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Pemberton Music Festival Shines Through the Darkness

07/22/2014 02:32 EDT | Updated 09/21/2014 05:59 EDT
Krista Farrell/Instagram

Both literal and figurative rain clouds hovered over B.C.'s Pemberton Music Festival, but it didn't stop the event from raging on with everything it had.

Relaunched after a six-year hiatus, the festival ran from June 18 to 20 in Pemberton, B.C., a small mountain town north of Whistler. It provided a breathtaking backdrop for the festival, literally surrounding concertgoers with mountains near the base of majestic Mt. Currie.

An estimated 75,000 people attended the event, many of whom wore some form of floral headband and/or colourful face paint. A.J. Niland, co-founder of Huka Entertainment (the company behind the festival's resurrection), said they were building Pemberton to become the Coachella of Canada. And in terms of stereotypical festival garb, that definitely seems true.

But where Coachella excels in terms of additional activities and cultural exploration, Pemberton falls short. There are a lot of amazing artists in B.C. -- the festival grounds could have played host to sculptures and other pieces that showcased the vast artistic talent within province. It had the opportunity to be more of a cultural event than just a music festival, but perhaps that will come with time.

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Pemberton Music Festival 2014

One other downside to the festival's organization was its camping. Most overnight festivals either let you camp next to your car or at least drop off your things and then go park a short distance away, but at Pemberton campers had to park in a lot and then take a 30-minute walk in the beating sun with all of their gear. We arrived in Pemberton around 1 p.m. and didn't make it into the festival grounds to see a show until 5 p.m.

The shows themselves, though, were great. Friday's highlights included an electric performance from Grimes, who played some exciting new tracks that were created with Blood Diamonds, and Kendrick Lamar, who put on a wicked show (once he finally hit the stage 45 minutes late).

But the evening was soon overshadowed with the news that a "suspicious death" had occurred on the festival's campgrounds. Word spread as headliners Nine Inch Nails played a particularly dark set, making for one rather eerie evening. Later the skies opened up and it started to rain, only adding to the strangeness of the night.

But the "incident" was kept fairly quiet, even on the campground, and spirits stayed largely positive considering the circumstances (no doubt at least in part due to the copious amounts of drugs and alcohol being consumed). By the time Best Coast came on just after 1 a.m., things felt normal again.

Day two's standouts included Deadmau5, Girl Talk, Chance The Rapper, Snoop Dogg, and RL Grime, while Sunday's were Modest Mouse, St. Vincent, and DJs Baauer and Justice. Headliners Outkast played a nice, long, fun set full of both their radio hits and some older jams for the "real" fans. Their show was only dampened by the fact that the audience cameras kept stopping on women who were coaxed into flashing their breasts to the crowd. Sigh.

Frank Ocean closed the festival with a relaxed performance that had everyone belting along with him (at which point he renamed the audience the "Pemberton Choir"). Ocean's standout performance was a great way to end, and perhaps sum up, the entire weekend: emotional, completely captivating, slightly vulnerable, and all in all not one easily forgotten.