Pemberton Fest Day Four: Dizzying Mystery Exclusion, A Creator, and Plenty of Jam Left in Seattle Legends

Photo by Ryan Johnson
Photo by Ryan Johnson

Day four at Pemberton started with a little disappointment. Some unexplained drop-off of talent; and some self-induced disappointment can be blamed for the rocky start.

As eluded to at the end of my day three recap, Dizzy Wright was mysteriously taken off the line-up. No notifications that I received had a cause or explanation, and just like my inquiries as to why Mac Miller was no longer in the lineup, I received no explanation from the artist, the rapper’s camp or from anyone at Pemberton Fest including the people that ran the media tent for Huka Group.

Because Wright was no longer going to kick off day four I took the opportunity to gain some much-needed sleep. Being that I camped the entire weekend at the after party and not the media camping area, coupled with the fact that The Funk Hunters were playing the after party that night, I was up rather late.

That is where any disappoint on the following day would end. Being damn sure to make it for Vince Staples, we got to the Pemberton Stage in perfect timing to hear the South Central LA native start his set. This, the third time I had seen Vince Staples in nine months and being a devout listener to his unique brand of rap, it was safe to assume that I knew what to expect. Most rappers even though they appear on the bill as solo, have a back up emcee that either participates in echoing certain verses or punches in for the ends of sentences etc for extra emphasis. Vince Staples does not practice this method, making his command of the Pemberton Fest crowd that much more impressive. Having reviewed both of the last two times Staples was in Vancouver, a few folks may know that my first take of the young rapper’s live show was met with fanfare and adulation. The second time when Staples came to the Vogue Theatre the venue was less than sold out and whilst talking about asthma the rapper shut the show down early and put forth a less than stellar effort. Some of you may recall the videos I posted back-to-back on Staples’ performance of his killer song Senorita, in which the one from the Roger’s Arena showed a lot more energy and spirit from Staples. That very show also had Tyler, The Creator, Danny Brown and A$AP Rocky featured on it, a powerhouse bill of modern rap; therefore many more spectator then when he came back a few months later solo.

Thankfully, due to the large crowd that assembled to see the man on the mic that is never uncomfortable sharing his opinions on a multitude of subjects was once again in fine form. So whether a case of only getting up for big shows or the asthma concern (which he has rapped about) was legit, I still think a handler could have gone back to the hotel or procured a prescription for the star. All in all Staples performed quite well and is worth the show. I will caution those expecting a set that is Pearl Jam-esq in duration to temper that expectation. Staples ended early all three times I saw him, including day four at Pemberton Fest where he was only given an hour to begin with. I had planned on getting a third video of Seniorita at Pemberton, but much to my utter surprise Staples neglected to play the immediate classic, despite having the time to give the fans what they requested.

Disclaimer: I am going to try and refrain from getting into too much detail about my obvious man-crush on Tyler, The Creator.

Going for another artist hat trick in just over a year I have seen the “Odd Future” representative three times. Known as being a true leader in person with top tier stage presence the ex skateboarder is an enigma in that he often raps about being torn up on the inside. Tyler must be in decent shape because he does not stop moving the entire set. Hilarious between songs with his banter that is usually condescending towards someone in the crowd, someone in his crew, or even at himself, it is obviously shtick that he has been concocting over the years that most people get (Unlike YG). However, for whatever reason many in the media light him up for being misogynistic, homophobic and damn near whatever other slanderous terms with weight that one can throw at him. He is openly not fond of media and perhaps that’s all it takes for the reporters and the like to fire back and choose to hear whatever they want or take his words literally when it’s a character invented to shock, Of course being a smart man and seeing all of this, Tyler takes the ‘you teach someone to handle treat you approach’ and cranks up the persona ten-fold if it appears to be working. Day four at the Pemberton Fest was the last stop on the tour and Tyler and crew brought all the heat possible; after having just gotten off a lousy European leg that seemingly didn’t treat them like royalty.

Where many might phone it in, Tyler tried to put everything into his hour and it worked. Even when a man climbed on top of the slippery sound booth roof and used it as a trampoline for an entire song Tyler was too focused on his performance to have seen it, not catching wind of the matter until the song was over and the gentleman was carted off the premises; much to the chagrin of the rowdy and encouraging Pemberton Fest crowd. Tyler killed it having played everyone’s favourite songs like “Yonkers”, “What The F*^k Right Now” and “Domo 23”.

1998 marked the first time I saw Pearl Jam and even at that time some seven years after Pearl Jam’s first album Ten came out, it seemed like I was getting around to seeing them late in life; but they simply did not tour here often. Pemberton marked, (uh huh) the third time that Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, Dave Krusen and Jeff Ament took the stage in front of me and to cut to the chase, they are better now than ever. Soulful, professional, personal, intimate are all great adjectives to describe Pearl Jam. They insist on playing for hours, a compromise surely arranged with Huka to not carry on for the typical three hours like the group tends to do; the band played what felt like an honest two hours. They have the catalogue and the captivating ability to play as long as they desire, championing love, equality, and to just be flat out good to each other, Mother Nature and oneself. Despite my thinking that in this day and age Pearl Jam may not be the most fitting closer to the festival, I am happy to announce that I was wrong.  A beautiful cap to an amazing four days of music was highlighted with a heartfelt birthday party on stage for McReady’s 50th.

I cannot thank the Huka Corp for assembling such a terrific festival and allowing me to cover a festival that quickly meant something profound to my heart, as it were I got slightly emotional when driving away; I could live like that. The media tent was comfortable and conveniently centrally located to all things in the festival, and the person that ran it was fair and reasonable. (Yes, even when I was denied the Mastodon interview after having confirmed it with Bill Kelliher of Mastodon himself. As much as I have been a fan since 2002 and it hurt my heart to hear “no”, my request did go beyond the expectations that were clearly drawn out prior to my agreeing to cover it and Huka’s agreeing to have me).

An absolutely tremendous festival that I truly hope I can attend for (sigh) a third time. I know that the original contract signed was for three festivals, and 2016 marked that number. With no rumours as to what negotiations look like moving forward it’s hard to say what will happen being that protests on both sides have valid arguments. Each year they seem to run a little better than the last, and although I have seen a Facebook post about the Pemberton garbage leavers vacating the property without taking with them the goods that they brought, I can say that a) The Facebook post was from last year and it’s just been re-circulated, and b) I saw first hand due to not leaving until 3pm Monday, that the areas that the Pemberton Festival clean-up staff had tended to looked immaculate. So short of them pulling up halfway on the clean up, which is highly unlikely it appears Huka is doing all they can to position themselves nicely for negotiations. Fingers crossed that something can be worked out that is mutually rewarding for all parties.