Squamish Valley Music Festival 2015
Logger Sports Grounds and Centennial Fields, Squamish, BC
08.05.15 – 08.07.15
Sorry, but do you mind if I tell you about Canada’s terrific Squamish Valley Music Festival?
From August 6th to 9th, an estimated 125,000 people attended the biggest music festival you’ve never heard of: the 6th annual Squamish Valley Music Festival, an hour north and west of Vancouver, BC. The almost exclusively British Columbian license plates in the parking lots indicated the festival is still a well-kept secret for Canadian ears only. This was confirmed by the incredible politeness of the concert goers. Our photographer accidentally bashed no less than ten people with his lenses and many of them apologized to him for letting their clumsy heads get in his way!
The festival’s headliners easily lived up to their billing. On Friday, Sam Smith charmed the main stage crowd with his extraordinary vocal range, megawatt smile, and “crystal blue eyes like a mineral spring” as one awestruck fan in the front row described him. Smith’s rendition of “I’m Not The Only One” was received so rapturously that one woman in the audience audibly called out “oh my god” when he walked to her side of the stage.
Saturday was lead by Drizzy Drake in a drizzly show that overcame the rainy weather with fiery explosions, sonorous vocals, rapid-fire rhymes, and his signature air-horn. Drake was electrifyingly energetic, and he sincerely expressed his love for performing in his native Canada and especially B.C., his love for one fan who he could tell knew all the words to his songs, and his endearingly Canadian love for nature scenes, from the crisp snowy forest backdrops on LED screens in the first half of his show to the stage-filling rainforest set that was his backdrop in the second half.
The festival goers were at their loudest for Mumford & Sons on Sunday night. Early on, everyone rose to their feet and sang along with “I Will Wait” so loudly that Marcus Mumford stopped and let the crowd carry the melody for a bar. The delighted smile he gave the audience was one of this reviewer’s favorite moments of the whole weekend. The festival organizers promised that in addition to 200 speakers, 300 microphones and 600 stage lights, there were 10 lasers, and those lasers finally showed up for Mumford & Sons.
The most remarkable show beyond the headliners came from Seattle’s own Robert DeLong. It seems that few of the attendees knew of him previously, because the basketball-court-sized dance floor was almost empty when he began. His opening video’s insanity set the tone: Seal-the-musician’s head on a Seal-the-underwater-mammal’s body, photoshopped pizzas flying into his mouth, a robot voice intoning that all people must receive face paint or risk never getting laid. This segued into his new song “Don’t Wait Up”, and for an electronic show, the audience could see a lot of what he was doing live. DeLong furiously attacked his equipment, from his drums and keyboard and microphones to his video game joysticks and controllers that were linked to sound and visual effects. DeLong’s beats and intensity drew a stream of young dancers to the dance floor until the entire space was filled and the dancers spilled into the grassy lawn beyond. There was a guy on stilts with an afro wig who was going nuts. It’s a challenge to start a dance party at sunny 4:30 PM, but Robert DeLong did it.
Other highlights: ODESZA leading a midnight journey through sight and sound, two black silhouettes before vibrant visuals and their irresistible beats. Porter Robinson captivating a capacity crowd at the EDM theater, the revelers raising their red glowing wristbands in the air. That stupid asshole up front who was trying to take pictures with his iPad. Chance the Rapper showing us his Midwest heritage by politely introducing himself and then powerfully calling on the sounds of Gospel for “Heaven Only Knows.” Dear Rouge giving us the lush soundscape of “Black to Gold.” Schoolboy Q fighting through illness and asking the crowd to keep his energy up. The steady dark thrum of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. A$AP Rocky’s trippy “L$D” performance. Mother Mother’s buzzsaw ferocity on “Get Out The Way.” A diverse crowd of kilt-wearers and furry-costumed foxes dancing to the enduringly cool Hot Chip. Bebe Rexha putting on an incredibly… passionate performance of “I’m Gonna Show You Crazy.” Brandon Flowers singing “Can’t Deny My Love” and then declaring with wonder that “this might be the most beautiful place we’ve ever played.” The beautiful, polite youth of Canada enjoying music and summer in that beautiful part of the world.
Review by Brian McGrane
Photos by David Endicott