By Jamila Pomeroy
September 8th-10th, 2018
VANCOUVER – Skookum Festival organizers, Brandlive, reported an estimated 50,000 festivalgoers passed through Stanley Park’s Brockton Oval during their inaugural edition, proving once again that Vancouverites aren’t afraid of the rain.
Festivals of the past spark visions of paper tickets, food resembling the fair, and musicians alternating between one or two larger stages. Skookum however encompasses quite the opposite with scannable wristbands, food from restaurants such as Vijj’s Rangoli and Bao Bei, and four stages scattered across the beautiful Stanley Park landscape. The all ages festival held space for people of all backgrounds. While the bands, food, and partners were carefully curated, long lines for food and washrooms along with and rainy weather put a damper on the festival for some. This is not to say the festival was a bust.
There were an overwhelming amount of festival goers who were well-equipped with rain gear or sporting festival rain ponchos with giant smiles and beers in hand. The beautifully curated event featured everything from local hometown heros Mother Mother and Hey Ocean, to larger headliners like Metric and the Killers.
The festival also made it known through various banners that organizers were thankful to be sharing the land of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and made efforts through adverts stressing the proper care and maintenance of our shared lands. Connectively, the event featured diverse programming, some of which included rap group Snotty Nose Rez Kids, accompanied by traditional First Nations greetings, song and dance; maintaining both the visual and sonic representation of First Nations peoples, through past traditions, and current cultural expressions.
Headliners the Arkells and Chromeo helped to draw over 15,000 fans, but locals, Little Destroyer served as a surprise treasure in comparison to a performance by Chromeo that may have triggered cringe worthy moments of the ‘80s.
Vancouver locals, Little Destroyer kicked off Skookum Festival with a bang, boasting a high-energy larger than life performance. Powerhouse Allie Sheldon could be, at any given time, found standing on the tops of amps and monitors claiming the stage in its entirety, as her own. Channeling the energy and vibrations of an early No Doubt era Gwen Stefani; Sheldon wore jean shorts with chains, Doc Martens, flannel, and a sheer plastic top with smiley faces over her boobs. The outfit itself could be representational of the band, highlighting the softness and strength deeply rooted in their persona. In hindsight, there were very few performances at the festival to replicate Little Destroyer’s level of energy and authenticity.
Saturday’s lineup brought in an estimated 18,500 attendees and featured a female-dominant audience of ST. Vincent, Metric, and Florence and the Machine. While ST. Vincent provided a unique visual performance with bold colours, Metric served as a moment for friends to belt out lyrics as if they were at karaoke, and Florence and the Machine played an unforgettable set lined with pure magic.
Entering in a nude coloured tight jumpsuit and high orange boots, Annie Clark, more commonly known as ST. Vincent, must have descended from some other-worldly planet. Mimicking a space-aged military woman of authority in performance, ST. Vincent performed a visual display that was undeniably out of this world. With visual backgrounds echoing the allure of the deep space powerhouse, ST. Vincent went through realms of Art Rock, New Wave, and Disco; all with the addition of her bold array of Ernie Ball signature guitars.
Florence and the Machine
Florence Welch glimmered in the moonlight, in an angelic and captivating performance. When singing “June” of of her latest album, HIgh as Hope, Welch floated across the stage barefoot in a dreamy silky peach-pink dress. Flowing in the same majestic rike, fell that iconic red hair. The crowd at the Skyline stage may have been tired and cold from the days rain, but as soon as fan-favourites like “Dog Days Are Over” were performed, you could hear the crowd echo the lyrics. Along with her inspirational and powerful vocals, Welch maintained a sense of comfortable and grounded composure.
Sunday attracted an estimated 17,000 attendees and was comprised of locals, Mother Mother and Snotty Nose Rez Kids, along with a seemingly iconic performance by Father John Misty, and a performance drenched in nostalgia by the Killers.
Father John Misty
With a walk as confident and classy as smooth jazz personified, Josh Tillman emerged from behind the stage in an all white suit and square glasses. Tillman radiates a certain depth of confidence that, like the thematic lyrical presence of his music, encompasses an air of spirituality: Father John Misty the cult everyone would wilfully join. With a dramatic and theatrical stage presence, Tillman wildly resembles a young Elton John through vocal tonalities. The band, which was composed of two flutes, a trumpet, and a sax, added an unbelievable fullness in presence. Songs such as “Hangout at the Gallows“ off of his latest album, “God’s Favorite Customer”, hit particularly hard as Tillman through open arms like white sparks of electricity.
The Killers began their set with a cannon of white confetti the fell from the sky like snow. Beginning the set with “The Man”, frontman Brandon Flowers was found in front of a male symbol, lit with lights that resembled a blinking vegas sign. While Flowers’ vocal performance may not have been mindblowing, the show remained a hit, even if purely based on nostalgia. Flowers maintained a high level of charisma throughout the performance, bringing stadium level energy to Stanley Park. Nearing the end of the set the band played what started out as a stripped down version of “Spaceman”; whether you are a longtime or new Killers fan, this clearly struck a chord with many audience members, inducing crowd swaying and hand holding.
—Chromeo, Florence and the Machine, Skookum Festival, St. Vincent, The Killers