After an exhausting day of driving, waiting in traffic, cell phone calls, missed cell phone calls, trying to coordinate a caravan, more traffic, and an absolutely heinous line of cars waiting to get into the camping grounds Friday night, we had finally made it to Sasquatch. Morale was high as the weekend many had been counting down to for months was finally here. Parties raged all night long and we passed out undaunted of a potential hangover the next morning, which we knew wasn’t going to stand a chance in the face of our excitement for the stacked combination of good music and good times that was to be Sasquatch 2010.
We got into the festival a little later than we would have hoped due to a torturous hour and half wait at the gates, but all was well after we made our way to the top of the hill in front of the Main Stage to behold the Gorge for the first time this year. We watched Brother Ali for a bit and made our oohs and aahs at the landscape before heading over to the Yeti stage to get some food and find a spot in the grass to listen to Fool’s Gold. Relaxing to their high-energy Afro-Caribbean jams were just what we needed after a long night. In front of us two guys wearing nothing but loin cloths and day-glow war paint were doing tribal dances without reprieve for the duration of the show. There’s nothing better than people-watching at the Gorge - we’d already seen festival-goers dressed as an Eskimo, a lion, as well as someone donning a complete chef’s uniform and hat in the first few minutes of roaming the grounds. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
From there we milled around a bit and got ready to pack in for Portugal. The Man and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, who were playing back to back on the Bigfoot stage. I’d just missed out on a trip to see Portugal. The Man in Eugene a few weeks ago, so I was excited to get up close and redeem myself. Front man John Gourley didn’t look like himself without his long hair, but absolutely rocked his high-sitting Gretch electric as they played a solid mix of songs from their last few albums. It’s always great to see a band like Portugal. The Man that lives to tour, does so constantly, and is as tight and in sync as possible because of it. Put a gold star on this performance.
The crowd began to pack in tighter as Portugal. The Man left the stage and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros began to set up. I’d seen them live last fall at Neumos and they’ve been a mainstay on my “Most Recently Played” list ever since. I was praying they’d play “Fiya Wata” a song that for some reason wasn’t on their album (but a great performance of which can be seen here). I didn’t have to wait long. They played it within the first few songs and Jade’s voice was so overwhelmingly beautiful that I was worried my knees might give out (fortunately I only ended up with a few goose bumps). You’ll never see a band that is so genuinely happy and excited to be playing and wanting to pass that energy off to the audience as Edward Sharpe. When they played the smile-inducing “Home” and “Om Nashi Me” at the end of the show the crowd was packed in as tight as possible, dancing like crazy and throwing their hands in the air. This was the definition of a feel-good live experience. Another gold star for Edward Sharpe and Co.
After Edward Sharpe ended we were glad to be able to move our legs around, and happily making our way over to the Main Stage. As we approached it sounded like the band on stage was sound checking, but it turned out to be OK Go in the middle of a song. Probably not a good sign. They sounded great as they were finishing their set though. We must have missed the treadmill song.
After a few minutes of dallying, we staked out a spot at the top of the hill in front of the Main Stage for The National at 7:00. They played an intense show with singer Matt Berninger’s mournful, melancholic voice leading the way, but it didn’t really stir anything up in us more than sitting around in the grass and deciding to smoke a cigarette every once in a while. They were at their best when Berninger was at his loudest, but I feel like their style might have been better suited for a night show – or maybe we were just sitting too far away. A highlight did include a guy dressed in a full-on spandex Batman costume careening past us down the hill, jumping over and dodging in and out of everyone relaxing and napping on blankets. It was a miracle he didn’t take a group or two of people out along the way. I later saw him waiting in line at the Honey Bucket.
Following The National on the Main Stage was Vampire Weekend. Their energetic, carefree, and high-spirited dance numbers were just the pick-me-up festival-goers needed after a darker The National set. The sun was beginning to set and the hill was as vibrant and down to dance as it was or would be at any other point in the day. The spirit was contagious and it would have been hard not to let loose. There were multiple dance trains snaking in and out of people on the hill and the entire grassy area to the right of the stage had turned into an all out dance party. They played everything you’d want to hear, it all sounded great, and it was nice to hear front man Ezra Koenig say a few kind words about the audience and the Gorge before making sure everyone was ready for My Morning Jacket, who was set to come on at 10:00.
The sun had gone down and big band tunes were playing through the Main Stage speakers as we waited for My Morning Jacket to come out, who we were all ready to be absolutely blown away by. Despite our preparedness for an amazing show, we were still unanimously floored by how amazing they sounded. Everyone in the band was absolutely incredible as they played a 2+ hour set of everything imaginable including a good number of tracks off their latest album Evil Urges. Jim James was donning bone-studded moon boots and a giant overcoat as he and fellow guitarist Carl Broemel absolutely shredded the place to pieces, with bassist Tom Blankenship and madman drummer Patrick Hallahan, who looked like Sasquatch himself, never missing a note -- they were an absolute A+ in the musicianship department and feeling it all night. After the second or third song Jim James spoke for the first time, excitedly yelling “This is fucking perfect!” just before launching into the next jam. They loved playing the Gorge and sounded amazing, especially James’ otherworldly voice which was reverberating down the Columbia valley and up into the stars, a full spangled slate of which hung above us. If you wanted to treat yourself to a quick 30 second religious experience all you had to do was tilt your head back and look up into the heavens as MMJ was playing. Big gold star on this performance.
We quickly hurried over to catch the end of Deadmau5, who had already started playing on the Bigfoot stage. His setup and light show were nothing short of seizure-inducing, and a nearly full moon shone to the right of the stage. I don’t remember much else except that this was a wheels-off dance party, and honestly that’s probably all you need to know.
Shouts rang out and a chorus of hidden frogs was croaking as we filed back to the campground to rehash the day’s events and have a few more drinks. None of us could believe we still had two more full days of music to go; Saturday’s performances alone would have justified the trip out. All the complaining we were doing earlier about all the line-waiting now seemed ridiculous. Bring on Day 2!