After a bit of a blogging hiatus (but by no means a music hiatus) I figure I better get writing about what I’ve been up to this summer.

Hey Ocean

My adventures at the Live At Squamish festival started off with a secret show for the Green Couch Sessions by Vancouver band Hey Ocean. They played a quick three song set of things that wouldn’t be in their act on the main stage later that night. It was a lot of fun and the band ended with a cover of the oldie “Be My Baby“. (Turns out that some people really liked the band… or more specifically they really liked guitarist Devon Lougheed.) Green Couch Sessions sponsored a series of secret shows throughout the weekend, including short sets by: Top Less Gay Love Teckno Party, Rococode, Redbird and Portage & Main, Woolworm, and Rich Hope and Black Mountain. Keep an eye on their website for these sessions to be posted (and in the meantime, check out some of the other awesome things they have up there). Unfortunately Hey Ocean’s set was the only Green Couch Session I was able to see this weekend, but I hope the festival keeps this feature.

Kim Churchill

Next I headed over to the Garibaldi Stage. This side stage was situated on a baseball diamond, with the stands converted into a beer garden. This was a great place to camp out for the day, especially since most of the seats were in the shade and it was pretty hot out that weekend. I arrived in time to see most of Kim Churchill’s performance – what an amazing guitar player he is. When we first arrived I was standing beside the stage and remarked something like “the bass player and the drummer are turned up way too loud”. Turns out that there was no bass player nor was there a drummer, it was just Kim on stage with a single acoustic guitar and a bass drum. This was probably my best find of the festival.

Emily Haines and James Shaw of Metric

Emily Haines and James Shaw of Metric were on the Garibaldi Stage after Kim Churchill. It was announced late in the planning process that Metric would actually play two sets at Live At Squamish – an acoustic set on the Saturday and a full out electric traditional Metric set on the main stage on Sunday. I’m not the biggest Metric fan, but it was neat to see something different from them. The set was mostly Emily on piano and vocals and James on guitar, with them playing favourites like “Help I’m Alive” and “Combat Baby” as well as playing a few cover songs.

At this point the Garibaldi Stage was running a bit behind, so when I headed over to the Main Stage to see Hey Ocean it turns out that I had missed most of their set. I managed to catch the last two songs though, and it sounded like I missed a good one.

Stars

Stars

I spent the remainder of the evening with the amazing lineup on the Main Stage. Stars were up next. I don’t know if the band has ever played a show on Vancouver Island, they certainly haven’t in the past five years, so I was really excited to see them play. The set was heavy with songs from their latest release The Five Ghosts, with some old favourites sprinkled in. Before launching into the haunting “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”, Torquil Campbell asked us to “take a moment to think of the ones we hate most”. The set was closed out with the song “Elevator Love Letter”. Grant Lawrence will be pleased to know that the crowd started cheering only a couple bars in with some “recognition applause”. It had been a while since I had seen any video of the band, and let me say they were looking HOT. I mean that literally. You would never guess that lead Amy Millan just became a mother five short months ago. Torquil Campbell was looking pretty good himself, sporting a deep summer tan.

Stars

While we waited for the evening’s big headliners to set up, we were treated to a short performance by everyone’s favourite slam poet Shane Koyczan. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Shane perform a few times. The first time was at the Vancouver Island Music Festival back in 2008, before anyone knew him as the guy with the Canada poem from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics Closing Ceremony, and even before people knew him as the guy who did the poem in that Dan Mangan song (the song is called “Tragic Turn Of Events / Move Pen Move“, I dare you to listen to it without crying). While the novelty of “holy crap, there’s a guy on stage reciting poetry!” has worn off for me, the thing that continues to impress me with Shane’s performances is the dynamics. The build that he shows from simply saying words to full on screaming his heart out on stage is the best factor of his live shows and is what I think makes his performances fit so well when put into a music festival.

I spent most of the John Butler Trio set in the beer garden. It was an… interesting experience. I don’t know if I heard much of the music above the party going on there, but friends tell me that I missed out on one of the best performances of the weekend. One particular highlight that many people agreed on was the performance of “Ocean“.

Girl Talk

Day 1 of Live At Squamish was closed out by Girl Talk. Of all the acts I would see this weekend, I was most intrigued by this one. On one hand I knew what to expect – I had listened to the latest album, I knew that Gregg Gillis did the mixing of songs from his massive collection of samples live at his shows, and I knew I should expect one hell of a party – and on the other hand I had no idea what exactly the live show would be like. The set started out with Gillis alone on stage behind a table with two laptops. No sooner had I thought “wow, this is going to get old fast” that throngs of festival attendees were allowed on the stage to dance the night away. Then when I thought that had gotten old, two guys with rolls of toilet paper attached to leaf blowers appeared. Then when that got old, the confetti guns were brought out. Then when that got old, balloons were released. Then… you get the idea, the man knows how to entertain a crowd. I was impressed with the breadth of samples used, it wasn’t all just top 40 and hip hop from the past five years. It’s clear that this is the appeal of Girl Talk’s act: a field full of people was able to party out and bond over the likes of The Isley Brothers, Black Sabbath, ELO, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. (Let it be noted that the biggest cheers were awarded to Michael Jackson and Beyonce.) While I’m not sure that I would ever attend a concert just for the sake of seeing Girl Talk, I’m really glad I got to witness this at Live At Squamish, and it ended up being one of my favourite sets of the weekend.

More of my photos from Day 1 can be found on my Flickr page.

Check out some other coverage from Live At Squamish:

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