Sunday was supposed to be the sunniest, warmest day at Sasquatch, according to the advance weather reports, but instead it was cool, cloudy, and windy all day, with some rain showers rolling in by the evening. The weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits though, as there was so much to be excited about. Too much, really: it was a day of tough decisions, with so many great bands scheduled for overlapping sets. Everything seemed to be running late this day though, unlike Saturday, which meant sometimes I was able to catch more of a set than expected.
I was no exception to the general trend of things running late: I had wanted to see Caribou, but after the long first day I wasn’t able to get up and return to the festival in time for their opening set at noon. However, fortunately for me, Martina Topley-Bird was still finishing her late sound check at the Yeti Stage when I arrived, and so I did not miss a moment of her wonderful set. She led the audience in a playful sing-along of “Da Da Da Da,” covered Massive Attack’s “Karmacoma,” and played xylophone on a cool version of her song “Poison.” Topley-Bird faced some challenges in her set, including competition from a much louder band at the Bigfoot Stage, and technical difficulties with her loop pedals. However, she handled all the trouble with aplomb, staying in charmingly good spirits, which made the whole performance feel even better. When the loop pedals failed her at the end of her set, she simply called for a couple audience volunteers to play the wood block and tambourine parts live. I have no doubt her endearing performance won her many new fans, myself among them.
With so many bands at a festival like this, it’s easy to overlook some great artists or miss opportunities to get to know new ones. For example, after Topley-Bird’s set I spent a little time visiting the KEXP booth, not really paying attention to the band playing across the field at the Bigfoot Stage. Suddenly I recognized a song I’ve been enjoying on KEXP, and checking the schedule realized the song was “Sun Hands” by Local Natives, a band I’d have liked to hear more of. Later in the day, the same thing would happen with Dirty Projectors: hearing “Cannibal Resource” at a distance made me say “oh yeah, these guys!” and regret that I’d missed the chance to check them out.
Even with many new bands to check out, I still had to make time for old favorites They Might Be Giants, playing on the main stage. This was my fourth or fifth time seeing them, but the first time that they were not headlining the show, and consequently it was a bit short and uneven for me. Still, I enjoyed hearing several songs from Flood as well as newer ones. They had a goofy bit with puppets called “The Avatars of They” in the middle of their set that perhaps could have been left out, given the short playing time they had, but it was entertaining. They finished with “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” with guitarist Dan Miller doing a killer acoustic guitar solo introduction.
Following TMBG, I went over to the Bigfoot Stage for The xx. Their debut album was one of my favorites last year, so I was looking forward to seeing them live. However, the festival setting really seemed at odds with their low-key rock, as I found myself out at the edge of the stage’s field with a huge sea of noisy people in front of me, making it hard to feel engaged by the music. Furthermore, the music basically sounded like the album with more echo and less quality. So I was underwhelmed by the performance and gave up after about 20 minutes. I’d much rather see them at a more intimate venue such as the Triple Door here in Seattle; perhaps that will happen someday.
Up next was my first scheduling conflict: LCD Soundsystem were supposed to start at 7, while YACHT were supposed to start at 7:30, and I wanted to see both. I decided that I’d go first to LCD Soundsystem and sit in the upper section of the main stage bowl, so that I could easily leave early if I wanted to. I haven’t cared much for their new single “Drunk Girls,” so I was thinking I might not be into their set. Instead, it turned out to be on par with the other great sets of the weekend; I even enjoyed “Drunk Girls,” it just sounded good in this setting. LCD Soundsystem played a high-energy set that had the packed ampitheatre bouncing along—well, except for me: despite the loud levels and high energy, I found it oddly soothing to close my eyes and zone out for a while, though I was still enjoying the music very much.
Refreshed by LCD Soundsystem, after their set I ran to the dance tent to see if I could catch any of YACHT, and was in time just for their last song, the bouncy “Psychic City (Voodoo City).” I’m sure I missed a great set by them, but I was glad I’d caught all of LCD Soundsystem, and I figured I had a better chance of seeing YACHT again soon, as they’re from Portland. As an unexpected cool treat, I discovered that Seattle fire-dance troupe Pyrosutra were doing performances between the evening dance-music acts in the tent, and I enjoyed their show enough to make a point of catching two more performances on Monday.
As headliner time rolled around, the second conflict came up: Public Enemy were scheduled to start on the Bigfoot Stage at 9:45, while Massive Attack were playing the main stage at 10:15. As it turned out, although Public Enemy didn’t actually start until about 10, I could have caught at least half their set because Massive Attack didn’t go on until 10:50. However, Public Enemy were plagued by technical problems: halfway through their first song, the speakers cut out completely; the speakers came back just as they started their second song, cut out again briefly, came back again, and cut out a third time. By then I’d had enough; if I wasn’t going to hear them properly, I figured I might as well go get a good spot for Massive Attack. Hopefully I’ll have another opportunity in the future to get the full Public Enemy experience.
Massive Attack’s set was… massive. With laser beams and smoke machines, and giant displays scrolling philosophical quotes and socio-political statistics, the stage was set for a serious rock spectacle, and Massive Attack brought it on in full force. Massive, yes, but also deep and nuanced, their music and lyrics were complex and thought-provoking, not just monolithic blocks of sound. Although touring behind their new album Heligoland, they played a wide assortment of songs from their whole career, including a neat sparse version of “Teardrop” sung by guest vocalist Martina Topley-Bird. Long-time collaborator Horace Andy was also on hand for the tour, and singer Deborah Miller provided further great vocals. This was the performance I was most anticipating for Sasquatch 2010, and Massive Attack exceeded my expectations with their amazing show.
Massive Attack ran pretty late into the evening, so it was already after 12:30 when I got to the Bigfoot Stage, where Booka Shade was holding down the late-night dance party. Their electro-house music included live percussion, which is always a cool thing to see (and hear), and if they’d played for another hour I probably would’ve stayed the whole time despite my tiredness. However, I only had 15 minutes or so to dance off the energy from Massive Attack before they wrapped up for the night. That was probably for the best, so I could go back to the hotel and get some rest for the final day.