. After a piano interlude, the global pop superstar returned with a new fedora to end with “Grenade” and “Just the Way You Are”, the every-woman-in-Squamish-was-feeling-beautiful-while-singing-along moment.
Then it was seemingly all over and gradually people began to file out of the festival. Rookie mistake! Mars hadn’t played “Locked Out of Heaven” yet. And if you weren’t already sold on how talented this guy is, he elected to play a lengthy drum solo intro to his biggest hit.
Watching Mars sing, dance, and charm the shit out of everyone, it was not hard to see why people are proclaiming him the next Michael Jackson. Thankfully, there were no King of Pop (and Pepsi!) comparisons to be made when he was showered with sparks during the show’s final number, “Gorilla”, as his hair did not catch fire.
Fittingly, the best song Mars will ever appear on, “Bubble Butt” by Major Lazer, played over the speakers as we booked it to the Blueprint Arena to catch Boys Noize.
“Are you ready to get turnt up?” a shirtless bro near me asked his friend. Everyone was, and the dance stage was now officially the kind of raging fucking party you don’t ever want your parents to know you were at.
The festival’s EDM headliner, Boys Noize, was in his LED plinth-booth and dropping an aggressive set that included his track “Excuse Me”, his remix of Danny Brown’s “Smokin & Drinkin”, and House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. Guess which one of those songs received the most ecstatic response from all the shirtless musclemen?
At one point during his set a woman asked to borrow my lighter. I later spotted her and a group of friends, who had all joined arms and were doing a Rockettes–style leg-kick dance routine. What in God’s name were they smoking? And why didn’t they offer to share? Lykke Li, I blame you for this!
Walking back to your car along the winding trail, you could hear campers hooting and hollering. It was 2 a.m., but the partying would continue well into morning. Sure, they were having fun now, but this was only Day 1. Let’s see who doesn’t have an overdraft and is still standing come Sunday evening.
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in july 2014