J @ Sasquatch!

This past Memorial day weekend I had the extreme pleasure of attending the best music festival the northwest has to offer. I am, of course, talking about Sasquatch. Beginning last year Sasquatch was upgraded from three days to four, and this was my first trek since the change. My initial thought of a four day festival was that it would be overwhelming. That come Sunday night I’d be dying to sleep in a real bed, take a hot shower, and stay off my feet for the next three days. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. The Gorge was shining over the weekend and the weather couldn’t have been better. Sure, it’s not as hot as the desert in Indio, or Grant Park in Chicago, but remember, that’s a good thing. During the day we saw plenty of sunshine with temperatures in the high 70s; I couldn’t have been happier. Night time actually got cold so there was no trouble sleeping in, either. The excellent temperatures during the day and the 7 plus hours of sleep each night left me feeling plenty energetic for a long weekend. By the time Monday ended, I didn’t want to go home, and right now I already miss it.

*Pardon the iPhone pictures. It’s all I had*

Friday.

Explosions in the Sky – Bigfoot Stage @ 9:15 pm

Without a doubt the Austin quartet absolutely killed it. Unfortunately, due to a four hour line to get into the campsite, I missed the first half. That being said, I still managed to catch some classic jams like “Postcard from 1952”, “The Birth and Death of Day”, and crowd favorite: “The Only Moment We Were Alone”. Explosions in the Sky closed the Bigfoot stage on the last day of the festival three years ago at my very first Sasquatch, and I still consider that one of my favorite performances of all time. Seeing them again at the same stage sent some nostalgic chills down my back as the crowd cheered every crescendo.

Pretty Lights – Sasquatch Stage @ 10:15 pm

A fellow camper informed me that there was a coordination of Pretty Lights fans entitled “Glowpocolypse”. What this equated to was every time the beat dropped, hundreds of glowsticks got thrown in the air. That, combined with the vivid and bright visualizers in the background, made for an absolutely insane sight. The crowd jumped, glowsticks rained from the sky, and the beats hit hard.

Saturday.

Kurt Vile & the Violators – Bigfoot Stage @ 4:05 pm

The crowd for Kurt Vile was mellow, but appreciative. His late afternoon time-slot worked well for his folksy, laid back tones. That being said, he wasn’t afraid to turn the volume up. His guitar sounded fantastic, the drums had a nice kick to them, and the closing saxophone solo flowed effortlessly.

Dum Dum Girls – Bigfoot Stage @ 5:10 pm

The central theme fitting Sasquatch this year was that female musicians kick ass. The Dum Dum Girls started it off on Bigfoot with their matching goth attire, and a genuine enthusiasm for where they were. Each member had differing swagger onstage that was super entertaining to watch. On top of all that, they absolutely shredded. It was clear these girls knew how to jam.

ARAABMUZIK – Banana Shack @ 5:40 pm

Abraham Orellana (aka: ARAABMUZIK) is one of the most talented DJs I’ve seen live. I don’t know a whole lot of what it takes to DJ, nor what the DJs actually do on their decks, but I can tell you that Orellana does ALL the work. He uses a multi-button pad to produce nearly all of the sounds live and in real time. His fingers were so lightning quick that I’m surprised his forearms didn’t burst into flames. His live set is very different from what you’d expect after listening to Electronic Dream. It’s way more dubstep-like and a hell of a lot louder. In fact, I only recognized maybe two Electronic Dream songs during his entire set. Most of what he played sampled other artists, or he just made a beat from scratch on stage.

The Helio Sequence – Bigfoot Stage @ 6:20 pm

I got turned on to the Helio Sequence a little over a year ago after seeing them open for the Walkmen and I’ve been eager to see them again ever since. An easy way for a band to get my approval is to extend and/or alter songs from their original recording. It’s a simple, relatively easy way to make the live performance special. The Helio Sequence jammed out to nearly every song through extended outros and drum licks. The two piece band sounded deeper than a year ago, mainly due to the guitarist dropping his lowest string to act as a bass. It worked well with the electronic samples looping in the background, a whining harmonica, and the unmistakable face of a fantastic drummer.

tUnE-yArDs – Bigfoot Stage @ 7:30 pm

After seeing Tune-yards at Coachella I left feeling disappointed. I blame their early time slot on the outdoor stage which left the crowd in a brainless heat stroke. Her 7:30 set time greatly improved the crowds’ enthusiasm. People danced, cheered, and sang along throughout most of the set.

St. Vincent – Bigfoot Stage @ 9 pm

I don’t know what it was with the Bigfoot stage, but it never seemed to fill up until half way through each set. This was fantastic for me, because I could get up close for some phenomenal shows. St. Vincent was THE show of the weekend. Led by Annie Clark, St. Vincent played a very unexpected show for fans of her newest album. Most expected a slow, jazzy set to show off Clark’s amazing voice. Her voice was heard, but it was accompanied by a loud drummer, several keyboardists, and her ability to wail on the guitar. She altered songs to make them darker, and hit harder. “Northern Lights” was a crowd favorite as it continued to build itself to a thunderous and intense crescendo. For anyone curious, this was my favorite show of the weekend. Anyone could tell that she takes her work seriously and truly takes time to craft a live performance with a purpose. She ended her set by diving into the crowd while singing, rolling, and flipping, all while crowd surfing.

Jack White – Sasquatch Stage @ 10 pm

Nobody really knew what to expect from Jack White. Would he play White Stripes, Raconteurs, or Dead Weather? Or would he only stick to his new album? How about all of the above. He brought an extremely talented band to back him for the set and they solo’d at every chance they got. It was truly a spectacle of amazing musicians coming together to have some fun. Anyone who knows White Stripes know that Meg White isn’t the most complex drummer. In fact, the White Stripes are known for their simplistic percussion because it contrasts so well with the legendary guitar skills of Jack White. His show at Sasquatch was very different. During old favorites like “Hotel Yorba”, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”, and closer “Seven Nation Army”, each band member added their own solo and even made new parts to the song that didn’t exist on the original versions. If you’ve seen a My Morning Jacket show, think of that, but with less special effects. In addition to some old White Stripes classics, White also dug up some Raconteurs with “Steady as She Goes”, and even covered the Dead Weather with “I Cut Like a Buffalo”. All in all everyone left knowing that Jack White is truly a rock star and a freakishly talented musician.

Sunday.

The War on Drugs – Bigfoot Stage @ 4:05 pm

After what seemed like the longest sound check in history, the War on Drugs played to a willing audience. The War on Drugs are pretty mellow for the most part. Similar to Kurt Vile, their instruments often blend into each other and create an ambient ball of sound. However, one of the advantages to a live set is the ability to play louder than the record. Drums hit harder, guitars sound more natural, and you can feel the bass rumbling through your body. The band exemplified this technique with just the right amount of volume.

Wild Flag – Bigfoot Stage @ 6:20 pm

Remember how I said that girl bands rocked this weekend? Wild Flag was one of them. They just exuded that punk don’t-give-a-shit type attitude that worked so well with their sound. The lead singer took her role seriously by snarling at the crowd, holding her guitar up like a trophy, and all out rocking anytime she wasn’t singing.

The Walkmen – Bigfoot Stage @ 7:30 pm

The Walkmen are the kind of band that I absolutely love certain songs, but really can’t get in to a lot of others. Lucky for me, they played just about every song I could have hoped for including “Angela Surf City”, “In the New Year”, and an all time crowd favorite and set closer, “The Rat”. The first half of their set was a little slow and the crowd wasn’t quite feeling it until they played “Angela Surf City”. After that song, the rest were upbeat and crowd-friendly. Another song that sounded fantastic was “Woe is Me”. Like I said before, a lot of times all a song needs to sound great live is to play it just a little louder than you’d expect. “Woe is Me” fell into that category. In addition to all of the great music the Walkmen played, they absolutely exude coolness. They dress in ties and suits, the lead singer effortlessly wails away on the mic, and the drummer bounces around to the beat like a drumming version of Flea. I haven’t listened to their newest album yet, but I will surely check it out after that set.

James Murphy – Banana Shack @ 9:30 pm

JJMT loves everything about James Murphy. He is the idol, the icon, the man. So when I heard he was playing a DJ set at Sasquatch I was excited, but also very curious. Would he play any LCD? He doesn’t have an album, what would he play? Would he sample anything? Well, to my dismay he did not sample any LCD, but it was still a very fun show. His signature disco ball hung from the ceiling and the lights constantly aimed right at it. With a little effort, I was lucky enough to make it to the very front of the audience. His sound was clearly influenced by the 70s disco and funk era. He sampled a lot of vocals from old disco songs, as well as capturing the signature synth sound you instantly think of when you hear disco. The songs would build for no less than 10 minutes each time, and didn’t really explode into anything special, but would layer on themselves until he had a complete beat. Though I left deaf and dumb, all while still feeling the void of the loss of my favorite band, it was a very fun show.

Monday.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Sasquatch Stage @ 3:15 pm

If someone tells you they are a fan of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, 9 times out of 10 they are only talking about their first self-titled album. “Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth” is a classic and put CYHSY on the map. They’ve released two albums since then, both of which I could never really get in to, so needless to say I was a little hesitant when they took the Sasquatch stage. I don’t know if it was my low expectations or what, but I had a blast. Not only did they play the aforementioned single, they also played several more songs off the first album like “Heavy Metal”, “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood”, and actually played a small encore with “Is This Love?”. “Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth” was definitely a low point of the show, unfortunately. The keyboards and guitar are arguably the most iconic sounds to that song, and unfortunately were turned down too low to hear. That being said, the crowd still ate it up and demanded more, hence the “Is This Love?” encore.

Silversun Pickups – Sasquatch Stage @ 7 pm

I was lucky enough to see Silversun Pickups play their first Sasquatch three years on the very same stage they played last Monday. Back then they were a little nervous playing to such a huge crowd, but still managed it well. This time around, they have three full length albums and a plethora of tour dates so you know they are no rookies to the festival circuit. That being said, one thing that really stood out in the show was just how thankful and happy they were to be there. They all had the biggest smiles on their faces, thanked the crowd multiple times, and just genuinely seemed to appreciate the fans. They opened with a new song, “Skin Graph”, which went over really well with the crowd. It was loud when it needed to be, but slowed down during the bridge just enough to contrast the chorus. They continued on with some crowd favorites like “The Royal We”, “Panic Switch”, and “Future Foe Scenarios”. They, of course, closed with their all time classic “Lazy Eye”. They’ve come a long way since I saw them in 2009 and have really grown into their shoes. They know how to play to a large audience, and how to keep things interesting throughout the whole show.

Tenacious D – Sasquatch Stage @ 8:30 pm

Due to Mogwai cancelling, Spiritualized got moved to the Bigfoot closing spot, and unfortunately conflicted with my plans of seeing Beck. After I heard this I figured I might as well stay at Tenacious D to see what Jack Black was cooking up. He did not disappoint. I went from dancing and rocking out, to laughing my ass off, to being absolutely amazed at some of the talent Tenacious D round up for their back up band. Their set was complete with a man in a sasquatch suit running around stage, to Jack Black fending off an alien with a nerf gun, to a big inflatable dick that eventually sprayed confetti all over the crowd.

Beck – Sasquatch Stage @ 10 pm

Up until this point pretty much every band I’ve mentioned had at least a decent set. I was very excited for Beck. I heard fantastic things about his shows, and passed on some other great acts just to see him (Nero, Spiritualized). He opened with “Devil’s Haircut”, a throwback jam that I’ve always loved. Good start. He then transitioned into “Loser”, where he couldn’t quite get the timing of the rap down, nor did he seem remotely into the song. On top of that, the sound wasn’t mixed very well, you couldn’t hear the drums. Not to mention that his lights were the equivalent of any light bulb you’d put in your desk lamp. At one point he began to tell a story of his journey inside the Gorge to eventually stumble upon ‘an 80s guitar solo’, of which he proceeded to fail dismally at. -I really wanted to love your set Beck, but you let me down- I want to blame it on the fact that maybe his albums are best suited for the studio; that you can’t replicate the greatness live. But truly great musicians can always find a way to put on a lasting show. Maybe he was feeling sick? Tripping on acid? Recently renounced his faith to scientology? Whatever it was, I really hope it was a one time occurrence.

Wrap Up.

When it came time to pack up our campsite and leave the Gorge for the foreseeable future I wasn’t ready to leave. With most music festivals come the last day you are tired, dirty, and sore. You’re music intake is at its maximum and you’re ready to leave. Not this time. By the time I was back in Seattle I already missed it. Even writing all of this right now has me looking to next year. Despite some organizational issues throughout the weekend (overflowing trash, lack of festival schedules, sound issues on Bigfoot) the music more than made up for it. The beauty of Sasquatch is that they typically book smaller bands and throw them in front of huge crowds that many of these bands have never played for before. The result can be good or bad. I like to think that these bands feed off of the extra attention and put more effort into pleasing the crowd and their fans. We definitely saw that this year with several bands like Grouplove, Beat Connection, and the War on Drugs. Creating a festival that bands want to play is huge. It keeps great acts coming back and it keeps fans wanting more. Keep it up Sassy, you did well.

-Justin

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