The fest, located about an hour north of Vancouver in Squamish, B.C., brought over 100,000 fans together among the mountains and the sunshine. And while there were definitely still a lot of people overdoing it with substances, the festival was able to remind me why we go to these things in the first place: the music.
Day one hit the ground running, with Toronto's July Talk and local rock outfit The Zolas getting things going. A suited up Mayer Hawthorne got the crowd wiggling, but it was Sweden's Lykke Li that really had people dancing (although no one's moves matched hers). Also, she rocks bell bottoms like the rest of us can only dream of. And she stole a joint from someone in the crowd, which was funny to us but probably very sad for the person whose joint it was. After Li came legendary rapper Nas, who kept energy levels high with classics like "If I Ruled The World."
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I have to admit something: on the way to check out headliner Bruno Mars my friends and I were talking about how much we dislike his music. We were heading to his show out of curiosity as opposed to love. But once we got to his set -- we walked up as he was singing a cover of Ginuine's "Pony," which is always a good sign in my books -- it was like his pearly white teeth put a spell on us. Seriously, that man can dance! It was an entertaining spectacle complete with fire and lots of hip thrusts, plus all of his hit songs like "Grenade" and "Marry You." But real talk, Bruno, lose the fedora.
Walk Off The Earth and Foster the People are not really my jam, but I give them credit for putting on entertaining shows nonetheless. Wrapping up the night was German DJ Boyz Noize, who we watched from a picnic table safely inside the beer garden. Does this mean I'm officially old?
Day two was packed with amazing artists, and therein lies my major complaint: the two main stages were placed about a 15 minute walk from each other, making it nearly impossible to properly see everyone I wanted to. Saturday evening ended up being an exhausting game of human ping-pong as we jetted back and forth in order to catch bits of The Roots, Broken Bells, CHVRCHES, and Arcade Fire. Sam Roberts Band played an early pop-up show in one of the fields, which was a lovely treat, and allowed us to forfeit his scheduled appearance.
Arcade Fire definitely gets a mention for putting on an expected amazing show; they really are as great as you want them to be (and they brought along star violinist Owen Pallett, which makes me love them even more). Also, shout-out to the guy who somersaulted over to me because I was sitting alone for a bit and he thought I had no friends. I hope you have fun in Kelowna.
Sunday, the final day, seemed to bring with it a renewed sense of energy and the need to get "f--ked up." I heard that the day passes sold out for Sunday, which I can only guess was because of Eminem, arguably the biggest draw of the whole weekend. Other musical highlights included an excellent set by Phantogram, as well as The Temper Trap and Arctic Monkeys.
And of course, Eminem was incredibly memorable. The famous rapper hasn't been allowed in Canada in over 10 years (which he joked was because he had acne and was waiting for his skin to clear), so the energy was high as he ran around the stage. He put on a high powered set, often rapping just half of songs in order to cram as many hits as he could into his show. There were rumours floating around that he would bring out Rihanna or Dr. Dre as special guests (neither were true), but I think he proved that he doesn't need anyone else on stage. He had the huge crowd in the palm of his hand right until he closed with "Lose Yourself."
The festival doubled in size this year, but the organizers pulled it off and in doing so proved that Squamish Fest deserves to be one of North America's best.
And, perhaps most significantly, everyone seemed to make it out alive.