Words by Tanya Seledee :: Images by Greg Homolka
Sasquatch Music Festival :: 5.26 - 5.28 :: The Gorge :: George, WA
The Sasquatch Music Festival at The Gorge in Washington overlooked breathtaking views of the Colombia River and the dramatic inclines of the canyon surrounding it. The festival took place over Memorial Day Weekend, with each day bringing together an eclectic mix of bands.
Friday night was "Goth" night with major bands like H.I.M., Bauhaus, and Nine Inch Nails taking the stage. H.I.M. (or His Infernal Majesty) is a band out of Denmark that formed in 1995. While the majority of their set was definitely hard-core rock music, complete with the black clothes and eyeliner, their edgy rendition of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" showed a softer side.
Bauhaus began in 1978 and basically started the whole post-punk rock movement, which saturates the radio today. Within every song, a familiar beat or riff could be heard, which is probably due to their massive, if not unconscious, influence on a majority of today's music scene. Their presence on stage was dark and dramatic, but still light enough to dance to. They commanded attention with their theatrical flair and proved that despite their age, they can still keep up with the rest.
Bauhaus - Murphy & Ash :: Sasquatch
Nine Inch Nails performed a super-long set that had an amazing light show and a huge response from the crowd. Having never seen NIN, I didn't know what to expect, but after seeing them, I'd say it's definitely a performance that shouldn't be missed. Even if this type of music isn't your thing, you'd be surprised at how NIN can suck you in. Trent Reznor's voice is hypnotizing, and the atmosphere he and the band create is thick with sexual tension. The songs NIN chose were easy to get into, and standing still was near impossible. This show was one of the top performances of the weekend, a definite A+.
NIN - Trent Reznor :: Sasquatch 2006
On Saturday, the weather wasn't the typical sweltering dry heat of past Memorial Day festivals. Rather there was an odd mixture of blistering sun, clouds, rain, and hail the size of gobstoppers. On the main stage, English rock band Gomez was the second act of the day. These guys were goofy in between songs, giving the audience a glimpse of their everyday personalities while performing with the seriousness and expertise of a surgeon. Three of the five band members took turns singing, each with a distinct sound that defines the multiple dimensions of Gomez.
Gomez - Tom Gray :: Sasquatch
Watching Sufjan Stevens and his band was a lot like being broken down in the middle of the "It's a Small World" boat ride at Disneyland. While the patriotic costumes of his many performers, their instrumental skills, and the whole orchestrated sound of it deserves recognition, an hour of this kind of music was too much to take. Apparently, his whole shtick has to do with making an album for each of the fifty states; his current album is Illinois. But still, unless you have a serious love for geography, it's really too much.
Following Stevens was Iron & Wine, who performed a mellow mid-day set. Lead singer Sam Beam was joined by his sister Sarah Beam and back-up band in this melodic performance. His voice was haunting and familiar, allowing people to come into his personal space where his deepest thoughts dictate the very subjects of his songs. Iron & Wine is a group that has tapped into the human psyche and created songs that are deeply moving and easily understood.
Iron & Wine :: Sasquatch
Neko Case was up next despite the impending thunderclouds and rain. Her voice was so beautiful and raw that these elements only highlighted her natural talent. A couple of songs into the set, the hailstorm proved to be too dangerous to keep equipment on stage, so Neko Case and company were forced off the stage. Although her set was cut short, her few songs were impossible to forget, she is clearly a very talented woman.
Neko Case - Tom Gray :: Sasquatch
After an hour or so, the hail and rain subsided and Canadian Hall-of-Famers Tragically Hip took the stage to perform an hour's worth of what they do best: rocking out like rock stars. The music was typical Canadian rock but with a little too much emphasis on screaming rather than singing. Perhaps the charge of the audience (which was made up of a lot of Canadians) led this band to feel that this performance wasn't about finding new fans, but rather jamming out with the old ones.
Portland, Oregon's The Shins came out next after clearly having taken the hailstorm as a sign to enjoy a few cocktails. No longer the stiff performers they once were, their interaction with the audience was friendly and familiar, showing they have learned to loosen up as they've evolved. Despite the cocktails, these guys proved they are talented musicians who understand the intricacies and nuances of their instruments. Their set was a mixture of past hits and new songs, all of which had that signature Shin's sound that makes each an instant sensation.
The Shins :: Sasquatch 2006
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals were scheduled to headline Saturday night but ended up switching with The Flaming Lips due to weather and tour complications. From the looks of the crowd, it appeared that a majority of the people there were all about Ben Harper. The whole amphitheatre was packed with adoring fans that could barley contain themselves during the set. Of course, Harper has a huge following because his music is from the heart and needs no labels.
Closing Saturday's show were The Flaming Lips. Aside from NIN, this was the best performance of the whole festival. For those of you who have never scene The Flaming Lips live, I suggest finding them along their tour this summer. This is one band that manages to make their show seem like the apocalypse is right around the corner and anything goes. The Lips basically transformed the amphitheater into a scene straight from an extraterrestrial movie filled with dancing aliens and Santa Clauses. Lead singer Wayne Coyne crowd-surfed in his signature inflatable plastic ball, shot multi-colored streamers into the audience and stage rafters, and attached a camera to the top of his microphone so that his bulbous head could be projected onto the screen behind him. The Lips' rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" titillated the audience, setting them up for an even rowdier rest of the night. Despite the weirdness and no-holds-barred feeling that goes along with anything that Wayne Coyne does, he kept it all together under the guise of unity and peace.
The Flaming Lips :: Sasquatch
Sunday's highlights included sets from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Arctic Monkeys, The Decemberists, Matisyahu, Queens of the Stone Age, Death Cab for Cutie, and Beck. Even though it was the festival's closing day, tickets were sold out and the venue was packed.
The Arctic Monkeys had their share of fans, probably the very same kids that are into Franz Ferdinand, She Wants Revenge, and the like. Despite the fact that they only approved a handful of press to take their picture during the set (with all other press getting their equipment confiscated if caught), they were only average, which begs the question: Why the hype? There was nothing spectacular about them, except for the fact that they can be seen in every mainstream music magazine these days.
The Decemberists took the stage next and performed their brilliant mixture of narrative and song. This is another band that put on an entertaining show, mixing a little dramatic flair with their songs. At one point lead singer Colin Meloy jumped into the photo pit to get a little closer to his fans, passing his guitar out for people to strum. As with each performance, The Decemberists belted out heart-felt music that rocked the audience.
Matisyahu, Phish-kid turned Hasidic Jew, brought the reggae flavor to the festival with words of hope and love. Fittingly, a rainbow burst out of the sky during his set, inciting some spiritual discourse about Faith. Yet this musical dialogue wasn't inundated with religious-type talk, rather Matisyahu turned it into a message of openness and friendship. Each of his songs was filled with a special type of contagious energy that can always be found in reggae music. Yet with him at the helm, there was more to his beats than just good vibrations and good times.
Matisyahu :: Sasquatch
A total 360 degrees from Matisyahu led The Gorge to Queens of The Stone Age. They quickly turned the happy-go-lucky crowd into moshing head-bangers with the strum of an electric guitar. The band's demeanor on stage was serious and almost unapproachable, as if they felt out of place in such an inspiring environment. Despite their coldness (or perhaps boredom?), the Queens pulled off an impressive set displaying exactly why they are bonafide rock stars.
Death Cab for Cutie pulled a lot of people from the smaller stages due to their indie-pop rock sound. They performed a solid set that impressed most die-hard Death Cab fans, but alas, I only caught a few songs because I was anxiously awaiting Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on the Wookie stage.
Death Cab for Cutie :: Sasquatch 2006
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was another highlight of the festival. The lead singer Alec Ounsworth's voice is almost identical to David Byrne's, giving Clap's songs a distinct Talking Heads sound. There was quite a crowd for these guys, and when they finally came on, everyone went wild. This indie-rock band sold 45,000 records out of their manager's apartment, proving that you don't need a record label to find a huge following.
Closing out the weekend festival was Beck, who has been pouring out the hits for over a decade. He sang a mixture of old songs from Odelay and Sea Change with new ones from Guero. Yet, even with these brilliant songs under his belt, Beck's set was lacking in the enthusiasm and high tempo seen in most of the acts over the weekend; but then again, who can really beat The Flaming Lips and their all-out crazy energy.
Beck :: Sasquatch 2006
Despite hail and a slightly lackluster finale, Sasquatch was a massive success. From the line up to the view it was pretty hard to go wrong. With festival season dropping into full-swing Sasquatch was certainly a wonderful way for many fans to officially kick off their summer.
JamBase | The Gorge
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