Putting Pemberton on the music map

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— text and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media —

England has Glastonbury and Reading. Japan has Fuji Rock and Summersonic. Seattle has Bumbershoot and The Gorge. 

But the Vancouver area, cradle of Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, Nickelback and hordes of guitar-toting hipsters, has long lacked an iconic rock festival of its own.  

Many have tried and failed. 

Hopes were high in 2008, when Live Nation brought Coldplay, Jay-Z and Nine Inch Nails to 40,000 fans cramming into Pemberton, population 2192. But, according to multiple reports, the event got bogged down in issues that plague festivals worldwide: traffic jams, lack of public transport, garbage pile-ups, camera-destroying dust, and line-ups for filthy, stinking toilets. Even Fuji Rock, one of the world’s best run festivals, has line-ups in the mud for toilets.

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This time, Huka, a group based in New Orleans, is trying to put Pemberton, 156 kilometers north of Vancouver, on the global festival map.

To entice campers to come early, they’ve enlisted Canadian acts Gord Downie, the Sadies, Matt Mays and others to perform Wednesday and Thursday.

They’ve set aside an expanded parking lot in Whistler, and organized shuttle buses for the final 30-kilometer leg to Pemberton. BC’s Ministry of Transportation gave organizers control of Pemberton’s sole traffic light, and they plan to use five exits off Highway 99.

They’re expecting 20,000 to camp the whole weekend, plus another 5000 single-day ticket holders who will have to park in Whistler and take shuttle buses.

To contain odours and eyesores, toilets will be in tents, they say.

They’ve got great acts: NIN, Soundgarden, Kendrick Lamar, Outkast, Deadmau5, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Flaming Lips, Metric, Stars, Sloan, New Pornographers, Matthew Good, Daniel Lanois and others. 



It’s Canada, so they’re going to have a stage just for comedy acts, including suburban Vancouver favorites Trailer Park Boys. 

Pemberton’s mayor says it’s going to be great. The Lil’Wat First Nation is on board. 

It sounds heavenly if you’re a music fan. The only thing is that Pemberton is the same weekend as the Vancouver Folk Festival — truly the city’s most beloved music fest. 

Until now at least.


HUKA Entertainment CEO A.J. Niland told the Vancouver Sun that he first visited the area three years ago after being tipped off by a “Pacific Northwest band” that wanted to start a festival.

We’ve had to bear the burden of baggage (from 2008) on multiple fronts,” he said. “We were able to win over a lot of acts, and that’s who you see on the bill. And there are still some we have great relationships with but were concerned about the issues of ’08 and they’d rather sit this one out — ‘Let’s see it happen. Let’s see it work. Then we’ll talk about next year.’”

(For Francois Marchand’s multiple pre-festival reports, please see: http://www.vancouversun.com/Pemberton+reboot+beginning/10021444/story.html#ixzz37BWdCEfi)

We’re utilizing Whistler in a very different way,” Village of Pemberton COO Daneil Sailland told the Vancouver Sun. “2008 did not make use of Whistler at all. HUKA has actively engaged Whistler and made sure that you’re maximizing the use of the upgraded (Sea to Sky) highway. Their strategy has been to take this whole traffic approach to the next level.”

Nyland also told EDM Canada that they’ve doubled the site area, brought in the “Grass Whisperer” who handles natural turf at NFL and MLB stadiums, and deployed crews experienced with handling garbage and traffic issues at Bonnaroo, Coachella and other festivals.

“We sorted through all of the complaints which were obviously being traffic, dust, garbage, and port-a-johns. A lot of the things that were very apparent was sort of due to poor planning and poor execution. I am the weakest link in my team, and we have an extremely experienced group of individuals that do most of the major festivals in North America that came and vetted the property, vetted the site, identified the things that we needed to fix and how to fix them.”

(please see their extensive interview here: http://www.edmcanada.com/blog/2014/6/19/learn-more-about-the-pemberton-music-festival-with-my-interview-with-aj-niland-and-talent-buyer-sascha-guttfreund)