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Father John Misty and The Killers take over the last hours of Skookum Festival

The Killers, Father John Misty, Haley Blais, and Yukon Blonde at Brockton Fields, 9/9/18

Father John Misty. Photos by Kristina Kimlickova

Marquee names and hidden gems continued impressing audiences on the third and final day of Skookum Festival (Sept. 9). 

Kelowna’s Yukon Blonde brought fresh material from their brand new album Critical Hit to the Mountain Stage. They have fallen down a wormhole of synthesizers in recent years, and they sucked the dinner-time crowd into their sonic odyssey. Yukon Blonde have not forgotten their penchant for boogying classic rock, though, finishing with “I Wanna Be Your Man.”

Yukon Blonde. Photos by Kristina Kimlickova

Speaking of classic rock, immediately after throwback superstars of the moment Greta Van Fleet left audiences absolutely gobsmacked at the Skyline Stage, Vancouver’s Haley Blais soothed ears at the adjacent Meadow Stage. She and her three bandmates might have been the weekend’s brightest act, with jangly guitar pop and a wardrobe of multicoloured sweaters and her orange-red suit that she wore on top of her yellow shirt. The band bounced through a brief 25-minute set that included “Seventeen” and “Small Foreign Faction,” both from Let Yourself Go, her most recent EP. 

Dressed in all white, often illuminated only by white lights, Father John Misty was a holy presence on the Skyline Stage. Along with the usual drums, guitars, bass, and keys, his set-up included two flutes, a trumpet, and a sax. Brass added more vitality to foggy, half-asleep songs like “Mr. Tillman.”  

Yukon Blonde. Photos by Kristina Kimlickova

Misty seems like a reluctant star. Whether or not that is part of his cultivated media personality is debatable. What was not debatable was that he lived up to that aloof image live. Between strums on songs like “Hollywood Cemetery Sings,” he put his hand on his hips and rested his arm on his guitar. Like his overall demeanour, his strumming looked nonchalant, but there was a sense that covertly, he was in full control – a master manipulator. 

Even when Misty went hands-free, swaggered back and forth on stage, reached his hands up and out, cried lyrics like, “Please don’t die!” and performed songs like “Real Love Baby” that celebrated love and had couples making out, he never seemed to fully step into frontman mode, not like Brandon Flowers of the Killers, who followed Misty on the Skyline Stage.

Father John Misty. Photos by Kristina Kimlickova

Flowers might be one of the finest frontmen today. The Killers brought their Las Vegas glitz and glamour as the weekend’s final act. 

The Killers opened with a shot of confetti along with the first notes of “The Man.” More confetti, as well as streamers, came during “All These Things That I’ve Done.” The band’s laser beams of light that fanned over the audience’s heads were dazzling. Special mention needs to be made of one audience member named Stefan. Somehow, Flowers was convinced to let Stefan go onstage and play drums on “For Reasons Unknown.” And Stefan blew everyone including the Killers away by absolutely nailing the song. He left with a selfie with Flowers and a memory of a lifetime.

It is no wonder why the Killers have ascended to arena status. Along with Flowers’ charisma, ability to interact with (conduct) the crowd, and the energy he brought to his performance, the Killers’ songs are simply immense. Mega-choruses on “Spaceman,” “Run for Cover,” and “Shot at the Night” were made for singing and clapping along to.

To sum up…

The Killers capped off a successful debut for Skookum Festival, as far as the public eye can see. The programming was diverse. The Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, whose shared land hosted the event, were acknowledged by emcees, performers, and members of the Squamish Nation. Sitting areas were plentiful. Large picnic tables and even benches that wrapped around cozy fires were spread out enough that groups of festival-goers did not feel crammed too closely together, and the furniture did not block foot traffic even as thousands of people left Brockton Fields each night. Phone charging stations were a lifeline, especially for those who were obsessed with capturing and sharing their weekend experience on social media. And there was plenty of content to share online, from performers to gourmet food to live art installations and more.

Skookum did have issues though. Some include the recurring complaint that there were not enough washrooms. Main stage acts at Skyline and Mountain were so loud, they dominated the smaller Meadow and Forest stages, respectively; a fan of softer sounds could not escape Greta Van Fleet’s the ballistic racket while awaiting Haley Blais, for example.

The countdown to Skookum Festival 2019 is on, and it will be exciting to see how it improves and tops itself next year.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu