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The good, bad and ugly at Pemby Fest

People complain too much, all the time, about everything. The problem is expectations — when something goes wrong in our perfect little worlds we take it personally, focusing on the negative instead of the positive.

People complain too much, all the time, about everything. The problem is expectations — when something goes wrong in our perfect little worlds we take it personally, focusing on the negative instead of the positive. People will bitch for days about the waitress who got their order wrong, oblivious to how busy said waitress and kitchen may have been, how apologetic she was after the fact, or what she did to correct the problem. We expect perfection from everyone but ourselves. We, personally, are allowed to be human.

We lack empathy. We crave sympathy. It’s pathetic.

That said, I heard a lot of complaints about everything at Pemberton Music Festival — the lines, the dust, the prices, the sound quality, the hours of operation, the highway, the guy camping two tents over who was snoring. The list is long. I’m not saying that the festival was perfect, it could obviously use a few changes when and if it returns, but it’s important to put everything into perspective — the organizers pulled off a 40,000-plus person music festival with some of the biggest bands in the world, based out of a town with a population of just over 2,000, on a farm field that hasn’t seen much rain in two months, with only a two-lane highway for people to get in or out. If you didn’t enjoy yourself even a little bit you’re probably a miserable person all around. Nothing in the world could possibly please you. You’re the type of person that would complain about lugging bug spray all the way to the concert when there weren’t any bugs — like one guy I had the misfortune to overhear.

I’ve put together a list of the good, bad and ugly at the festival, and suggestions how things could be improved next year. If there is a next year.

The good — The lineup of bands was incredible, and the sound quality from the stages was unbelievable all through the show. The one exception was N.E.R.D., who arrived late without an opportunity to do a proper soundcheck, but by the end of their set the engineers had that dialed in as well.

Also good was the marketplace, and the variety of food available. Some of it was actually healthy and the prices were reasonable considering the opportunity to gouge. The water station also meant you didn’t have to buy water bottles every time you got thirsty, which was often considering the heat and the dust. All of us were suffering from acute Pember-lung by the end of the festival.

The people were also good, mostly. I didn’t see or hear about any fights, and concertgoers were generally courteous to each other — pretty amazing when you consider how easy it was to buy or smuggle in alcohol. My wristband, backpack and stroller weren’t checked once in three days of the festival.

The bad — The concert grounds needed a lot more garbage and recycling bins, which should have been placed every 50 metres or so. The garbage bins were hard to find and usually overflowing, and people generally gave up and threw their crap on the ground with the expectation that it would get cleaned up by somebody — and by day three it was obvious that cleaning crews couldn’t keep up. I like to think most people would have trashed and recycled responsibly if it was a realistic option.

The check-in on Thursday night was also a veritable gong show, as people were separated from their vehicles and shuttled to the campground, only to have to lug all their gear another kilometre on foot. Most people were not hardcore campers, were not well equipped and did the opposite of travelling light. I heard it took six hours for people to get from the Pemberton Airport screening area to their campsite, and a lot of people were upset. I understand the reason for all the procedures — there wasn’t room for people and cars, and this way people could only bring as much booze as they could carry — but it needed to work faster. Nobody has to go through something like that at Sasquatch, Bonaroo, or Coachella festivals.

The highway was also bad, but I don’t think there was any way around this since there was only one way in and one way out. No back roads, no side roads, no nothing. Something should have been done to encourage cycling, and I think Sunday’s show should have wrapped up by 8 p.m. to give people a sporting chance to get home in time for work the next day. People sticking around for Coldplay took anywhere from one to five hours to get as far as Whistler, 32 km, and a lot of people were from Vancouver and beyond.

I also could have done without the rumour-mongering — Jay-Z isn’t coming, Tom Petty isn’t coming, somebody drowned in the river, somebody got run over by a school bus… it was broken telephone at its worst.

The ugly — The only ugly that comes to mind is the complaining. When you go to a festival like this you have to expect a certain amount of inconvenience and go with the flow. That’s part of the fun of it; the reason people go to festivals instead of waiting for the concert DVD to come out. With 40,000 people heading to Pemberton, what did people expect?

The time to complain is next year, if the things that went wrong aren’t righted.