Death From Above 1979 – One of the most perfectly average shows of the festival. They did absolutely nothing to ruin the show, but absolutely nothing to make it a great. They played their songs, which sounded very similar to album versions, then they left. There were no antics, and the energy level was somewhere between lethargic and slightly pumped. I’m not sure I understand the hype surrounding this band. Are they a huge draw only because no one thought they would get back together? I’m no hater, I enjoy their material, but I chose to skip ten minutes of their set to take in the view of the Gorge to the left of the stage. DFA, perfectly average.
Foo Fighters – I feel like I was telling everyone who would listen that the Foo Fighters would be one of the highlights of the weekend. And it was. [Open invitation for those who thought DFA was the greatest show ever, and hated the Foo Fighters to discontinue reading]. Dave Grohl’s stage presence is (fill in the blank cliché, I’m going with) “larger than life.” He didn’t need to scream on most songs, yet he did it anyway, almost bragging that his yelling skills are top tier.
Grohl asked the crowd who had seen them live before, and most of the pit screamed and raised their hands. He then asked how many saw them live on their first tour 15 years ago, aaaaand there were about four others screaming along with me. Yeah, now I feel old. Then I nearly lost my mind when they played “This is a Call,” off their debut album.
Before the Foos started, an enormous man wearing dark clothing and a pissed off expression was standing near me with an unlit cigarette in his hand. A patron offered him a light, to which he accepted while barely acknowledging the kind gesture. He was 6’7, 250+ pounds, sporting a Mohawk haircut. His appearance screamed, “don’t mess with me,” and when he bounced around when the music started, the crowd hustled to get out of his way. After a couple songs he became thirsty and reached for his drink. What was this beastly biker’s drink of choice? It was one of those pink slushy daiquiri drinks in the tall plastic cups (the pinkie may or may not have been extended while grasping the straw). Way to kill an almost flawless stereotype, princess.
Between the above average light show, Grohl screaming, a Bob Mould guest appearance, and extremely large men with girl drinks, there were many highlights. But THE highlight was drummer Taylor Hawkins. I have to make a basketball analogy to describe his skills. I’ve seen drummers labor through shows before, the power forward type, battling in the post, leaving the game exhausted and battered. Taylor is like the short and thin point guard who is so quick, he fools you with his first move, then makes three other moves while you are still reacting to his first while he drifts by you. He looks like he is floating, and his speed is effortless. On the walk home after the show, I had a short conversation with a guy staggering near me. “That drummer,” he said in amazement. Well put.
Wolf Parade – I was briefly upset when I realized they were closing with "California Dreamer," instead of "Kissing the Beehive," but it’s still one of their better tunes. While most of the band remained stoic (as rock stars do), guitarist Dan Boeckner seemed to really be enjoying himself, showing a huge smile throughout the performance. I wish that set would have been two hours, because it ended way too quick. Where is it written in the rules of festivals that bands get 30-45 minutes unless they are headliners? Wouldn’t giving extended sets to the bigger undercard draws create a bit of separation from the other festivals? This was supposed to be their last show ever (they added a second last show ever the following night in Vancouver), so 45 minutes felt like a disappointment.
Speaking of last show ever, how long do we wait until we see Wolf Parade reunite? I’ll just throw out my guess, and say spring 2014. We can make this happen quicker if everyone subscribes to my “Reunite Wolf Parade” initiative. All we need to do is stop supporting the boy's other musical endeavors. No buying their albums, no going to their shows, no purchasing their action figures. Eventually they will run out of money, and have to get back together. "Reunite Wolf Parade," starts now.
Pink Martini – Why were they on the lineup? This is a question even the band leader asked leading off the show, before making an announcement that literally made my festival. Their usual lead female vocalist had a vocal injury, so she was being replaced by Storm Large! I’m not sure many know who Storm Large is, but she is huge in Portland, both figuratively and literally (she is over 6 feet tall). I’m going to fall flat on my face describing her performance, so I’ll just say "sexy" is a word that had no definition before this day.
At the end of one song when she was standing in the back near the orchestra (a song she wasn’t leading) we made eye contact. I quickly looked away, then looked back and she was still staring me down. After looking away a second time, I thought, “wait a second, I’m not that shy, what am I doing?” So I stared her down. A couple seconds later, she smiled, mouthed the digits of her phone number to me, then broke the stare. What? Okay, the phone number part didn’t happen, but the rest is accurate. I know people always think they are making eye contact with the performers, so I’m probably full of (sh)it in some of your minds, but the pit area was barely half full, and I was a head higher than everyone standing near me, so it’s not unfathomable she would spot me in the crowd. When I tell this story at next year’s festival, there will be an open mouth kiss involved.
Bright Eyes – Every child under the age of 19 who wasn’t blazed out of their minds was in the pit for this show. So was the bald heavy-set guy in his mid 40s, who described his location to a friend on the phone by saying, “I’m at the only band that matters.” Bright Eyes fans really like Conor Oberst, like really really really like him. Before the show, and in between songs, people were talking endlessly about how great he is. It was rather disgusting, but not as disgusting as Conor hiding behind his hood for the first four songs. I know he is an emo god, but come on? The hood angered me to the point that I wanted to pull it off his head, mess up his hair, and maybe give him a wedgie for being so pretentious. All the Bright Eyes love mixed with the ultra sensitive showmanship made me cringe. Other than that, it was a surprisingly good show.
Robyn – Having caught part of her set at Coachella, I knew there was no way I was missing a second this time. Everything about Robyn makes me smile. If I’m having a rough afternoon, I play Robyn, bam, instant smile. She was acting a bit more lewd than than she was at Coachella, to the point that when she pulled out that banana, I wasn’t totally convinced she was just going to eat it.
Bassnectar – Glowpocalypse! Okay, it was crazy, it was great, but I have a slightly dissenting opinion on the glow stick war. The glow sticks hit flight during the first (bass) drop, and continued flying during each subsequent drop throughout the show. My complaint, the drops are also when the stage lights are at their brightest. It was cool seeing all the sticks flying through the air, but they looked more like pencils in the bright lights. What would have been spectacular is if the stage lights turned off during the drops. Too much to ask, I know.
Cold War Kids - Talk about boring. I saw this band in 2006, and wasn't too impressed. A couple years later, they reached radio, and "oh he's so cute," status, and they were everywhere. I was hanging out with some folks after a Cold War Kids show a couple years ago (a show I didn't attend), and they were beaming about how great it was. I kept asking them, "were they really that great, or was it that you have all of their songs memorized and don't go to live shows very often?" That is a bit snobby, but I got the answer at Sasquatch. I don't hate bands on principal, which is why I watched part of there set. I feel sorry for those who were there instead of at Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, which was a blast.
Archers of Loaf - One of the smallest crowds I saw all weekend, and they tore it up. The kids at Sasquatch could care less about reunion bands who last played when they were still pooping in their diapers. They want the (fill in the blank) terrible DJ bringing the bass. More on this later.
Das Racist - I heard so many terrible reviews of their recent performances, but they were absolutely killing it. The horn section from the Seattle Rock Orchestra really added the extra oomph, but they still sounded great lyrically. We probably witnessed their best performance to date, because I can see how they could give a half-hearted performance when the professionalism of the horn section isn't around. I wish I didn't leave early for...
The Flaming Lips - The biggest disappointment of the festival. Three words I never thought I would utter in regards to a Flaming Lips show, "I left early." They were billed as playing "The Soft Bulletin, and more." After I left, I heard they didn't even finish the album. When the music was actually playing, it was spectacular, but it started late, and Wayne decided to tell massively long stories between the songs. Imagine sitting down on the couch to watch your favorite movie. Now imagine watching that same movie on network television, commercials and all. You don't zone into it, the commercials ruin the mood. You end up wanting to do something else. And why did we really need a second birthday cake celebration for Sasquatch's big ten year celebration? Guess what, Sasquatch had a birthday last year, and the year before that, and they will have another birthday next year.
The argument can be made that I am the biggest Sasquatch cheerleader on the internet, but this was completely unacceptable. We deserve an apology for that monstrosity.
Modest Mouse - I put my credibility on the line a couple months ago, raving about how great they were the last time I saw them, and how great they would be at Sasquatch. They knew headlining a festival in the northwest is a big deal, and knew the crowd would be more appreciative hearing the older/rarer/classic-er songs rather than a set heavy with new material. The NW is filled with Modest Mouse die hards, more than any other region, so it made sense. They delivered. I rest my case. (High fives?)
Black Mountain - I can't wait to see them live again. They were phenomenal. If you still haven't heard of this band, check out my suggested tracks in the Quadros. You are missing out.
Guided By Voices - I was one of the 38 people enjoying the hell out of this set, but where was everyone else? I've never seen crowd surfing in such a small crowd, but the only reason it worked is because a guy grabbed the surfer by the waste, and ran around in mini circles with him on his shoulder. From a far, it must have looked like it was actual crowd surfing, but for the most part, they could have replicated that in an empty room.
For those who don't know, lead singer Robert Pollard is notorious for getting really drunk and talking smack about whatever comes to mind. The crowd is supposed to play along and get wasted as well. Cheers to the guy who snuck in a fifth of Makers Mark. One person in my crew was basically told to bend over and cough while getting checked by security at the entrance, so I'm not sure how an entire fifth made it in. It was nice you were willing to share with everyone around, and even nicer the security didn't see it. The security almost outnumbered those of us watching the show, so I'm not sure how they missed the bottle getting passed around. When Robert Pollard finally had enough tequila in his system, he made a statement about how shitty the previous band was (Chromeo), wondering why everyone left before GBV started. Again, more on this later (shaking head).
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - What a great performer she is. I was blown away by her stage presence, and since I grew up listening to jazz, I loved the backing band. Props to Patrick, the dude she called up on stage to dance with her. Even if some thought you suck at dancing, you still did it, in front of thousands of people no less. I thought you rocked it.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela - I hope those unfamiliar with this duo gave them a chance, because they so much fun live. Even though rain was in the forecast the entire weekend, this was the only set it actually rained at. It was nice seeing thousands rush for shelter while the duo spanked their guitars into oblivion. That was really cool. Props to the guy repeatedly sliding down the "dancing guy" hill on his belly during the end of their set. The kids were loving that.
!!! - One of the highlights of the weekend. I caught part of their set at Coachella, where they had more people on stage, but this performance was much better. I loved the lead singers dance moves, and how he jumped in the crowd multiple times. After he acted like an absolute madman, he ran back on stage, and pronounced, "you guys are crazy." Perfect.
One of the coolest things I saw at Sasquatch 2011 was the middle aged slightly overweight dude getting his freak on to the left of the sound stage. I was in a funk during the beginning of this set, working on a four day hangover, slowly wandering around trying to get my energy back, and he snapped me out of it. He was probably early 40s, bald, and appeared to be somewhat albino. He had his shirt unbuttoned showing off his not so small belly, and was seriously getting down. There were a couple young attractive women rushing to dance with him, and he was eating it up. After every song, he said something along the lines of, "this is the most I've ever danced," then tapped his heart like he was exhausted, and couldn't continue. Then the next song started, and he warped back into dancing queen. It was my favorite moment of the festival (except Storm Large, of course).
Wilco - What is better than a lightning storm in the distance leading up to a headlining performance at the Gorge? It was surreal. Then Wilco came on, and bored most of the naysayers out of the venue with their first six songs, which I'll admit bored me as well. I understand if you think Wilco is boring, I found them boring when I first started listening to them as well. I now understand how the Death Cab For Cutie fans defend them so passionately, who I personally find boring. You have to really like their music to realize how technically proficient and catchy they can be (no, there are no Cold War Kids comments allowed here, shut up).
After they scared off the riff raff, they show picked up steam. Nels Cline dominated the stage during "Impossible Germany" and Jeff Tweedy entertained the crowd in between songs, as usual. Dude is a comedian who happens to write great songs. My favorite part of the set was near the end, when Tweedy was almost hit in the face by a thrown glow stick. He then encouraged anyone who could hit him with a glow stick to try. Many were thrown, but not a single battleship was sunk. He was obviously miffed by the fist glow stick, so he was smack talking the crowd to keep it coming. Seriously though, why the hell would you ever throw something at a performer, especially a headliner at a major festival? Props to Tweedy for being a good sport. He later poked fun at the northwest crowd for having no aim, and comparing it to how terrible the Seattle Mariners pitchers are for the same reason. Gold.
Weather - I don't know about you all, but this was about as perfect as festival weather gets. Sure it got cold at night, really cold, I even had numb toes wandering through the campground. But the cold weather meant you were able to sleep in as long as you wanted, rather than getting heat stroke in your tent around 8 a.m. As I mentioned earlier, rain was in the forecast for the entire weekend, but it only rained once during festival hours. There were giant rain clouds surrounding the festival all weekend, but almost all of them passed right by.
Conclusion - As previously mentioned, the crowds for the reunion bands (Archers of Loaf, Guided By Voices) were so tiny, I am wondering out loud if they even fit at Sasquatch anymore? Last year's festival appealed to the music fans all across the nation, and many older folks flew in for their first taste of Sasquatch. This year, however, was all about the kids who live in the Pacific Northwest. It makes me sad knowing the festival will sell out just as easily if it was 80% EDM. Let's face it, the festival organizers have one goal, to sell as many tickets as possible. If that means less bands that appeal to the older folks, and more that appeal to the kids, that is what will eventually happen. I hope it doesn't, because I've always loved Sasquatch for its diversity. Knowing the Chromeo mainstage mid afternoon crowd was one of the biggest in recent history, it does beg the question, why are the bands the kids want to see stuck in the dance tent or on the back stages. This is why I believe there will be more EDM acts on the mainstage next year, and the Guided By Voices type will be relegated to the back stages. This also leads me to believe we will see our first EDM headliner at Sasquatch 2012. Times are a changing, and so is Sasquatch. We might never see the greatness of the 2010 lineup again.
Talk to you soon,
know ID yuh
Read more from know ID yuh at The Cog.