The inaugural Skookum Festival commenced yesterday (September 7) at Brockton Fields in Stanley Park. “Skookum” is a Pacific Northwestern pidgin word of the Chinook that means “strong,” “brave,” or “impressive.” It can also refer to a street party or trade fair. And what a party Skookum has already been.
Day one stimulated all the senses. Stilt-walkers and a 14-piece brass band roamed the festival. Artists painted Instagramable installations in front of audience’s eyes. Food vendors, picnic baskets, and nightly long-table dinners curated by chefs offered gourmet selections. Festival-goers could retreat to a hammock station covered by trees. They could break to shoot hoops in an enclosed basketball court or toss bean bags. Friday, like the rest of the weekend, extended into separately ticketed Skookum After Dark shows that featured Skookum performers. Venues over the weekend include the Railway Stage and Beer Café, the Imperial, and many more.
This weekend, the shared territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, where Skookum takes place, features four stages. Although only three of them were in use on Friday, it was enough to show off the festival’s diverse lineup.
BC’s Shred Kelly plugged in their ukulele and rocked out high-energy folk songs made for dancing Skookum’s second largest stage, the Mountain Stage. And yes, Shred Kelly had banjo solos. Dancing continued at the Forest Stage where Toronto’s Julian Taylor Band lit up the drizzling, overcast sky with a soulful mix of funk and rock ‘n’ roll powered by sax and trumpet.
The Mountain Stage also hosted dance heavyweights but of a more electronic flavour. Delhi 2 Dublin brought bhangra, hip hop, and pop from around the world. Self-described funklords Chromeo gave their packed audience bonafide lovin’ with dazzling lights and flashy moves. Over unabashedly 80s glam-pop and funk-rock, guitarist and singer Dave 1 strutted and postured. “Don’t sleep on me,” he sang. But there was no sleeping at Chromeo; it was all hips grinding and hands in the air.
Homegrown talents Little Destroyer and Dear Rouge were knockout shots of poppy synth-rock. Austin-via-Toronto duo Black Pistol Fire knocked fans on their asses, too, but with hard-hitting rock. Singer and guitarist Kevin McKeown stomped the stage floor and dug into it with his heels while he shredded and riffed and drummer Eric Owen clobbered his kit without mercy.
Skookum’s programming focuses on First Nations history, musicians, visual artists, and chefs. For example, 10 out of 53 musical acts this weekend are First Nations. Like Black Pistol Fire, Gitxsan rapper the Northwest Kid and Cree and Metis rapper Heebz the Earthchild, known together as Mob Bounce, ignited a dedicated crowd. “It’s important for us to have female representation onstage,” Heebz proclaimed, shouting out Cree and Dene DJ Kookum, who backed the duo. “Brothers and sisters,” he continued. “Enjoy.” Although Arkells capped off the night with their ultra-glossy, radio-friendly rock, Mob Bounce summed up day one best with a line from their song “Starseed”: “This is not the end. This is the beginning.
Shred Kelly, Julian Taylor Band, Delhi 2 Dublin, Chromeo, Little Destroyer, Dear Rouge, Black Pistol Fire, Mob Bounce, and Arkells at Brockton Fields, September 7, 2018