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The best-in-show at Pemberton
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

I survived the inaugural Pemberton Festival, literally. I had to be pulled out of the pit during Jay-Z's set, after minor suffocation. Despite that and the ongoing dust clouds and traffic congestion, the festival was nothing short of amazing. Over 40,000 concertgoers, mostly from Canada and the US, got the opportunity to see quality music acts in an unbeatable setting. Plans are already under way for next year's festival and if it's anything like this one, start packing. Here are my picks in random order for the twelve best things seen, heard, tasted, and enjoyed at the Pemberton Festival last weekend.

1. Coldplay - The superstar rock band closed out the festival with a dramatic and uplifting performance, exactly what the event needed following an historic and sometimes chaotic weekend. Chris Martin looked scrappy, but sounded the complete opposite - his vocals in top form. Promoting their new and much-lauded album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, the Grammy-winning quartet glided beautifully through "Yellow", "Fix You", and "The Scientist". Read a full review of Coldplay's performance in this week's issue.

2. Death Cab for Cutie - In yet another sign that Death Cab for Cutie has hit major status, the group performed on the main stage Sunday evening just before Jay-Z and Coldplay. They drew a solid crowd of fans, who sang along to "The Sound of Settling", "Soul Meets Body", "Title and Registration", and "I Will Possess Your Heart". The Seattle-based foursome is sounding better than ever, a great reason to purchase that Bumbershoot ticket.

3. Festival location - I always thought The Gorge was unparalleled when it came to stage backdrops, but the lush canvas of green forests and snow-tipped mountains at Pemberton was a notch better. It really looked as if an artist painted a mountainous setting behind the stage, and the bright stars at night reminded everyone how spectacular the world can be without a city skyline.

4. Wolfmother - They came, they played, they conquered, they left. Aussie trio Wolfmother hadn't performed in the Northwest since late 2006, until they showed up at Pemberton and rocked it out on the opening afternoon. Banging away on an hour-long set, the threesome was simply on fire as they did "Woman", "Dimension", and "White Unicorn". Interestingly, they each look exactly the same as they did two years ago - even their wardrobes haven't been updated.

5. Festival-goers - You can't have a party without partiers, right? The festival itself was at times a zoo, and the animals were the festival-goers who stumbled over each other drunkenly, flashed bare breasts, mooned a Canadian live broadcast, wore Mexican sombreros, passed around inflated condoms, got arrested in the VIP lounge, made out on the lawn in front of everyone, and passed out with a side of fries nearby. These festival-goers, a clash of Canadians and Americans, were the wildest.

6. Jay-Z - Honestly, I'm not a fan of this ego-tripping rap star and had no desire to see him perform. But, part of a being a music writer is allowing your horizons to be widened and Jay-Z certainly widened mine. While his performance drew a pretty trashy crowd (a girl behind me said she wanted to hump him), it was electrifying and fun once you got passed the swearing. The Linkin Park remix was off the hook, as was the "Umbrella" snippet. Still, I'm not sure what Beyonce sees in this guy.

7. MSTRKFT - Digital whiz MSTRKFT attracted a long, long line of concertgoers to the Bacardi B-Live tent for an hour of full-throttle dance music. Equal portions of guys and girls, most with little clothing, turned the place into a steambath by dancing anywhere they could. An artist who's appeared at every major club around the globe, the shoulder length-haired DJ brought an energy to the festival that some main stage acts lacked. It's a shame he was reduced to spin inside a tent.

8. On-site food - Sasquatch could learn something from Pemberton in regards to food, that it ought to be delicious not just fast. I was delighted at the festival to find a variety of good food, including battered fish n' chips, charbroiled burgers and fries, lamb donnairs, burritos, pizza, chicken strips, funnel cakes, Ukrainian breakfasts, and even miniature donuts. Also, the lines were short due to the numerous choices.

9. Chromeo - Montreal DJ Chromeo, similar to MSTRKFT, is another artist that deserved prime viewing instead of a mid-afternoon tent appearance. The show never stopped bouncing once it started, and I easily joined several circles of happy-as-a-clam dancers. Throbbing remixes of "Groove is in the Heart" and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" were quite the crowd pleasers, speaking of which the tent was halfway packed just three songs into his set.

10. Interpol - I've never been an Interpol fan, even though friends of mine swear by them. Hence, I've never seen these New Yorkers before in concert and in the short time I caught a third of their act, they converted me to the other side. I loved how lead singer Paul Banks' voice was more of a growl, and the tightness of their set on songs like "Heinrich Maneuver", "Not Even Jail", and "Roland" was sweet. So this is what the fuss is about? I'm totally on-board now.

11. Bacardi Media Lounge - So many press-media representatives huddled inside the Bacardi Media Lounge not because they could, but because in comparison to the lackluster media tent this place was an island. Non-stop complimentary mojitos, canopied beds with pillows, lawn chairs, and food such as wraps and chicken skewers (media tent barely offered grapes) kept press folks very content. The best part was actual air-conditioned restrooms with flushable urinals and toilets. Thank you Bacardi for remembering that press-media does enjoy a nice pampering.

12. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Legendary rockers Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers went onstage a half hour late, for no apparent reason. But the audience soon forgot about it because they whipped that festival into a party zone with hits like "I Won't Back Down", "Even the Losers", and a great redo of "Don't Come Around Here No More". If there's anything that can be guaranteed when it comes to music festivals, it's that Tom Petty will always bring it when invited.

photo: top - Death Cab
middle - Nick Harmer
bottom - Ben Gibbard
 

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