Live at Squamish: Day Two -- 08/21/11

The first day was down and a huge success, but second day of Live at Squamish was the one I was most looking forward to, packed with excellent bands all around. But before I get to it, I just wanted to make note that I love how the festival booked local bands. A good chunk of the people playing during the day were local independent artists, and when you have a festival that boasts 9000 people a day, that's some great exposure for people who deserve it.

The first act I was excited to see was Brasstronaut, playing the Stawamus Stage. They played a fairly short set, starting with "Slow Knots" and with a few new songs in there; one named "JT", which had a phenomenal and spacey instrumental ending, was dedicated to John Wah's year old kid, who was attending his first festival. They ended with an energetic "Lo Hi Hopes", giving the day a good start.

Panda Watch. And by Panda Watch, I mean Said the Whale
Bend Sinister was up next on the main stage, but I sadly missed them to head to the Giribaldi Stage to catch first Shane Koyczan doing some slam poetry – he was doing short in-between sets at various times all weekend – and then the enigmatic Panda Watch. For the weeks leading up to the festival the question Who Is Panda Watch? was on people's lips, and while there was some who figured it out, others had no idea that it was actually Said The Whale (I knew a month or so ago, and it was a tough secret to keep).
After setting up and coming out with creepy looking panda masks, they played an instrumental intro before ripping off the masks and revealing themselves to play a set of all new songs, which sounded pretty great.
A couple really stuck out, including the closing song which was a love letter to their fans, a "Ben-song" which may may or may not be called "True Love", and the aptly named "Hurricane Adele", as it was a complete force of nature. One of my favourite sets of the weekend, and I am definitely looking forward to the album.

The Zolas, with guest Ashleigh Ball
After the Whales, it was back to the Stawamus Stage for another Vancouver band, The Zolas – who actually started early (which was frustrating since I ended up missing half the set). They were as energetic as ever and looked like they felt right at home up on the main stage. Before they went into "Pyramid Scheme", Zach called up Hey Ocean's Ashleigh Ball for vocals, who was then seen sprinting through the field to leap (almost literally) on stage. "You're Too Cool" had a good sized sing-a-long going, and for the closing song, "Cab Driver", they brought their parents out for some backup vocals and dancing.

The Dudes were up next, though I only saw part of their set to recharge in the media tent and wander around to look at some of the other exhibits, like the artisans market and silent disco. The Dudes are a fun band live, no doubt, but I wouldn't say I'm too big a fan of them; a lot of their songs sounds kinda... samey.

Black Mountain did not run our hearts around.
It's weird to admit, but I almost forgot to be excited for Black Mountain; there was just so much going on. But as soon as "Old Fangs" hit, I remembered how absolutely amazing the band is live; Amber Weber's hauntingly powerful voice, and Steve McBean's incredible shredding – especially on "Tyrant" – which could only be described as "face-meltingly astonishing". From the fast and frantic "Let Spirits Ride" to the relatively mellow "Roller Coaster" and the building intensity of "Queens Will Play", Black Mountain was without a doubt my favourite set of the festival.

Though there was a strange and awkward moment near the end of their set. As they were wrapping up with "Don't Run Our Hearts Around", an overzealous stagehand walked in front of the band, mid-song, to tell them it was time to wrap it up. Definitely an unnecessary and unprofessional touch.

Soon enough it was time for a second dose of Metric, after their acoustic set the previous day. And it was definitely quite a contrast to that, especially in the level of intensity from Haines; she was back and forth and dancing, a ball of energy that hardly stood still for a minute. They kicked off with "Black Sheep" (which had me momentarily thinking "Envy Adams??") and blasted through a good chunk of their catalogue. Older songs were spiced up a bit, with "Empty" featured a few lines of Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)". "Sick Muse" and "Dead Disco" were a couple more highlights before they ended with "Stadium Love"

Shake your head it's Metric
And wrapping up the festival on the main stage was Weezer. I am not going to lie, I have never been that big of a fan of Weezer, so as far as I was concerned the festival ended with Metric. But I stayed to catch a few of their songs before heading out to beat the rush down the Sea to Sky. They started with "Surf Wax America" and a couple songs in played a cover of Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks". They certainly have their fans, but to me they seemed to be going through the motions a bit, and there wasn't much that compelled me to stay.

All in all, I would say it was a fantastic weekend. They streamlined a lot from the first year, and I love that they included the Green Couch stage, even though I didn't get a chance to see as much as I would have liked on it. And while I liked the headliners better last year, I think they had a stronger all-around lineup this year. One thing I did like better about last year that it was on the long weekend, giving people more time to decompress after, but aside from that, I would say the second year of Live at Squamish was a triumph, and I already can't wait to see what is in store for next year.