Music lovers across the province will need to wait another year
for a Pemberton Festival — it’s a no-go for 2009.
Shane Bourbonnais, president of touring and business
development for Live Nation Canada, told
in a Thursday interview that organizers have concluded it would better
for them to focus on a festival for 2010.
“We’re really concerned about making sure that we come back
with a great product,” he said. “(We’re) concerned about the fact that we’re
late on talent, late on securing big sponsors. There’s a lot of logistical
issues we haven’t been able to dig into.
“The commitment to the community was, we’d only bring it back
if we knew it was going to be perfect.”
The Pemberton Festival, which took place July 25-27, 2008,
brought an estimated 40,000 people to the Pemberton Valley to hear acts such as
Coldplay, Tom Petty and Nine Inch Nails.
Many in attendance complained about logistical issues such as
waste and traffic, but an overwhelming number of people within the community
praised the festival as the best thing that’s happened to Pemberton.
Once the festival ended, Live Nation was mired in a diplomatic
row with B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), which said it had only
approved the festival on its site within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)
for one year and that it “wouldn’t be renewed.”
The ALR is land where agriculture is a priority use, and the
commission administers use within that area.
That changed after Live Nation, in concert with the Village of
Pemberton, submitted a non-farm use application to the Squamish-Lillooet
Regional District, asking that the festival be allowed to take place on the
property annually for 10 years.
The commission approved the application at a Nov. 18 meeting
— but by then, it may have been too late for a 2009 festival. When
applying for its first non-farm use application, Live Nation didn’t wait for
the commission’s approval — it was already into significant planning.
Bourbonnais admitted that the timing of the meeting was
“definitely” a factor in deciding whether the festival could come back, but it
was just one of many.
“We didn’t really get to work on anything. We really didn’t
know which direction that decision was going to take,” he said.
Talent was also a factor, specifically a lack thereof. Last
year’s festival had some of the biggest acts in the world and by the time the
ALC decision came down, artists had already started planning their summer
Bourbonnais said that the “biggest bands in the world” were
interested in playing a second Pemberton Festival, but there just wasn’t enough
time to book them.
“We set the stage in 2008 by bringing the biggest bands in the
world to Pemberton,” he said. “Those acts, they’re running around the world. To
ask them for a Pemberton date, it’s very important that it’s scheduled into
their calendars. All these acts were confirmed already for next summer.”
Bourbonnais wouldn’t say which bands were interested.
“I wish I could but I can’t.”
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy was disappointed the festival
isn’t coming back this year, but he wasn’t surprised.
“Last year I don’t think that Live Nation really realized how
far they’d hung it out,” he said. “They had contacted some big names, many
months before they actually received permission to do the festival and that
could have been something that cost them a fair amount of money.”
Ultimately Sturdy thinks a lack of lineup was the central
factor that contributed to the decision not to hold the festival in 2009.
“They had contacted… Tom Petty and Coldplay back in the fall of
last year and didn’t receive permission to do the festival until March,” he
said. “That had enormous liability associated with it that I don’t know was
really clear to them at that point.”
Paul Selina, president of the Pemberton and District Chamber of
Commerce, estimated that the festival brought about $10 million into the local
economy. Though he’s disappointed the festival won’t be coming back this year,
he said the chamber understands there’s a “process to go through.”
“The ALC didn’t make that decision early enough in order for
the concert promoter to book the key acts and the key equipment,” he said.
The chamber will be helping to put on the Pemberton Barn Dance
this year, an annual event that was incorporated into the festival in 2008.
“The music will go on,” Selina said.