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What to expect from the 2015 Pemberton Music Festival

HUKA CEO A.J. Niland spills the beans on the acts and some new plans for this year

A.J. Niland is in Pemberton and he ain't leaving.

The CEO of HUKA Entertainment, which revived the Pemberton Music Festival a year ago, is already in the village and is preparing for the 2015 festival in the weeks leading up to it. It takes place from July 16 to 19.

The musical lineup includes The Black Keys, Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Tiesto, Hozier, Kid Cudi, Weezer, Jane's Addiction, M.I.A, Skrillex and Diplo.

Comedians Tim & Eric, Cheech & Chong and Reggie Watts are among those joining the comedy festival portion of the weekend.

For the full lineup visit

He took a moment to speak to Pique about the musicians and comedians coming to the festival. A second story on planning and changes to the festival will run on Thursday, June 11.

Pique: There are a huge variety of acts, like last year. Which performers are you most pleased about getting?

A.J. Niland: Missy Elliot, without a doubt. The buzz and excitement really revolves around her performance and coming off an exciting Super Bowl performance and tour. She doesn't play around a whole lot. Trying to get her was done out of fun when we were booking and given that she doesn't tour and play shows very often, we didn't think it was even a possibility.

But the reputation of last year's festival and her knowledge of the Pemberton area, whether she educated herself about it or not, the response came in about what a beautiful place this is. She was excited to play it from that point forward. She is the person who has gotten the most feedback.

I'm excited by just about everybody. I make it my goal to try and see some music, because I get to see very little, but Missy Elliot is a not-to-miss for me, and War on Drugs is another one I am super excited for.

War on Drugs is really taking things to the next level right now and it's just really fun music. It's got a vintage vibe to it and feels like rock that has been around for a while and familiar.

I'm always stoked to see The Black Keys.

Tobias Jesso Jr. is probably our coolest story, as of right now. He is a local Vancouver performer who has been pursuing a career in music and just released this year a critically acclaimed album. And Tobias last year came to the festival as an attendee and was moved, being that he is a crooning piano type, by Randy Newman.

Pique: It's great when you see someone inspired that way.

AJN: Indeed. I think it's super cool that a local kid who attended last year is arguably one of the most critically acclaimed songwriters coming.

Pique: And Kendrick Lamar... two for two. Did he enjoy it so much he wanted to come back? I know he was about an hour late taking the stage last year.

AJN: (Laughing) That will be forever known in our camp as "cablegate." He flew in from Europe and there were flight delays, as one can expect these days, and when they landed the airline had lost the bags.

First priority was getting him onsite but the reality was there was a cable in one of the bags. We were able to replace everything except this one cable that was needed to connect the electronic components together.

We had to solicit the help of a helicopter to fly and get the cable and get it back. Thankfully we had a transport scheduled and we were doing a film shoot.

Bringing Kendrick back was at the demand of the fans — the survey we took of what acts the fans wanted to see come back. He was the highest ranked that was actually able to play this year. He's got a new album, he's really exploding and a good friend of members of our team.

One of the sets that was really iconic from last year was Kendrick Lamar. If someone really kills it at the festival it's not a faux pas to bring them back.

Pique: Full Flex Express — made up of electronic music artists Jack U (Skrillex and Diplo), Zeds Dead, A$AP Ferg, Tycho and more — is interesting. It's like they're bringing a self-contained dance festival.

AJN: They're coming on their own train to the back end of the Pemberton site! The Full Flex Express tour is on VIA Rail and all the members of the tour are taking the train from Toronto all the way here. They play stops along the way and the final stop on the tour is Pemberton.

The train is pulling up to the site and they are going to load in and take over a stage for an entire day. That should be a party!

Pique: What do you want fans to get out of the Pemberton Music Festival this time?

AJN: A better experience. The sound, lighting, video, everything's tweaked a little bit. One of the things we're excited about is the video programs this year.

We're really utilizing the content of the screens in between sets. We're pushing more content out, festival exclusives. Things happening behind the scenes, behind stage.

That is something that I hope will become the standard at festivals worldwide. To make the experience a little more intimate. Behind the curtain is always such a mystery.