After a full week of recovery and reflection, I can now officially say that the first ever Pemberton Music Festival was a huge success. Most of the people I have talked to have had nothing but positive comments and proclaim that this epic three-day festival was the biggest musical experience of their lives. This last point certainly applies to me. Even though there were some problems along the way for this inaugural event, such as traffic management and not having enough volunteers in key locations, most things were well managed and everyone had a memorable time.

The Music

My favourite acts were Tragically Hip (a Canadian classic), Tom Petty (the old boy from the deep south can still rock), Wolfmother (best new band and the hardest rockers), Nine Inch Nails (superb set with excellent visual effects), and Interpol (a polished act and funky vibe). Other notable mentions were Sam Roberts, Vampire Weekend and a great closing set by Coldplay whose members are fantastic entertainers. I could continue to list all the good acts that performed--the music and sound quality was phenomenal.

Most of the bands that came out and played seemed to have a great time and from hearing the press conferences after the festival, it sounds like the site location was the most impressive gig venue of every band that played. Please see the video clips from each band.... my apologies for the grainy picture quality but you just can't bring decent cameras to an outdoor event like this if you want them to survive.

On top of all the headline acts that played on the main stage there was a secondary stage that pumped out up and coming bands throughout the day and then featured some Native drums and dancers in the evening with a random burlesque show from some rapper women on Saturday night.

Also throughout the weekend there was a gang of top DJ's spinning in the Bacardi B-Live tent, which is an international event in its third year in Canada. The lines to get into this tent (the only place where you could buy cocktails on the festival site) were always huge and I never managed to make it in to get my dance on. However, the base from the tent started at about 1230pm and rolled on till well past 1am. I heard nothing but rave reviews for the people who actually spent time to get in the tent and sacrificed seeing the rock acts.

Finally there was a 4th tent that doubled as a second beer garden and featured the 12th annual Pemberton Barn Dance. This area featured a host of cover bands, local artists and country acts. I didn't spend too much time in this tent but did thoroughly enjoy the Led Zeppelin tribute band that rocked out for an hour on Friday.

The best crowd responses to certain songs were for Tom Petty's "Free Fallin," Coldplay's "Yellow," Tragically Hip's "Courage" and Jay-Z's "99 problems but a Bitch aint one."

All in all the music, which everyone came for, was the best part of this festival and most importantly no matter where you were the sound quality was always excellent.

The Camping Grounds

To really experience what the vibe at this music festival was all about, you had to camp in the surrounding fields. Sure the music is what everyone came for but the party never seemed to stop in the campgrounds. People who had got there early on Thursday had the best pick of the site whereas the late comers on Friday were much more crammed in and generally further away from the gig venue and food area.

Organizers had endless amounts of glacier water on tap, fully stocked general stores that seemed to only run out of ice (which was replenished multiple times daily), numerous portable toilets that got nasty but were cleaned out daily and 16 showers for 20,000 campers. Obviously the showers were an issue but if you could get over the fact that you were not getting a full shower everyday but could hose off at the water taps you were all good.

The vibe in the campsite was great--the first night everyone was partying hard and having a great time. Different types of music were playing all across the campsite and people were letting loose preparing for the start of the festival. Later in the evening on Thursday night there would be what has been coined as the "PEMBY ROAR", a sound wave of people cheering that would roll across the huge campground site spontaneously.

Of course there were copious amount of drugs and alcohol being consumed from the get-go in the campground with people selling pretty much anything. I had heard that in some areas of the campground ravers has started using E as a currency, trading food, valuables and money for the drug. On the first night there was a campsite near ours where the people had somehow smuggled in a full size sheesha pipe. Another impressive smuggling effort was a group who got in a Texas Mickey of rum.

Over the whole time the only thing that disappeared from our campsite was a $10 chair. Overall I would say that most people got dirty, didn’t get much sleep and witnessed some nasty toilets but had a great time and enjoyed the camaraderie of sharing a field with 20,000 other people for 4 days.

Festival Amenities

The festival grounds were well set up for this event. Throughout the festival site there were general stores stocked with pretty much everything you needed with prices being about 50% higher than normal. The food area was fantastic with loads of choices in for everyone. There were the usual options of burgers, fries, hotdogs and pizza along with more expensive options of Greek gyros, salads, curries, gourmet waffles and more. There was also a farmers market that sold fresh vegetables and fruit. Fresh water stations were scattered throughout the festival grounds along with misting stations to cool down. There were a couple of large beer gardens that absolutely ripped people off with cans of either Molson Canadian or Coors Light costing $7.00. One major mistake made by organizers was not offering any girlie drinks like cider or coolers. They did bring in some wine at one point that sold out almost instantly.

There were some problems as always is the case in organizing an event of this magnitude for the first time, especially in a remote mountain valley. Traffic was horrendous, shower lines could be up to 2 hours long, and the whole site turned into a massive dust bowl in the first 2 days causing people to wear bandanas to cover their face. Regardless of these inconveniences, and I’m sure every person has their own personal gripe about something, this festival was an amazing event that most people will be talking about for years to come. Hopefully the Pemberton Festival becomes an annual event as organizers have talked about. I can guarantee that if the music line-up is as good as this year I will be one of the first to buy my ticket next year.