Last year, I was invited at the last minute to attend the 2009 Sasquatch! Music Festival to help provide online coverage for KEXP. I’d never considered attending before, but ended up having such a great time that I knew even before this year’s lineup was announced that I’d want to go again. Fortunately, the opportunity was available, and so Saturday morning found me on the road to the Gorge Ampitheatre for a very long and fantastic three days of rock.
I arrived about 1 PM to discover long lines to get in, but they were moving along fairly well and there was plenty of excitement in line. Although I heard that some people suffered through waits as long as two hours, I was able to get in through the general admission gates within 15-20 minutes; Monday was the only day that took longer for me, a little over a half-hour, and that was the day I arrived about a half-hour earlier than previously. That said, I did notice right away that the festival felt really crowded, more so than last year, and even early in the afternoon all the stages had packed audiences.
I first headed down to the Sasquatch Main Stage for Minus the Bear. For some reason, the back of the stage was completely covered in black fabric, unlike last year when it was open to the amazing view of the gorge, which was disappointing. Minus the Bear however were not disappointing, opening with “Knights,” the song I know best by them, and mixing new material from their recently-released album Omni with other older songs.
After Minus the Bear, I spent the next couple hours wandering about and socializing rather than watching any of the bands, until it was time for Broken Social Scene. I stood at the top edge of the main stage bowl for their set, which turned out to be somewhat disappointing as the sound quality was very poor. Perhaps for that reason, I never really got into their set, though I was happy that they did play “7/4 (Shoreline),” one of my favorite songs by them.
Next up was Miike Snow on the Bigfoot Stage, the middle-sized of the venues. Like most shows throughout the weekend, it was crazy packed, and I hung out on the periphery. As with M83 last year, Miike Snow’s anthemic dance pop played well on this stage as a late-afternoon set, and I enjoyed it a lot. I particularly liked an instrumental with an opening that sounded like Pink Floyd’s “Run,” which made me think it’d be neat to hear them actually cover that song, and their single “Animal,” which they played to close their set.
Back at the main stage, the sound quality was notably better for The National. The band brought along a horn section and put on a passionate set, with lead singer Matt Berninger looking dapper in a suit coat, vest, and tie.
Last year the festival had an oddly-shaped tent for the afternoon comedy and evening dance-pop/DJ performances. This year they had a much larger, rectangular tent dubbed the “Rumpus Room”, more like a warehouse space and so less interesting to look at but better to house the large crowds. I stopped by the tent to catch a bit of Dãm-Funk, which sounded fun and worth checking out again.
Finally it was time for headliners My Morning Jacket at the main stage. Their set had a few surprises for me. First, I was surprised they were headlining the main stage, as I hadn’t thought they were well-known and popular enough, but the packed audience proved me wrong. Second, I was surprised to discover how much I’d come to associate them with one particular song, the folksy “Wordless Chorus,” and how I’d sort of forgotten their other more rock-oriented songs. Third, I thus was surprised by how hard they rocked out right from the start. Although they played some mellower folk-rock tunes in the middle of their set, and opened the encore with “Wordless Chorus,” for the most part they brought the rock with amazing intensity. Despite that, the sound levels were much better than earlier in the day, at least down in front; the whole set sounded clear, not overwhelmingly loud. Their music was inspiring, not just to me but to the whole audience; perhaps the most rock-n-roll thing I saw all day, besides the band itself, was a woman in a sequined top doing high kicks, low shimmies, and generally rocking out to My Morning Jacket with a huge smile on her face.
My Morning Jacket was certainly more than enough to close out the evening, but the night was not yet over. This year, for Saturday and Sunday the festival offered a late-night dance set at the Bigfoot Stage, moved from last year’s dance tent confines. Saturday’s dance extravaganza was provided by electronic musician Deadmau5. Despite the long day and late hour, a huge crowd filled the Bigfoot area dancing and roaring their approval of Deadmau5’s pounding beats and stellar light show. I caught the latter half of his set, which sounded really cool and held its own even juxtaposed to My Morning Jacket’s phenomenal performance. I don’t regret missing the first half of Deadmau5, but I certainly would love to attend a full show in the future.