Sasquatch! Part II | 05.24-05.26

For first half coverage of Sasquatch!, please go here...

Words by: Jonathan Zwickel & Court Scott

Sasquatch! Music Festival :: 05.24 - 05.26 :: The Gorge, Washington

The Blakes

The Blakes - Sasquatch! 2008 by Christopher Nelson
The phrase "pop sensibility" was coined to describe bands like The Blakes. Grab a pint and sway to the Seattle trio's mildly angst-y garage rock tempered with a soft side evident in quaint, catchy riffs and terrific brother-to-brother vocals. There's a timeless quality to the tunes and lyrics that's endearing. These guys are great showmen and their new, self-titled album should appeal to any fan of good, ol' regular rock.

Blue Scholars

Seattle's biggest hip-hop export since Sir Mix A Lot, the duo of DJ Sabzi and MC Geologic had the main stage crowd pumping their fists in agreement (and singing along) to Geo's pop culture references and socially conscious messages, all delivered over Sabzi's beautiful, supa-creative beats. Yeah, it's overtly political and self-serious, but these guys have earned their militant stance through all sorts of community volunteer work around Seattle's roughest neighborhoods. After releasing the critically acclaimed Bayani two years ago, the duo has been steadily gaining ground, and lucky you, they're about to hit the road on an extensive American summer tour with Hieroglyphics.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Court to Zwickel: Dude's a sonic chameleon. Me like.
It's true: Malkmus, formerly of indie-rock godfathers Pavement, has shifted into solo guitar-god mode. His tone was instantly reminiscent of Dickey Betts and Trey Anastasio, elastic and soaring. He and Doug Martsch of Built to Spill were by far the most exciting guitarists at Sasquatch. His between song banter was clever as hell, too: "I heard it was raining sideways last night," he said. "You know, crooked rain."

The Moondoggies

Ghostland Observatory - Sasquatch! by Christopher Nelson
This young Seattle quartet is the quintessential festival band and oughta be blowing up outdoor stages all over the country. Their cosmic full-tilt boogie is all early Band and Grateful Dead circa '68-'70, a la "New Speedway Boogie" and "Cumberland Blues." Given their reference points, it's amazing that none of their tunes actually sound like any other songs; these guys have a preternatural knack for crafting hooks within hooks that are all their own. Three- part harmonies keep things well-mellowed and sunny even as they blast into space-shot jams.

Built to Spill

Everyone's caught on to the fact that BTS is one of the best live bands playing today, right? Right. Doug Martsch is a true guitar hero, flanked by two other master axe-slingers, and his solos were simultaneously aggressive and subtle, massive and intricate. The BTS catalog is thick with beautiful melodies and itchy hooks, and the band busted out a bunch of old faves ("Carry the Zero," "Car") before closing with "Conventional Wisdom," winner of Best Guitar Riff of 2006.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

The duo's acoustic, flamenco-style rock came off as a bit gimmicky, but that's not to say it wasn't enjoyable and they're not talented. The big screens flanking the Sasquatch main stage provided intimate perspective on the dexterity necessary to make the sound so full. Gabriella provided the rhythm while Rodrigo took the high road with the melodies. You gotta love a "Wish You Were Here" set opener, complete with Mirror Pond bottle slide solo, and "Purple Haze" into Metallica topped off with a White Stripes lick, but it's hard to imagine a project like this having much longevity.

Jamie Lidell

Tyondai Braxton of Battles - Sasquatch! by Sean Pecknold
The opening two numbers of Lidell's set brought to mind second-rate lounge-y soul and comparisons to Jamiroquai. Several songs in, though, Lidell happily banished those thoughts. Dismissing the four-piece band to wander the crowd with drums and tambourines, Lidell came into full form as a one-man, beatboxing, soul-singing machine. He's talented, charismatic and really doing his own thing. Smooth soul groove gave way to bumpin', glitchy beats, wicky-wicky mouth turntables, surprising horns and an undeniable feel good festival vibe. Lidell plays a lot of homemade instruments and uses his own jury-rigged technology too, arriving at sounds you've literally never heard before.

Ghostland Observatory

Yes, they have a great laser show and they're certainly foxy and a pleasure to watch, but what about the music? Ghostland's electro-rock, livetronic tunes are an exercise in hedonism, but there isn't much depth, lyrically or otherwise. Which is okay as long as you know that going in. It was a mystery how well their usually club-bound set would translate to the outdoor Wookie Stage; come to find out, it was actually a preferable setting. Miles behind the stage, rain clouds hovered and the wind blew, that natural state in stark contrast to the mechanics working on stage. Lasers reached so high they blended away into the clouds and the music's energy spread across the terrain into the night. Freakin' wicked.

Battles

The Flaming Lips - Sasquatch! by Sean Pecknold
Court to Zwickel: Battles = love @ first sight.

Without a doubt the musical highlight of the festival was Battles. Their set was by far the most original sound at The Gorge, maybe the only original sound, in fact. They spoke their own musical language on stage, songs spiraling and 180ing perfectly in synch but seemingly without warning. As an audience member you could only hope to understand snippets here and there. Which is more fun than it sounds. I think this music might actually make you smarter. It's not elitist or inaccessible, though. Battles' music was so unprecedented as to be totally unpredictable and downright hilarious. If The Mars Volta can get people to swallow their meandering wall-of-noise, there's no reason why this hyper-technical New York quartet shouldn't be a main stage act as well, surrounded by smoke and lasers and darkness. This is a show you should not miss. They play Bonnaroo in a few weeks.

The Flaming Lips

An army of orange-jumpsuited technicians erected the Lips' "UFO Show" on the main stage late Sunday night, and their flying saucer hung silent and anxious all day Monday. Essentially they took over Sasquatch a full 24 hours before the festival, proving that no matter how big they've gone in the past, they can always outdo themselves. At showtime, the UFO descended from the stage, a massive silver and orange disc blasting lasers and smoke. It landed and out of the top popped one Wayne Coyne in a giant plastic bubble. He rolled down the gangplank and out onto the audience as the Lips started with "Ta Da" and then exploded into "Race For The Prize." Confetti, balloons, smoke, Teletubbies dancing onstage - from that point on it was the usual unusual from the Lips. No matter how many times I see their show it's still the greatest spectacle in rock 'n' roll, even more so at Sasquatch. This time they added naked girls to the mix. As the band broke into a third-time-ever cover of Led Zep's "The Song Remains The Same," five fully nude females bounded onstage to frolic around Coyne. "I had a dream," he sang, "a crazy dream," and there it was coming true in real time. It was by far the most laugh-out-loud moment of the weekend, something only the Lips would do, and they fully got away with it. It was the only way to end an awesome weekend.

Death Cab for Cutie - Sasquatch! by Sean Pecknold

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