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The LIVE At Squamish experience

Did the first year festival live up to its promise of "happy times in a big field"?

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Last summer was a rough one for Sea to Sky residents. We'd had a couple rocky one-night stands with the Music in the Mountains and Whistler Music Festival and had been unceremoniously dumped by Pemberton Festival - boy did that sting. Sure, we managed to soothe our broken hearts with a rebound romance with the Olympics, but still, this summer was shaping up to be a bit empty, without any outdoor music festivals on offer.

Then, in mid-June, a new suitor stepped onto the scene: brand.LIVE.

The Vancouver-based production company announced that it planned to host a two-day music festival in Squamish over the Labour Day weekend. Like scorned lovers, many Sea to Sky residents skeptically rolled their eyes at the announcement. But these guys had a proven track record - they successfully staged the 2005 and 2009 Grey Cups and last year's Sarah McLachlan, Neil Young and Sheryl Crow concert at Ambleside in West Vancouver. So the real question was: could they get people to come to Squamish, a former logging town, for live music?

Well, as it turns out, they could, and they did. As promised, it was "happy times in a big field" for just about everyone who snagged tickets to the inaugural event. According to Paul Runnals, one of the owners and senior vice president of production for brand.LIVE, just over 13,000 people turned up for the first-year festival, which is slightly less than the 8,000 per day organizers were hoping for.

"We were hoping for 8,000 a day, so we were down a little, but it was the first year, so we had nothing to go off of other than our own aspirations of what we thought would be a really great starting number," Runnals said Tuesday morning. "We weren't far off."

Moreover, Runnals said the feedback he received onsite was almost entirely positive.

"I talked to a lot of sponsors, the vendors, all the artists - everybody was really happy and having a great time and thought everything was well-organized," he added. "So we achieved what we wanted to do in the sense that we proved the concept, we proved the site and we showed everybody that this can be a very viable, great, well-run festival."

The key to success seems to lie within the eclectic lineup, which featured up-and-coming pop, electronic, indie and rock bands from throughout the region (think Said The Whale and Mother Mother) playing alongside more established acts like Devo and Bad Religion. Seriously, if there wasn't at least one act on this bill that you were stoked to see, you're a straight-up music snob, plain and simple.

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