We got the lovely Adrienne Wilson to write our Sasquatch Festival show review this year and she did a fantastic job. Thanks Adrienne!
Memorial Day weekend marked the beginning of yet another Sasquatch musical adventure. Anticipation seemed to stream through the lines of cars as they began to line up off the Washington Interstate. The cracks of beer cans echoed through the gorge as the EPIC wait to get into the campground began. Hours later, wristbands intact, booze smuggled passed security, people began to make their way into the small village that would be their home for the next three and a half days.
Due to the wait and the time it took to set up camp, Friday began with the masterful mashup DJ Girl Talk, aka Greg Gillis. The crowd was amped and ready to dance their faces off and Gillis certainly delivered. In true Girl Talk fashion he came out and immediately began to pump up the crowd by having everyone throw toilet paper, or glow sticks, and the craziest dancing fools were brought up on stage with him. His set started with “Play Your Part,” the song that kicks off one of his most popular albums Feed the Animals. Gillis’ ability to keep a crowd engaged is beyond what most DJs are capable of doing on their own. He never lost the crowd’s focus; beating us over the head with endless hit after hit. Pretty Lights followed and kept the crowd moving. When he started, the crowd threw glow sticks in the air making it look like it was temporarily raining neon at the gorge. While his light show and set were interesting after Girl Talk it’s hard to keep a crowd as excited, and people began to filter back towards camp, where the party never stops.
Saturday began with newbies Alabama Shakes, who had the Bigfoot stage swarmed. Their debut album Boys and Girls has been a gift from the musical gods reminding people what it means to play real rock and roll. Lead singer Brittany Howard’s voice is reminiscent of Janis Joplin. Listening to her perform songs like “I Found You” and “Boys and Girls” makes it feel as if you’re reading her diary they’re so personal. Yet she rocks the house with her roaring vocals on songs like “Be Mine” and “Hold On.” It will be interesting to watch this band blossom in the years to come.
After Bigfoot it was time to go to the Sasquatch stage to post up for the heavy hitters to come that evening. Caught the tail end of the Civil Wars set, an adorable duo whose mellow tunes seem to go hand–in-hand with the natural beauty of the gorge. Country singer Jamey Johnson followed and seemed hell-bent on putting everyone to sleep with his laid-back set. While a talented musician, his country music was out of place.
Childish Gambino’s music had been blaring throughout the campgrounds that morning in eagerness of his performance. Gambino, otherwise known as Donald Glover, on top of being a rapper is also a standup comedian, and a writer and actor for NBC hits such as 30 Rock and Community. His energy, as well has his band’s, was relentless and exactly the kind of energy boost people needed especially after the sleepfest that was Jamey Johnson. I had never heard much of his music, but as a huge fan of Community (not going to lie I was hoping Abed would show up), I knew I wouldn’t be let down. Gambino’s lyrics are incredibly clever and he calls ‘em as he sees ‘em. He calls out his haters, his friends, family and even the girls he’s uh been “romantically involved with.” His talent is so incredibly genuine it’s hard to focus on anything other than him. He commanded his audience and helped bring the main stage back to life.
Metric continued the life support with their electro pop anthems. Lead singer Emily Haines, in all her whimsy, danced around the stage with her tambourine and blasted our ears with her synthesized love. She appeared to be exactly where she wanted to be and reminded her audience that their souls were out there for us and we were grateful. They played new songs from their up coming album Synthetica, due out June 12th, as well as chart toppers from their album Fantasies.
The chart toppers didn’t stop when The Shins took the stage. As a band should in a festival setting they played all their big hits from “New Slang,” to “Kissing the Lipless” and “Sleeping Lessons.” The crowd sang along and front man James Mercer made us all honorary members of the band.
As soon as his roadies hit the stage dressed in typical Third Man fashion, fedoras, black suits with silk blue ties, Jack White’s newest album Blunderbuss’ signature color, a frenzy seemed to grip the crowd as people descended into the pit to get a better view. The roadies began to transform the giant main stage into a more intimate setting reminiscent of the White Stripes, but with many more instruments. Once everything was in place including the Third Man spotlights and drapes, the band took the stage banging on their instruments amping up the crowd which erupted in to screams and cheers when White appeared. As soon as he picked up his guitar he went right into playing The White Stripes song “Black Math” sending the crowd into a dancing fit, jumping up and down. From that point on we were taken on a journey through the music career of Mr. White. He played songs from his new album, as well as songs from his other groups The Racounteurs and The Dead Weather. He even did a Hank Williams cover. Mostly he delighted the masses with many a White Stripes song including, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “Hotel Yorba,” “Catch Hell Blues,” “Hello Operator,” and “Ball & Biscuit.” He picked up his acoustic and played “We’re Going To Be Friends,” while everyone sang along. He ended with “Seven Nation Army,” which has become quite the anthem, and involuntarily causes people to chant along with the well know guitar rift. It was interesting to see how much White still plays to his drummer, which he was known for doing with former band mate Meg White. There was a lot of White Stripes nostalgia going on, and it was different hearing all the songs played with much more sound. Jack White played an amazing show. His music is universal, and truly authentic. He’s a living legend who continually shows us what music is and can be.
The Roots ended everyone’s Saturday evening with their usual crowd pleasing ways. They are a phenomenal live band and if you ever have the opportunity to see them live go, because not only will they entertain you, they’ll keep you grooving all night long.
Day three was a grassy knoll day. I saw the end of Chiddy Bang a hip-hop/rock duo from Philly. Their sound would have been better on one of the smaller stages, but cheers to them for being given the opportunity to perform on the Sasquatch stage. M. Ward charmed the afternoon crowd with his ethereal guitar melodies and winsome lyrics. His songs always seem to remind me of a fairy tale and the gorge provided a perfect backdrop for his sound. A local Washington favorite The Head and the Heart followed playing to a fairly large audience for an afternoon band. Their music has an easy flow of vocal harmonies with a danceable side to it.
After the mellowness of the afternoon my friend in I went in search of something to dance to. We headed to the Banana Shack where all who wish to move go. We were disappointed with euro-trance band Apparat, so we moseyed over to the Bigfoot stage to get a good spot for Little Dragon, a band I was quite unfamiliar with, but am so grateful I found. If you have not heard Little Dragon go out and buy their album Ritual Union immediately. It is exceptional. Lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s stage presence is subtly commanding. She directed the lights and her partners on stage with her tambourine and drumstick, while moving around as if she was walking on water. Thank you Little Dragon for giving me something to dance to and saving me from the easygoing monotony of the day. Sunday ended in the dance tent with James Murphy who put on a typical DJ set, but with an amazing light display and awesome graphics.
Monday, the day every Sasquatcher is saddened to see, started with Welsh band The Joy Formidable. I wasn’t too impressed with this band. They sounded like any other alternative rock band you might hear on a popular radio station. Their lead singer’s facial expressions were distracting, but boy could their drummer tear it up. The audience was graced with a true afternoon delight in Feist. She is one of the best female performers around. She taught herself how to play music, as well as sing. She writes and produces her own material, and her creativity is unmatched. Live she is quite the fireball one might expect from a redhead, enticing the crowd to sing along, clap, and dance. Her back up singers The Mountain Band were three hippie girls, fully clad in peasant girl type dress, who helped with the vocal harmonies so essential to Feist’s music. Their performance helped enhance hers and they all looked like they were having one hell of a good time.
People moved towards the Yeti stage to catch a glimpse of funny man John C. Reilly and Friends. Reilly is a part of Jack White’s Third Man Records label and has recently put out a couple singles produced by White. His sound is old timey country with a rockabilly vibe to it. It seemed that most people were expecting him to bust out into characters he’s played in movies, not really giving him the opportunity to prove himself as a musician.
Ready to dance, the Banana Shack once again became our destination, and L.A. Riots was raging away beneath the white tent. The excitement disappeared with SBTRKT, so we went over to the main stage just in time to catch the beginning of an epic rock show put on by the amazing Tenacious D. They were incredible, not only because they are talented musicians, but also complete fans of rock and the theatrical aspect of a show. They are sincere performers even if the things they’re talking about are completely insane. For example in celebration of their new album Rize of the Fenix, a “phoenix” arose center stage. When I say “phoenix” I mean a giant penis with a face and huge pair of balls with flaming wings arose from the middle of the stage and leaned towards the audience. I was scared it was going to shoot something at us. Later a giant evil squid appeared on stage and Jack Black killed it will a nerf gun. It was like being at a more comedic GWAR show. You know less aliens and blood, but more dick and butt jokes, but the same kind of performance rock. At one point Black even sings, “Look inside my anus and you’ll know Sasquatch is real.” The whole audience including the people on the grass sang along to the soft rock ballad “F**k Her Gently,” which was hilarious, and heartwarming. Tenacious D was a much need dose of face melting R’n’R for the people of Sasquatch.
In a last ditch attempt to get some dancing in we tried the Banana Shack one more time for the DJ Nero. He had good moments, but every time he’d build up the beat he’d drop into some dub-step bass line, and that’s all he did. The music became predictable, so we went to the last show of Sasquatch, Beck. He played all the songs you’d want to hear Beck perform, but he looked so bored through his entire performance the novelty wore off quickly. If you’ve seen videos of older Beck shows you know what he’s capable of, but his stage presence at Sasquatch was incredibly disappointing. I wanted to go up there shake him and remind him that the lovely people of the audience were paying for him to get to his next Operating Thetan Level, so if he could pretend to like us for just a minute that would be much appreciated. He closed out his set by bringing Tenacious D back on to help him sing his last two songs. Thank goodness he did that, it was the most physical energy his set had all night.
Tuesday’s mass exodus back to the real world always begins entirely too early, but people have to return to their normal lives. It’s easy to forget about everyday life at Sasquatch, and everyone seems dismayed as they called out their goodbyes to the beauty around them. Overall my Sasquatch experience was fairly mellow this year, but with definite high points. Girl Talk, Alabama Shakes, Childish Gambino, Jack White, Little Dragon, and Tenacious D all helped to provide me with classic Sasquatch moments. For those four days there wasn’t a single place in the world I would have rather been. Thanks for the opportunity SceneSC!