Thanks to Caitlyn Molstad from Calgary, Alberta, Canada for covering Sasquatch Festival for us this year. Also, thanks to Sasquatch Festival for their pictures letting us cover this amazing event.
Sasquatch festival 2013 was completely breathtaking from the moment we arrived at the world famous Gorge Amphitheatre right up until the sounds of the last act of the weekend rang out. After a long night of driving, we got to our campsite just as the sun was rising on Friday morning. The view from our tent as the hills of The Gorge lit up pink and purple with the sunrise was an absolutely beautiful way to kick off the weekend. We set up camp, and hit the hay after driving for 13 hours to rest up before shows started that afternoon. A few hours later, it was the sound of the trailer next to us blasting “My Number” by Foals from their RV stereo that woke me from my short but much-needed cat nap. It was an exciting way to rise and shine. Our neighbors befriended us immediately by letting us know that it was “Jack-o-clock” and handing us a larger-than-life bottle of Jack Daniels to drink from. This was the general atmosphere of the campgrounds. Though we were in the premiere site instead of the regular camping quarters, the energy was still high. By noon on Friday, the little village that we were to call home for the next 4 days had come alive.
With some sleep under our belts and food in our stomachs, our spirits were lifted and we packed our backpacks for our first day of shows. Due to long line ups to get into the venue we missed most of the Seawolf set on the Honda Bigfoot stage, but managed to catch them play “You’re A Wolf” which is my favorite song by them and was a nice way to begin the day. We then took a stroll around the venue to get our footing and see where all of the stages were. We ended up back at the Bigfoot stage to see the Japandroids set, which I was quite excited for as they are from Vancouver and I have been a fan for a few years now since their Post-Nothing album. This was by far the most disappointing set of the weekend, not for lack of a great performance on behalf of the band but because the sound quality was so poor. We could barely make out Brian King’s vocals and the usually amazing drumming talent of David Prowse was lost in a sea of terrible sound quality. Crowd members were shouting “We can’t hear you!” throughout the entire set and it was a pretty big bummer. We began to worry about the sound quality of the rest of the shows that we had planned to see at that particular stage and hoped that the Sasquatch sound guys could get it together for the rest of the festival.
Next up was a highly anticipated show for me, Seattle-based Telekinesis. This show happened on the smaller but very under rated Yeti stage. The sound quality on this stage was 100 times better than that of the Bigfoot stage, so we were pretty easy to please at that point. Michael Benjamin Lerner and his band put on a really great show, playing an awesome mix of material from his new album Dormarion as well as older favorites from 12 Desperate Straight Lines and also their self-titled debut album from 2009. As a long-time fan of Lerner, I was a pretty happy camper after seeing this set. There is a certain kind of bewilderment you get from watching a front man drummer. We then head over to the main stage to sit down on the grass and watch the Arctic Monkeys. Alex Turner is a true performer (and a total dream boat) and had the crowd amped and ready to dance. If you haven’t had a chance to see this band live, I would seriously recommend you do it. This England native four-piece put on a hell of a show and exude a mind-blowing energy throughout the entire set. Ttheir run at Sasquatch 2013 was no exception. The last show of the night for us was Vampire Weekend at the Bigfoot stage. We were very close to the stage, so if there were still sound issues with this stage, we could barely tell. The energy was high for this show, the entire crowd was dancing as hard as they could. Ezra Koenig (also a total dream boat) and the band delivered a seamless show. I personally loved the backdrop the band had on the stage, with huge Corinthian columns hanging down over the stage and a giant golden mirror in the back. The band opened the show with a crowd favorite, “Cousins” and kept that initial energy up throughout the show and ended with “Walcott”. It was a great way to end our first day at The Gorge. Exhausted, we head back to our camp for some shut eye. After a long and exciting day, I was glad to be in the premiere camping site which was quieter and less of an all-nighter party than the other site to get some rest.
On Saturday morning we had a late start because of sleeping in and wanting to shower. The showers, I should also mention, completely exceeded my expectations and I just want to give the people at Sasquatch a pat on the back for the facilities. I was half expecting to pick up some sort of disease from bathing at the festival but the showers were actually pretty great. Anyways, after our five star showering experiences, we head back to the venue just in time to catch Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who, incidentally, appear exactly the way you would think a band named after the Marlon Brando film The Wild One would. Every member of the band was wearing all black, the lead singer with his hood up and the guitarist was smoking a cigarette while playing. Their set was pretty good, regardless of me being skeptical of how mucky drug-hazed garage rock would translate outdoors on the main stage of a festival mid-afternoon. I think the fact that this band has been at it for so long was probably why it didn’t suck. I stayed at the main stage for the rest of the evening, after staking out some territory on the grassy hill during Andrew Bird’s set. I saw him play in 2009 at Lollapalooza and his live show is usually pretty decent with his whimsical whistling and violin, but I can honestly admit that I was a little bit bored for most of the set. If I didn’t have a list of all the acts I’d seen at the festival and it wasn’t sitting next to me as I write this, I probably wouldn’t have even remembered seeing Bird’s set. C’est la vie.
Next up was Bloc Party, so we came down from our spot on the hill to the floor for some dancing in hopes to raise the energy level from Andrew Bird’s snoozefest. I ended up running into a few guys that I had gone to high school with in the middle of the crowd, which was kind of awesome seeing as we were in a sea of people. That’s one of the exciting things about large festivals like Sasquatch, is no matter how big the venue or how many people are around, you always end up miraculously running into friends. I am somewhat of a veteran of a Bloc Party show, and I have to say that this band has never disappointed me. Their show is always such high energy and they get almost everyone dancing, jumping, yelling out lyrics, and crowd surfing. At one point, Kele began singing Rihanna’s “We Found Love”, which was actually a pretty great sounding cover. They finished with “This Modern Love” and it was an overwhelmingly satisfying way to close out one of my favorite sets of the weekend, despite being kicked in the face a few times by some dudes wearing snap-back hats and OBEY t-shirts who were frighteningly strung-out. I must admit I always love and admire the spunk of a hipster bro.
We decided to grab a grassy spot up on the hill for the rest of the evening’s shows as we were staying at the main stage. This was a difficult decision as I really did not want to have to miss seeing Divine Fits, but The XX and Sigur Ros won that conflict. The XX has to be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I am a huge fan and listen to their albums quite often but their live set blows any recording work they’ve done out of the water. There is something about their music that translates so much better in a live show than on to an album. The sound was huge, the light show was amazing, and the band’s appearance matched the aesthetic of both their music and the stage. The sunset behind the Sasquatch stage while the hauntingly electric sounds of The XX rang out was a seriously beautiful combination. Next up was Iceland’s Sigur Ros, a band who has been on my bucket list to see for years and I was super excited for. Jonsi’s voice is overwhelming gorgeous and the group of talented musicians that make up this band put on one of the most emotionally charged performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. As tiny lanterns magically lit up the stage and Jonsi moved a bow back and forth over his electric guitar, an intense energy built up and you could feel that every single person watching the show was in total awe. On our way out of the venue, we decided to catch a little bit of Empire of the Sun’s set. I have to admit, this show surprised me. I have listened to this group pretty casually for a while now, but I had no idea that their live show was such a spectacle. The band was dressed in full costume, each of them looking like some sort of Aztec-inspired alien king. There were backup dancers, lightshows, and neon galore- It was a very surreal way to end an awesome day of shows but I was way too tired and way too sober by that point to stay for the whole thing.
Sunday was the day I was most anticipating and I woke up the next morning chanting “It’s Grimes day!” in the tent. We head to the festival grounds early to make sure we caught Capital Cities playing the main stage. The band was super energetic and regardless of being one of the first acts of the day, they had a huge crowd and everyone was dancing their hearts out to their catchy and upbeat pop songs. You can hear the strong influence the 80’s had on this duo, with sounds similar to that of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder oozing out of every song. Their set also featured a few covers, including the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” and Madonna’s “Holiday”. At the end of their set, the band stayed on stage to dance, crowd surf and interact with the audience while their hit single “Safe and Sound” played in the background (yet again). This honestly felt a little masturbatory on the part of the band but I suppose there is something to be said for shameless self-promotion… Maybe.
We then head over to the Bigfoot stage to see New York’s DIIV. This was an act that I was glowing with anticipation for because their album Oshin has been on repeat for me for a few months now and also because they are a bit of an indie rock supergroup, featuring Zachary Cole Smith from Beach Fossils and Colby Hewitt formerly from Smith Westerns. Their performance was nothing short of my high hopes. As a band, they look straight out of the 90’s with oversize t-shirts, denim vests, and Smith’s bottle-bleached blonde hair hanging over his eyes. I don’t think we saw the bassist’s face even once, which sort of added to their showmanship and aesthetic in some way. I was pretty bummed when their set came to an end as I was in a blissful, shoegaze-y trance for the whole forty-five minutes they were playing. After I was able to process and rave about DIIV’s show with my friends, we head back to the main stage for Kristian Matsson, or, The Tallest Man on Earth. He delivered an amazing performance and even when he forgot the lyrics to a song, it was somehow endearing. I was surprised at his ability to play with enough stage presence to occupy the entire main stage all on his own. I was sort of expecting to see him sit on a stool and lull us all to sleep with his sweet melodies but he was very capable of changing the energy for a bigger venue. He also delivered a cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, which is easy to do but hard to do well, and he knocked it out of the park.
We took a much-needed break from the sun and went back to the campground for some lunch and to gear up for the evening. We returned to the venue just in time to catch most of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros on the main stage. If there was ever a venue made for this band, it’s the Gorge. The show was pretty solid all the way through, but something magical happened as they played their well-loved single “Home” and thousands of people all the way from the floor level by the stage to the hills of the amphitheatre sang every word of the song and danced with each other. While I wasn’t really keen to see this show, as bare-footed folk music played in an arena setting is seriously not my thing, it was one of those moments I’ll never forget. That being said, during the break of the song the band passed the microphone to some girls who were obviously in an MDMA-induced haze (who probably took some trip to South-East Asia recently to find themselves) and they began babbling on, telling some story which was almost enough to make me throw up the $17 quesadilla I’d just eaten.
I moved over to the Bigfoot stage once again, to see Earl Sweatshirt play and also to ensure I had a good spot to watch Grimes from. The crowd was really into Earl’s set, which was no surprise- though I must admit I was slightly disappointed that his friends from Odd Future, Tyler the Creator and Domo Genesis, didn’t come out to perform with him as they did for his set at Coachella (but I guess that is what every mid-twenties privileged-white-girl OF fan was thinking). As Earl’s show came to a close, people started to clear out and I made a break for the rail to be up close for Grimes. It was a challenge, but my friends and I managed to wade our way through some of the most obnoxious humans I’ve ever encountered and pushed our way through to the front row. I was buzzing with excitement, as this was the one show I was looking forward to the most out of the whole festival. After an hour of waiting, the lights went out and smoke machines filled the stage with ambience. Claire Boucher finally emerged onto the stage and the audience went wild. She had two backup dancers and her synthesizers set up in the middle of the stage. Her presence was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Even the way she moves is completely in tune with her artistic persona and her music’s aesthetic. I had heard that the sound was terrible for those watching the show from further away but I had no complaints being right up front and enjoyed this show just as much as I thought I would, maybe more. It was the best set I’d seen all weekend thus far.
I then began my obligatory journey back to the main stage to see Mumford and Sons, who I really couldn’t care less about in my day-to-day life, but they had the audience enchanted and I decided to join the masses and enjoy the show. I have to admit their live set was pretty romantic (though I’m not sure if I was being courted by the band, the vodka we’d snuck into the venue, or the view of the Gorge). They had some of the members from Edward Sharpe join them on stage for a cover of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac which at first I thought was going to be blasphemous but they ended up pulling it off quite nicely. This was the last show we saw on Sunday, mostly because I seriously couldn’t be bothered (or wasn’t high enough) to watch Primus put on a “3D” show at the shittiest sounding stage of the whole festival. It just didn’t seem like something I would be into whatsoever, but I did overhear some shirtless dude with dreads the next morning talking about how “mind-blowing” the Primus set was. In which case I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that for those who appreciate that sort of thing, it went well.
On Monday, with a tiny pang of sadness in my heart, I head into the festival for the last day of shows. I managed to catch the last half of the CHVRCHES set, which was underwhelming but still a pretty pleasant show to watch and I began to develop a girl crush on lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry. It was raining pretty hard by this point, and there was something quite sweet about watching a band from Scotland play a set in the rain. It will be interesting to see how much further success this band has going forward, as their stage presence was sub-par and the sound was a little flat but it could have just been the Bigfoot stage shitting the bed once again. I wish them the best of luck on their upcoming American tour, they are pretty talented little darlings.
Monday afternoon was mostly a series of disappointments, accompanied by standing in the rain for several hours. I missed Elliott Brood’s set at the Yeti stage due to having to run back to the campsite to get warmer clothing. I made it back to the venue and went to the main stage for the Imagine Dragons show but mostly just to get a good spot to see Azalea Banks. Imagine Dragons came on over an hour late and played a show that I seriously could have done without but it seemed like the audience was into it. I think I was mostly distracted by the fact that I had paid $13 to drink a Bud Light Lime in the freezing rain and was a little confused as to why that was happening. Also, by this point the far left hand side of the hill was turning into a mass slip n’ slide for drunk kids to roll around and injure each other on. It was actually a pretty great scene to watch and was far more interesting than listening to a band whose obvious influences are Blind Guardian and Coldplay (which is a combination that no one needs to hear). With still no word from the festival on exactly why the Imagine Dragons set was so late, I waited in vain for a solid half hour for Azalea Banks until finding out from a girl with green hair that Bank’s set had been cancelled. As a Canadian without access to internet at the festival, I was pretty pissed off that Sasquatch’s only notification of the cancellation was via twitter and I was definitely not sticking around to watch Cake. This delay caused me to miss Toro Y Moi’s set but I managed to get over to the Bigfoot stage to catch Twin Shadow play as their sound check ended up taking ten minutes longer than planned. Brooklyn-based George Lewis Jr. appeared on stage like the ghost of Prince in a white trench coat and his band of hipsters did not disappoint. They’ve really perfected the art of dreamy new wave synth-pop and I had such a great time during this set. The sun had finally come out during this show so I was able to enjoy the set that much more. They opened with their newest single “Five Seconds” which really got people grooving and didn’t drop the energy throughout. The highlight of the show for me was when they played “Slow”. This song sounds like a sweaty summer day when you feel the weight of a heat wave on your bones and you’re feeling a little melancholy- it hit my sweet spot and mended my heart which had been broken in Azaleas absence.
It was back to the main stage for the last two acts of the festival. I was extremely torn about missing Alt-J’s performance but it was a sacrifice to be made in order to get a great spot for The Postal Service. The Lumineers were up first, and though the thought of seeing this band felt a little like a forced trip to your Great Aunts house, I didn’t hate it. I might actually go so far as to say that I actually really enjoyed it, and was surprised at the way the band really upped their game for a big show like this. I guess 2013 is the year for mostly-boring-but-sort-of-catchy folk outfits to surprise me with their ability to headline a major festival. Their show had a nice sing-along atmosphere, as even the people in the audience (like myself) who were obviously only there to hang onto the best real estate for The Postal Service were humming and head-bobbing along. Finally it was time for The Postal Service to come onto the stage. This was the big one for me- I still remember the first time I heard the love child of Ben Gibbard, Jenny Lewis, and Jimmy Tamborello. I was on the bus to school at age thirteen and the boy I thought I was irrevocably in love with at the time played me “Brand New Colony” on his twelve-song-capacity MP3 player. I thought it was a sign from the cosmos and the most magical thing I’d ever heard. A decade later, and still a huge fan, I got to see them play a live show. The band came out on stage and Ben Gibbard spoke five words into the microphone with a haunting conviction- “we’re back from the dead”. As soon as the first note of “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” rang out into the amphitheatre, my heart leapt out of my chest. The entire show was just incredible. The sound was perfect, the atmosphere was unparalleled to any other show we’d seen the whole weekend, and I knew that everyone standing around me felt the same. It’s an indescribable feeling and it’s the reason for my love affair with live music. The set was a truly awe-inspiring way to close out an amazing weekend. There was no encore from The Postal Service, they played their full set seamlessly and walked off the stage for good. It was sweet, uncomplicated, and fulfilling- though as soon as the show was over, I felt an overwhelming emptiness as it meant that Sasquatch 2013 had come to a close.
Regardless of a few obnoxious sunburned frat bros wearing animal costumes, half naked girls on mushrooms with painted faces (things to be expected at a festival that Steve Aoki is a part of), and a bit of rainfall, my Sasquatch 2013 experience was pretty amazing. For the whole four days, my heart was bursting with joy due to everything from the atmosphere of the campgrounds to the number of outstanding shows I saw. It was a truly an outstanding experience. I want to thank the amazing people at Scene SC for giving me this incredible opportunity.