Arriving at the festival.

Finding a breakfast joint in town with less than an hour wait on the morning of Live At Squamish Day 2 proved to be a bit of a challenge and my group arrived just outside the festival grounds right as Brasstronaut took the stage. I could hear the opening song, Slow Knots, finish right as we made it through security. I was a little annoyed that I missed that song (which happens to be my favourite Brasstronaut song). Watching Bryan play trumpet and bells at the same time at the end of Slow Knots blows my mind every time. It had been a while since I had last seen the band play (almost a year, in fact), and they had written some new material since then. The band mentioned that they were heading to the studio soon to start recording their next album (I’m really looking forward to that release), and they played a couple of these new songs in their set. Two of these new songs, “Opportunity” and “Hollow Trees”, were released on EP just last month. You can get the Opportunity EP for free on the band’s website.

Up next on the Main Stage was Bend Sinister. This band needs to make it over to Vancouver Island again soon. They are one of the best live acts I’ve seen. Now that I think about it, I can’t even pinpoint what makes their shows so great. It’s not like they rely on any gimmicks (other than maybe Dan Moxon’s love of tie dye). They just have so much energy and the group is incredibly polished. I quickly learned from this set and Brasstronaut’s set that the theme of Live At Squamish Day 2 would be “we are working on new material, and here’s some of it”. The last update on the Bend Sinister website was back in July and it said that the band hopes to have some advance tracks from the new album out by the end of summer. Now that we’re halfway through fall, I can only hope that those tracks will appear any day now. I managed to get a couple of videos from Bend Sinister’s set, one is a new song (or at least, I think it’s new) that I don’t know the name of and the other is the song “CT” from their album Stories Of Brothers, Tales Of Lovers. (If you know the name of the mystery song, or can confirm that it’s a new one, please let me know!)

I left Bend Sinister’s set a bit early to catch the “mystery band” in the Live At Squamish lineup. Billed simply as “Panda Watch – a band from Vancouver”, this group drew quite the crowd. The members walked out on stage wearing panda heads, concealing their identities for as long as they could. OK, truth be told, with Twitter it wasn’t too much of a secret who this band was. Panda Watch turned out to be Said The Whale performing a set solely of new songs from their upcoming album. I really enjoyed what I heard from the group that day. The new songs show an evolution to their sound and I don’t know if it was because I was hearing them for the first time or what, but I think that the songs sounded more complex musically than what we’re used to hearing from Said The Whale. I wish I knew the names of the songs they performed, there was a couple that really stood out for me. One in particular that I liked was heavy with drums and seemed to have a bit of a prog rock influence. The new Said The Whale album is set to be released in March 2012, and it can’t come soon enough.

Panda Watch / Said The Whale

After Said The Whale earned thunderous cheers from the audience for their new material, I headed back to the Main Stage to see The Zolas. I’ve met Zach of the Zolas before and I’ve seen him perform with the Vancouver band Henry And The Nightcrawlers, but up until Live At Squamish I had always missed seeing the Zolas when they came to town. This is another band that needs to come to Victoria more often. (Fact: I say that about all bands I like, it just somehow seems like more opportunities are missed when the band is from somewhere as close as Vancouver.) The Zolas really brought their A game to their set. For the last song the band brought out their parents to join them singing backup and playing percussion. And of course it wouldn’t be a festival without members of We Are The City jumping on stage, and they were there too. (Seriously, who haven’t I seen We Are The City perform with?) The set closed with Zach pulling an epic rock star move by leaping off the bass drum (pictured below).

At this point in the festival I hit the wall. The Dudes always bring so much energy to their shows, but it was no match for my tiredness. I spent most of their set charging my phone and sitting down, but I did catch the last few songs. The most important thing I have to say about their set is “that’s a lot of beard”.

The Dudes

It’s a good thing I got a rest before Black Mountain. Otherwise, they might have destroyed me with their amazing rock and roll. Here’s how loud their set was: I could feel my sinus cavities vibrate. I’m always so torn when I see Black Mountain live. I love their music and watching Stephen McBean’s hair fly around is mesmerizing, but Amber Webber has the most subdued stage presence ever. The best part of their set for me, hands down, was “Let Spirits Ride”. It’s one of their strongest tracks on their latest release Wilderness Heart. Other than me internally yelling at Amber “why are you just standing there?!”, this was my favourite set from the entire festival.

As I mentioned before, I’m not the biggest fan of Metric. (I was obsessed with them ages ago, but it appears that I’ve moved on.) Metric’s sound is definitely suited to the large stage though and their hits sounded right at home over the huge speakers with an enormous crowd singing along. It was neat to see them play on both days of the festival. To see a stripped down set one day followed by the full Metric band the next was pretty cool. I’m glad they brought this unique experience to Squamish.

Like many people my age, one of the first CDs I bought was Weezer’s The Blue Album. While I haven’t enjoyed anything of theirs past The Green Album (OK, I might have also liked Maladroit, but that was where it stopped), I was still pretty excited to see Weezer perform. I saw Weezer in concert once before, way back in 2002 for the tour supporting Maladroit. The image I had in my head of the band performing live was frozen back at that concert so my initial reaction to their Live At Squamish set was “Holy crap! Since when did Rivers become such a rock star?!” There was such a difference between the shy awkward front man I saw almost ten years ago and the guy now who was running around on stage, jumping in the crowd to sing. I was relieved to see that their set heavily favoured their earlier material (excluding Pinkerton, of course) mixed with singles from their last few albums, and some really cool covers. One cover was Foster The People’s summer hit “Pumped Up Kicks”. The other cover they threw into their set was the one that really impressed me though – Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”. Yes, they performed that six and a half minute epic and they totally pulled it off. (In my head I interpreted it as the band saying “Yes, we know we now write really horrible pop songs, but look at this – we still play difficult cool music!”. Well played Weezer, well played.) The set ended with all the members of the band gathered around the drum set wailing away.

Live At Squamish 2011 proved to be a lot of fun. My biggest complaints would be the few occasions that set start times deviated from the schedule and the generic festival food choices. The other annoyance was the video camera arm and stage hands on the main stage. They interfered with my sightlines more often than not, and I found that it really distracted from the performances. Those are all things I can deal with though, and Live At Squamish is definitely heading in the direction of doing more good than bad. I love that they book so many local acts, and the addition of the Green Couch stage this year was great. I also liked that the festival was moved away from the Labour Day long weekend. Travel (especially from Vancouver Island) is always a nightmare on a summer long weekend, and having the festival in the middle of August not only alleviated that travel stress, it provided another excuse to get out of the city during the summer. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Live At Squamish organizers have up their sleeves next year!

More of my photos from Day 2 can be found on my Flickr page.

Leaving the festival grounds.

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