Pemberton, Pemberton, whatcha gonna do? 

The region's biggest music festival returns with Snoop, Ice Cube, Maria Bamford, The Killers, Pearl Jam and dozens of other performers, and with more to do and see

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MARCK C. AUSTEN FOR THE PEMBERTON MUSIC FESTIVAL - Crowd control Vocalist Matthew Shultz of Cage the Elephant gets close to his fan base at the Pemberton Music Festival in 2014.
  • Photo by Marck C. Austen for the Pemberton Music Festival
  • Crowd control Vocalist Matthew Shultz of Cage the Elephant gets close to his fan base at the Pemberton Music Festival in 2014.

Pemberton's back!

Not the village, which is pretty much where people left it, but the music festival — now in its third year — has returned to the valley with more music, comedy, eats and drinks, parties and good, good times.

As of Wednesday there were still tickets available for the festival, which runs from Thursday, July 14, to Sunday, July 17.

To be precise, four-day VIP plus shuttle passes, and single day plus shuttle tickets are available.

But late camping and four-day general admission plus shuttle tickets are now completely sold out.

Six more acts were added to the Pemberton Festival lineup the week before kickoff: The Internet, Vince Staples, Trill Sammy x Dice Soho, Rich Aucoin, Lance Herbstrong and Jak Knight.

What else? How about 45,000 people?

"There's higher attendance. There are going to be more folks this year," says co-founder A.J. Niland of HUKA, sitting down in Whistler ahead of the festival.

One stage is missing this year from Pemberton, the small comedy stage, and the stand-up roster — including Cheech and Chong, Maria Bamford and Craig Robinson — will perform on the bigger Whistler/Blackcomb stage instead, Niland says.

Stages have also been widened to allow for more people to get closer.

"And we've added more sound delays and video delays, so if you end up in the back it doesn't sound like you've ended up with the short end of the experience," he says.

Niland turns to the festival site itself.

"We're working on a new layout (for the site.) We needed the former site in order to relocate the camping entrance on that side. The camping entrance on the north side will be a little more central. Everyone funnels into the middle," he says.

Niland says the amenities have been improved, with more bathrooms, trash cans and food vendors.

And don't forget to bring something to carry your water in during the day.

Improved show production is something Niland spent a lot of time on, making sure the higher numbers of festivalgoers aren't negatively hitting the experience.

Among other things, this is done with an eye on the future.

"The natural evolution of a festival is that you come in and build the best experience you can in Year 1, and for us you tend to overbuild because it's easier to sell the grander concept in the future," Niland says.

He adds: "You get to the point of break-even because festivalgoers can see where it's going."

Niland says they hope to sell out the festival fully as a "mature site" in the next year or two.

"Then we get to shift our focus away from logistics, which has taken up the majority of the time, to everyone focusing on experience. We will have so much more time to do it," Niland says.

This year there is a lot more art, he says, with installations around the festival site involving Sea to Sky artists and organized by Liz Thomson, co-founder of the Bass Coast Festival.

"I was really impressed with their work. We're constantly trying to find ways to support local arts and artists," Niland says.

"There is so much talent — there will be some cool structures. For us, form and function is always important. The Superfly zipline will be back, too! And there will be more activities in the campgrounds, games and other things."

Roads and shuttles

The shuttle stops have also been reconfigured from last year to have better flow and more stops through the communities of Pemberton, Mount Currie and Birken. Locals can get out and enjoy the festival more easily since there is no day parking for cars.

Conversely, festivalgoers who camp onsite, or shuttle from Whistler, are welcome to use the locals' shuttle into the Village or Pemberton or Mount Currie starting from 10 a.m.

All recent paving work on the Sea to Sky Highway between Whistler and Pemberton will be stopped between Thursday, July 14, and Monday, July 18. Festival organizers say they will check in with the ministry of transportation for updates. A good Facebook page to check for delays is Sea to Sky Road Conditions.

For more information, visit The festival on Twitter is @Pemberton_Fest.




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