Chance the Rapper, Muse, A Tribe Called Quest headline Pemberton 

More acts to come; Music festival cancels comedy for this year; seeks to ease congestion on arrival day

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - rap legends A Tribe Called Quest is headlining the Pemberton Music Festival.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • rap legends A Tribe Called Quest is headlining the Pemberton Music Festival.

Hip hop and electronic dance music (EDM) will keep the crowds moving at the 2017 Pemberton Music Festival.

But in a change this year, the festival will not have a comedy stage in order to create more space for camping

Headliners include Chance the Rapper, British rockers Muse, and hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest.

Chance the Rapper won three Grammy Awards in February 2017 for Coloring Book, including Best Rap Album. Coloring Book is the first streaming-only album to ever win a Grammy.

As well, the following acts have been confirmed: Major Lazer; Haim; Run The Jewels; Marshmello; Diplo; Big Sean; Ween; Alesso; Logic; Tegan & Sara; MGMT; Future Islands; Zeds Dead; Migos; Carnage; Lil Uzi Vert; Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats; Slightly Stoopid; Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals; Griz, Nelly; Rebelution; Lil Yachty; Deorro; A Tribe Called Red; Majid Jordan; Local Natives; Khalid; Eagles Of Death Metal; The Avalanches; Bob Moses; July Talk; Joey Bada$$; 6lack; Amine; Thundercat; Cashmere Cat; Shovels & Rope; The Rural Alberta Advantage; Noname; Broods; SonReal; K.Flay; Grandtheft; Roy Woods; Mr. Carmack; Current Swell; Hamilton Leithauser; Denzel Curry; Lecrae; Said the Whale; PUP; Giraffage; Pvris; Boyfriend; Dirty Radio; Tennyson; Marcus King Band; Kilo Kish; Tasha the Amazon; A. Chal; and Hundred Waters.

How it came together

The 2017 lineup was announced three weeks later than it was in 2016, which HUKA Entertainment chairman and chief experience officer A.J. Niland chalks up to more effort being needed to pull together the performers.

"A lot of acts will be in Europe; we just weren't happy with where the lineup was a month ago and so we elected to keep working on it instead of putting out a product we weren't happy with," Niland says.

That said, he is particularly looking forward to seeing A Tribe Called Quest.

The high U.S. dollar compared to the Canadian currency also had an impact, especially as Pemberton is HUKA's main Canadian festival.

"It does have big impact because most artists are paid in U.S. dollars. We always have our eyes on it — we try to adjust for it in other ways," he says.

"You try to mitigate it as best you can, but the dollar does what it wants to do... We've gotten very smart in how we approach this."

But Niland adds that creating the lineup was a labour of love and to expect more announcements — up to a "half dozen or so."

"There's still more to come, but the response so far has been tremendous," he says.

"We're still finalizing a good bit, we had to wait and see the first lineup and we can fill in the blanks from there. It's always a process... there's always a handful that are in (negotiation) that don't make it to the announcement."

The emphasis on rap and EDM comes down to the level of positive audience response previously at the festival.

"Rock was really tough to book this year because there weren't a lot of rock headliners out. That's the area that took the longest," Niland says.

"But the full composition of the festival is not quite done yet."

And while there are three headlining acts for the festival named, there are four days in the festival. Niland says they will likely add another big name as headliner for that night.

"Thursday is becoming a day that we've expanded into a reason for folks to come up early, it helps with traffic and is becoming a bigger and bigger day. We've oftentimes put that fourth headliner on that night, and we've toyed back and forth what to do with the day," he says.

Niland confirmed that the Pemberton Comedy Stage, unique for a HUKA music festival, is not returning in 2017 because the location where comedy took place in previous years was needed to expand the nearby camping area.

"That was a big consideration. We have not seen the crowd at the comedy tent be the size that we thought it would. So as a way of revamping comedy as a whole, we took a couple of shots at getting really big comedians with the idea to present them on one of the three big stages," he says.

"We weren't able to land the comedians we wanted so we decided to take comedy off for this year, and develop further on the comedy programming moving forward.

"We wanted to create a comedy zone in the existing footprint and we couldn't quite figure both of those out in the timeline. Comedy is not gone forever, but definitely for now."

The other three stages — Mount Currie, Basecamp and Pemberton — are not impacted by the changes.

Traffic, camping and drug testing

In 2016, there were complaints about long waits for people trying to move their camp equipment from the parking areas at the festival to their campsites.

This year, Niland believes that expanding the campground and getting access to a larger portion of land will alleviate issues with camping and movement.

"That will help with shifting people. Once people get there the (new set-up) will be in place," he says.

"The Sea to Sky Highway is always a concern and for that we are telling people to try and get up to the site as early as possible and come at off-peak hours and not the rush hour."

Bus transportation has also changed. Niland says that along with Whistler-to-Pemberton shuttles, there will be an option for campers to get on a bus in urban centres such as Vancouver (though not Whistler) and leave the vehicles at home.

"We are offering a camping bus option. You don't bring your car at all," Niland says.

"And people are also figuring out that it is easier to rent a hotel room, condo or chalet in Whistler and take the shuttle back and forth. There are significantly more people doing that (than when the festival started four years ago)."

Returning this year is the drug-testing tent to check that drugs being used are not harming participants. There will be medical specialists onsite and the RCMP is supporting the program.

"Everyone is working together on the cause. A lot of that is education and there are drug-testing kits onsite and counsellors to talk to. It's a safe zone and not something we want people to be afraid of," Niland says.

"If someone has a concern at the festival they should talk to one of the representatives to make sure they stay safe."

With the current fentanyl crisis in B.C., Niland says they are taking precautions.

"The fentanyl crisis in particular is not unique, but it is new. The opiate epidemic is hitting the world pretty hard right now. We take it pretty seriously," he says.

In terms of ticket sales, Niland says there has been a spike in counterfeit tickets sold and asked festivalgoers to be cautious and buy from the Pemberton Music Festival website.

The Pemberton Music Festival takes place from July 13 to 16.

For more information on tickets, performers, camping and transportation, visit www.pembertonmusicfestival.com.

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