Published Aug 22, 2011This year's LIVE at Squamish offered a two-day festival perfect for the back-to-school crowd: sun, fun and lessons learned.
After taking some time off, Emily Haines returned to the small stage Saturday afternoon seeming rejuvenated, relaxed and happy, performing a special Metric acoustic set with James Shaw. They offered stunning versions of fan favourites "Gimme Sympathy" and "Help I'm Alive" before breaking out covers of Buffalo Springfield's "Expecting to Fly" and Pink Floyd's "Nobody Home."
On the main stage that evening, Stars singer Torquil Campbell cheerfully encouraged the audience to think of whomever they hated most in the world before launching into indie pop beauty "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," which proved a marked contrast to the happy-go-lucky vibes of the following act, Australia's John Butler Trio.The crowd could not get enough of the band's lengthy roots funk jams, dancing with frenzied abandon as JBT built to a thrilling climax that involved Butler himself jumping off the drum kit. The hyped-up excitement exploded when the evening closer, Girl Talk, took to the stage, surrounded by about 40 audience members dancing alongside him as he kicked off his set with body-vibrating bass and Black Sabbath.
Sunday offered bigger names and some phenomenal performances, but it couldn't quite maintain the momentum. Up-and-coming Vancouver-based bands the Belle Game and Said the Whale (disguised initially as Panda Watch in a sort of funny bid to be both mysterious and avoid repetition of last year's lineup) kicked off the afternoon right. The Belle Game's hook-laden indie pop was perfect outdoor music, while Said the Whale played exclusively new songs from their upcoming second album (everything from rock to alt-country to pop punk influences) and hinted at a fall EP.
The evening's main stage began with the Dudes' brand of fun, old-fashioned rock. But the beer shotgunning jocularity in no way prepared for what was to follow. Black Mountain's epic set melted faces and blew minds. It was a regular zombie movie of metaphors to describe their bold, brilliantly dark rock. In fact, it proved a hard act to follow.
Metric got close with a booming version of "Monster Hospital," but closing act Weezer barely made an effort, relying instead on the innate pleasure of their alt-pop catalogue of hits. They offered up all the old favourites, plus a cover of "Pumped Up Kicks" by Weezer-lite band Foster the People. Weezer's Rivers Cuomo was positively sedate compared to last year's headlining show at Bumbershoot where he jumped, danced and scaled port-o-potties. Apparently, only Cuomo didn't get the message that LIVE at Squamish is now a festival where you have to bring your A game.