The Pemberton Music Festival returned to British Columbia this summer bringing back a diverse and talented lineup of artists to provide a full weekend of entertainment. One week later, we relive the best and worst of Pemberton 2014 beginning with the first full day of concerts: Friday, July 18th. 

Cage The Elephant – As Unnatural As It Sounds

Car parked, campers’ marathon marched, I stomped over to the Pemberton stage to catch Cage The Elephant. The Kentucky quintet tore through an energetic festival set littered with catchy singles stretching back to their debut self-titled album, giving fans a solid rock set for an early afternoon start time. However, as time wore on it became clear that the rambunctious energy frontman Matthew Shultz showed was just that, a show.

Now, I’m not usually one to knock a frontman for putting some style into his performance, however Cage The Elephant’s act became a predictable rock and roll cliche too quickly for my liking. Those who had seen the band before (or have a internet connection) confirmed the moves were all too familiar. The crowd jump, the stand-up crowd surf, all the necessary ingredients for a good rock show were present, but I felt like I was constantly aware of the act.

Kendrick Lamar – Unfashionably Late

It could easily have been argued that Kendrick Lamar was the biggest name to hit Pemberton this summer, but after almost 45 minutes of extra anticipation the energy for his set had dwindled steadily. Shortly after a restless crowd began to turn sour and a suspicious helicopter landed nearby (What did you forget, Kendrick?) the rapper hit the stage and ripped through what remained of a shortened festival set.

While Kendrick made only a small mention of the delay, he remained true to form and delivered verse after verse of the vicious rhymes that made good kid m.A.A.d. city such a phenomenal rap album. He even managed to split his time with fellow Pemberton performer and collaborator Schoolboy Q to give a special performance of ‘Collard Greens’ before his time was done. Like all great performers, Lamar left fans wanting more but kind of did fans wrong on this one. I guess I’ll just have to see him again.

Schoolboy Q Takes Over The Class

Remember those days when the substitute teacher didn’t show up on time and the class clown commandeered the room until a supervisor came? Well Schoolboy Q is my new favourite class clown. Having already stolen the spotlight from Kendrick Lamar’s highly anticipated evening set the notorious rapper made the most of his first show ever in Canada, starting a party the Ents would especially appreciate.

“Smoking weed and drinkin’ all the college students lovin’ Q”

Like any class clown worth their salt Schoolboy Q was more than proud of his trouble with the authorities, making sure to notify the Pemberton crowd of the hoops he had to jump in order to make it to Friday’s special performance. Having established street-cred with what was obviously a smoker-friendly festival (Welcome back to B.C., Snoop) Schoolboy Q was in his wheelhouse and had the crowd bouncing all night. Just when it seemed Q was ready to take home the night’s honours himself he brought back Kendrick Lamar for another lively performance of ‘Collard Greens’ that put a seal on a perfect set.

GRiZ Gives The 60s and 70s New Life

Following proper festival protocol Pemberton’s first night closed with a DJ set from GRiZ. At the end of the night those still vertical were practically dancing to stay awake, and GRiZ gave concert-goers a funk-filled set of electro-soul to keep the crowd moving well into the wee hours of the morning.

Weaving together sounds of the 60s and 70s with a technological spin GRiZ threw down a booming set to start the weekend. Thunderous, soulful tracks like the appropriately titled ‘Smash The Funk‘ hit their mark, setting the crowd up with soothing funk samples before crushing them with bass. But this wasn’t your traditional tease-and-drop DJ set, GRiZ’ seamless set glided from one song to the next with a grace others behind the decks sometimes lack. And did I mention he plays live Saxophone over his tracks? Yeah.

Like Schoolboy Q before him GRiZ knew how to play to his strengths. You see, no dance party is complete without a proper sample of ‘Shout’ by The Isley Brothers. However this itself is a fine art. The proper moment is as recognizable as it is transient. You know the moment. The dance floor is packed, the people are happy, and everyone is looking around trying to get lucky. And then, magic. GRiZ waited patiently, picked his spot, and nailed it, sending the crowd into a frenzy before breaking it down softer, then louder once more. It was a perfect moment to close out a tremendous first full day at Pemberton.