Some very emo writing for Father’s Day 2k17, aka exactly 12 weeks since my dad became a spooky ghost. I used to write intimate essays like this all the time, and then I got super depressed and that stopped happening, but this is the first thing I’ve written in a while that I actually liked and wanted to share.
We’re in your parent’s car and I have no idea what time it is or where we are. You borrowed the car to drive to a hill in the suburbs where we can check out the view of Vancouver from afar. I chose this viewpoint from a list of other viewpoints suggested to me by Google because I figured this one would look the best at night, which was when we were meeting up, and I was correct. The city from high up on a cold, rainy night. It made me feel so small, but in a calming way. It was beautiful. And you’re beautiful, even though you maybe don’t know it. And even though it’s maybe in a way that’s– I don’t know, unexpected? Not unconventional, I saw it before, I just hadn’t really thought about it. So: unexpected. This whole thing is so unexpected.
And now I’m thinking about how my father died less than 10 hours ago, which was also unexpected, in a hospital in a suburb, and here I am with you in a car in a different suburb and you haven’t asked me about it, you’re distracting me, which is just what I needed. You are just what I needed. It’s funny how the second you give up on a passionate desire for something, that thing appears in your life. The second you don’t even want it anymore, that’s when it shows up, gift-wrapped with your name on it.
We’re still in your parent’s car, I still have no idea where or when we are, barely a second has passed since I first thought that. My mind keeps racing so quickly I couldn’t even dream of catching up with it. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. At least that way when I think of my dad it doesn’t have enough time to really sink in. He’s dead. He’s dead he’s dead he’s dead. And I know it, kind of, but then that thought gets replaced so quickly by something else. That’s how grief works, right? You start with denial?
But then I catch myself in the rearview mirror and remember I’m wearing all black, because I’m in mourning. And because I like dressing according to a theme, I guess. It seems appropriate. I don’t really know what is appropriate, though, I don’t really know how to go about grieving.
We’re in your parent’s car and I have no idea where or when we are, and I don’t really care anymore. I’m running my fingers through your hair and thinking about how it doesn’t matter, how nothing matters. Life is this strange, unpredictable collection of good and bad, and nobody asks for it, but we do it anyways, and then we die. I’m running my fingers through your hair and thinking about how whatever this is, it’s probably the first good thing to happen to me this year. But no pressure, because when life throws you nothing but lemons in 3 months, you don’t make lemonade, you just get used to the sour. Or, no– you never get used to pain– but you come to expect it. So if all of this goes to shit, you don’t have to feel bad.
Now I’m running my fingers through your hair and I’m kind of laughing at myself, at my nihilism, my black comedy. I think I came out of the womb a nihilist. But I’m not entirely wrong, am I? It’s like that Arthur C. Clarke quotation, “either we’re alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Either what we do matters, or it doesn’t. Both are equally terrifying. The universe doesn’t care that my dad is dead. I’m one person on one planet in one solar system in one galaxy in a universe so massive I can’t even fathom it. It is literally unfathomable. Sometimes, I think about how complex humans and the languages and cultures and societies we’ve developed are. But despite all that complexity, we will never be so great that we are literally unfathomable. We won’t even be great enough that the things we do impact the universe in some big way. Ultimately, none of this means anything. Everything we ever experience is just… passing phenomena.
But, somehow, despite that, something tells me this isn’t gonna go to shit. Or, it will, eventually, because everything does, but not immediately. And it’ll hurt, in the end, and that used to scare the shit out of me. But now I know pain is inevitable, and fearing it is a waste of energy. And something tells me this will be worth the pain. Something tells me it’s gonna be good until then. Something tells me I’m ready now, and I can get it right. And I’m falling for you, but then my mind goes back to death again, and it’s a little hard to be romantic. It doesn’t seem appropriate. I don’t really know what is appropriate, though, I don’t really know how to go about grieving. And for all the practice I’ve had over the years, I find I don’t really know how to go about loving, either.
And then I remember the city from high up on a cold, rainy night. And how it made me feel so small, but in a calming way. And how it was beautiful. And how you’re beautiful. And yeah, I don’t think any of this matters in the grand scheme of things. Not the loss, not the love, none of it. But that… doesn’t have to be terrifying. As of late, I’ve been in a place where I can make an active decision about how I react to and feel about things. I can’t always do it, sometimes the depression and anxiety sinks in and I lose control of myself, but not right now, despite everything, not right now. It doesn’t have to be terrifying. I can choose to see it as something else. As… liberating.
Instead of being scared of the void and the blackness, I’m wrapping it around myself like a blanket. Because it’s comforting, thinking about the absurdity of it all is comforting. Sometimes, yes, we make mistakes and the shitty things that happen to us are our own damn faults, but sometimes life just fucks with you. And it’s so unfair, and it’s so hard to let go, to go on. And the only way I know how to let go is to remind myself of the meaninglessness of it. I don’t need to seek out meaning where there is none. I can simply… be. In emptiness, there is so much room for creation.
We’re in your parent’s car and I have no idea where or when we are, but we’re going forward. That’s all you can do. And then you make me laugh about something or other and I remember that I can still enjoy the ride. Life is this strange, unpredictable collection of good and bad, and nobody asks for it, but we do it anyways, and then we die.
Here’s a roundup of all the things that are shaping me as a person and as an artist this month.
…Could there be a more pretentious way to open a moodboard blog post? Probably not. You’re welcome.
I’m always feeling yellow and orange come fall. When I left Vancouver and went away to Portland for the first week of September, it was summer. By the time I came back, it was suddenly fall. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Maybe it’s just Vancouver, with its culture of knocking down and rebuilding anything that’s over 30 years old (à la Hollywood-reboot of film that doesn’t need a reboot) but when I leave it I never feel like my city has been still and waiting for me to return.
I’ve been watching a couple shows– I finished Stranger Things (like everyone else with a Netflix account) and absolutely loved it, almost as much as Eleven loves Eggos. I also started watching Degrassi: Next Class out of curiosity and a need to fill the hole in my heart that is present when I don’t have a Shitty Teen Drama TV Show to watch. I assumed it would be cheesy trash, which it kind of is, but I also wound up binging all of it because it’s HIGHLY ENJOYABLE. Even though the acting/writing can be weak, it’s really progressive, has a diverse cast, and I watched all of 90210 and Gossip Girl, bad teen dramas are my guiltiest of pleasures.
Promises Ltd. (the musical collaboration between producer Chrome Sparks and singer Charlie Brand) has been playing on my phone pretty much nonstop since a friend of mine sent me Days of Lavender. Their entire EP is made up of gorgeous, dreamy songs with a vague hint of sadness, but I think the standout for me is Crystal Showers. It’s the kind of music that just makes you FEEL things. It sends me into some kind of sad love scene from a movie that doesn’t exist.
In late November I’ll be going on a four month long travelling stint across Europe, like a typical post-high school North American looking to fill up time during their gap year. It’s been weird being in SEPTEMBER, the time between The Summer After Graduation and The Winter of Travelling. The time Between. It’s like my life is on hold and not actually currently happening. It’s like life is both going in slow motion (I can’t wait to go do new things) and moving far too quickly (oh god I’m leaving everything I love for four months SO SOON). It’s like everything I do now is just… in anticipation.
My sister joins me in December and I won’t be back home in Vancouver until the end of March. My thoughts about it waver between genuine excitement, extreme nervousness, and a calm kind of curiosity. Whenever someone asks me why I’m going, I just think, “why not?” I’m not really seeking to FiNd MySeLf, I just want to have a good time, experience new things and be young, present, and alive. There also isn’t much keeping me in Vancouver right now– I’m not in school, I work a job that (although I love it) isn’t exactly a career, I’m experiencing the normal shift in friendships one experiences after high school ends (where the friendships that are only maintained out of convenience stop being convenient, and therefore stop existing). Parting from my boyfriend is going to suck, big-time, but I have no other solid reason to remain here, stagnating.
My first destination is Manchester, UK, to stay with one of my favourite, favourite people, Cosette. We’ve been talking about me coming to visit her for over a year now and I can’t believe the day is coming so soon?
Then my trip comes to a close with a stop in Montréal before heading home. More of my good friends are in school there, at prestigious universities, making me briefly question the non-collegiate path I’ve chosen for the time being. It’s weird watching someone post videos of boozy frat parties publicly on their Snapchat stories, and then privately send you snaps of them stress crying from their workload. I was getting some First Year University Dorm Life FOMO for about a week, but now I’m pretty content that I’ve given myself a break before pursuing further education. I’m excited to end my long-haul trip there. After months of pretty much only seeing and doing new things, I think it’ll be nice to DO new things in a place I’ve SEEN before, with people I’ve been friends with for years.
Some unrelated inspo:
Tavi Gevinson’s Infinity Diaries for Rookie Mag are the kind of pieces you read and then spend the whole day thinking about afterwards– just intensely real and beautiful snapshots of her life as an 18-year-old living and growing in New York City. I also read it and was just, like, “FUCK.” She’s a successful editor-in-chief, writer, actress and feminist. #goals?? And she’s only 20 and has her whole life ahead of her to keep doing cool shit! I hate idolizing people because they’re literally just people, but she is a cool people and has been someone I’ve admired and respected for… 6 or 7 years now? I hadn’t even looked at Rookie Mag for a year or so and then this piece reminded me how great it is.
I love love love Every Frame a Painting, a YouTube channel dedicated to film analysis. I got into filmmaking kind of by accident– I loved to act and write, and I made my own YouTube channel in 2009, back in the days when sketch comedy reigned supreme on the site and I thought my dumb 12-year-old self would do that and hit it big. Obviously my filmmaking ability has changed, y’know, just slightly since then, but I still do approach it from a background of writing and acting, and the actual film form and theory is the part I arguably understand the least. Take this video, for example. It (combined with my background in live theatre) influenced my decision to shoot conversations between characters in one long, unbroken shot that frames both actors in my most recent short film.
Basically, Every Frame a Painting is gold and helps me understand film form better even though critical analysis of films was always my least favourite part of my Film Studies class. I’ve been documenting all the films I watch over on Letterboxd— they’re not exactly hard-hitting reviews, but I like being able to look back at everything I’ve watched recently.
I extremely thoroughly enjoyed this Refinery29 Shoot that embraces frizzy hair. My curl type is naturally frizzy af and I’ve pretty much just incorporated the frizz into my aesthetic cause trying to tame it is too much effort. I’m glad to see Refinery29 doing the same thing!
And, finally, I extremely, strongly, really thoroughly enjoyed this video that I’d like to end this post with. I think the best part of this video is when Johnny unabashedly profits off of women’s unpaid labour w/ that fashion show hahahhah. This is the kind of stuff I think of when people say they were born in the wrong generation. Like, I’m so glad I’m alive in 2016 and not 1940. I humbly present: How to be a Classy Girl.
A couple of weeks ago I went on a weeklong vacation to Toronto to visit Nick—I just got the film I shot there developed, so I figure it’s time to write a retrospective.
Sunday, February 15th
My flight from Vancouver to Toronto left at 9:40 AM. After a four and a half hour flight I touched down at Toronto Pearson International Airport, where the daughter of a friend of my mom’s picked me up and drove me to downtown Toronto, to Nick’s university dorms, where I was staying for a week.
I stared out the car window as we sped down the highway and couldn’t help but notice how flat Ontario is. In Vancouver there are mountains in the horizon from almost every direction you look. The sky in Ontario is so vast, so endless in comparison. The only things that made the sky seem smaller were the buildings of downtown, tall pillars of light against the setting sun, then, against the night. It was beautiful.
Once we arrived, I got all my stuff upstairs, into Nick’s dorm, then we headed out for dinner. I’d woken up late that day and hadn’t even eaten before I got on the plane, so eating dinner that night was probably one of the most satisfying things I’d ever done in my life. We wandered around for a little while afterwards, but it was something like -33 with windchill, so our excursion didn’t last long, but we were both just so excited to be there, to be alive, it didn’t matter.
Monday, February 16th
This is by far the day I took the most pictures. I was carrying around my iPhone, a Freedom 101 (which is essentially a disposable camera), and a Pentax K-Me pretty much the whole trip, so I have a loooooot of pictures.
We woke up, ate breakfast, and went out to explore Kensington Market. It was cold, but if you were in the sun and facing away from the wind, it was pretty nice out. I couldn’t ignore the sniffles I have to make every five seconds though, a downside to the chilly weather.
Once we explored enough and were satisfied, we grabbed lunch at Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill. There was a Kimye chalkboard drawing behind me that I found EXTREMELY AMUSING (yes, they will last, forever, duh), and our placemat was thick paper that we could draw on with the crayons provided to us. I dug it.
Then we decided on a whim to head to the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, like true tourists. Nick wasn’t exactly sure how to get there, but he figured it out. The walk there was really nice—Toronto is so full of beautiful, tall buildings, I’m sure my constant “THIS PLACE IS SO TALL” comments throughout the week weren’t annoying to Nick at all. Vancouver is by no means a city with short buildings, but it is not on Toronto’s level.
The aquarium was crawling with families and small children, moreso than aquariums usually are, and Nick and I couldn’t figure out why it was so busy until we remembered that it was Family Day in Ontario. Family Day is a made-up statutory holiday that I think (I may be wrong) is only celebrated in a handful of Canadian provinces, just to give people an excuse not to go to work or school. And all these people decided to go to the aquarium. It was pretty funny, actually.
This aquarium was insane. It was so full of beautiful things—I have a deep love for aquariums and this one blew my mind. There was a point where you could actually walk through a hallway in a huge tank, surrounded by fish on all sides.
The jellyfish were particularly amazing:
Afterwards, we took the long way back to Nick’s dorm as the sun set, exploring this city that I’d never been to before in the cold night. It was magical. I know I describe a lot of things as magical, but that’s because the world is magical and full of magical things and I appreciate them and their existence. We crossed a bridge and got a great view of the city and I fell in love, a little.
Tuesday, February 17th
On Tuesday we explored Queen West and went shopping. I bought some nice clothes and Nick and I meandered the many unpronounceable street names in Toronto—Spadina is pronounced “spa-die-nah,” not “spa-dee-nah,” Yonge is pronounced like the word “young,” not “yonje,” (admittedly Yonge Street is one of Canada’s most famous streets, so like, I should probably have known that already, but WHATEVER), Dundas is pronounced dund-ass, not dund-us… Ridiculous. Maybe it’s just because I hail from a city that all the locals call Vang-couver despite it being spelled Van-couver? Am I just not proficient in English anymore?
I found out that Tuesday that I’m definitely not proficient in opening doors. If it was a pull door, I would push it, and vice versa. This inability to enter buildings haunted me throughout the week and became a running gag with Nick. Anoter new realization: diagonal crosswalks terrify me. The diagonal crosswalk at Yonge-Dundas Square was SO CONFUSING. I DON’T LIKE IT. GET IT AWAY FROM ME. I was clinging to Nick for dear life.
At 9PM we went to a small theatre that was showing A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, an Iranian vampire movie Nick and I had both been wanting to see. It was the only theatre showing it in Canada, and it was being shown for a limited time, so I really lucked out. Once it was over we walked to Fran’s, a sort of retro diner (Nick described it as cheaper/better Denny’s, which I agree with), and discussed our thoughts on the film before heading back home.
Wednesday, February 18th
We spent Wednesday with our friend David, who went to high school with us but is now attending the University of Toronto, and he showed us around the campus for a little before we went to get Korean food. There’s so much brutalist architecture in Toronto, it made me so happy. I love brutalism with a passion.
At the restaurant he showed us the Android app he was about to release—it’s released now, and you can and should download it—and it was just so nice to see him succeeding, doing cool things with his life. I felt (and feel) that way about Nick, too. David mentioned stuff about missing all his friends in Vancouver, and I mean, having people you care about move away is so hard to deal with, but watching them succeed and getting to cheer them on makes it tolerable. I can’t possibly be bitter about anyone moving away from home when they’re happy and flourishing. It’s something really wonderful to watch.
After eating, we walked around Yorkville, the fancy pants area of downtown Toronto.
After a late start to our day, we went to the St. Lawrence market (like actually, just went to it, we didn’t buy anything, Nick just said it was a tourist thing to do, so we did it, hah), then to the distillery district. We weren’t out for too long because it got really windy and really cold really quickly, but we had time to look around and take some pictures and check out a few small art galleries. Then we took a cab back home even though it was only like ten blocks away because we were SO COLD.
We went back out at around six for a fancy Italian dinner, then walked back home, appreciating the beauty of the city at night.
Friday, February 20th
Friday was the day I’d been looking forward to all week: the day we went to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition. I love Basquiat, his work, his story, what he stood for—I can’t even tell you how excited I was to see his paintings IN THE FLESH.
Before heading over to the AGO, we went to October’s Very Own, a store started by Drake, because Nick wanted to check it out. On the way there he said he’d never actually been that far West on Dundas before, so it was a little adventure for both of us. We then walked to the AGO, appreciating the neighbourhood and all the cool street art within it.
Once we got into the art gallery, we decided to save the best for last, and started exploring the whole gallery together.
My Snapchat story turned into this:
You could argue that doing this is disrespectful, but I was inspired by LACMA’s snapchat, so blame them, not me! Just kidding. In my opinion as an artist, it’s okay to not always take art really seriously. But that’s just me.
Anyway. Then we saw Basquiat. I cried internally a little bit. It was amazing.
We made the mistake of not eating before going into the gallery, so we were suuuuper hungry by the time we left. We left, on the hunt for some food.
Then we spent the end of our last full day together in Toronto unwinding in Nick’s dorm with a friend of his. Nick DJed a little, messing around while this light he owns projected colours on the ceiling. At approximately past-my-bedtime o’clock, we went to a pizza place called Big Slice, which, true to its name, sells pizza in huge slices, because according to Nick you basically aren’t allowed to go there unless it’s late or you aren’t sober.
At approximately past-my-bedtime o’clock, we went to a pizza place called Big Slice, which, true to its name, sells pizza in huge slices, because according to Nick you basically aren’t allowed to go there unless it’s late or you aren’t sober.
Then we were stuffed and sleepy, and we went to bed.
Saturday, February 21st
We woke up to snow—the first time that week it had been warm enough to snow (only -7, WOW, SO WARM). We spent our morning in, talking while I packed, saying our goodbyes.
Then a friend of my mom’s arrived to drive me from Nick’s dorm to the airport. She and her daughter, who’d driven me from the airport to Nick’s dorm at the beginning of the week, had never met me before and just did this out of the kindness of their hearts, how nice is that?? The world is so great.
My plane took forever to take off, and the sun set as we were still on the ground. I was excited to go back home for many reasons (the prime one being that in Vancouver, I can go outside without my nose getting all sniffly), and yet sad to say goodbye not only to Nick but to this wonderful place where he lives now. As the plane finally came roaring to life and the clouds rolled over the city as we rose into the sky, I kept thinking that I’d go back in a heartbeat.
So I went to this year’s Pemberton Music Festival. It was the first music festival I’ve ever been to, and whenever I’m asked how it went I’ve been responding with “good but also weird.” Hopefully this post (which has taken me several months to write) can serve as a more articulate explanation than that.
Before I start I want to say that 1) this is by no means a review, I don’t actually know anything about music or festivals, this is just what happened to me, 2) all images are mine unless stated otherwise, and 3) I talk a lot about my friends and the Pemberton schedule in this post, so here is a picture of da fam and a picture of the schedule (which you can click to enlarge), in case you get confused about my trip timeline and who’s who:
Alright. Let’s start.
Thursday July 17th
At 7 a.m. on Thursday, Antek and I, who’d slept over at Cosette’s house the night before, were woken up by her dad. He was kind enough to be driving us up, and we were hoping to get in the car and start the drive to Pemberton by 8. But then breakfast and showers happened. So we left at 10. The drive from Vancouver to Pemberton, according to Google Maps, takes 2 hours and 23 minutes, which means it actually takes 3 hours.
At least it was a beautiful 3 hours. I didn’t want to risk taking any blurry pictures out the car window on film, although I probably should have, but it was classic West coast scenery– the ocean and a whole lot of mountains. Looking outside at any point felt like being transported into a cliché movie montage where the main character stares through the glass, crying as some sappy music plays, but Antek was mostly playing hip hop through the car speakers, and we were only crying because we were laughing so hard at each other’s stupid jokes.
We stopped briefly in Whistler to grab some food (although to be honest our most important purchase was Hi-Chews— I’m linking to them, for those uninitiated to the cult), and from there it felt like it was only a few minutes until we got to Pemberton. But once we finally arrived to the parking lot and got dropped off, time definitely, uh, slowed down for a bit.
See, there were two different car drop-off zones at the music festival grounds: one that was pretty close to where our friends Artemis, Claire, and Shasciel set up our campsite the day before the rest of us arrived, and one that was a 30 minute walk away from it. We, of course, managed to get dropped off at the painfully far away one, which meant we had to lug all our heavy camping crap with us on a little trek through the blazing hot sun. I overheat pretty easily, so that process can be best described as… unpleasant.
Eventually though, after my boyfriend Nick, who was also camping with us, arrived and completed our little family for the week, we all got settled in (and stopped sweating profusely). We sat in the shade with some people camping near us and stared at Mount Currie, chatting away and letting the anticipation for the next three days rise.
At 4:30 that evening, the festival grounds opened for some pre-party shows, and my friends and I wandered around excitedly for a couple hours, familiarizing ourselves with stage names & locations, places to meet up if we got separated, where the water bottle refill stations were…
We caught a bit of Rolla Olak’s set (pretty good), then we went over to watch Blue Sky Black Death at a different stage, mostly because we wanted to hear what an act called Blue Sky Black Death sounded like (answer: very enjoyable).
At that point I’d been awake and too warm since 7 am, so I was pretty tired and headed back to our campsite to chill out. By 10 p.m. a decent number of people had arrived and set up camp and were eagerly making their way into the pre-party shows, so psyched for the festival that they went pretty hard. Nick and Antek said the crowd at Dan Deacon‘s show was particularly rowdy, and that the Odd Future members who came to Pemberton with Tyler the Creator had been skating/partying at their pop up shop. I believed them, but I didn’t really think people would get too crazy on the first night, until it got to be 5 in the morning and there was a huge crowd in the campgrounds having their own impromptu rave while I tried to sleep. I’m all for people being stoked, but honestly, putting in my earplugs and falling asleep that night was pretty damn great too.
Friday July 18th
We woke up relatively early on Friday, wanting to be ready to go to see Cashmere Cat at 12:30. As we were eating breakfast, some dude who was camping near us said very loudly to a friend of his, “yo man, there’s no one at the shower stations checking to see if you paid or not, free showers!”
The showers cost $5 to use for all general admission campers, which as a cheap person I refuse to pay, but free is definitely a price I can agree with. Once we finished eating we headed over to the showers to see what was up, and sure enough, whoever was supposed to be watching over them was not. I had pretty much committed to not showering for five days, but that one person not doing their job saved all my friends from witnessing that atrocity.
While the girls and I put on makeup, Nick and Antek decided to go ahead and line up for the festival, since the gates were supposed to be opening fairly soon. We joined them later and I snapped these shots as we waited:
Once the gates opened, everyone flooded in. Nick and I went to check out Odd Future’s pop up shop because during the little party that had taken place the night before, the OF members said to come back in the morning. By 12:20 nothing had happened, and we didn’t want to miss Cashmere Cat, so we left.
I didn’t take any pictures of Cashmere Cat for some reason, but festival photographers did, so here’s what he looked like:
He’s a really great musician but not a great hype man, plus it was early and there were no visuals, so the set wasn’t amazing and the crowd wasn’t suuuuper into it, but everyone was just happy to be there, so it worked out.
The set ended at 1:30 and Nick and I walked back to the OF store, which now had a sign in front of it that said “Odd Future Pop-Up Shop Opens at 2.” We figured 30 minutes wasn’t all that long, and we REALLY wanted to see Tyler, Taco, Jasper, and the other members, so we waited. Little did we know the shop wouldn’t open until 3:30– by which time my lower back was pretty mad at me for standing in the same spot for so long (I have back problems, I’m actually an old man).
It’s okay though, I got this selfie with Jasper, so it was pretty worth it:
A post shared by sarah sloan macleod (@sloanmacleod) on
I didn’t really care about buying merch, mostly because as previously mentioned I am cheap, but Nick did and I didn’t want to abandon him, so we waited in the incredibly slow-moving line. By the time we actually got to buy stuff it was 4:15, and Tyler’s show started at 5, so we hurried over to the stage where his set would take place. We managed to get there right before the rest of the crowd, so we were front row and it was AWESOME.
Tyler was playing at the same time as Grimes, and I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t see the work of art that is Claire Boucher, but I figured Grimes would be more likely to do a show in Vancouver sometime soonish than Tyler would. I think that even if I had seen Grimes, I would’ve been sad that I didn’t see Tyler, since he’s the first rap artist I ever listened to extensively, which led me to really love and appeciate rap music today.
Ahhh he was so energetic and great!! I had fun watching him, his DJ Taco, and his hypeman Jasper have fun. But it was a pretty polarizing set, it seemed like people either loved it or hated it. You should read this review, it sums up both sentiments better than I can.
After that we headed back to our campsite to eat some dinner and collect ourselves before we saw Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick was by far the artist I was most excited to see. We got to the stage an hour early and got to the third/fourth row. Antek started a conversation with these nice guys who were beside us, and we all sat down together, talking about our favourite Kendrick songs. Everyone around us was standing and looking at us like we were stupid, but my back definitely thanked me for sitting down, so WHATEVER.
Fifteen minutes before the show was supposed to start, we stood up, and the crowd got more and more packed. I was SO EXCITED. I cannot accurately convey to you how fricking excited I was. I am not the kind of girl who screams at shows, I’m more of a “woo” person, but when a song started playing, I screamed. And when the song stopped playing four seconds later, I was mildly crushed.
…while the Compton MC’s skills on a microphone are superb, he seems to hold true to the unfortunate rap tradition of never starting a show on time. Lamar arrived 50 minutes late to an anxious and packed crowd, opening his set with “Money Trees”, while nonchalantly walking the stage. …He rarely showed much energy onstage, usually staying at around a walk or a jogging pace while focusing his attention on keeping up with his lyrics. The show’s peak came with a riveting performance of his hit song “Backstreet Freestyle”, which the audience knew every word [to]… The quality of Lamar’s music and lyrics cannot be overstated, but it’s a shame he didn’t have the amount of energy or inspiration the crowd would have preferred to see tonight.
What they didn’t mention is that before he came onstage, half the crowd started booing because they’d been made to wait for so long. I don’t go to a ton of concerts, and this was the first festival I’d ever been to, but I’m pretty sure that is NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. You could feel the bad vibes from the crowd before the show started. It was really weird and uncomfortable.
When he started, I screamed again. During the actual show, I rapped along with every word despite the fact that I could barely hear his voice over the bass. But when his set, which was meant to be an hour and a half long, and which we figured would just go later than it was scheduled to go, ended at the time it was supposed to, the mildly crushed-ness set back in. Honestly, it was all around pretty disappointing. Hopefully one day I will see him again and he will be as glorious as he has been in previous shows.
Nine Inch Nails were playing at 9:30, and Nick and I caught a couple of their songs before we went back to our campsite to unwind with our friends for a bit and gear up for the last acts of the night.
Once it got to be time to head back into the festival, Cosette and I separated from the rest of the group because she wanted to charge her phone at the charging station. We were all supposed to meet up later at the Schoolboy Q show, but as Cosette was charging her phone an act started at the stage closest to us, and it was sooooooo beautiful…
It was 3LAU (which I was 100% sure was pronounced ‘three-lao’ but is actually pronounced ‘blao’), taking full advantage of all the visuals the bass camp (the stage that was basically a rave at all times) had to offer. Cosette and I ended up watching his whole set, dancing, laughing, and marvelling at how gorgeous it was. There were lasers and smoke machines and confetti being shot into the crowd and an ever-rotating set of visuals on the screen behind him and OHMYGOD. It was so amazing. Before that I’d never been to anything even remotely like a rave and now I understand why people like them so much. For some reason I decided not to bring my camera with me to the final sets of the night (I don’t know what I was thinking) so here are some pictures I didn’t take:
Once 3LAU’s show ended we made our way over to see Best Coast, the last show of the night, and met up with some of our friends there. Being a teenage girl, I really really like Best Coast. It took me a couple songs to get used to how they sound live– louder, with a fuller and less mellow sound– but once I got into it I was singing along like the rest of the small crowd. Bethany Cosentino, the frontwoman, took swigs of Jack Daniels onstage and talked about how great BC weed is, which is exactly what I expected she would do, and it was great.
Then we all got back to the campsite and fell asleep to the peaceful sound of our ears ringing, hah.
Saturday July 19th
I woke up at 10 or 11 to the sounds of Irish techno music throbbing away from the tent beside ours. The thing about music festivals: you hear quite a lot of music. People will play music from their iPods at all hours of the day. This is usually okay because everyone who’s there is into the same kind of music, aka the music being played at the shows, but sometimes you will encounter random Irish techno, and you just have to be okay with that.
I operated on the same schedule as the day before, putting on makeup in the tent while people made breakfast (I didn’t make a single meal of my own while I was at Pemberton, honestly. God bless my friends)…
…Goofing around and eating breakfast…
There wasn’t anyone playing that I particularly cared about seeing until 3PM that day, but it’s a music festival! U go and u listen to music!! So once we were done with breakfast, Artemis, Claire, Shas and I headed into the festival grounds and caught most of The Tontons‘ set. I’d never heard The Tontons before this and their lead singer was very charismatic, she had a really nice stage prescence. Also they were hands down the best-dressed band I saw.
After I snapped the above picture of Artemis, I ran out of film on my camera’s roll, and as I learned Friday night when I decided not to bring my camera with me: I ALWAYS WANT TO BE ABLE TO TAKE PICTURES. So I headed back to the camp site. When I got there Nick, Antek, and Cosette were about to go into the grounds, but Nick decided to wait with me.
I’ll be honest, at this point I started crying. As I have mentioned before and will keep mentioning until there’s no stigma surrounding me mentioning it: I have anxiety. At that point in time it was pretty bad– the festival was so amazing and exciting in a lot of ways, but it was also really overwhelming, and that added to my pre-existing stress called for some crying. Welcome to my life, haha.
Anyway, eventually I calmed down and then Nick and I walked around and wasted some time before meeting up with Shas and waiting for RL Grime’s set to start. We were front row and when you’re that close, you really feel the sound thumping from the speakers. It was pretty surreal.
…Although Shas and I kept getting distracted by this giant moth that had landed on the massive subwoofer right in front of us. It just stayed there for the whole set??? There’s no way it didn’t go deaf. We weren’t sure if it was dead or not because it hadn’t fallen to the ground, so we were just so fricking impressed by this bug. I don’t know. That moth was hardcore.
Chance the Rapper was playing next at the stage RL Grime had just been on and we were dead set on being front row for Chance, so we stuck it out and waited there for an hour and a half. We briefly left in shifts to go catch a glimpse of Snoop Dogg– Shas and I were both too short to actually see anything once we got there (and I’m 5’10), so I did some awkward jumping and then gave Shas a piggy back ride, and once we were satisfied we ran back to our waiting spot so Nick could go and watch for a while. Neither of us are particularly into Snoop Dogg’s recent stuff, but as Arti said, he’s kind of a rap OG. You can’t just not watch Snoop Dogg at all if you have an opportunity to.
There were a few other people who’d also decided to wait for Chance, and we chatted with them all for a while. As it got closer to the set’s start time, the crowd got more and more packed. Shasciel, Nick, Antek and I were front row center, and a group of nice girls was behind us. We were all giddy with excitement. I wasn’t really paying much attention to what was happening around me, because, like, Chance, but then the weirdest fricking thing happened. I can’t even explain this series of events eloquently so here’s a list:
Some tall shirtless dude covered in sloppy green/yellow body paint obviously on some drug comes up behind Antek and I and says “yo, help me out, my ex girlfriend is right behind me and she’s crazy.”
Being a certified crazy person who is intensely annoyed by the ‘crazy ex girlfriend’ thing, I said “Yeah, I don’t care.”
Weird Green Man says “WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM? WHAT THE FUCK,” which made me uncomfortable.
I turn around to look at the aforementioned nice group of girls behind us and they all look TERRIFIED of Weird Green Man. I can’t even really accurately convey how creepy he was being, just take my word for it.
Then I see this girl behind us with pupils the size of quarters who looks sickly and incredibly freaked out– one of the members of the nice group of girls is trying to calm her down.
Weird Green Man goes up to the chick who is tripping balls and is all “hey, it’s gonna be okay, you’re gonna be fine okay, I promise I’ll take care of you.” I think she was the ‘crazy ex girlfriend’ Weird Green Man was talking about.
This continues for a while and Weird Green Man somehow manages to talk to Tripping Balls Girl while simultaneously managing to creep out all the other girls around him.
Eventually one of the girls in the group of nice girls lays her foot down and just rips into Weird Green Man, she delivered this amazing angry speech that went something like, “SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU ARE NOT HELPING HER, SHE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF THIS FUCKING CROWD AND PUKE OR SOMETHING, FUCK YOU,” then she grabs Tripping Balls Girl by the hand and pulls her out of there. I wanted to applaud.
The show starts. I devote most of my attention to that, until Weird Green Man comes up behind Nick and puts his hands on Nick’s shoulders and starts jumping along to the music, using Nick to steady him. I learned this because I went to put my head on Nick’s shoulders only to be touched by a SWEATY GREEN HAND.
At this point Antek and I and all the nice girls behind us were so fed up with Weird Green Man’s bullshit, and he was so damn tall it was hard for the girls behind him to even see anything.
After five minutes or so of bouncing along while grabbing my boyfriend’s shoulders, Weird Green Man has the gall to try to shove himself between Nick and I. I was so full of concert adrenaline that I basically body checked him and screamed “NO,” with an impressive amount of force for someone who previously thought she was in possesion of no upper body strength whatsoever. He kept trying to shove his way in, saying “I’ve been waiting here for an hour,” which was just a complete lie, and I yelled “GET AWAY FROM ME!!!!” He then tried to go to my right and put himself between Antek and I. Antek had a similar reaction to me.
After this, Weird Green Man disappeared to our far right, never to be seen again. All the girls in the group of nice girls leaned forward to Antek and I and were so happy to have this creepy sweaty man away from them. It was a very proud moment.
That all happened in the span of 15 minutes. And once Weird Green Man was gone, we could fully enjoy the unbelievable performance Chance delivered that day. I honestly can’t even begin to explain how amazing it was. It just was. I don’t know.
Chance is really well known for being SUPER positive in his shows, and the best part of the set was when he and his band performed their cover of the Arthur theme song. Halfway through the song he just started chanting, “every day it could be wonderful,” over and over again. And the crowd joined in, and in between chants he was yelling, “say it with me, guys!”
So there’s this massive crowd full of people chanting a message of hope, which is so magical in and of itself, and then in between chants Chance says, “right now in this crowd there’s somebody who’s afraid to say it, say it now: every day it could be wonderful.” And that’s when I started crying.
Earlier that day I’d felt so overwhelmed and anxious and broke down in our tent, and the past few months of my life at that point had been so marked by anxiety and depression, and then here was this guy (whose music makes it clear he has been through some serious shit) making a crowd of thousands reminding themselves that every day has the potential to be amazing and beautiful. It just filled me with so much hope. And it singlehandedly made that day wonderful.
The set continued to be full of positive energy and good vibes (other antics include making the whole crowd chant “I love you,” and then him saying “I love you” to every single person in the front row) until the very last second. I still look back at this set and tear up a little, because I am emotional and sentimental. Thank you, Chance the Rapper.
When the set ended my whole friend group met up and we all cried. It was a beautiful moment. A lot of us needed a bit of a break to collect ourselves after that, it’s hard to go from TRUE JOY back to, like, regular existence.
I spent the rest of the night slightly dazed but with an absurd amount of energy. I watched Deadmau5 with Cosette for a while, then she wanted to go hang out in our tent and we struck up a bunch of extremely weird conversations with drunk strangers on our way back. Two shirtless men offered us “coke water” which I’m pretty sure is not a thing that exists, then when he found out neither of us was single said “it’s ok, you can have something on the side.” NO, SIR. I CAN’T. In retrospect that’s actually a super creepy thing to say but at the time it was just amusing.
Shas and I watched half of Flying Lotus’s set and half of Girl Talk’s, because I had way too much energy to focus on just one set. I wanted to watch Araabmuzik, but my energy levels kinda crashed after 1, so I fell asleep. Somehow while getting ready to sleep I managed to lose my contact while taking it out, which was truly tragic.
Sunday July 20th
The last day of the fest started the same way they all did: we woke up, got ready, ate food, then headed into the grounds. We’d heard that there were going to be schedule changes, and we’d heard right: my plan for the day based on the original schedule (which is at the top of this post if you want to take another look) was to see Frank Ocean, then cry because I had to choose between seeing St. Vincent and Justice, who were scheduled to play at the same time, then close the festival with Outkast. But THANKS TO SCHEDULE CHANGES, St. Vincent got upgraded to a different stage at an earlier time, and Frank Ocean and Outkast’s slots got swapped. After missing out on Grimes that Friday, you don’t understand how happy it made me to know I could see everything I wanted.
Nick and I really wanted to see some of Hallelujah Train’s set– they’re a gospel choir with like a billion people in it (okay, probably around 30, but STILL). It was adorable. The man leading the choir introduced his wife at one point and said it was their anniversary, that they’d been together for 60 years (I’m guessing, it might’ve been 50, just an unbelievably long time). He was like a kindly old neighbour or grandpa or something. It was a good way to start off the day.
Our friends were over at this place where they could charge their phones, so Nick and I went and met up with them there while we waited for Clockwork to get onstage for his DJ set. Our friend Shaia had a ticket for that day of the festival and he joined up with us and some of our other friends who were attending the fest but not camping with us.
Clockwork started a little while after that and we went in to dance. There were SO MANY STREAMERS for some reason??? The most of any set at the festival. I made the smart choice of wasting film taking pictures of all the streamers??? I don’t know why???????
After that we saw Baauer, which surprised me by being one of my favourite sets of the whole festival. Sometimes DJs just… DJ. They don’t hype up the crowd or engage with it, which I usually don’t like as an audience member. It’s so much fun to watch someone be really into the music they play. Watching DJs and other musicians get sweaty and dance to their own sets makes me so happy, and Baauer did just that. I had a really good time.
After Baauer ended my group had some time to grab food before St. Vincent started, we decided to buy some hot dogs and then spent exactly one metric Way Too Long (which is an official unit of measurement, in case you didn’t already know) waiting for said hot dogs. By the time we had them in our hands St. Vincent had already started, but luckily the crowd wasn’t super packed, so I managed to wiggle my way to a pretty good spot.
IT WAS SO GOOD. I DON’T EVEN HAVE WORDS. ANNIE FRICKING CLARK!!!!!!!! Nick ditched me near the end of the set so he could be front row for Justice, which was starting up right as St. Vincent ended, but at a different stage. He made me carry his backpack because he wanted to go really hard at Justice, and I figured, hey, it’s only for one set right, it’ll be fine. A couple songs after he disappeared St. Vincent came to an unbelievable end: Annie Clark launched into this amazing guitar solo, drank some water out of a champagne glass while playing guitar, then walked to the very edge of the stage and climed onto the shoulders of a security guard WHILE STILL PLAYING GUITAR.
That’s what you get for leaving me alone in the crowd with your uncomfortable backpack, Nick. IT WAS SO AMAZING.
As soon as the St. Vincent crowd started to disperse I heard the opening notes of Justice’s set starting, so I ran over to that stage, ran into Claire, and we weasled our way pretty far forward. Justice’s mix was (unsuprisingly) amazing. They incorporated songs from tons of different genres into the set, all while smoking cigarettes and looking thourougly unamused in their leather jackets. I don’t think they danced at all. It was very surreal.
It would have been one of the best parts of the whole festival if not for the crowd– a ridiculous number of people tried to crowdsurf and it mostly just resulted in people hurting each other. Claire and I both got kicked in the head pretty violently and, y’know, that’s a bit of a buzz kill. We channeled our rage and dehydration into dancing really, really, intensely.
By the end of that, Claire and I were basically dying and desperate for water. Of all the things in Nick’s uncomfortable backpack (that was starting to seriously hurt my back– I have weak shoulders, the bag had no real support, and I’d been dancing a little too crazily) there were no empty water bottles, so Claire and I ran to the medical tent where they gave us free water. I drank the whole bottle alone in 30 seconds. We then splashed water on our faces too, in an effort to rid ourselves of the weirdly intense, almost negative energy we’d developed after getting kicked in the damn face.
Then Outkast started. And we were at the sinks. And we looked at each other and just thought, “oh shit.” Claire grabbed my hand and took off, running towards the main stage, tugging me behind her. She is truly remarkable at weasling her way through crowds; somehow we wound up in, like, the tenth row, conveniently right by a bunch of our other friends??? HOW????
Almost all of the shows I’d seen at Pemberton were by artists who I will probably be able to see again sometime, but Outkast… Who knows what they’ll be doing? Pemberton was a stop on their 20th anniversary tour. That set could have been a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me. I was really excited to see it.
Andre3000 and Big Boi were amazing, and hearing ATLiens live is truly one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me, but their staging was really… strage. They performed in front of several projection screens, and as the show went on the things projected behind them became more and more sexualized images of women. My eyes darted through the crowd as a projection of a woman taking her panties off (her genitals cleverly hidden by another part of the stage) started to play, and all the other girls and women around me looked very uncomfortable. It was just unnecessary and took away from the show instead of adding to it.
Also, this is slightly irrelevant, but since I’m mostly documenting this festival experience for myself and not for other people, I will mention it: There was this teenage couple behind me who were dripping sweat and grinding and they wouldn’t stop pushing forward into me and they were clearly so high on something (one of my friends’ opinions was: “Meth? Meth.”) that they didn’t realize I was there at all and it made me so anxious that I wanted to cry and the girl literally grabbed my waist at one point and it was like PLEASE STOP OH MY GOD. I know that you’re supposed to ignore the crowd as much as possible at concerts, but I feel like other anxious people who happen to like concerts would maybe appreciate knowing that being really uncomfortable is a risk you take when attending a music festival??
My group of friends ended up leaving before the set was over so that we could be near the front to watch Frank Ocean, who was closing the whole festival. We passed the time by crying about how good Outkast was and how bad the projections were and how weird Meth Couple was and how excited we were to see FRANK. My back was starting to kill me at this point but Nick was nowhere to be seen.
Frank started a few minutes after Outkast ended so that the crowd could make its way over to his stage. He e came on and it was just… beautiful. He had these lovely, tranquil visuals up on a screen behind him as he sang in this shy way of his and it was so ethereal and wonderful. I heard some people complaining that Pemberton didn’t end on a high note, but for me it was the most perfect, soothing thing to close the festival.
Once it was over, encore and all, the whole group of us met up and cried. Literally. I also THREW THE BACKPACK AT NICK.
…Fuck that backpack.
Monday July 21st
We woke up, knowing it was time to go home, feeling like this:
Well, some of us felt like that. Personally, I was ready to leave. I usually need some alone time each day to function properly, and I hadn’t had any of that the whole time I was at the festival, so I was pretty drained. I was also eagerly awaiting a shower. Music festivals get very dusty and grimy.
We ate some breakfast, packed up all our stuff, got into our cars, and said goodbye to Pemberton Music Festival, 2014.
All things considered, I had a really good time. The positives definitely outweighed the negatives for me, and most of the negatives weren’t really under the control of the festival organizers.
I don’t know how I would have fared if a few key things were different– a lot of my experience was influenced by how generally stressed out I was at that point in my life, and the weather. If I had been a little more chill, would I have had a better time? It was overcast and spitting rain during the fest and I respond really poorly to heat, so if it had been 30 degrees and sunny the like it generally is in Pemberton in the summer, would I have died? I don’t know. It’s November now, as I’m finishing up writing about this whole thing (procrastination at its finest), and I’m still undecided about whether or not I’ll attend 2015’s festival.
I do know that Chance the Rapper, St. Vincent, and Frank Ocean changed my life, and that now I have a bunch of adorable photographs to look back on in 20 years and think, “ah, yes, that was a good time.” WE’LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS.
So I’m 16 and in grade eleven of secondary school, which is basically the same thing as high school except it starts in grade eight instead of grade nine. A few weeks ago, I was re-watching 90210 and realized that all of the characters were meant to be the same age as me. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about how drastically different my experience in school has been to the usual North American narrative of high school that’s presented in fiction.
Like, in most fiction about the North American Teen High School Experience, there’s a very clear hierarchy that students follow. The popular people are Cheerleaders and Jocks, and all the Theatre Kids are weird alternative types who hate the popular people, and for some reason REALLY GOOD LOOKING, REALLY TALENTED PEOPLE are so uncool they aren’t even on the chain.
You also get extremely similar plotlines on these shows—something Hayleyghoover hilariously breaks down in this YouTube video—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because genre conventions are helpful for audiences to understand what’s going on in any given show, and obviously this media isn’t written specifically to cater to me, but I find myself very… alienated by content that’s meant to be relatable.
So here is a chart that I made (mostly in jest… mostly) about how my actual North American Teen High School Experience would have played out if I were a character in a teen drama.
Disclaimer: This chart is a joke. And I understand that a lot of anyone’s North American Teen High School Experience is going to be influenced by where exactly that experience happens. I live in Vancouver, where people are generally pretty progressive (which is why I’ve escaped a lot of bullying for being a fricking weird creative nerd). And I do think that even if shows address an issue like homophobia or mental illness or whatever and they don’t handle it super well, it’s better than ignoring it completely, and it will hit home for some viewers, which is important because people should know they’re not alone! I understand that content isn’t made for me, and I don’t expect brilliantly written material from 90210.
Maybe this is just the fact that I’m a teenage writer with a tendency to romanticize my life talking, but I actually kind of like teenagers. And I like writing about teenagers. And I mean, hopefully I never get to a point in my life where I find what I’m doing uninteresting (life in your 50s just seems like a lot of work), but adolescence is such an interesting point in anyone’s life. So much happens and changes and that makes dramatic writing really enjoyable. There’s such a wealth of experiences to delve into and portray, and I guess I just find it kind of amusing to see so many weak and non-complex depictions of teenagers in fiction when I’m surrounded on a daily basis by bright, funny, fascinating teenagers who deal with CRAZY STUFF all the time.
Can someone just force Shonda Rhimes to write a teen drama that respects the age group it portrays, please? That would be great.