The final day of a music festival is usually a breakdown day. The collective binge of the first two days begins to take its toll, and a lot of people usually take it easy, whether it be posting up in the grass for a nap, leaving early, or toning down the substance consumption; the excitement level just isn’t the same. Though this is what I was expecting, it didn’t seem to be the case at all once we got inside the festival grounds. The crowds were just as big, maybe even bigger, and everyone seemed to be just as excited as they were the on Friday night. There was no reason not to be. The great thing about Sasquatch this year is that at any given minute there is a great band playing somewhere, and Monday was no exception.
Unfortunately I had to miss The Heavy, who kicked the day off on the Main Stage at noon, but everyone I talked to not only liked the show, but seemed flabbergasted by how good they were. I was kicking myself for not figuring out a way to go, but I remembered that they’ll be opening for Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings June 21st at the Showbox Sodo. I would highly recommend attending if you’re going to be around Seattle and want to get down.
After gathering my bearings and picking up some food, I met up with a few straggling friends to catch Fresh Espresso on the Yeti stage. The sun was shining and the crowd to see the Seattle hip hop tandem was the biggest I had seen all weekend at the Gorge’s smallest stage. They were confident as hell the entire time, loved working the crowd, and had a live drummer that was a great touch. After someone was invited on stage to propose to his girlfriend, the duo played a few more songs, ending the set with “The Laserbeams,” which immediately got stuck in my head.
Our next stop was to be Dr. Dog, up the hill at the Bigfoot stage. They weren’t scheduled to come on until 4:30, however, and Fresh Espresso only played for 45 minutes, so we took a seat on the hill next to the Yeti stage, scanned the area for the beverage enforcement guys, and broke out the flask to kill some time. After a swig or four, Telekinesis, a bare-bones guitar, bass, and drums three-piece-er from Seattle began to play some feel-good indie rock. We hadn’t exactly highlighted their name on our schedules, but they sounded great and it was nice to hear singer/drummer (always a fun combo) Michael Lerner conversate with the crowd in between songs. The band was down to earth, grateful to be playing Sasquatch, and a pleasant surprise.
As good as they were, it was time for Dr. Dog so we made our way up to the Bigfoot stage and shimmied into position. In front of a picturesque backdrop of blue sky and fluffy white clouds they played an interesting style of somewhat psychedelic alt rock. The band was tight, it sounded great, and bassist and lead singer Toby Leaman’s voice was one of the best I had heard at the festival.
After Dr. Dog ended we headed down to the Main Stage for good where She & Him, Band of Horses, MGMT, and Ween were to finish out the festival. She & Him was just starting as we found an open patch of green grass on the hill to take in my future wife Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s sweet melodies (I know she’s married, just let me have this one). It was the perfect music to relax in the grass to, and though the weather was sporadic throughout the day, there was a solid stretch during She & Him when the sun was shining over the hill and I could lie down, close my eyes, and bask in the rays and Deschanel’s lovely voice. It was a nice little daydream.
We stayed put for Band of Horses, who surprised me by mentioning how they formed in Seattle, a fact I was somehow unaware of. None of us had seen them before, and we were looking forward to what had the potential to be a great live show. For how spacey and reverberating their sound is, they absolutely brought it from start to finish. Their energy was off the charts and after going down into the front of the crowd during a song early in the set, front man Ben Bridwell returned to the stage sweaty, hunched over and exhausted, asking in disbelief, “We’re only at the 4th or 5th song?” They maintained for the rest of their time, however, leaving it all on the stage and satisfying and everyone in attendance.
Evening was now upon us and MGMT was up next, which meant it was time to vacate the hill and meet up with some other friends close to the front of the stage so we could get down. I’d seen MGMT from afar once before at Lollapalooza, but their sound was drowned out by whoever was on the stage behind them and I couldn’t get a good read on what was going on. Now I was about to see them on a cool, breezy evening, basically front and center at one of the best venues in the world. I love Sasquatch!
While Band of Horses thoroughly fulfilled all that we hoped they could be, MGMT absolutely blew the lid off of our expectations. With an American flag draped over an amp in respect to Memorial Day, they started off the set with a dedication to those fighting overseas before playing “Pieces of What.” From there they played a lot off of their new album Congratulations and a good deal off of Oracular Spectacular as well. I hadn’t heard a lot of Congratulations before the show, and was on the fence regarding what I had heard. Every new song they played sounded amazing, however, and all of the favorites off of Oracular Spectacular kicked the album version’s ass as well. What impressed me most about MGMT though was how they played as a cohered five-piece band rather than a two-person electronic collaboration with a backing band, which, possibly through a misconception of my own, is more of what I was expecting. Front man Andrew VanWyngarden was incredible and I was absolutely stunned by a prolonged psychedelic guitar-shredding breakdown he paired up with other guitarist James Richardson for. I had no idea MGMT could rock like that. Everyone was loving it, dancing like crazy, and batting around oversized balloons that had been released from atop the hill. As the show was ending, the band began to launch fruit into the crowd and VanWyngarden finally held up a pear with glow sticks protruding from it, declaring it the symbol for the show. This was the performance of the day as far as I was concerned.
Closing out the day was the one and only Ween, and we were perfectly content to retreat to the hill and relax for the festival’s last show. Ween’s music has a little something for everyone. They can rock, be ridiculous, be nasty, sweet, sentimental, dramatic, you name it. It’s hard not to love them and they started out sounding great. Guitarist Dean Ween was soloing out of control as always and singer Gene looked about fifty pounds heavier, ten years older, and infinitely more haggard than he did the last time I saw them four or five years ago at Austin City Limits. It was Ween being Ween though, and they played a great set, including a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” that got everyone on the lawn moving.
It was now completely dark out. A few songs into Ween’s performance the last remnants of light had faded below the horizon and the Gorge disappeared into darkness for the last time this year. It was a festival to remember with literally more amazing music than I knew what to do with. In a few short hours we would all have to slap ourselves awake, pack up and drive back to our normal lives in Seattle where we’ll have to start looking forward to next year. In the meantime, however, it was back to the campground to make a few toasts to good times, good people, and good music. Adios!