LIVE at Squamish attracts huge crowd 

Second day was well received despite slow start

click to enlarge STEPHEN SMYSNUIK - Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip performs to a crowd of around 12,000 people at LIVE at Squamish on Saturday night
  • Stephen Smysnuik
  • Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip performs to a crowd of around 12,000 people at LIVE at Squamish on Saturday night

It had a rocky start, but in the end it was the single largest concert Squamish has held.

Just shy of 12,000 people turned out Saturday for the LIVE at Squamish festival, lured through the gates with a lineup featuring The Tragically Hip, Chromeo and The Sheepdogs.

The crowd was easy-going and the night’s headliners were met with huge enthusiasm despite a later than expected start. The audience and acts alike were held up on the Sea to Sky highway by a serious four-car pileup near Lion’s Bay that blocked northbound traffic on the highway for nearly four hours.

According to Paul Runnals, executive producer of the festival, staff spent most of the day playing catchup. Artists, security, first aid and others were trapped in the traffic along with the thousands of festivalgoers — all of whom showed up at the same time.

“All of the people who would have been here three hours before doors (opened) came with the audience, right? So that was tough,” Runnals said, around 7:15 p.m. as the indie-rock band Wintersleep (which had also been stuck in the traffic) was taking the stage.

“So it was a rough start but we’ve kind of caught up. The lineups at the gates were pretty horrific for awhile, so then everyone got in and, of course, the lineups at the beer gardens got pretty horrific after awhile because it was everything at once,” he said.

The beer lines were a point of contention for many people in the beer gardens. A general lack of order and crowds of people that overwhelmed the limited staff meant close to an hour wait for drinks — an unpleasant experience for many.

“I’ve been at LIVE at Squamish since its birth, and I appreciate that it’s a growing entity, but these beer gardens this year are despicable,” said Jenny Cummer, a small business owner from Vancouver. “I feel like a pig in a pen!”

The vibe on the grounds, though, was great she added: “...Outside the beer garden it’s always a fantastic venue, and the vibe of the whole thing is great. There are way more people out here this year.”

Organizers heard several complaints but overall, the response to the festival was positive. Even those stuck in the traffic jam were hanging out in the street, tossing footballs around, sharing food and — in the case of Wintersleep, who was also caught — playing bocce ball.

“It was totally worth (the wait),” said Jason Cochrane, who was stuck in the traffic. “I’m totally stoked.”

Eighteen artists performed Saturday night, spread out over four stages with programming running until about about 11:30 p.m. Highlights included The Hip, Wintersleep and Charles Bradley, whose 40-minutes soul-funk revival performance added some variety to the festival’s dominance on indie-rock.

The festival had a positive start on Friday, with six bands performing for 3,200 people, including a special 15-minute warm-up set by the Tragically Hip for 30 people during their sound check.

Another 12,000 people were expected for day three of the festival, which included headliners City and Colour, Mother Mother and the Airborne Toxic Event.

By John French

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