At 1:20 p.m., the Squamish Valley Music Festival app sent out a push notification posing a question: You charged up for Day 2? You likely were if you immediately knew that was a reference to the Drake and Meek Mill feud that’s consumed our lives these past few weeks.
For many, the whole Squamish Valley Music Festival this year was Drake plus 80 or so other acts they didn’t know, didn’t care about, or forgot about years ago. Who even knew that guy from the Killers was still kicking around? I figured his guylinered ass had long been relegated to greeting hefty conventioneers at some dilapidated Las Vegas casino like Circus Circus.
Yeah, you probably noted a few shit-hot rap, EDM, and banjo dudes when the bill was unveiled a few months back. But all our eyes kept going back to that one name at the top: Aubrey Graham, he who started from the bottom and overcame his beginnings to teach us all to YOLO. Drizzy, he who thoroughly trounced Meek Mill in the Great Rap Beef of 2015.
Champagne Papi, he who followed that up with a performance at last week’s OVO Fest where he proceeded to piss on Meek Mill’s grave then have an afterparty so great multiple people were shot. Wheels or whatever the fuck his name was on Degrassi, he who couldn’t be hotter right now and is undeniably the biggest thing in rap music.
But his performance was hours away and there were non-Drake acts of note to see.
Luckily, there was plenty of festival fun to be had in the meantime—like binge-drinking in a Pokémon costume—despite overcast skies and the ever-present threat of heavy showers. Thankfully the music festival gods would never dream of fucking with the 6 God. But would they smile upon your cellphone’s battery life too?
Kicking off shortly after 4 p.m., soul-revival outfit Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings delighted those over at the Tantalus Stage. If you are a fan of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse or “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson—which I’m pretty sure everybody on the planet is—be aware that many of the Dap-Kings played on those songs.
However, as good as the band is, the group took a backseat to inimitable Miss Sharon Jones, who put that “Evolution of Dance” YouTube video your grandmother sends you every year to shame. After informing us that we’d be getting “None of that twerking”, she went on to demonstrate the boogaloo, the jerk, the pony, the twist, the funky chicken, and more.
The crowd ate it up and attempted to mimic her moves with varying degrees of success—I told you she was inimitable.
All this was especially impressive considering the 59-year-old soul woman recently beat cancer. Jones addressed this between songs and even during “Get Up and Get Out”. As things ended with an inspiring performance of “100 Days, 100 Nights”, it stopped raining, the clouds parted, and the sun actually began to shine down on the festival.
Actually, that didn’t happen and it began to rain harder towards the end of Jones’ show. But just go with it, okay. I’m trying to be fucking poetic or something here.
Apparently Aussie duo Peking Duk playing EDM and Top 40 club bangers at the Blueprint Arena can make the rain stop though. Still, crowds were somewhat sparse at the festival’s dance music stage; apparently, for some, 6 p.m. is too early to turn up.
“We came all the way from Australia. Let’s fucking rave,” came a command from behind the LED DJ plinth.
Female festivalgoers were hoisted onto shoulders, wrists were flicked, and the bass was dropped. Then, to demonstrate Peking Duk’s total control over us, we all laid in the mud at the behest of the lovable dude bros so they could play “Sandstorm” for “the ultimate tribute to Darude.” (People who check their dignity at the festival gates appear to have a lot more fun at these things than the rest of us.)
As I ran off, one of the Duks gushed, “You cunts are bananas and we love you.” If you’re unfamiliar with the culture Down Under, this is the highest praise an Australian can bestow upon you.
Anticipation was high among the large, high crowd over at the Tantalus Stage for the pretty motherfucker who reps Harlem. All the bad bitches in Squamish—and I’m sure a few good bitches too—jockeyed their way upfront as two lesser members of the A$AP Mob, Nast and Twelvyy, took the stage and started with “Hella Hoes”. Then the stylish A$AP Rocky and his impressive gold grill appeared and did “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)” then “M’$” from his latest album.
“How the fuck y’all feeling out there? It looks like y’all came to party,” Rocky astutely noted, before drawing attention to an R.I.P. Meek sign that someone in the audience was holding. The next song, “L$D”, got dedicated to all us trippy motherfuckers and a sing-along ensued.
Then the show got weird. After virtually every song A$AP Rocky commanded us all to show our titties. True, women flashing their breasts to rappers is a time-honoured festival tradition, but this time it got a little too lecherous. (I guess some performers check their dignity at the festival gates too.)
Near the end of his set, we got the bombastic “Wild for the Night”, and we were pounded with beats produced by Skrillex as well blasts of confetti and smoke.
The only way to follow that up, obviously was further requests for “Titties!” and “Can I please see some more titties?” Clearly, Rocky is not an ass man.
Back at the dance stage, A-Trak was on the decks and giving us even more A$AP Rocky and Skrillex tracks—people kept their shirts on this time, though. Once again, there was a pretty mediocre turnout. Especially so considering the guy has been a world-class talent since he was winning DMC DJ battles at 15.
Now 33, A-Trak’s skills are still untouchable,. But despite his immense talent and credentials (he runs Fool’s Gold Records, and is one half of Duck Sauce, which is responsible for that “Barbra Streisand” song) who could think about dancing to his remix of Alesso’s “Cool” when Drake was imminent?
Okay, deep breathes now everybody. This is really happening. Get your cellphones ready. It’s likely only got a 20 percent charge at this point in the day but that’ll be enough.
After a video introduction, Drake took the stage and began with a brief version “Legend” followed by “Trophies”, this to the delight of everyone in attendance.
“Oh, I see y’all charged up. I go by Drake. I’m the Canadian guy that’s making all the American guys mad, ” he remarked before performing “Headlines”.
Dressed all in black, and grinning ear-to-ear the whole time, Drizzy rapped and crooned and was charming and engaging as shit. In addition to giving us offerings from his deep catalogue of hits like “Energy”, “Hold on We’re Going Home”, and “The Motto” he also performed ones he’s guested on like ILoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday” and Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter”.
The biggest treat of the evening is when he performed “Back to Back”. This is only the third time the absolutely devastating diss track has been performed live. A testament to its power is it hasn’t been out two weeks, but everyone there knew all the words, especially the haymaker lines. Christ, the sort of the nationalistic pride this song has inspired among certain people is typically reserved for Olympic hockey tournaments.
“Do my ladies feel like singing a little more?” Drake asked, even though the answer was obvious. “That’s what festivals are for. You gotta sing the songs.”
Yes, yes the ladies did. Pretty much the only thing you can hate on Drizzy for is his ability to completely mesmerize every woman in attendance, and most fellas too. Seriously, faces were all glazed over as the crowd sang and danced along to every, single song. It’s impossible to comprehend what would have happened if Drake commanded everyone to take their tops off.
At one point, as rappers tend to do, the MC divided the crowd in two and tried to get both sides to turn on each other. We were competing from Drake’s affection as each side took turns singing “Started From The Bottom”. It was a close decision but the left side was declared the winner. That was my side and I’m pretty sure I was on the one who pushed us over the top. You’re welcome, left side.
Before the right side started attacking us with discarded glow sticks and empty mickey bottles, Drake united and conquered the audience by encouraging us all to sing “I was runnin’ though the 6 with my woes” for “Know Yourself”. This unforgettable show ended like it began, with him, fittingly, performing “Legend”.
How do you follow that one up? A raging EDM party back at the Blueprint Arena with Porter Robinson certainly works. It was suddenly mission impossible finding space to dance though. Dance addicts and LED-encrusted robots with laser pointer fingers on stilts crammed the joint, as the young producer played euphoric numbers like “Sad Machine” and “Divinity” late into the evening.
If you’re weren’t at Squamish Festival on Day 2, and are reading this, it’s too late. You’re going to have to settle for the Instagram photos and Snapchats of your friends. And even then, you’ll still only see a small fraction of what you missed out on as there’s no chance in hell anyone’s cellphone lasted the whole day on a single charge.