Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sasquatch 2010 Re-Cap

This year's Sasquatch festival made me wish a few things. First... that I had brought a megaphone to use, then lose, then find, then be able to run around the campground with the found megaphone informing everyone that all previous announcements regarding a lost megaphone were null and void. Second... that I had known, prior to setting up my tent, I was erecting it on top of a dried up river bed, soon to see it's water supply replenished. And third... that Bon Iver had once again been one of the performing bands.

Since I just touched on them a bit, it makes sense to expand on a few of the disappointments from this years premier Pacific Northwest outdoor music festival first, and then get to the good stuff.

As mentioned, this year's lineup lacked a band capable of spurring an entire audience into heavy hearts and quiet thought, as Bon Iver did a year ago. There simply wasn't one on the schedule. Not to say that Sasquatch 2010 didn't have special moments... but that type of moment was sadly... not to be found.

Another disappointment... 16oz Pabst are still $9. Should anyone from Live Nation see this (and I'm quite sure I don't have that kind of readership)... If you're not going to have your gate staff check bags thoroughly enough to prevent people from sneaking in all kinds of alcohol and drugs... then what's the point of $9 beers? If you checked the bags and then charged $5-$6 per beer (still a rip off)... you'd sell a ton of them! Certainly more than you do to those of us who don't attempt to sneak stuff in (zero purchased by this writer). One additional point... Alcohol shouldn't be your only worry when considering how your staff examines bags. On all three days, the type of search rendered to my backpack meant that I could have brought in at least one if not two 9mm pistols or perhaps even a "dirty bomb" (that's for you Mike). Seriously, Live Nation... just search the bags a bit better and lower the price of beer. Do that next year, and I guarantee I will buy a sixer. Even shotgun one with you. (I like to pretend Live Nation is just one guy... named Larry... and he forgot how to have fun)

Now to the good stuff.

31 bands in 3 days... and I even left early. What this year's festival lacked in emotional gravity (see previous comment about Bon Iver), it made up for in fun! With bands like Edward Sharpe, Passion Pit, and LCD Soundsystem, how could it not?

Teetering on the threat of rain the entire weekend but never quite fully realizing that threat (save for an overnight pour on the second night well after lights out), Sasquatch 2010 delivered with great style. Honorable mentions from the festival include a performance by eclectic singer, tUnE yArDs (who autographed her vinyl album for me) as she used looped vocal chants to create deep landscapes behind minimal instrumentation and divine drum beats inspired by other continents. Broken Social Scene also returned to support their new album (Forgiveness Rock Record), and showed all goers why they remain one of Canada's premier collective rock efforts. Queens, NY group Freelance Whales, shined as best they could from the small and set aside Yeti stage, belting out their East Coast style pop (believe me... there is a distinctive sound to pop from the other side of the country). And while not drumming up a stellar performance... Tegan & Sara still manged to do their fans proud and even capture some new ones with their daylight show on the Sasquatch main stage. Seattle's Fresh Espresso lit up the Yeti stage on day three with their Oreo branded hip hop and Passion Pit topped their 2009 Wookie stage performance with a much grander show from the main stage.

3rd place awards for the weekend went to great rock band Dr. Dog (a must see) and beat savvy Kid Cudi; who dropped so much bounce worthy music on the Sasquatch stage (had it been an after dark performance) would have easily brought the house down. Dinosaur Feathers took care of business as the opening 2nd day performers and L.A.'s Local Natives provided an epic 1:30 show on day two, spilling story telling song after story telling song with brilliant Pacific Coast, sugar coated, sunny rock style. Ok Go maintained their quirky and lovable selves with a solid main stage performance the first day and Laura Marling's haunting vocals eased everyone into the weekend on Saturday afternoon with hints of self reflection.

Near top nods were earned by a pleasing number of groups during the festival, including Ohio/NY band, The National. Remember all those scenes in 80's and 90's movies where the main character hits rock bottom and then finally starts putting together a series of events to right their situation? (NOT to be confused with a training montage). Every song by The National could be used to define those scenes. Triumphant in nature and struggling in substance, The National worked through each song during their first day set and saw each of them through to their anthem like finishes. Mumford & Sons' performance was inspired, Portugal, The Man, blazed through guitar solos and edgy vocals, while The Tallest Man On Earth, showered 21st Century folk rock on a giant Bigfoot stage afternoon crowd and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, turned an abbreviated set into a modern day Woodstock, delivering 1960's psych/bohemian rock in classic sing along style.

And now... the favorites.

Australia supplied some great music this year, and while The Middle East's performance butted up against Portugal, The Man and Edward Sharpe, The Temper Trap's strong 3rd day main stage show was free and clear to be witnessed. Finding success by having their song "Sweet Disposition" show up on the soundtrack to arguably 2009's best relationship movie "500 Days Of Summer" (which featured as an actress, one of Sasquatch 2010's top performers), TTT dove right into a crowd waiting to be shook up by their new favorite pop rock band. The group's lead singer Dougy Mandagi, even poured his bottled water on the surface of a stand alone drum he was using in order create a slow-mo worthy spray.

Based upon the performance by former Hip Hop producer turned R&B vocalist, Mayer Hawthorne... I finally bought his album. Transforming himself via live show, from douche to douchetastic... his fun and smile bearing early 70's Motown sound was wildly entertaining. Vampire Weekend also gave everyone something to smile about as they handed the Sasquatch crowd their most polished show of the festival; and polished or not... it worked. Surely a must see at Edgefield in Troutdale, OR later this summer for those of you who missed Sasquatch, Vampire Weekend look like ivy league pop rockers and after seeing them live for the first time... I couldn't care less. They are energy.

My Morning Jacket gave the best rock performance of the festival this year. Languishing over his guitar, Jim James lead the rest of the band into Sasquatch legend. A set filled with both deep soulful rock and the kind of stuff that could materialize as a stone skipping across a flat pond, MMJ, took a cool May evening and turned up the heat. Reunited band Pavement, fought through (literally) the beginning of their set (no doubt as the result of heavily celebrating Steve Malkmus' birthday). However, it didn't take long for the group to rebound and deliver a solid performance that probably baffled some of the under 18 crowd but had the rest of us giddy with nineties joy. British duo Massive Attack, turned in a performance using the stuff dreams are made of. A breezy and flowing assault on a crowd determined to get riled up, Massive Attack turned operatic at times and became one of two brilliant surprise performances of the weekend.

And then... there were four. Four Sasquatch performances that topped all others. Completely different and substantial in their own right... sets by LCD Soundsystem, Band Of Horses, She & Him, and Deadmau5 were this year's 'reasons for going'.

Destroying mundane dance beats that permeate top 40 music, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, screamed, jerked, and actually sang a giant crowd into unified rhythm. Having attended multiple shows at The Gorge... I can't recall any show, where one band... during daylight hours... had everyone in the front of the stage and as far up the hill as eyes could see, executing a singular dance move without even asking them to do so. It just happened. As did LCD Soundsystem's new album This Is Happening. Quite possibly their best effort to date, the album played a major part in their Sasquatch performance. I was pleased to see the crowd not get so lost in their crazy punk dance moves they forgot to yell out the re verb chants in Pow Pow, "Advantages To Both!" and "Advantages!, Advantages!", key audience participation lyrics to be sure.

What can be said about a talent like M. Ward paring with the vocal abilities of Zooey Deschanel? Not much that hasn't already been said. Probably the best lineup decision for 2010 made by festival creator Adam Zachs, She And Him flawlessly performed their contemporary brand of country/folk rock with a doo-wop twist. Fans of M. Ward, (who showcased his own work in 2009 at Sasquatch), were satiated by his featured vocals on songs from the duo's new album Volume Two.

Band Of Horses launched the Sasquatch crowd into the final night of shows with BIG melancholy rock. Surprisingly filling their set with a large portion of songs from the band's second album, Cease To Begin, BOH enlightened the crowd to just enough of the group's third installment, Infinite Arms to entice purchasing. Epic delivery on songs Like The Funeral and No One's Gonna Love You left the Sasquatch main stage dripping with emotion and was probably the closest this year's festival came to a "Bon Iver" moment.

Finally... a unique... in your face... dance till your feet are bloody, late night performance by Toronto based DJ, Deadmau5 (dead mouse) at the newly named Bigfoot stage , provided the biggest reason to rejoice for having a pass to the fastest sell out year in Sasquatch history (see article picture). The best light show ever witnessed, along with the vibrant energy flowing from the DJ as he (Joel Thomas Zimmerman), bounced around in the middle of his cube cut out with his lit up mouse head, combined to send excitement boiling over long into the first night of the festival. House music wrought with unique vocals and bold genre challenging beats, put what probably would have been a very good second night performance by Booka Shade, to shame.

Sasquatch 2010 was a wild success despite the disappointments mentioned at the beginning of the recap. And next year I plan to complete my experience by bringing along... a megaphone.