review and photos by Josh Bis (Science vs Romance)
As much as I wanted to see Yeasayer, getting home at three in the morning from the Flaming Lips film Christmas On Mars meant that I was even less interested than usual in getting to the festival grounds before noon. It is not any consolation to hear that people who were better Sasquatch-goers than I rate their performance among the weekend’s top shows.
With our chances to see the buzzy Brooklyn band quickly fading, we instead opted for the eight-hour plan and arrived at the Gorge around 4 pm. By this time, it seemed that the parking attendants had given up for the weekend, so we were left to our own devices to navigate a surprisingly full lot.
Although we walked in with just enough time to hear Built to Spill wrapping up their mainstage set, I spent most of the day either taking photos or listening from a distance while chatting with friends new and old. The day had a decidedly more relaxed feel, both out on the lawn and in pressland, where weekend weary seemed increasingly willing to kick back and enjoy themselves during the welcome summer afternoon.
I did dash up to the Yeti Stage to catch a few of Siberian‘s shimmery shoegaze. Although the crowd they played to was small, their hearts were big. Finn Parnell’s vocals are well-matched to the wall of guitars; they compliment each other and work collectively rather than competitively. Whenever I see this band I’m always a bit surprised at how well polished they are and am always expecting them to be just on the verge of intense fame. For now, though, their fans are just lucky to be in on something of a local secret.
About twenty minutes later, I found Rodrigo y Gabriela occupying a small platform on the center of the Mainstage. Metal-inspired classical guitar from Ireland by way of Mexico is the kind of thing that is so entirely unexpected that it has to be either awful or brilliant. In their case, it’s the most definitely latter. The main question that I always face when watching them is where, exactly, they’re hiding the rest of the band. It takes a few songs to come to terms with the fact that all of the things that I’m hearing are coming from two acoustic guitars — there are slides and drops, percussion, and a whole range of astonishing sounds. Even more breathtaking is when a guitar malfunction barely forces a pause in the action. While Gabriela is offstage tending to repairs, Rodrigo holds down the fort all on his own and it feels nearly as full as when they are playing a duet.
With both guitars fixed and ready, they round out the show with an awesome call and response that feels like a game of one-upsmanship before going into their big hit: a stunning cover of “Stairway to Heaven.” By the time both of them are playing, it is an overwhelming assault that makes most electric guitar players look like slackers in comparison. As the live video feed closes in on their hands, there is a fantastic visual joke in seeing their otherworldly dexterity on display above a banner for RockBand.
They are followed up by an entirely different sort of duo, New Zealand comedy music act, Flight of the Conchords. Familiar to HBO viewers from the quirky, compelling television series of the same title, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie arrive to greet massively applauding fans. After an extended intro to take care of set-up and tuning, they orient newbies to their act: singing, talking, and telling jokes; all the while pondering whether they are actually a band (yes) and just how many blowjobs they’ve gotten backstage (at least 47). This leads them right into the much more funny than sexy “Business Time.” I spend the rest of their charming set half listening from a distance in the company of a refreshing adult beverage.
I have nothing at all nice to say about The Mars Volta. Not only have they gotten far too prog and experimental for me to follow, but in the span of just one song lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala threw himself to the ground spastically about a half dozen times, scaled and leapt from speakers, hurled his guitar into the crowd, tried to tear the live video camera away from its operator, and assaulted a photographer. I was so excited for their set to be over so that it would be time for The Flaming Lips.
Speaking of Wayne Coyne’s band of merrymakers, I had the good fortune to be able to join them on stage in Teletubby costume. It was pretty much the best dance party ever and the only sad part is that not everyone will get a chance to do it some time in their lives. The show began with the giant UFO finally descending from the rafters, Wayne inflating himself into a bubble to roll out above the crowd. I’d like to write more, but right now the whole performance is a sweaty blur of confetti, inflated aliens, smoke machines, naked girls, and lasers, but I am pretty sure that along with getting everyone to sing along to “Yoshimi” and playing “Taps” on an automated bugle while the entire crowd extended their arms in peace signs, the Flaming Lips saved Sasquatch and maybe just a little bit of the world.