Superstars from all genres were represented at the Pemberton Music Festival on Friday on what might have been the most musically eclectic day of the event so far. Thousands of fans, many dressed in ponchos and raincoats, descended upon the festival to catch sets by headliners J. Cole, Kaskade, and FKA Twigs.
Rising EDM star Robert DeLong, who made a star-making turn at last year’s Pemby Fest, got the party started at 3:15 pm with songs from his In The Cards album. DeLong is virtually a one-man band; he sings, plays drums, and uses video game accessories (like Wii remotes and joysticks) to bolster his beats. DeLong has done the festival circuit for years and said he was inspired to write standout track “Acid Rain” after one particularly memorable festival experience.
“Fun, but not advisable,” he said.
Several of Friday’s performers were quick to point out the stunning landscape surrounding Pemby Fest. Syd tha Kid from California band The Internet dedicated a song to “all the ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends living up there in those beautiful mountains” while Nathan Willett of the Cold War Kids urged fans to put down their phones and soak up the scenery around them.
“I just wanna point out what we’re looking at,” Willett said. “We’ve seen some ugly shit over the last 24 hours and it took us a long time to get here, so thanks for this. Thank you, Canada.”
One of our favourite Pemby Fest traditions is taking in a live comedy show in between musical numbers. We can always count on festival organizers to put together a strong lineup of funny men and women, and this year is no exception. Friday’s main draw was Reno 911 star Nick Swardson, who declared early on that he doesn’t do political jokes but instead wanted to talk about something “just as controversial” – farts and urinals. Swardson is a fan of the former but doesn’t particularly like the public bathrooms on the festival grounds (he hilariously referred to them as “pube island”).
Hip hop and R&B stars came out in full-force Friday evening, with Miguel performing at the Mt. Currie stage at 7 pm and J. Cole headlining on the main stage at 8:30 pm. Cole performed tracks from his critically-adored 2014 Forest Hills Drive LP. The heavy rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the Grammy Award-winning rapper, who kept the crowd warm with fiery anthems like “Wet Dreamz” and “Crooked Smile”. Cole finished his 70-minute set with “Note To Self” and asked the crowd to “spread the love after this crazy week we’ve had.”
“I see White, I see Black, I see Asian, I see Christian, I see Muslim,” he said as he surveyed the huge crowd. “I see love, Pemberton.”
Method Man & Redman were also feeling the love over at Bass Camp. They had two questions for their fans: “Do you wanna hear 90’s hip hop, and do you wanna smoke some weed?!” The answer to both was a resounding, “hell yeah!” In between tokes, the legendary hip hop duo performed some of WuTang’s greatest hits and a couple of solo classics (1995’s “You’re All I Need To Get By” was a crowd favourite).
Come 10:30 pm, it was time to play everyone’s least favourite festival game – Sophie’s Choice! You know, that stupid annual tradition when two superstars are playing against each other on opposite sides of the festival grounds. Most fans chose Kaskade’s head-spinning set at Bass Camp – not only is the Chicago DJ one of the biggest stars in the industry, but Bass Camp’s enclosed roof gave the crowd a cool, dry space to bust a move until midnight.
Those who braved the rain for FKA Twigs’ performance on the Mt. Currie stage did not leave disappointed. The stunning singer-songwriter performed haunting tracks like “Two Weeks” and “Good To Love” and the gloomy weather only added to the drama of her hour-long set.
The fun continues Saturday night with performances by headliners Wiz Khalifa, The Killers, and Ice Cube.
Some photos for this article were provided by Brandon Artis. Connect with him at @_brandonartis.