Wow. Just wow. Having never been to a music festival before, I really had no idea what to expect, but those three (two?) words sum up my reaction pretty well.
When Live at Squamish was first announced, I was impressed by the lineup. Then when they added my favourite musician, I knew I had to go. I was fortunate enough to win tickets (they seemed to be giving them away like hotcakes... I guess to spread the word, since it was the first year?) and gathered up a posse of pals to help make the weekend unforgettable.
The first day was incredibly nice, weather-wise, and the backdrop for the festival was just gorgeous. It started a bit slow, as the first few acts we saw were... mediocre. First up was Step Twelve, a drums & bass duo. Musically, they were quite good, and at times you even forgot he was playing the bass. And an electric mandolin is a plus to any set. But the guys vocals left a little to be desired; it was especially noticeable when they covered "Baba O'Reilly" to middling success -- it was a decent cover, especially considering there were just the two of them, but again, the vocals is where it came apart.
The next band was Kostaman on the main stage, a reggae band from Whistler. Now, there is nothing wrong with a band from anywhere wanting to play reggae. But there is something wrong when they go out of their was to appear Jamaican. With an abundance of red, yellow & green and the lead singer putting on a fake accent (which he kept slipping in and out of) the whole thing just seemed way too forced. Which made the medley of cover songs at the end seem less of a tribute and more of adding to the overcompensation.
But soon after, the fest kicked in to high gear with Said The Whale. Playing a mix of their older and newer songs, they brought people flocking to the main stage with their usual energy and upbeat stage presence. I am not too sure why I was surprised to hear "Love is Art/Sleep Through Fire", but was certainly glad since it is one of my favourites. A new one, which I am going to randomly call "Information Age" was slipped in the set, and they ended with "Camilo (The Magician)" and "Goodnight Moon", which I don't think I will ever tire of hearing live. It was pretty awesome seeing them play a festival like this, and they certainly delivered. And seemed to be as excited to be there as the crowd was.
From there it was a mad dash over to the Serf stage to catch Michael Bernard Fitzgerald. I hadn't seen him live before, and had only heard a couple songs off The Peak & R3, and while I had liked those, I had no idea what he would be like live. He turned out to be amazing. His set began just as Said The Whale ended, so we arrived just as he -- up on stage alone with just an acoustic guitar -- was solving his looping problems. Which he immediately put to good use on "Movie Life", doing a multi-part harmony with... himself; looping the line, then singing on top of it over and over and over. It was a really cool effect. The song then led into an amazing cover song medley that included: "Thong Song", "I Like Big Butts", "Waterfalls", "My Humps", "Get Low" & capping it off with Justin Bieber. It was as hilariously awesome as it sounds. To wrap up the set, he was joined by Zach Gray (The Zolas) and David Vertesi (Hey Ocean!) for them to stomp-stomp-clap along to "Brand New Spaces". His set was probably one of my favourites of the fest. Definitely the biggest surprise, and I am absolutely going to go see him live again next time he swings through Vancouver.
After him, also on the Serf stage was We Are The City. It seems like I've seen them live about once a month this year, but every time they play, then just keep getting better. It is always cool to see a young band grow. The set was, as usual, great, and they threw in all three new songs they've been playing live of late. I've always marvelled at the intensity of Andy's drumming, and this time was no different; he even broke a stick at one point, with the tip flying off into the crowd! Another great moment was when a group of annoying girls were talking loudly during a quiet part of a song, and Cayne (who was pretty much right in front of them) just looked over, paused and gave them a look until they embarrassedly stop talking. Though it was kind of bittersweet, as with David leaving, there is a chance this was the last time I'll see the three of them playing together.
Since there was so much to see and do, I have decided to split the weekend into four parts. Coming up: Day one, part two: Hollerado, Matt Good & Devo. And I have posted the weekends pics on my flickr, check them out!