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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vancouver Pride 2008: Drizzly and cool on Thursday in Vancouver


I'm not sure what the weather is supposed to be like this w'end, but if you're perhaps driving up tonight or overnight for Vancouver Pride, bring a raincoat because it doesn't appear the clouds are going away anytime soon.

Tonight's big event is Pride Movie Night at the Vancity Theatre (1811 Seymour Street, at Davie). Three unique docs will be shown: Prides in Conflict, Rainbow Pride: A Story of the Rainbow Flag and Hookers on Davie.

Also tonight, "Envy My Music" at gay club Celebrities. Cost is $30. Dress code is hot. Local DJs and German whiz DJ Groove Rebels are expected to spin the tunes.

Trains from Seattle are packed through Sunday, and it looks like shuttle buses are filling up too. There didn't appear to be much congestion today coming into Canada at the border, but this could change as we near the w'end. Plan for a bit of a wait.

Journalists from London, New York, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and of course, Seattle, are making their way to Vancouver today and tomorrow for this year's 30th anniversary of the parade and festival.


Seattle Gay News is pleased to call the Metropolitan Hotel, right in downtown Vancouver and two blocks from the fabulous Cactus Club Cafe, our homebase for 2008 Vancouver Pride. More updates and details on the festivities tomorrow.




Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vancouver Pride 2008: sold out trains, tightened border security


It's Albert from Seattle Gay News, headed back to Canada for exclusive coverage of Vancouver Pride 2008.

It appears outbound Amtrak trains tomorrow through Sunday (July 31-August 3) are entirely sold out, as our attempts to book a reservation online reported "train sold out" status. This leaves me to find alternative transportation for tomorrow, as I'm expected to be there Thursday evening.

If you still want to go up to Vancouver Pride and have no wheels, try www.craigslist.org or post something in the comments section here. There are luxury coach-style buses that depart to Vancouver daily, right from King Street Station here in Seattle. You can book a bus reservation also through Amtrak (www.amtrak.com). But try carpooling first because with gas prices being what they are, someone out there could use an extra passenger chipping in for fuel.

Another thing to note beforehand is that on my return from the Pemberton Festival on Monday, I and several other passengers were randomly searched at the train station in Vancouver by US customs. This is the very first time in the many times I've taken the train in and out of Canada that such random baggage searches ever took place. Customs agents went through each of my bags, scattering my stuff on the counter for others to see, and didn't bother to re-pack my bags - completely annoying. So, a word of caution: pack light if headed to Vancouver Pride this weekend and be careful with what you pack (I had to explain a plastic baggie of aspirin - seriously, it was aspirin).

I should be in Vancouver tomorrow late afternoon, stay glued to this blog for more updates and coverage of the action up north.

Pemberton Festival: Post-festival thoughts


It's been two days since my return from the Pemberton Festival, and I've been ill with a sinus infection on both days.

Despite the festival having serious first-time kinks, and I'm referring to the traffic and on-site garbage issues, it really was an amazing event. It seems almost surreal to have seen Coldplay in such a lush setting, or to have been blown away by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - a band that could teach newer acts a trick or two about class and longevity.

Post-festival traffic was not good, it took our van three and a half hours to get from Whistler to Vancouver. Ideally, it should take about 90 minutes. We stopped in the town of Squamish to stretch our legs and festival-goers were filing out of fast-food restaurants in droves.

The line for The Crystal Method show on Sunday was unbelievable, definitely a mile long outside the Bacardi B-live tent. I didn't even get to see Matisyahu's set because I was at the front of the main stage watching Death Cab for Cutie. Incidentally, I met a lot of DCFC fans who were also at their PNE concert with Franz Ferdinand three years ago (or was it two?). Members of DCFC were around the media tent early Sunday doing interviews and saying hi.

Among the off-the-wall rumors that drifted my way was that Jay-Z had reportedly canceled, only to be substituted by a collaborative set featuring Eric Clapton and Justin Timberlake. Huh?

I wish that I could've blogged more from Pemberton, but there weren't available computer stations as expected and it's a hassle at times getting a laptop in and out of international customs. So I apologize for the anemic coverage. It'll be planned better in 2009, promise. I do have a "best in show" piece and full review of Coldplay printed in our newspaper on Friday, going online Saturday - so look for that if you're interested.

Interestingly, I'm re-packing and headed back to Vancouver tomorrow for exclusive coverage of Pride. If you've been reading these Pemberton posts, start saving up for next year's festival because it's likely going to surpass this one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pemberton Festival: The final day, what a day at Pemberton!


I am a half hour away from boarding a shuttle from Pemberton to Vancouver, then completing the final leg of my journey from Canada back to Seattle from the inaugural Pemberton Festival. Here's how things went down yesterday.

* Coldplay closed out the festival on a very high note, giving an electrifying performance that opened with "Life in Technicolor" and "Violet Hill", then finished with "Death and All His Friends". The main stage was packed, fans listening to the British quartet play "Yellow", "Clocks", "Viva la Vida", and an awesome rendition of "Politik". Truly, this was an astounding performance. I'm writing a full review of Coldplay's set for Friday's print/online editions. By the way, Chris Martin looked great despite a shaggy "do" and baggy pants. My sources tell me that he and Gywneth Paltrow were checked-in at the Four Seasons in Whistler.

* Death Cab for Cutie sounded sensational, especially on "Soul Meets Body", "I Will Possess Your Heart", "Title and Registration", and "The Sound of Settling". Sadly, they omitted "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" from their set list. Chris Walla wore skinny tight jeans, Ben Gibbard's hair is even longer now, Jason McGerr has a beard-thing going on, and Nick Harmer wore his usual all-black ensemble. This was a terrific performance by the Seattle foursome.

* Jay-Z appeared onstage before Coldplay and really fired up the crowd. So crazy was his performance that I had to be pulled out of the pit because I simply, and honestly, couldn't breathe. The main pit area was not only wild, but dangerous - I felt like a rubberband being stretched to new proportions. The lauded rapper-producer included a medley of "Crazy in Love" and "Umbrella", and of course, pulled out "99 Problems" for the audience, many of whom were singing along and raising their fists in the air throughout his set.

* N.E.R.D. was rumored to be unhappy about the concert site beforehand, which may have been why they were more than a half hour late going onstage minus a few band members. But they certainly had a great time, even pulling a bunch of rump-shaking, scantily-clad women onstage at one point.

* The line trying to get into the DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist show at the Bacardi B-Live tent was a mile-long. No joke, a mile-long.

* Despite having to go onstage first, Vampire Weekend managed to draw a really big crowd who danced and sang along to "Oxford Comma" and "Mansard Roof", among other favorites. Lead singer Ezra Koenig looked like a cross between Ralph Macchio and Ferris Bueller with colorful, plastic sunglasses and cardigan sweater.

* Traffic afterwards was quite bad, our shuttle moving less than 10 miles in about 90 minutes. Once we passed the Pemberton town center, we pretty much smooth-sailed to Whistler.

* It appears the Pemberton Festival will take place again next year, at the same spot. From what I've been told, seven bands/artists are already vying for the headlining slot.

I'll blog again one last time on the Pemberton Festival late tonight, from my very own home (which I'm excited to be headed back to). It's been awesome here in Whistler, and the Sundial Boutique Hotel has been a fabulous spot to work from. The mountains and forests nearby remind me how we can easily take for granted living in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. Such begins my journey back to Seattle, after seeing some of the coolest artists on the planet.

Pemberton Festival: Death Cab, Tom Petty, MSTRKFT, other news from Pemberton


This has been an amazing, sometimes insane festival to be a part of. I can't complain much because media has been taken care of, but the rants still continue from many festivalgoers.

In a nutshell, as I wait for my ride this morning to Pemberton from Whister, here's what I know:

* The Pemberton Festival seems to have run more smoothly yesterday compared to a frantic Friday when the number of attendees expected at the event doubled. It's rumored that several volunteer staff and security team members walked off their jobs on Friday due to disorganization, though I will say to the organizers' credit that any midnight discussions seemed to have remedied earlier issues at this festival (transportation, etc.). So, the festival made great improvements yesterday - bravo to the staff for that!

* I met a band member of Carolina Liar yesterday, who was very sweet and so thrilled to be at the Pemberton Festival. He actually told me about a huge party at a mansion in the Pemberton hills last night, though I chose to party elsewhere.

* Death Cab for Cutie is scheduled to check-in at the festival at 1:00pm from Whistler, meaning they either pulled into this ski resort area last night or this morning. Not sure if they've come directly from Seattle or not. Their performance time is at 6:15pm today.

* Many of the bands and upper festival management are staying at either the Fairmont Chateau or the Four Seasons Resort. I saw one band filing out of a van late last night, checking into their guests-only section of the Chateau. It may have been Flaming Lips, though I'm just not sure - one of the group members had a pink suit jacket on.

* Speaking of the Flaming Lips, they gave an energizing performance yesterday that included confetti and giant white balloons.

* Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, yesterday's headliners, were a half hour late getting onstage. And I honestly don't know what took them so long because they apparently were staying at a rented mansion down the road from the festival. They opened with "You Wreck Me" to huge, huge audience - many of whom were stumbling drunk into the main stage area. Other songs on the set list were "Breakdown", "Even the Losers", "I Won't Back Down" and "Mary Jane's Last Dance". This marked the fifth time I've seen Petty, and it brought the same level of excitement to see them here as it did the previous four times. The crowd sang, danced, and cheered exhuberantly at everything the group did. The lighting was quite spectacular, a series of colorful lights illuminating a drizzly, muggy night with a gorgeous backdrop of Mount Curie. Tom Petty brought it to Pemberton, delivered an outstanding performance!

* MSTRKRFT drew the biggest crowd, thus far, to the Bacardi B-Live tent. A closely-followed DJ who's performed in nearly every large city across the universe, he jam-packed the tent and still had a half mile-long line trying to get in. I went in for about 15 minutes, got my groove on, and thought I'd offer my space to someone outside desperately wanting to get in. There were so many people inside that tent, and the music was totally full-force.

* Dust is a big, big, big problem at the Pemberton Festival. The grounds are a rundown farm, so there's dirt everywhere! My somewhat new Nikes are filthy, and concertgoers are having to wear handkerchiefs or extra T-shirts to cover their mouths. Driving into the festival grounds, you can see a thick layer of dust cloud over the area. There's so much dust, that you can scrape it off the tops of the chairs and tables throughout.

* Speaking of Bacardi, I must thank them for their generous media lounge with complimentary mojitos all day and all night long. Plus, clean restrooms. Many of the DJs performing at the Bacardi B-Live tent stop by for a drink before or after their set. The maple mojitos are quite delicious, and last night a tray of curry-veggie stuffed wraps and chicken skewers was brought in for the hardworking (uh-huh) press folks. Bacardi is the coolest!

* My favorite thing at any festival is the people, who deliver some of the funniest and most insane moments. Here's a few of them for you.

- One guy brought a lasso to the festival yesterday, and was seriously trying to lasso other people as they walked by him. He caught one guy, who then pulled on the lasso from the other end and knocked down a girl - and then she chased him in a bit of revenge.

- Several people tried to climb over or sit on a fence that barricaded one of the huge speaker systems during Petty's set last night. Security told one girl to get down, so she jumped off and landed right on her face. Oww!!! Right on her face!

- One guy decided to carry his girlfriend into the main stage area for Petty last night, and he nearly dropped her. They were both so hammered, I don't even think they knew where they were going.

- Unique festival gear ranges from a guy dressed as a Mexican masked wrestler to a dude in a sexy policeman outfit (???) to a pair of girls arriving as some kind of chiquita banana thing. Elsewhere, a very high percentage of the boys walk around shirtless with the tips of their underwear sticking out, headbands and some with feathers in their hair (from a nearby creek).

- Finally, before I head for Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay, I have to note that when you combine Americans - very well known for being a rowdy bunch - and Canadians, an underrated bunch in the world of crazy drunks - it makes for one giant zoo of wild animals. Such is the Pemberon Festival, a zoo of wild animals! And me likes it that way.

Pemberton Festival: Wolfmother, Chromeo, Nine Inch Nails open festival on strong note


Yesterday was a very long, long and very wild, wild day - so this is the first opp I've had to blog on the actual Pemberton Festival.

After a 2 hour-45 minute train ride from Vancouver to Whistler aboard the Whistler Mountaineer (http://www.whistlermountaineer.com/), which came with a gorgeous scenic route, breakfast and unlimited cocktails, we then boarded a shuttle bus to Pemberton that took an hour and a half. Traffic was thick, with some festivalgoers jammed up to four hours between Whistler and Pemberton. I and a group of other journalists caught the tail end of a media orientation, and finally it was time to head out for the music.

The Pemberton Festival is spread out over an enormous open field, which used to be a rundown farm, so there's actual hay needles everywhere - and unfortunately there's lots of dust swirling around throughout the day as well, not a good thing for those with sensitive allergies. Also, the altitude of being up in the mountains is taking its toll on many Americans who've made the journey to Pemberton, just outside the Whistler ski resort.

Thanks to my friends at BH (you know who you are), I was escorted with the photographers near the front of the stage, where I quickly made my way to the pit for Wolfmother. Before the Aussie trio went onstage, the crowd was restless. After seeing them twice, I told a few Wolfmother virgins that this show was going to be crazy. We'd eventually find out that crazy was a huge understatement. This concert was a zoo, an all-out riot!!!

I've been privileged to have been in many mosh pits before, and this one reminded me of the ones back home during the grunge years - needless to say, my sunglasses broke and my baseball cap fell off and is completely filthy now.

Wolfmother, still looking the same as they did when I last saw them in December 2006, took the stage at 4:45pm and opened with "Dimensions". Everyone was pushing to get to the front, and I was immediately crushed by shirtless young guys (no complaints) and tank top-clad chicks (some complaints). From the minute they began, Wolfmother just pounded and pounded and pounded away on each song.

I didn't spot any new material from the threesome, though I had an afternoon buzz going on. And they barely said a word to the audience during their performance, so if there was any new material they didn't intro it to the crowd. "Woman" was performed midway through Wolfmother's set, a surprise since I thought it'd be saved for the finale. The song, a Grammy winner for Hard Vocal Performance in 2006, was definitely a highlight - it ignited a wild, big mosh pit towards the front of the stage that knocked several people flat on their asses. We had to hoist so many people over our shoulders who wanted to crowd surf during that number, and we had to help people around us that were completely mowed down to the ground. It was a ridiculously wild hour-plus of music! Wickedly wild.

"White Unicorn" sounded as tight and fresh as ever, Andrew Stockdale's vocals up to par with the Robert Plants of yesteryear. The whole audience sang along to the chorus. If I remember correctly, they didn't do "Love Train" - but I do recall "The Joker and the Thief" being thrown into the mix. Again, I was buzzed. By the time Wolfmother finished, everyone near the front was dripping in sweat and highly satisfied - some had lost flip-flops, sunglasses, caps, hats, and shirts. People chanted "wolf mother!, wolf mother!, wolf mother!" and others shouted "one more song!, one more song!, one more song!". But that was it. No encore. Drummer Myles Heskett, who I interviewed two years ago, was the last member to leave the stage - he had a giant smile on his face as he waved goodbye to the audience.

Montreal-based Chromeo drew an incredibly long line of fans outside the Bacardi B-Live Stage. Before the electronic-house duo began their set, my friends and I hung out at the Bacardi Media Lounge, complete with complimentary mojitos, canopied beds with pillows, lawn chairs, and bathrooms with actual urinals and toilets (as opposed to the gross porta-potties).

Within minutes of going onstage, Chromeo had half of the huge tent full. Those who follow the dance circuit followed Chromeo here, and they came ready to party. The whole floor was bouncing up and down when club mixes of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and "Groove is in the Heart" were played. I'm not particulary familiar with Chromeo, who dropped by the media tent to say hi to a few journalists earlier in the day, but I must say this performance had as much impact and energy as Simian Mobile Disco's show in Seattle this spring - it was a full hour of hot dance sounds.

Nine Inch Nails were the headliners on the main stage last night, and my body was already begging for me to head back to my hotel and soak in a tub. Already, I was sore from Wolfmother's set. But I stuck around, only to be somewhat disappointed by NIN's not-so-riveting opening numbers. They played newer material at the start, and even though Trent Rezor - in leather jacket and cropped hair - looked damn fine and the lighting was cool, it just wasn't what I though it would be. I expected Nine Inch Nails to come out hammering away from the get-go, possibly doing more popular songs, but the performance didn't have the juice or fire that I expected. To their credit, the group drew an enormous audience.

As I left the grounds, heading to my shuttle back to Whistler, I noticed many more concertgoers also ditching the Nine Inch Nails show. Perhaps they too expected a bit more. I did listen to "Closer" outside the gate, and I can now say that I've heard that song performed live in my lifetime.

Elsewhere, I caught part of The Secret Machines' set - and they sounded really good. I missed Seattle-based Minus the Bear, due to an afternoon mojito craving, but I did catch a third of Interpol's terrific performance via live feed in the media tent. Lead singer Paul Banks sounded amazing, and looked great in a snazzy suit and formal hat combo. I'm not sure what the keyboardist's name is, but he too looked good in a suit, tie, and pimpin' hat. I've never really been an Interpol fan or supporter, but I was won over yesterday in the half hour I saw them.

Other news from the Pemberton Festival: on-site food ranges from fish n' chips to burritos to pizza slices to lamb donairs to hamburgers to funnel cakes. The campsites are completely full, and even though the press-media has their own camping area I chose not to rough it and stay at the totally comfy Sundial Boutique Hotel in Whistler. The shuttle service at Pemberton is a bit nutty, and needs to be organized much better. I waited for 30 minutes for my shuttle to Whistler before being told that I was at the wrong gate - so I had to walk nearly a mile to catch it (ugh!!!). Other shuttles transport concertgoers to-from the Pemberton airport and the Pemberton business area, which is very dinky, but where a lot of people are having to park for the festival.

I'm about 45 minutes away from catching my shuttle to the festival for today. The Saturday lineup includes Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, MSTRKFT, Flaming Lips, My Morning Jacket, Mates of State, Black Mountain, Buck 65, and Low vs. Diamond.

It's time to head back to the festival, and as achy and hungover and exhausted from a long, wild day yesterday as I am, I absolutely can't wait to get there and do it all over again.

On behalf of Seattle Gay News, joining some 100 other press-media representatives at the Pemberton Festival including Rolling Stone, it's a great pleasure to bring you exclusive coverage of the inaugural Pemberton Festival.

One last note, the backdrop of the mountains and lush green forests is mesmerizing, truly mesmerizing.

Pemberton Festival: Gorgeous weather, huge crowd expected at Pemberton tomorrow



Hey, it's Albert from Seattle Gay News blogging live from Vancouver a day before the first-ever Pemberton Festival begins.

I'm at the Opus Hotel, a hotel that Christina Aguilera, R.E.M., J-Lo, Jennifer Garner, Cher, and countless other known artists have stayed at. Located in the Yaletown district of Vancouver, this hotel is the hippest place to stay when visiting this city.

Pre-Pemberton news:

If you've pre-reserved tickets or camping space for the festival, you can pick up your wristband and/or passes tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency (Burrard & Georgia) from 8am to 8pm. You'll need that writstband to access the festival grounds. I'm told 4,000 people were lined up today in Vancouver to get their bracelets. I can only wonder how long the line will be at the festival?

I've met so many people in Vancouver, including some at my hotel, that are headed tomorrow to the festival. Everyone is going to Pemberton!

Also, it appears the shuttle from Whistler to Pemberton is available until 1pm daily, which means if you plan on arriving at the festival late in the afternoon you'll have to drive all the way in. From Pemberton to Whistler, I'm told the last shuttle leaves at 1:30am.

Asides from the last minute pull-out by Brazilian Girls, it appears there are no major worries heading into the first day of the festival.

Remember, you can't bring in any outside alcohol into the event. On-premise food will be available for purchase.

I'm wakng up very early (despite having 3 glasses of wine, 1 beer, 1 mojito at the very new and very popular Cactus Club in downtown Vancouver) to meet other journalists heading up to Whistler for the festival. Seattle Gay News is pleased to call the Sundial Boutique Hotel in Whistler our homebase for the Pemberton Festival, delivering daily blogs and information on the latest news and latest highlights on and off the stage.

Tomorrow's lineup includes Minus the Bear, The Secret Machines, Metric, Wolfmother, Interpol, and headliners Nine Inch Nails. Check back tomorrow for highlights.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jon McLaughlin interviews with Seattle Gay News on July 25


Jon McLaughlin has accomplished something that people spend their entire lives dreaming about...appearing on the Academy Awards. The 25 year-old performed the nominated song "So Close", from Disney's Enchanted, on this year's Oscars telecast.

The native Midwesterner, born and raised in Indiana, will release his second album in October featuring the initial single "Beating My Heart". Watch the music video for it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foA0CFgu08M. Um, try not to drool.

McLaughlin performs live at Seattle's The Triple Door on Sunday, July 27. For reservations, visit http://www.thetripledoor.net/. But before he even arrives in the Emerald City, he's speaking to Seattle Gay News in our July 25 issue. Add grabbing a copy of our newspaper to this weekend's "to do" list and become familiar with the young, talented Jon McLaughlin who has already toured with Kelly Clarkson, Colbie Caillat, and Sara Bareilles.

Photo courtesy of Island Records.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pemberton Festival coverage begins July 24



Seattle Gay News is heading to the first-ever Pemberton Festival next weekend (July 25-27), just outside Whistler ski resort. The three-day music festival in British Columbia includes Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie, Wolfmother, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Secret Machines, Flaming Lips, The Crystal Method and Metric, to name a few.

Exclusive coverage of the Pemberton Festival begins on July 24 from Vancouver BC. If you are heading to Pemberton from the Northwest-US, check our daily blogs for information on transportation, accommodations, and of course, highlights from the festival.

To relieve yourself of traffic headaches, we advise taking Amtrak (www.amtrak.com/) from Seattle to Vancouver BC ($76 roundtrip), then taking the Whistler Mountaineer (www.whistlermountaineer.com/) to Whistler. There, a shuttle will be available to transport festivalgoers to-from Pemberton. If staying overnight in Vancouver, we recommend the always-cool and rock star-friendly Opus Hotel (www.opushotel.com/).

Seattle Gay News is pleased to call Sundial Boutique Hotel (www.sundialhotel.com/) in Whistler our homebase for the Pemberton Festival. For hotel accommodations and other information in Whistler, visit www.tourismwhistler.com/. A full list of performing artists and daily lineup for the Pemberton Festival is located at www.pembertonfestival.com/.