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Festival Review and Photos: Sasquatch 2011, May 30, 2011 – George, WA



As Sasquatch has come and gone, and we, as both media and fans, move on to Bonnaroo, Pitchfork, and beyond, I can’t help but feeling like this festival, though it sold out in record time, still hangs below the radar amongst major music festivals. Perhaps it is the location, which is more remote than the other large American fests. Attending the festival, where there is little choice but to camp, you feel cut off from society for four days. Add in the couple days on each side of it that it took to travel there and it was really more of an experience than a concert.

It seems like more than that, though. Sure, the Foo Fighters are a global force as a band, but they are also a band with heavy roots in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, Wilco aside, all the headliners can call Sasquatch their home-turf. Where as many festivals look to the Muse’s and Kanye West’s of the world to sell tickets, Sasquatch seems more devoted to the fringe, showcasing acts who have ascended from indie obscurity to main-stage appeal.

This doesn’t make Sasquatch better than other festivals, but it does make it different. In a musical landscape where it seems like there is an event of similar size nearly every weekend, Sasquatch makes a case for not only its importance, but also its sustainability. Ten years is nothing to scoff at. So, thanks to Sasquatch for hosting us this year and here’s to ten more awesome years. – Philip Cosores


Photos by Philip Cosores

Givers:

At any festival, there are times to take chances on a band you have never heard of. Of course, at noon on a Monday, can it really be called taking a chance, like my time is so valuable or like I had anything really riding of the quality of the band Givers. Regardless, Givers were pretty awesome. Advanced word on the band pointed to a stint opening for Dirty Projectors and the comparison is pretty apt, as they also thrive on infectious and unpredictable melodies, exuberance, and pure joy. Their debut album, In Light, is out now, and their live performance is enough to sell me on checking it out. Hopefully these words are enough to sell you, too. – Philip Cosores


Photo by Philip Cosores

Twin Shadow:

Early times slots on the last day of a festival are always a little dicey. Most people are feeling the effects of an accumulating three day hangover, everybody’s ears are ringing, and even though nobody will admit it, most patrons are sick of the entire human race by that point. But Twin Shadow – god bless frontman George Lewis Jr.’s heart – put on a terrific performance Monday morning at the Gorge. His 80s inspired new wave was the perfect wake up call for all those in attendance, surprising even me with just how peaceful, yet energizing, his music can be. Honestly I wasn’t really a fan of Twin Shadow’s work before this performance, but watching the sun come over the hills while Lewis jammed on “Slow” was the most serene start to an exhausting day. – Erik Burg


Photo by Erik Burg

Old 97′s:

The Old 97′s were one of the more seasoned bands to make their way to the mainstage over the course of the weekend. And though Rhett Miller can still shake his hair with the best of them and the band’s influence and mastery in the alternative-country genre can hardly be questioned, it just seemed like putting the band squarely between Young The Giant and Chromeo was just a little cruel. Regardless, the band played their Texan hearts out and pleased the devoted fans who crowded the barricade near the stage. – Philip Cosores


Photo by Philip Cosores

Chromeo:

Following their set, Chromeo tweeted that they were “moved to tears” following their reception. If you had been there, it was not hard to understand why.

A mid-afternoon starttime is not usually the ideal place to take in a dance act, but Chromeo fans and young folks just looking to have a good time climbed out of the woodwork to take in the duo’s set. Dave 1 had a smile on his face for nearly the entire set, while counterpart P-Thugg earned the largest ovations through his use of his fancy talk-box. More than any other moment of the weekend, it actually felt like summer, as the sun shone without cloud impediment and inflatable beach balls and water-toys flew across all corners of the audience. Regarding how the music sounded… who cares? Chromeo played, everyone had a blast, end of story. – Philip Cosores


Photo by Philip Cosores

Black Mountain:

I had always sort of heard the name Black Mountain floating around, but to be honest I had no idea who they were or what they sounded like. My partner, Phillip, told me they were right up my alley, a great sounding psych rock band. Simply put, I became Black Mountain’s biggest fan for an hour that day. I was completely sucked in by lead singer Amber Webber’s vocals, the folk-metal drums and the smooth guitar chords of each track. Black Mountain represent everything a great festival band should have, a sound that appeals to everyone and the confidence to rock a crowd no matter the size or stage, and they did just that, turning me into a fan while delighting their already converted audience. – Erik Burg


Photo by Erik Burg

Guided By Voices:

Guided By Voices weren’t coming to Sasquatch to make friends. From their jab at Chromeo (“what was the name of that last shitty band that played?”) to their acknowledgment that most of the crowd had vacated before their set (“no one wanted to see GBV?”), Guided By Voices continued on with their lifelong show as perennial underdogs who are arena rock stars in their own mind. Luckily, they were arena rock stars for about 200 obsessed fans, too, who clumped in the middle of the pit, crowd-surfed, held hands, sung along, and cheered as the band chain-smoked cigarettes, drank beer from their own on-stage cooler, and swigged tequila. The band probably played close to 20 songs in their hour, including the beloved “I Am A Scientist.” The sad thing is that receptions like this are probably what caused the band to stop playing in the first place (as this is a reunion, still), but, from the looks of it, the band is wise enough now not to care and played with purpose for the people who did care. – Philip Cosores


Photos by Philip Cosores

White Denim:

I’ll admit my fanboy-like attitude towards White Denim right off the bat, as this Austin, TX. foursome were essentially the reason I came to Sasquatch. And as they took to the Yeti stage on Monday, the sun shining and their instruments tuned, I’d like to believe they made a few new fans along with reinforcing my belief that White Denim embody everything which modern rock ‘n roll should be. Their set was performed at a blazing speed, playing medleys of their best tracks and thanking the crowd in between each. The clean and crisp guitar rhythms which their albums are known for translated perfectly to the stage, as the lead singer/rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist vibed off of each other during each track. Their enjoyable and well executed set was even the talk of Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy as he took the stage that night, “you guys catch that White Denim set?” – Erik Burg


Photos by Erik Burg

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings:

Sometimes a performance is over-shadowed by something that happens during the performance, which is the case for me and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. Near the end of Ms. Jones’ energetic set, a tie-dyed crusty stepped behind me and asked why me and the gentleman next to me weren’t dancing. Any answer we gave her would have been unacceptable and the altercation eventually went unpredictably bad, with the woman storming off in anger. I’m… I’m sorry I wasn’t dancing.

And it is no knock to the Dap-Kings or Sharon Jones, but very little moves me to dance. Not the same could be said about Sharon Jones, who had not problem shaking her stuff across the stage, inviting a young gentleman to join her for one song (an experiment that went perfectly, as the guy could really dance). Sure, Sharon Jones may have caused a rift in my corner of the audience, but she also saw universal appeal, as two star-crossed lovers in Chromeo and Guided By Voices could both be seen enjoying the set side-stage. It’s a strange world. – Philip Cosores


Photos by Philip Cosores

Surfer Blood:

I guess there’s not really a set timetable on how long a band can tour one album, and I don’t want to rush them or anything, but Surfer Blood continued to rock fans of their debut album Astro Coast. The material certainly hasn’t grown stale though, as their poppy and easy-to-love jams still get a crowd on their feet and singing along. Lead singer John Paul Pitts seemed like he could play the notes to “Floating Vibes” and “Take it Easy” in his sleep, perfectly reciting the fan favorites, despite his rather nonchalant body language. Surfer Blood sound exactly the same on stage as they do on record, and if that’s the worst thing I can say about them, I guess they had a pretty good showing. – Erik Burg


Photo by Philip Cosores

Rodrigo Y Gabriela:

Another band that, though I had certainly heard of them, I had never actually listened to any of their music or seen them perform. On paper, they always struck me as one of those festival novelty acts. But, boy was I wrong.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela are known for their unique take on the acoustic guitar, bringing a metal approach and, well, pulling it off. It helps that both members of the band are extremely good looking. But, while it may sound difficult to be impressed by an hour straight of acoustic guitar playing, the duo manages to pull it off.

The crowd was also treated to a fair share of covers, including a tribute to Jimi Hendrix and a short rendition of “Free Bird.” During the middle of the set, rain poured down on the mainstage the hardest it would all weekend, but no one fled, rather, they stayed to watch the duo complete their standout performance, turning unfamiliar skeptics like myself into outright fans. – Philip Cosores


Photos by Philip Cosores

Best Coast:

Queen of the weed smoking and cat loving hippies, Beth Cosentino played the only rainy set of the weekend, continuing to impress even skeptics like me that her brand of good time garage pop is more impressive than meets the eye. Of course every woman in the audience sang along to “Boyfriend” as Best Coast closed the Yeti stage at Sasquatch, but what I’ve viewed as awful until this show, I actually started to enjoy. Maybe it was beautiful scene as the rain parted and the sun crept though, striking Cosentino in an almost spotlight manner, but “When I’m With You” just sounded right for the first time. The people who already loved Best Coast? Yeah, they were having a great time too. – Erik Burg

!!!:

“What’s this?” asked !!! frontman Nic Offer as he pointed to a barrier in the crowd, “I’m going to make it my personal runway” he added before launching into their first song. And that he did, parading up and down the middle isle, throwing himself into the crowd on nearly every song, putting on the most enjoyable set of Sasquatch, hands down. His signature hip gyrating and thrusting got every person in the audience moving in their own way, especially on favorites like “Jamie, My Intentions are Bass” and “Yadnus.” They even performed two new tracks, a welcome indication that new material is right around the corner. They could have played all covers or all new songs, but as long as Offer had as much fun as he was having, the crowd would have loved it. I took a thousand pictures, and I could have taken a thousand more trying to capture every outrageous moment of the set, but no matter the amount of stills, nothing can convey the energy and fun of Offer and the rest of !!!. – Erik Burg


Photos by Erik Burg

The Decemberists:

As The Decemberists began their set, word spread to the front of the crowd that a gnarly lighting storm could be seem moving in from across the gorge. There was some discussion as to what would happen if it hit the venue, and the final determination was that no one knew what to do. Regardless, the band took the stage and gave a graceful performance that showed just how true performers face adversity.

Of course, no technical problems can compete with the health issues facing Jenny Conlee, the band’s pianist, who was making her final appearance with band before leaving to treat her recently-diagnosed breast cancer. Was this a solemn affair? No way, as guitarist Chris Funk played the set in a Sasquatch suit and singer Colin Meloy engaged the crowd in his typical witty banter. But, after focused renditions of “The Infanta” and “Calamity Song,” Meloy’s guitar failed as the band began the opening track from their recent album (The King Is Dead), “Don’t Carry It All.” Meloy, rather than stop the song, continued on, leaning on his harmonica and gripping the microphone tight in the verse. The audience helped out, adding hand claps to fill the thin sound.

Unfortunately, the sound problems were deeper than Meloy’s guitar, as another guitar was plugged in and wouldn’t work. This was no obstacle for The Decemberists, which saw Meloy leave the stage to deal with the issues and the rest of the band entertain the audience with some free jazz, yodeling, a joke, and a “stadium anthem” of Rick Springfield. When the issue had been mended, Meloy returned with fake horror at what the show had become, leading to a feverish finish of “The Rake Song” and “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.” The end result was the most honest and sincere encore call of the festival, one that was clearly deserved and sadly went unanswered. – Philip Cosores


Photos by Philip Cosores

Deerhunter:

Cool, calm, confident. The best three adjectives to describe how Deerhunter performed on Monday night. With fog swirling about as the wind picked up, the experimental psych band from Atlanta, GA. closed out the Bigfoot stage with class. Halcyon Digest was one of last year’s best albums, and lead singer and guitarist Bradford Cox, bundled in so many layers he was barely recognizable, performed one of the most magnificent songs of the weekend with an extended version of “Helicopter.” Each member was focused and seemed intent on playing as if they were recording live, creating a sea of swaying heads and emphatic cheers. There were few moments as defining, however, as hearing the chorus of “Helicopter” break out in harmony, Cox’s lips pressed to the mic, and a ghostly nucleus of smoke engulfing his guitar. – Erik Burg


Photos by Erik Burg

Wilco:

With the threat of storm still looming, Wilco closed out the festival with class. Sticking mostly to their bread and butter (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born), Wilco were the class of the festival.

It all starts with Tweedy. The lead singer and primary songwriter of Wilco has something about him, where he can talk to thousands of people and seem intimate and real. I don’t know how he does it, as it is never theatrical, but always imbued with humility and grace. During “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” the audience started clapping along to the beat towards the end and Tweedy made the following comment: “The people who are clapping, you are the people we like. But, the people not clapping, you are the people like me. That may sound like I don’t like myself. I do. I just don’t like the part of me that is too cool to clap.” Needless to say, I clapped (and I am with Tweedy in that I rarely clap along, but more because I don’t like to be told what to do).

Set standouts included a galloping “Airline To Heaven,” the tender singalong “Jesus, Etc.” and the always tight “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” in which the audience sang the refrain and Tweedy turned the microphone to face them. Then, for the last yelled verse, he faced the band, rather than turning the microphone back the right way. Songs like “Via Chicago” and “Bull Black Nova” showcased the band’s particular skills, most notably the guitar work of Nels Cline and the understated and masterful drumming of Glenn Kotche. But above all, it is Jeff Tweedy’s show, and the audience is usually willing to go wherever he wants to take them, even if it was for twenty repetitions of the word “nothing” on the crushing “Misunderstood.” Yeah, it was a pretty perfect way to end a long four days of music.

Oh, and Erik Burg would kill me if I didn’t mention that Jeff Tweedy made a comment about how much he enjoyed White Denim’s set. – Philip Cosores

Setlist:

Ashes of American Flags
Bull Black Nova
Company In My Back
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Kamera
Handshake Drugs
One Wing
A Shot in the Arm
I’ll Fight
War On War
Via Chicago
Impossible Germany
Jesus, Etc.
Airline To Heaven
Theologians
Walken
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Misunderstood
Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Hate It Here
The Late Greats
Heavy Metal Drummer
Hoodoo Voodoo


Photos by Philip Cosores

Major Lazer:

Not exactly the way I would have liked to end Sasquatch. I wanted to like Major Lazer, as I’m a huge fan of their debut album Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do, and I’ve seen them perform before in smaller clubs, but the one man dancehall-revivalist couldn’t have left a more sour taste in my mouth on Monday night. Diplo, the producer and DJ once known for his experimental and insanely popular mixes on stage, pandered to the lowest possible audience during his set, blasting poor remixes of “Pon De Floor” and laughable frat-house dub. Did the crowd love it? You’re god damned right they did, so I can’t fault a guy for playing to his audience, but the problem is that what was supposed to be Major Lazer sounded exactly the same as the guy blasting Hype Machine songs out of his car speakers camping two rows away from us. – Erik Burg


Photo by Erik Burg


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