Sasquatch 2015, Day Two: Sylvan Esso

photos by Brittany Bollay

Sylvan Esso was one of 2014’s biggest and most unlikely sleeper successes, and now the left-turn electronic side project from two North Carolina folk veterans has entered 2015 as one of festival season’s can’t miss midcard staples, and it’s clear to see why. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn’s spartan stage is just the space for their own dance party, one that they just happened to invite one of the biggest crowds of the weekend to. Although their self-titled debut has a clear breakout track (“Coffee”), it’s the album cuts that make their live show pop. The climbing thump of “H.S.K.T.”, the loopy crunch of “Play It Right”, and the buzzy pulse of “Dreamy Bruises” kept a massive crowd on their feet and the band themselves grooving in place. (Meath’s dance moves deserve a special mention for their whimsical flow.) The last time Meath played Sasquatch was in 2012 as part of Feist’s backing band, but as a frontwoman, she was more than capable at charming and leading the audience through their midday throwdown. There’s a football chant in the United Kingdom that says to “sing when you’re winning”, and even if they don’t know of it, Sanborn and Meath embodied that sentiment on Saturday evening for fifty stellar minutes.

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Sasquatch 2015, Day Two: Merchandise

photos by Brittany Bollay

It didn’t take long for Merchandise frontman Carson Cox’s dry sense of humor to set in with his band’s Saturday afternoon crowd. “So we’re from Florida,” he deadpanned. “Can you believe it?” On a hot afternoon, the hazy qualities of Merchandise’s music were brought to the forefront, an effect that might have been augmented by some substances in the crowd. (“I hear the green is good in Washington State. I’m talking about drugs. That is what this song is about. Drugs.”) Now a quartet, Merchandise’s new configuration didn’t allow Cox to move around far from his guitar or keyboard, but when he did, he swayed his way through “Little Killer” and other highlights from last year’s After The End on the Bigfoot stage’s catwalk. What started as a sparsely started affair ended up as a fairly well-attended, dance-friendly set, and no one know that more than Cox. “We’ve got two songs left,” he said with a slight pause. “But they’re really fucking long.”

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Sasquatch 2015, Day One: Sleater-Kinney

photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

Anyone who’s read any music journalism over the last six months already knows this, but Sleater-Kinney spent the first half of this year coming back with a fantastic new record and a ferocious live show. However, Sasquatch was their first (of two) festival headlining slots, so until Friday, it had yet to be seen how Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker, and Janet Weiss’s tour de force live show would translate to a large stage with an audience that isn’t exclusively S-K diehards. Two songs in, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a crowdpleasing affair. There were no calls for clapping hands, no requests for call-and-response sections, and definitely no holograms. Their headlining set was seventy minutes of pure fire, and either you were completely on board with the Portland trio or not at all. Playing to a crowd comprised mostly of diehards, “Jumpers”, “Oh!”, “Bury Our Friends”, and “Surface Envy” highlighted a set with no breaks and no ballads. Unlike pretty much every other festival headlining band, Sleater-Kinney didn’t swing for the rafters, playing a set that valued reverence over revelry, passion over passing out. But maybe that was to be expected. Earlier this year, Weiss stated that the band preferred not to do festivals on this tour, explaining that their own headline shows felt more like events. That’s certainly true, but if there was a single set that stood tall on Friday night, it was the deafening scream of one of Sleater-Kinney’s final foreseeable gigs. As Brownstein said midway though the set, “Do you guys want to hear some noise? Come forward.”

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Music That Matters: Ecstasy In My House

Check out some of the KEXP DJ’s favorite artists from the Pacific Northwest and around the world on-the-go. KEXP’s Music That Matters weekly podcast brings you an exclusive mix of new music from the world’s best independent artists.

FM Belfast // photo by Jim Bennett (view set)

Currently, you’ll hear:

Music That Matters, Vol. 461 – Ecstasy In My House
Gear up for patio weather with Midday Show host Cheryl Waters’ new podcast. This synth-rock heavy mix will leave you blissed out and wanting more!

Tracklist:
1. Ceo – Mirage
2. The Casket Girls – Chemical Dizzy
3. Marriages – Skin
4. Hot Chip – Huarache Lights
5. Operators – Ecstasy In My House
6. FM Belfast – Holiday
7. TV Girl – Pantyhose
8. American Wrestlers – Kelly
9. Jessie Baylin – Creepers (Young Love)
10. Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League – North of Alabama By Mornin’
11. Vaadat Charigim – Ein Li Makom
12. Sarah Bethe Nelson – Start Somewhere
13. Majestico – I Just Want To
14. King Khan & BBQ Show – Illuminations
15. WL – Sugar Pill
16. Yonder – Bellwether

Listen here: (MP3)

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You can subscribe to all of our podcasts here.

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Sasquatch 2015, Day 1: Gogol Bordello

all photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

As the sun set behind the main stage at Sasquatch Festival, global gypsy dub punk rockers Gogol Bordello played an uptempo set that kept crowd energy high. Formed in New York in 1999, this group has always drawn upon a wide palate of sonic influences. The eight-piece band’s unique instrumentation included an accordion player clad in a heavily spiked leather vest and a fiddle player sawing so enthusiastically that he’d broken through at least half the horse hairs on his bow before the show was over. Lead singer Eugene Hütz was a commanding presence on stage, strutting around shirtless with a bottle of red wine in hand and jumping up on the stage monitors to work the crowd time and again. Showmanship and energy are both clearly high on the priority list for Gogol Bordello, and the crowd responded in kind with pumping fists and jumping dances. The sound is a bit hard to classify or pin down, but it is built upon a timeless Balkan folk tradition heavily steeped in equal parts punk rock and dub reggae. Somehow it all melds together into an infectious, fun, irresistible amalgamation. A highlight of the set included the song “Immigraniada”, which started with a loping caribbean groove than quickly broke into a high energy thrash of the refrain “We comin’ rougher every time!”, before the overdriven guitar dropped out again to make space for an accordion solo. This is melting pot music, made by immigrants, creating a uniquely postmodern, transcontinental sound. After all these years, their biggest hit still remains “Start Wearing Purple”, which appeared on the sound track of the film Everything Is Illuminated, which co-starred Hütz. As soon as the chorus began, the crowd threw themselves into an even greater frenzy. Hütz sprayed red wine into his mouth and over his naked chest, wagging his tongue wildly at the audience and clearly having a hell of a good time. “Fuck globally!” he implored the crowd. As dusk gave way to night, the wind picked up to cool the sweaty dancers packed into the pit, and as the last notes died away people moved on to catch the next set on their packed playlists.

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Sasquatch 2015, Day One: Little Dragon

photos by Brittany Bollay

Even though Little Dragon were billed before the festival-standard massive DJ on the Bigfoot Stage on Friday night, they might have secretly been the night’s best dance party. The common thread between each of the songs in the Swedish band’s set was their innate danceability. Moving from elastic funk to downtempo groove to 808-driven bounce with no friction isn’t something many bands can do. Then again, most bands don’t have Yukimi Nagano leading their onstage charge. Decked out in shimmering foil duds and a spot-on pair of neon Nike sneakers, Nagano’s spiky presence carried the band through “Klapp Klapp”, “Ritual Union”, and plenty of other synth-laden dance anthems. But as engaging as Little Dragon’s uptempo songs were, the band showed a surprising strength in their slow jams. Their latest album, Nabuma Rubberband, featured more of those languid, flowing tracks than ever, and when they aired them out on Friday night, they went over just as well as the bangers. Little Dragon wasn’t the most over-the-top, sense-overloading, hands-in-the-air dance set – that honor easily went to their stage successor Flume and his massive lighting rig – but they could well end up as one of the weekend’s dance highlights.

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Sasquatch 2015, Day One: Angel Olsen

photos by Brittany Bollay

Angel Olsen has a voice powerful that it belongs on the list of singers compared to forces of nature. Considering that, it’s a little ironic that Angel Olsen’s Sasquatch set was delayed by an actual force of nature. But the wind and rain that forced a late start ended up playing to in St. Louis songtress’ favor. As Olsen’s hair blew in the wind, rocker “Forgiven/Forgotten”, ballad “Lights Out”, and burner “Stars”, among others, instantly became more dramatic. (Tempering the epic look of the performance was Olsen’s sense of humor about the whole affair. “Bands do shout outs at festivals, right? This song is for you Sasquatch. And that sunset.”) At the center of it all, however, was Olsen’s voice, strong and unwavering even in the face of wind-derived sound problems. Olsen’s 2014 album Burn Your Fire For No Witness was one of that year’s best headphones albums, but her Friday night set proved that the album’s songs work surprisingly well at loud volumes, and even if the elements hadn’t given her a hand, Olsen’s ragged timbre led her set on the heavily Twix-sponsored Yeti state (a fact Olsen riffed on more than once) was a total triumph on Sasquatch’s first day.

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Sasquatch 2015, Day One: The New Pornographers

photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

“Be careful with that beach ball,” a grinning AC Newman said one song into the fourth Sasquatch appearance of The New Pornographers’ career. At this point, Newman, de facto co-frontwoman Kathryn Calder, and the group are Sasquatch veterans, and they made sure everyone knew it in a particularly unorthodox way: by letting the crowd know how nice their backstage amenities were. “I don’t want to brag,” continued Newman, “but we have a toilet in our dressing room. Only like five people have used that besides us today. We’re living like f’ing royalty.” Humblebrags aside, the New Pornos’ set was a reminder that even though their brainy, intricate pop tunes are more clever than a festival set could ever do justice, their catalog is still full of really direct and fun brainy, intricate pop tunes. “Mass Romantic”, “Brill Bruisers”, “The Laws Have Changed”, “Use It”, and plenty more New Pornos staples all went over massively. (There was even a moment during “Backstairs” where the band inspired the kind of festival reactions – girls on shoulders, people who aren’t on drugs dancing like they are on drugs – that you typically only see on Coachella interstitials.) On paper, the band can seem almost clinical in their melodic precision, but even without their not-even-close-to-secret weapon Neko Case among their ranks (Calder covered her parts with as much gusto as anyone could expect from someone stepping into Case’s shoes), the Vancouver sextet were no less vibrant than their most recent neon-lit album cover would conjecture.

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Sasquatch 2015, Day One: Jungle

photo by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

After a year on the live circuit, Jungle have evolved into something far greater than their London flat-projects roots. A year ago, Josh Lloyd-Watson, Tom McFarland, and their live band were a fairly literal extension of the London duo’s studio imagining of modern funk music: a live septet moving as a single entity with no discernible frontman. But after cutting their teeth on a slew of British tours and festivals, Jungle is now a unit that boasts four (more or less) frontmen, with each vocal-contributing member looking less like a studio artist and more like the groove-happy musicians their music implies they are. J & T in particular look like they’re having more fun than anyone else on stage, and maybe even the most of the audience. (Watson, in his sorta-camo print outfit, earned points as the first musician of the weekend to rock digs as wild as some of the attendees’.) Considering that Jungle’s debut album is essentially forty minutes of uptempo, party-ready funk, seeing the band follow through on the crowd-exploding promise of “Busy Earnin'”, “The Heat”, and “Time” was a celebratory sight, and an excellent way for many Sasquatch attendees to start their weekend.

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KEXP at Sasquatch 2015: It Begins!

photos by Brittany Bush Bollay

A hot sun is shining down through mostly blue skies, revealing sweeping views of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge from which this venue takes its name. Sasquatch 2015 is officially getting underway, and tens of thousands of music fans are streaming in from far and wide today to catch bands like Thunderpussy, Jungle, SISTERS, The New Pornographers, Gogol Bordello, Of Monsters and Men (fresh from their exclusive, intimate show on Thursday for KEXP supporters at Columbia City Theater), Little Dragon, Sleater-Kinney, and more! This is a four day marathon, but with so many great bands on the first day alone, we will likely be sprinting from stage to stage a fair amount. Stay tuned for photos and show reviews throughout the weekend.

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