Viva the Vibes of the Squamish Valley Music Festival

photo by Jonathan Evans Photography

Well, it took me one hour to get from my apartment in Mount Pleasant to the Lions Gate Bridge. At this rate, I would be getting to Squamish Valley Music Festival sometime tomorrow. But, thank the Sun – my god is the sun, by the way – traffic cleared up and it was smooth sailing all the way to the magical land of Squamish.

I strolled into the festival grounds to the always pleasing sounds of Said the Whale singing “Loveless” in the distance. I love this tune. This line has always stood out for me – “How could I love you less / Now that I know you more?” It’s a sad thing when that happens, but alas, there’s always more love around the corner. They followed that up with “I Love You”. Awww. I love you too. Love love love.

By the time I arrived at the Stawamus stage, the Whale had swam away (note: No Harpoonist nor Axe Murderer was spotted in the area so I think it got away fine…) and Dragonette had flown in. I caught a few tunes by the electro-pop trio from Toronto as their pounding, sugary beats somehow managed to get the sweaty people even sweatier. They sang a song about a guitar. With a guitar. It’s true.

L.A.’s Family of the Year (no, not the Lohans) treated fans at the Garibaldi stage with their brand of ultra-positive indie pop. They kicked things off with their well-known hit “The Stairs”. They asked us if we had a best friend. The vast majority of us acknowledged with the concert “yes” – that is, “Woooo!” Well, this next song was for best friends everywhere. Awww. Thanks guys. Love love love.

It was a beautiful day. There was an inordinate amount of beautiful people. Absolutely beautiful scenery. But something was missing – I didn’t have the festival “vibe” yet, y’know? That “Man, this is awesome. And there’s so much more of it coming up. I’m hot, the music’s great, this overpriced beer is hitting the spot, and… it’s just awesome.” Yeah, that. I didn’t feel that.

And then Jurassic 5 played the Garibaldi stage.

I’m thinking back and I don’t think I’ve ever watched a full hip hop set. I’ve seen bits of Snoop at festivals, but that’s about it. I hear Dan Mangan found the “ON” switch at the Stawamus stage; Jurassic 5 found it for Garibaldi and flipped it on like only J5 can.

Clouds moved in just as J5 started, and… wait, when I say clouds, I’m not talking about rain here. I’m talking about a thick, blue, skunky haze of sweetness. The L.A. hip hop veterans kicked it all off with “Back 4 U”, reminding us (as if we forgot) that “We came here tonight just to celebrate.” Even Darth Vader couldn’t help the good vibes pouring out from the stage, boogieing down on a buddy’s shoulders. J5 was “In The House” and everybody was invited.

photo by Jonathan Evans Photography

They taught us to “Improvise”. They taught us that a turntable can be a guitar. They taught us that you can wear a drum machine around your neck. They us how to shake mountains with bass. They taught us that Lakers are always better than the Celtics (sorry, Celtics guy). They taught us to take it back to the concrete streets (“Concrete Schoolyard”). They taught us a lot of things, and we were excellent students. From playing the open/close fist-of-freedom game to the beat, to kick-starting and hopping on our own rumbling metacycles, Cut Chemist, Mark 7even and company led us as if we were schoolchildren on a rope.

I can’t say the same for Young the Giant. While most Squamishers were at Macklemore and Ryan Lewis getting tips on second-hand shopping, I decided to give the California rock band a chance. Dusk was quickly taking over, and whatever buzz people happened to be on was pretty much in full swing. Though the people-watching in the Garibaldi stands was entertainment enough (like seeing a bunch of people run into another bunch of people who they thought were actually another bunch of people – they were as confused as you are after reading that – or witnessing a few cardboard robots get busted trying to sneak into the beer garden… Nice try, ladybots), Young the Giant just didn’t do it for me. But instead of running to join the throng at Macklemore, I decided to give a Vancouver band I’d heard great things about a shot.

I’m talking about The Boom Booms… and I’m not done talking about The Boom Booms.

Somewhere between a funk-rock man-boy band and a full-on party-stoking hype gang, these guys tapped every last drop of excitement to be had at the small Market Square stage. They played their new song “Foolish” (which – drumroll, please – is about the foolish things we all do), and you know what? We are all more than happy to get wacky with them. We hopped to the left, hopped to the right, fell to the back, and bopped to the front, kicking up what would have been quite the dust storm had it not been for the copious amounts of beer splashing to the ground.

After winning our hearts and officially calling us “the best crowd [they’ve] ever played for” (Awww, thanks guys! Love love love…) they capped their set with a wicked rendition of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” which morphed into Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie”. Sound like a party? It was. The energy The Boom Booms poured out to the crowd was thrown right back at them. The Vancouver group made a small army of new fans on Friday night.

While Vampire Weekend rocked the adoring horde at Stawamus, I went for a wander and soaked in the various night-time social scenes. From wide-pupiled cuddle-puddles, to messy drunk goofballs, to dude-bros and party-hoes, the vibe was electric among all factions.

I managed to catch some of A Tribe Called Red’s set at The Woodshed, and the Ottawa-based powwow-step innovators – who I had the genuine pleasure of interviewing earlier in the day (more on that soon) – had the bassheads bopping and a slew of chemical neo-shamans joining in on their unique brand of heavy tribal dance beats.

I met up with my people at the Market Square stage to wind down the night as Vancouver’s Basketball struggled to share their unique sounds over the booming vibrations coming from The Woodshed. Despite the challenge, they rose to the occasion admirably well, coming off as an experimental Jane’s Addiction that did a wee bit too much ayahuasca. Those looking for an alternative to the brain-shaking Woodshed sounds were not disappointed.

The only gripe I have about the whole festival is the new “convenient” approach to purchasing alcohol. First, you wait in line to get into the garden to show your IDs; then you wait in line to load up your festival bracelet with money; then you wait in line for your actual beer, which comes in at a whopping $8 and which you can only purchase two of (which, fair enough, is standard). The bitter cherry on top of this poop-sundae is that it costs $2.50 every time you load up your festival bracelet. Consider it a “convenience” fee, I guess. So if you’re planning multiple trips to the beer pits, load up once and save yourself some dough. What about the remaining balance if you don’t spend it? I hear you can get a refund Saturday night between 11 and 12. I’m sure there will be a line for that too.

That said, festivals are not about the overpriced beer and unavoidable waits that come with many thousands of eager partyers in a condensed area, they’re about the music. And the music on Friday was top-notch.

Alright, that’s enough. I need a shower.