Pemberton Music Festival wrap-up: Best. Camping trip. Ever.

Fans, friendship and summer dreams in Nicholas Laba's final recap of 2015’s Pemby Fest.

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Jack Antonoff of BleachersBleacher's Jack Antonoff spent the majority of his set amping up the crowd.

High with a little help from my friends

If there’s anything that the music was almost a close second to, it wasn’t the other hooligans parading about; it was the hooligans you came with.

At the heart of it all, Pemby is a camping trip: a time where you travel out of place with a group of special people and live life together.

But instead of casting a fishing rod, paddling a canoe or analyzing animal scat, Pemby provides a masterfully curated roster of musicians in an out-of-this-world environment, compounded by the additional friend-love of tens of thousands of chummy others.

Pemby buds

"Who do you want to see?" "I dunno man, who do you want to see?"

“Everybody here with your best friend tonight, make some motherfucking noise,” shouted Kendrick Lamar at the climax of the festival’s connectivity, the finale.

King Kendrick

As the entirety of the festival converged upon the central Pemberton Stage for its final performance, the mass mood became closer than at any point in the festival.

Now I could rant about how mind-blowingly amazing Kendrick Lamar is, but I’ll save you from what you should already know. Instead, here’s a list of noteworthy happenings at the show:

  • Lamar rapped a brand-new verse on “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”
  • Man with a broken leg and crutches crowd surfed
  • Lamar stood still and stared into space, causing everyone to scream hysterically
  • Fan held up a vinyl copy of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
  • Lamar asked everyone to hold up a light, crowd proceeded to twinkle like the night sky
  • Lamar instructed his drummer to drop out on a hushed “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” outro, repeating lyrics with the crowd
  • Lamar’s bassist ripped a white-hot solo on “i”
  • Woman exposed her breasts, Lamar tried not to crack a smile, tried
  • Lamar brought out fellow Compton rapper YG Hootie for “Two Presidents”
  • Woman with USA bra and flag got camera time
  • Lamar again got fans to go ape-shit by remaining silent and looking at nothing in particular
  • Lamar “on some old school emcee shit” had tens of thousands wave their hands in unison
  • Boom camera operator flexed some serious skills
  • Lamar said he will give his sneakers to someone who knows all the words to “A.D.H.D”
  • Taking off his shoes, revealing his disparate foot clothes, Lamar remarked, “mismatched socks is some Compton shit”
  • Lamar called up young dude in yellow shirt, told him to swag out on stage
  • Young dude danced, then threw up what appeared to be gang signs (not cool)
  • In a new verse, Lamar rapped “I’m bright like Thomas Edison, I’m as hood as Gucci Mane” (a great line, in case you're wondering)

Kendrick Lamar on the Pemberton stage

All Eyez on Me

Dirt roads, summer dreams

Following a final night of revelry — which included port-a-potty pitch football and well-attended GA camping chicken fights — it was time to start the slow slog home, an unavoidable reality when legions of vehicles crowd onto a two-lane highway.

Matching the come-down from the magical getaway, moments melted away on the highway home.

Dakota Pearl are a local Pemberton band who got their start — they literally started playing together — at a battle of the bands to play the festival. They’ve subsequently played at both the 2014 and 2015 iterations.

Describing Pemby’s effect on their community, they said, “It’s the highlight of everybody’s year... like Christmas in July.”

“We’re basically their band,” exclaimed frontman Adam Leggett, his voice quavering with the gratitude and humility of an otherwise small town band in a big time dreamworld.

In closing, we’d like to leave you with Dakota Pearls “Dirt Roads.” Fix these words to your fond memories and 2016’s festival won’t feel far off:

Dirt roads, summer dreams

Dust screamin’ out from the back tires

Long days, longer nights

Life moves too fast

All those years never seem to last

It’s like the clock’s been running down

Thank you for sticking with us at the festival. Share your favourite memory with @thatlaba

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