Sasquatch 2009

Surprise Surprise
Sasquatch 09= one of the best weekends I’ve had in ever.

Considering the uber refreshing (and not Coachellan 120+) 80 degree weather, hippie communes, the vibrant Tent village, plentiful psychedelic journeys, the backdrop of a river gorge carved by the flooding of an glacial damn during the last ice age, and as many Beautiful British Columbians as a guy could ever hope for, it’d be tough to have had anything less than a stellar Memorial Day ‘Squatch weekend.

Oh, and there were a few good bands too.

After a 26 hour beelinage up the West Coast from San Diego , we pulled into the Gorge Amphitheatre outside George, Washington (Awesome to know that exists, huh?) and set up camp Saturday morning. The campsite itself is more of a village that comes to life over the weekend, with main streets, taco vendors, parties around every corner and less sobriety the bus ride back from TJ. Each clan sets up their own little enclave to hold up in for the weekend. Wandering around after the shows are over for the night is worth the ticket price alone. My favorite story was probably a group of hippies who had descended from the Olympic Mountains to sell tacos. They travel from music festival to music festival sellin those babies so they can raise enough money to buy acreage and start their own commune someday.
Anyhow, we headed in the gates, traversed through a sea of the most fascinating humans you knew existed, and enjoyed the first show.
Similar to Coachella, there are several stages and a dance tent. The first band we saw was Blind Pilot, a lo-fi folk band from Portland. If you haven’t heard of them, I’d highly recommend it. Joe Kruse and Tony B put “I Buried a Bone” on their March 23rd mix. Or “One Red Thread” and “Oviedo” are great tracks to check out. While we were stylin in our complementary “1-800-Tobacco Quit Line” shades, Blind Pilot played a great set to open our weekend.
blindpilot1We held our grassy seats to dance ourselves awake to Passion Pit, which could’ve been much later in the evening for how energetic the show was. A much livelier tempo picked up the pace for us.
passionpitThen we headed over to the main stage, which is set just in front of the massive Gorge. Alt-country showman M. Ward played a stellar show while we kicked it on the massive sloping lawn. With literally hundreds of acres of untouched Washington desert land in the back drop, we fantasized of classic cattleman pioneerin the plains as M. Ward’s twang provided the perfect complement.

Devotchka stepped up right after. The best I can describe Devotchka’s performance was either
A) The musical equivalent of a beautifully prepared international jambalaya cuisine.
B) My romantic ideal of what goes on every Saturday night in the hippest parts of Europe along the Mediterranean.
Basically, tubas, mariachis, tambourines, feathers, strings and costumes combined to create a hell of an afternoon show.
devotchkaWe headed down to the pit for Animal Collective, one of the bands everyone was looking forward to most. However, most unfortunately, AC ended up being the biggest let down of the weekend. They opened with a diddy and then moved right into “My Girls”, which was excellent, just as good as I’d hoped. But then they went into an ad-lib set of nothing I’d recognized for at least 30 minutes. It never really progressed or materialized into anything, just a lot of experimenting with KORGs. And they ended their set with some songs from MPP, which was also excellent. If they’d have played songs, or incorporated at least some more structure it would’ve been a good show. But alas, let down.

Achin to remedy our Animal Collective hangover, we dosed ourselves up with some hip-hop. Mos Def lit up the Wookie Stage , and we even got a few half tracks of Black Star. All us white Washingtonians loved the rare hip-hop and Mos Def filled that demand well.

Right after Mos Def, Bon Iver took the stage as the sun had settled behind the hills. I’d compare this to the Foxes taking the stage at Coachella as the sun was diving behind the mountains. And sure enough in similar fashion, Bon Iver was easily one of the best shows of the festival. While Justin Vernon really made the album what it was, each of the musicians in his band added their own perfectly planned part into the mix, creating a pretty epic live show. They didn’t just accompany him, they complemented him excellently.

This year, Squatch planners added a Dance/Comedy tent. I’d liken the design to the Experience Music Project building in Seattle.
Rather than any simple design, the tent had soaring angles, bending curves and a wild interior. We hit up our first dance tent experience for Crystal Castles–awesomely intense. Though Alice Glass didn’t sing the lyrics but just screamed. bottom line: A dance tent’s a dance tent.

My dad will most likely read this, so I will spare most the details. But we began our day by arising out of the tent and beginning, well, we hit her hard. In our absolutely sober and completely rational logic, we decided we could hike somewhere around two or three miles through desert to a straight drop off cliff to the mighty Columbia where we would, of course, have a refreshing morning swim.
We reached a knee high fence about five minutes in and called it quits.
In a general summary of the day, “someone who has no affiliation with myself or the University of San Diego in anyway” went through 5 different states of consciousness on Sunday, which summarizes things pretty well.
We made our way into the festival to hit up Calexico, who provided a similar summer afternoon atmosphere as M. Ward’s show.
Next up, we watched the Avett brothers–a bitchin Folk rock band from North Carolina. I hadn’t heard of them and was most pleasantly surprised. I’d highly recommend checkin them out.
Hopin to enjoyin what we’d heard as one of the best live shows around, we moved on up to the Wookie stage for Minneapolis’ rock heroes The Wrens. As one of the members put it, “We’ve been around for about 50 years”. But they had their set down pat, and it was Awesome. Captial A. Solid rock, great energy and an excited crowd. You might knock on them for not being 24 , but they put on just as entertaining of a show as any of their younger stagemates.
wrensWe scooted ourselves down to the main stage for the Brooklyn boys TV on the Radio. If we’d have been in the pit, probably would’ve been an entirely different show. But even from our higher hangout way up on the lawn, it was a sweet set that helped break my early evening fatigue.
I’ve heard people knock TV for being a studio band, but this was definitely not the case either of the times I saw them. They put on a hell of a show.

I took a short jaunt up to catch M83, recommended to me by my long time elementary school pals as “pretty much just really heavy electronica”. While I wasn’t much impressed by the recordings, the live equivalents translated much better for an engaging few songs that I got to catch.

Mike Sinodis made me make a weekly vow on my life that I would see Nine Inch Nails. Now, maybe I’m just not aggressive enough of a person or not upset with the World enough or something, maybe I should’ve gone to the pit, maybe I was just tired from the day. But the NIN show came across at least eighteen times more ridiculous than serious. I suppose NIN and the Sasquatch vibe just don’t really match. It was most definitely and intense and passionate performance I stuck around to see, but I left early on.
To see instead:

Of Montreal. Which to my delight ended up also being one of the best shows of the weekend. The closers for the Wookie Stage (Bon Iver, Of Montreal, Explosions) were all superb. I probably should’ve expected it, but was surprised by a wild, eclectic, over the top, circusesque performance by the Georgian psych, pop band. From gas-masked stage dancers, to shouldertop singing, to one of the most trip-inducing light shows I’ve seen since I first discovered the strobe light, of Montreal gave a wildly entertaining and really fun nightcap.

And then,
we went to DeadMau5.
Which was about as awesome as it gets. No LA Hipsters. Canadian dance lords. Our friend Ian doing the exact same body movement for an hour and a half (funny how that works…) and more adrenaline than a guy could conjure up from a sky dive made for the best Sunday night I’ve had since my middle school Catholic Youth group gave us pizza, Pop and I got to sit next to my crush.
(Note: In lieu of expected responses, that was a hyperbole)

The third day is always a bit rough, right? Festival’s are like a marathon. Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes actually thanked us for enduring the marathon too.
So when we began our Memorial Day with Grizzly Bear, I was a bit bummed knowing we all probably wouldn’t give the afternoon starter set the attention it deserved. I hear their new album “Veckatimest” is the best thing since Jesus Christ or “Merryweather Post Pavilion”, depending on your preference. Their acid-folk, as Seattle’s The Stranger so nicely summed them up as, was a beautiful beginning to our Monday.

Next up, we scrambled down to the pit for Sant(o)igold. She woke everyone up from whatever midday daze we were in to start a ten thousand+ person party. While everyone below was dancin their hearts out, the party poured out up into the lawn above. If you haven’t seen this youtube video yet, check it out. A dance party erupted up on the lawn
Sasquatch Dance Party
One dude started the party. It was a great experiment in people watching (though you could say that for the weekend as a whole) and as my brother-in-law summed it up, some great social commentary on the teen “follow” mentality.
Alas, Santi/Santo was Gold.
I’d never actually heard of the next band, Gogol Bordello. Though the name sounded about as good as it gets, and they ultimately put on easily the most energetic and captivating show of the weekend. As best as I can describe it, the band’s a gypsy rock act. USD’er Cristal Sunshine made the last minute pilgrimage up to Squatch just to catch them. And now I can see why. If you ever get the chance to see them, do it. It was the best surprise of the weekend and an incredible experience, especially considering expectations goin in.
There’s this band I heard a few times called “Fleet Foxes”, and they happened to be playing at the festival. So I said, “hell, I got some time. I could check them out”. And so we did. About ten yards away from their glistening beards (someone shouted how hard they wanted to have a Fox-style beard and Robin and Jay Tillman responded most comically about how dismal of sex lives their facial-hair features have lead them to) and angelic harmonies. I’ve been most fortunate to have seen them three times before, but this time–at home, on the Gorge, close enough to watch their vocal chords tremblin–was as good as it gets. Though they joked about their disorganization, “This is a professional band. You’re watching a professional band right now”, they lit it up as the internationally acclaimed musicians they’ve become. Enough said. Oh, we got to hear two new songs.
Don’t worry, they were really terrible.
foxFollowing the Foxes’ finale, we scrambled up the hill to the Wookie Stage to hit up Girl Talk. Just as expected, it was Party City, Washington. From inflatable Giant Whales to Toilet Paper being blown by the roll into the crowd, Greg G did not let down the crowd by any means. My friend brought up how Girl Talk is the perfect match for our quick click YouTube generation’s attention span. Six million songs in 60 minutes. But for the record, I’d have 5-star rated each and every of all the videos in Girl Talk’s set. Twas a Bitchin party that filled the Wookie grass to pour into the porta-potty waiting grounds and dance tent area to start concluding the weekend.
Explosions in the Sky ended the festival for us, as we cut out a bit early to make the drive back to Seattle. EITS’ frontman–if they have one– applauded Girl Talk before introducing his entourage as “Serious Talk”. I’d heard Explosions’ show called a religious experience, though that probably depends on how much THC is in your cerebral cortex. But for me it was as great as I had expected. Just as their albums continually build, their show kept building and building, in volume, intensity and passion. They most certainly have mastered the art of the crescendo. I walked away as pleased as can be from the best instrumental show I’ve witnessed.

All in all, Squatch was better than the weekend it was advertised to be. Sure, a guy could gripe about expensive beer, long days or crowded bathrooms, but in perspective it was a n absolutely awesome weekend. I’m elated I got to be a part of such a grand festival in the Greatest state there is. I’d give my highest recommendations to attend in the future, but that might lead to our Cascadian gem turning into Coachella, so I’ll conclude saying avoid it at all costs.