Sasquatch! Festival | 05.29-05.31 | Washington

Words by: Mike Bookey | Images by: Kyle Johnson, Christopher Nelson & Jackie Kingsbury

Sasquatch! Music Festival:: 05.29.10-05.31.10 :: The Gorge :: George, WA

It's about two hours before sunset on Sunday night on the massive green hillside that is The Gorge when someone starts a conga line. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about a conga line – except for when it, like this one, involves maybe 300 people and is performed to music performed live by LCD Soundsystem. This is what happens on day two of the Sasquatch! Music Festival, and it's a moment that seems to encapsulate the indie- heavy and mostly youthful explosion of sound and culture that's been taking place on the banks of the Columbia River since 2002.

The Gorge by Christopher Nelson

So, this conga line heads up the hill and away from the main stage as LCD's James Murphy continues to belt out "I Can Change," just one of the excellently danceable numbers from LCD's recently released disc, This Is Happening, only to return, its members – many of them with faces painted neon and feathers in their hair, the chosen party uniform of the weekend – clapping in rhythm above their heads and coming to a stop along the main concourse. Thousands of people join in, waving their hands, stripping down to underwear, and most noticeably, dancing as if Betty White's life depended on it. And that, for the most part was Sasquatch.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros by Kyle Johnson
There was plenty more to the festival, which began with fans lining up late Friday night and early into Saturday morning to reach the fabled Gorge campgrounds – the mowed field that for the next three days would be a spot to relax after 12-plus hours of music and a multi-acre spread for others to create their own personal round-the-clock discos. By early afternoon on Saturday, fans were trickling into the music venue (separate from the campgrounds) by way of a heavy pat down gate search to arrive in time for early performances, including those by Seattle hip hop innovators Shabazz Palaces on the main stage and the folk-driven grooves of Mumford & Sons on the secondary Bigfoot Stage.

As the crowds grew and the nine-dollar beers flowed, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros took the Bigfoot Stage and drew a sizeable hoard of curious onlookers who soon became fans of the gang of freak folk weirdos and their dynamic namesake leader. By the time they got to their hit, "Home," the place was bouncing, making for the first big moment of the festival.

The Hold Steady by Christopher Nelson
With the sun setting, The Hold Steady jogged onto the Bigfoot Stage, with bespectacled, well-groomed front man Craig Finn looking more like someone late for his kid's soccer game than the leader of one of most party-friendly rock bands on the touring circuit. The band delivered a set full of fan favorites like "Chips Ahoy," but also some cuts from the new Heaven is Whenever album. Crowds soon gravitated toward the main stage, where Vampire Weekend was about to go on. Ezra Koenig's overly emotive face blown up on the massive vertical video screen may have been frightening, but hits like "Oxford Comma" got feet stomping and hands waving en masse.

Closing out the night, as they have at so many festivals over the years, was My Morning Jacket, who came out amidst darkness and cranked out a wall of feedback before the lights came up enough to reveal Jim James in what appeared to be skeleton moon boots playing the intro to "One Big Holiday." By the time MMJ closed down the stage, they'd jumped through their catalogue, playing a reverb-drenched "Off the Record" and a crowd-pleasing "I'm Amazed" before sending fans off to chill/party/build a teepee in the campground, or check out a wildly lit set from party purveyor Deadmau5.

Jim James of My Morning Jacket by Kyle Johnson
By noon on Sunday, Sasquatch! was shifting back into gear with early sets from Langhorne Slim, Midlake and Local Natives, to name a few. One of the youngest bands on the lineup, Avi Buffalo dished out an impressive set of quirky folk-inspired, Fleet Foxes-ish pop rock on the smaller Yeti Stage, playing their breakout song "What's In It For" to an appreciate and equally young audience. From there, it was a sprint - Sasquatch's close stage setup allows for such act-to-act darting – to catch the end of Kid Cudi's super- charged hip hop, and then a fill-in set by the bombastic and excellently named indie rockers of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band before settling down at the main stage to see the end of Tegan & Sara and prepare for the aforementioned LCD Soundsystem extravaganza.

Long after the conga line had dissipated, Pavement – a band many at the festival had come specifically to see – took the stage and announced that it was Stephen Malkmus' birthday, then said something about how much champagne LCD had backstage. The beginning of the set was full of screwups, but "Cut Your Hair" proved excellently nostalgic, and also, who cares if Pavement sounds sloppy? They're supposed to be sloppy – they've made an awesome career out of it.

Pavement by Kyle Johnson
From there it was over to the Bigfoot Stage to settle in for Public Enemy as night fell and a few sprinkles dripped down. Public Enemy eventually came on stage, complete with military escorts and busted into "911 Is a Joke" with Chuck D having hardly lost a step and Flava Flav, well, being Flava Flav.

The night finished with Massive Attack, who rolled out their patented trip-hop stylings, complete with a ridiculously huge screen behind them that listed one digital number after another – things like the number of deaths that resulted from Hurricane Katrina and the national debt. Intense? Absolutely. When that concluded it was either off to the late- night Booka Shade set or off to the campgrounds to sleep…or make announcements on megaphones all night.

Monday was almost completely void of the last day-of-the-festival sort of vibe that often shadows over big events like this. Sure, there were some indications that the fun was ending, like the two college-aged girls who walked through the festival with a sign that read: Our ride lost his mind on acid. We need a ride back to Eugene, Oregon. Yikes. There was still fun to be had on Monday, which began with soulful sets from The Heavy and smooth talking cheeseball-in-a-suit Mayer Hawthorne on the main stage. Then, there was a dance rock show from Phantogram on the Yeti Stage right before the dusty, dirty, bloody Southern rock of Drive-By Truckers, who seemed like they might end up proving out of place amidst the hipsters, but were appreciated in the end as Patterson Hood's growl echoed down the canyon walls.

Band of Horses by Jackie Kingsbury
Dr. Dog proved that their sound isn't relegated to Beach Boys-esque harmonies by turning plenty of their numbers into high-flying, loud-as-hell rockers, even though most of the festival was across the hill dancing to Passion Pit. With the day wearing on and time running out on the festival, She & Him's Zooey Deschanel ran onto the stage and wasted no time busting out plenty of the band's sunshiney pop numbers, with M. Ward looking cool (as always) in his shades and nonchalant demeanor. The main stage stayed packed for the rest of the night, with Band of Horses playing in their typical booming style, followed closely by MGMT's dance-your-ass-off jamboree.

Ween closed things down in their typical zany, impossibly eclectic style, and then Sasquatch was over – except in the campgrounds, where there was still at least eight hours of partying and megaphone announcements to be found. And hopefully those two girls made it back to Eugene. We may never know.


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The Gorge by Christopher Nelson

http://www.sasquatchfestival.com/

[Published on: 6/4/10]

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