As the sun rose on the second full day of Pemberton and the masses woke to find themselves in tents, fields, or perhaps more unfortunate places, it was clear a bar had been set the day before. After the energy of the likes of ZZ Ward and Schoolboy Q, or the sheer musicality of Nine Inch Nails and Empire of the Sun, it was going to take a special something to bring the festival even further. Rather than the intensity of Friday’s acts, with their elaborate costumes and covers, Saturday found a mix of seasoned musicians and relative newcomers, both of whom focused on having a good time above all else. From METZ’s moshpits to the shenanigans of Snoop Dogg and Chance the Rapper, Saturday wasn’t so much about musical intensity as it was about having a good time.
Performing for an intimate but excited audience of just over 100 people, noise-rock group METZ blasted away the collective hangover until everyone and their mother was moshing. The band was delighted with the crowd, profusely thanking them between songs and feeding off of their energy with every hit of the drum or slashing crescendo of the guitar. With only one (short) record to their names thus far, the band wasn’t able to keep going for long, but between fan favourites like “Headache” and the incredibly rowdy “Sad Pricks”, they certainly didn’t have trouble keeping anyone’s attention. The band wrapped up their set with an explosion of drum and guitar solos with enough decay to biodegrade an entire graveyard. METZ proved that the secret to a good show isn’t a good crowd, but what the artist can do with it.
Your average band keeps their best-known song until the end of the set, as a thank you to their diehard fans and a way of keeping the less-diehard fans there for the whole set. But Violent Femmes isn’t your average band. The quirky alt rockers opened up their set with their classic number “Blister in the Sun”, and then steadily worked their way through their lesser known songs. Jovially poking fun at the crowd and at each other, this was one of the few bands that seemed to genuinely be having a lot of fun onstage, even while juggling accordions, marimbas, and saxophones. The set’s highlight may have been when they had the entire crowd join them in singing “Happy Birthday” to one of their drummers. Violent Femmes are a throwback act to some at this point, but their music is so catchy and their performance is so delightful that they can keep pace with any recent act.
You know you run the world when Bob Saget opens your set. Snoop Dogg strode onto the stage as if it were a balcony of a palace, surveying his kingdom of stoned fans through his heart-shaped glasses as his visuals– a marijuana leaf and a rastafari smiley face- flashed behind him. The crowd was full of the kind of tense jersey-clad guys who started the Stanley Cup Riots, but Snoop soon had the entire place bumping along as if everyone were best friends. Starting with pop radio hits “California Gurls” and “Wiggle”, Snoop walked slowly and measuredly as he poured his liquid rhymes into his bedazzled microphone, and why should he rush? The man is a rap legend, and his music has always been more about groovin’ than jumping and screaming. By the end of the first number he practically owned the crowd, able to make them laugh, scream, cheer, and possibly cry with a single word. “Gin and Juice” almost caused half of them to faint with excitement. If Jay Z, Kanye West, and Eminem hadn’t all already claimed to be the god of rap in some capacity, Snoop would be a shoe in.
Chance the Rapper:
Chance the Rapper may have been the happiest person at his set. Not because the audience was disappointed– on the contrary, they were beyond thrilled– but because Chance, a relative newcomer, was clearly overjoyed to be onstage. Streamers and smoke machines blossomed left and right as Chance began his set, smiling.Working through his mixtapes Ten Day and Acid Rap as he pleased, Chance initially adopted an almost gospel or spoken-word approach to his set, delivering his lines from a centre stage position before beginning to move around the stage as the energy steadily built. A benefit of the DIY aesthetic Chance’s music is that it translates very easily into onstage performance. Soon enough, the man was even rapping over the Hey Arnold theme song. Outside of the actual music, Chance’s good vibes were simply intoxicating. At one point in the set, the rapper simply stood onstage and meditated with the crowd, telling him he loved them all the while. In another musician that might have been pretentious, tacky, or downright annoying, but in Chance it just felt natural. The set was innovative, musically on point, interactive, and doubtlessly the best of the festival so far.
Deadmau5 is the only artist playing in his slot, bringing the entire festival to the Canadian DJ. Clad in his standard mouse helmet atop a massive pyramid, Deadmau5 rained light and explosive sound upon the masses. It was already a much larger crowd than Nine Inch Nails— Deadmau5’s club hits are so popular that they are basically burned into the average listener’s subconscious. Armed with an amazing visual setup, Deadmau5’s set was fairly conservative in concept– for him, at least– but still brought out a massive crowd, half of them thrashing to the music while the other half struggled to stand. What perhaps was most remarkable about the set was that it wasn’t centered around Deadmau5, but the atmosphere created by the visuals and the music. This wasn’t a show so much as it was an experience.
Photo credit to John Bollwitt.