Words by: Mike Bookey | Images by: Kyle Johnson, Christopher Nelson & Jackie
Sasquatch! Music Festival:: 05.29.10-05.31.10 :: The Gorge :: George,
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.
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.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros by Kyle Johnson
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.
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.
The Hold Steady by Christopher Nelson
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.
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.
Jim James of My Morning Jacket by Kyle Johnson
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.
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.
Pavement by Kyle Johnson
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-
Shade set or off to the campgrounds to sleep…or make announcements on megaphones
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
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.
Band of Horses by Jackie Kingsbury
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