OPINION: Online reaction to inaugural Vancouver music festival less than skookum


When I first started at the CBC, I remember being shocked that the host of the radio show I worked for never went out to gigs anymore, even shows stacked with his favourite bands.

At the time, that host was in his mid-40s with two young kids at home. I thought he was so incredibly lame, and I swore I would never be like him.

Rain did not damper the crowd’s reaction to Mother Mother’s spirited set at Skookum Fest. Photo Kirk Hamilton/3AM Revelations

Cut to 20 years later: I’m in my mid-40s with two young kids at home. I hardly ever go out to see live shows, including those stacked with my favourite bands, which is so incredibly lame. I am now exactly like him.

Case in point: Due to domestic commitments such as “family movie night,” minor hockey and an assortment of antibiotics and ointments, I completely missed this past weekend’s inaugural Skookum Festival in Stanley Park. The event had no less than about 20 of my favourite bands performing. Due to extreme FOMO (fear of missing out), I tracked the festival every moment I could on social media.

Depending on where I scrolled, Skookum was either Vancouver’s greatest music festival ever, or the worst. If I checked Instagram, it was nothing but love, hugs and defiantly dripping, smiling faces in the pouring rain, while Father John Misty or Bahamas crooned to crowds of thousands in the background.

That was killing me, so I quickly flipped over to the much more negative Twitter, which provided plenty of schadenfreude-like entertainment. On Twitter, #SkookumFestival rants overflowed like a clogged Porta-Potty.

According to Twitter, it became apparent very early on that while the music at Skookum was top shelf, the logistics were not. That made me feel a little better about my own situation, stealing glances at my phone while the kids giggled through Minions.

Lineups to washrooms and food trucks were the common theme to audience complaints. Photo Kyle Tsang/Twitter

Tweets raged about the lack of Porta-Potties, the lack of food and beer, and the epic lines — at a festival that billed itself under the banner of “Music. Food. Art.”

Some of those comments led me into the trenches of the #SkookumFestival Twitter conversation. To either torture or reassure myself, I asked Skookum 2018 attendees to rank their experience on a scale of one to 10 (10 being best).

Here are some of the replies I received:

Yes, it rained. Yes, one person asked if “Skookum” meant “lineup” in Coast Salish. Yes, I heard people were offering cash for prime spots in the Porta-Potty lineups.

But it wasn’t all bad. On the musical side of things, I gleaned that Matt Mays was the sleeper hit of the opening night; that the Arkells brought the house down as expected on their rapid ascent to Loverboy’s throne; that Said the Whale debuted a song called “UnAmerican,” which could be their next radio hit; that Mother Mother played to a monstrous crowd; and that it was unclear whether it was raindrops or tears of joy streaking down fans’ faces at the St. Vincent set. Argh. FOMO!

Here’s hoping that Skookum lives up to the actual meaning of its name, and flushes out the operational backups for beers, bathrooms and beyond. Maybe my timing will work out perfectly when I finally show up to Skookum for the Weakerthans reunion tour.

Let’s end this on a positively skookum note, eh?