Sasquatch 2017: The Quintessential Indie Rock Festival
Sasquatch always starts on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, but the party starts Thursday night. Thursday is the day that most festival goers arrive at their camping site for the weekend. That’s when you get to meet your camp neighbors, enjoy yourself, listen to music you’re going to be seeing live in the coming days, and finally sleep anxiously, awaiting the live music.
The first thing that hits you in the morning, is the heat; the Gorge sun beats mercilessly upon the sea of tents of cars, turning them into inexpensive personal saunas. The pre-festival heat is one of the worst things about festivals, but there’s nothing I can do about it, so I would nap, tan, have something to eat, or chill with my neighbors to pass the time.
Finally, the bands were getting ready to start, so I made the very short trek to the shuttle that would take me from my campsite, and to the venue. I got to the venue, went through security, only to be turned back because of my e-cig. So I returned to my campsite and repeated my earlier trek. This, unfortunately, caused me to miss the first band I'd wanted to see, Mondo Cozmo.
I should explain something before I go much further, all three years previous to this one, I did not preview the bands that were going at all; I just caught the people I knew and wandered for the rest of the festival enjoying it all. Because of that, I missed many great bands, so this year, I previewed every band before I went. Which worked out great, and filled out my schedule for Sasquatch.
My new first band for the day was The Hotelier at the Bigfoot stage, which was the second largest Sasquatch had to offer. The Hotelier played a very intimate show. The crowd was small, and the music was sad, grungy, and heartfelt. After The Hotelier, I stopped at the Dump Truck food truck, which serves dumplings exclusively, and got myself some bacon cheeseburger dumplings, which were so delicious that I went back multiple times throughout Sasquatch.
After my delectable dumplings, I caught The Strumbellas at the largest stage, Sasquatch. The first thought that passed through my mind as I watched The Strumbellas was about how happy and hopeful the music sounded as they played live. The audience picked up on it as well, for while the Strumbellas were playing we had our own little pocket of happy, the feeling that even if life is crap occasionally, it will get better. The Strumbellas eventually had to end their set as everyone does, and we were all released from that glorious pocket.
I headed back to Bigfoot for the Thee Oh Sees who played a glorious show. Their raucous high energy sound lit the audience on fire and started the mosh pits. The intense heat meant nothing to the band and to the moshing fans, and the energy level stayed high for the entire set. After a show like that, I knew I needed a respite, so I stopped by the media lounge for some light snacks and an actual toilet.
I headed back out on my solo journey after a short while and caught the last two songs of Sleigh Bells (read our review of their show in Atlanta) at the main stage. Sleigh Bells is a hard group to nail down with a genre with their harsh guitar riffs, rhythmic noise, electronic beats, pop hooks. The group really blew me away, and I wished I’d ended my recent reprieve a bit earlier. After my very short Sleigh Bells experience, I realized the hunger that had been gnawing on my stomach and headed back to the Dump Truck for what had become my favorite festival treat.
Next on my schedule was Flint Eastwood at El Chupacabra, and from what I had listened to her beforehand I knew that she had a powerhouse voice that I did not want to miss. The powerhouse voice, of course, delivered. Her vocal driven music had the audience dancing the set away. The music, with occasional funk, raw and dreamy vocals, and electronic beats had the crowd totally captured. After an hour, we were released from our blissful stupor, and I left for The Head and the Heart.
The Head and the Heart (read our review of their show in Atlanta) had the sunset slot of the first day. When the sun sets over the Gorge, it is one of the of the most beautiful moments a person can see. A breathtaking display of pink and purple clouds over a blue to the golden backdrop of sky. To me, the sunset slot on the main stage is the most enviable slot a band can have. The Head and the Heart filled that slot wonderfully with their soulful indie folk music. The backdrop on the stage only got more entrancing as the sun fell; fantastical images faded in and out for songs on the huge screen behind The Head and the Heart.
The sun is down, the air is cool, and Manatee Commune at El Chupacabra was my next artist for the first night. El Chupacabra is a mostly enclosed stage with three sides completely enclosed and the rear open to the rest of the festival; it is commonly known as the rave tent. Manatee Commune brought a high-powered set to the rave tent with his percussion, violin, and trancey beats. His light show was not lacking either, paired with the rippling color-changing orbs hanging above the crowd his show completely dazzled. His first song was his collaboration with Flint Eastwood, “What We’ve Got.” The pair had fun on stage, as did their audience. Manatee Commune had us all hooked with his trance. Manatee Commune had one of my favorite sets of Sasquatch. I hated leaving, but I wanted to secure a decent spot for LCD Soundsystem (read our review of their show at Shaky Knees) at the main stage.
As I was drawn into the pit at the main stage the first thing I noticed was the absolutely massive disco ball hanging above the stage, and I couldn’t wait to see it in action. LCD Soundsystem started their set with “Us v Them.” That was when they told us they were playing their show since finishing the record, and then launched into “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” It was at that point the disco ball was lit up showering everyone with light, it was a great set to end a great day.
I started out with Blitzen Trapper at the main stage and their folksy blues and stayed for Bleachers and their energetic performance. Bleachers set included songs like “I Wanna Get Better” and “Don’t Take The Money” which had the audience singing along. After the Bleachers performance, I caught a couple songs from Aesop Rock and headed back to camp for some food.
After I ate and rested my feet a bit, I headed back and caught the end of Sir Mix-A-Lot at the main stage, where I witnessed “Baby Got Back,” a song I thought I would never hear performed live. I had to leave so I could get to Yeti where Sam Lachow was playing.
Sam played smoking song “Banana Goo Pie” borrowed a pair of heart sunglasses from a fan, and announced to the fans that he would be hitching a ride back to Seattle with one of them. Sam was accompanied by a very skilled violinist John Sinclair, when he was handed the microphone, showed everyone his beautiful voice. During Sam’s set he ran up to the barricade, I actually fell over trying to get out of his way, and rapped to his fans before crowd surfing. I had to leave early so I could catch one of the main artists I’d wanted to see at the main stage, MGMT.
MGMT (read about their performance at Hangout Festival) had the sunset slot for day two, and just as the sun was dipping behind the horizon “Time To Pretend.” It was really quite something to behold. Other favorites, like “Kids,” were played as well. But MGMT’s psychedelic set couldn't stop me from going to catch Kungs at El Chupacabra.
The rave tent held to its name, and Kungs held a truly great set. El Chupacabra was shook by Kungs’ groovy bass. The crowd was dancing. The smoke machines, lights, and music held the audience under a dancing spell. I left shortly before the end of Kungs’ set to catch Twenty One Pilots at the main stage.
Well before the set started the hill in front of the main stage was filled and the pit was packed, the anticipation was almost palpable. Twenty One Pilots (read about their show at Hangout Fest) opened with “Heavy Dirty Soul” after which Tyler brought out his ukulele and covered TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Twenty One Pilots had to have had one of the most well put together sets of Sasquatch. The lights and backdrop were intense and perfectly complemented the music. I left just before the last song to arrive just barely late for my most anticipated artist.
At the Bigfoot stage, Big Gigantic (read our review of their show in Athens, GA) was throwing down their electro-soul beats in the last slot of the day. Big Gigantic’s saxophone and drums over electronic beats kept me and the whole crowd dancing with the energy we thought we spent. The groovy beats couldn’t soothe my body forever, and I eventually had to drag myself back to camp to get some much-needed sleep.
Day 3 started out rough, first I napped through several artists I wanted to see, and then I lost my camera for a thankfully short amount of time, though it caused me to miss July Talk as well. I was able to catch Phantogram (read our review of their show in Atlanta) at the main stage. Phantogram came out wearing all black, in the middle of the pre-sunset heat. I was thoroughly impressed. Hauntingly beautiful “When I’m Small” was played as well as “You Don't Get Me High Anymore.”
After Phantogram, I left to see Kiiara at Bigfoot. She ran late, and while the fans might’ve been irritated, that was forgotten as soon as she comes on stage. She was another one of my highly anticipated artists, and she most definitely did not let me down. Her sultry voice over trancey beats kept the whole crowd dancing despite the intense late day heat. As soon as her set was over, she promptly ran off stage, after telling the crowd ”This was sweet!” which struck me as a bit strange, but I was willing to overlook it for such a great set.
The Shins (read about their performance at Shaky Knees) claimed the sunset slot of the final day, and immediately started their set with fan favorites such as “Australia” and “Name For You.” Their stage design featured a psychedelic color changing skull over shifting backgrounds, the skull would also distort as though the viewer was on acid. It made for an amazing show as the sun set. After their set to kill time until chance I went to check out Mount Kimbie, who played trance, and had captivated a crowd. I left early to catch Chance the Rapper.
Chance the Rapper (read about his performance at Hangout Fest) had the best stage design of Sasquatch, in my opinion. A towering wall of LED’s behind him that was timed perfectly to the music, and on stage, the fireworks blew me away. Accompanying him he brought Donnie Trumpet, The Social Experiment, and Third Story. During the set, he tells us that his performance here at Sasquatch was the two year anniversary of his project, Surf, and played us fan favorite “Sunday Candy” Chance played a mix of all of his albums but stuck mostly to Coloring Book. I could tell he was pouring his soul into the performance and the intensity overflowed into the crowd. He ended his show with a prayer and a second reprisal of “Blessings.” For most that performance was the end of Sasquatch except for the rest of us that made sure to catch Rüfüs Du Sol, (read our recent review of their show in Atlanta) who led us to dance the rest of the night away.
All in all, Sasquatch 2017 rocked.
Photos by Jonny Underwood for Bullet Music