Every Memorial Day weekend, the Northwest plays host to the Sasquatch! Music Festival at the Columbia River Gorge in George, Washington. Founded by Adam Zacks, the festival has been bringing concertgoers a blend of big-name headliners and unsung all-star undercards since 2002. 2011 marks the festival’s 10th year, and the first ever expanded four-day lineup.
KEXP is proud to announce a partnership with NPR Music for a live broadcast from all four stages at the Sasquatch! Festival over Memorial Day Weekend. Check here for the link to our live stream, but in the meantime, settle down with some of the anticipated highlights of this year’s festival.
FRIDAY, MAY 27
Perhaps the most talked about Friday act isn’t headliner Foo Fighters – although their anthemic arena rock will surely bring the Gorge to its knees – but the newly reunited Death From Above 1979, the rave-punk titans that inadvertently incited a “riot” on the eve of their surprise reunion show at this year’s South By Southwest. The French duo may seem a peculiar opener for the Foos, but both bands’ capacity for shattering eardrums may well be unmatched. DFA1979 will start shredding at 8 PM, while the Foo Fighters take the stage at 9:30.
Earlier in the day, the Bigfoot stage plays host to a trio of classic punk rock acts. Post-hardcore quartet Rival Schools open the day at 4 PM, fresh off the release of their long-awaited album Pedals. They’re followed by Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro, whose 2009 album Only Revolutions was nominated for the Mercury Prize after going Platinum in the UK in a matter of weeks. Rounding out the set are anarcho-punk legends Against Me!. Friday may only be a festival teaser, but Sasquatch has certainly brought out the rock.
SATURDAY, MAY 28
Saturday sports arguably the best single-day lineup the festival has ever offered. Starting out the day is the Seattle Rock Orchestra, 12 PM on the Bigfoot stage. The collective will play symphonic versions of songs from Radiohead‘s The Bends and OK Computer, which may be the perfect way to segue into the shoegazing Radio Dept., at 1:05 on the Main Stage. Their 2006 dream pop masterpiece Pet Grief is a touchstone for the genre, a noisy but poppy album that calls to mind a lovechild between My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division.
Following The Radio Dept. at 2:10 on the Main Stage are KEXP favorites The Head and the Heart, whose catchy folk-rock tunes have entranced the greater Seattle area. On record, the songs are affecting and nod-worthy, but much has been made of the group’s spirited live performances. Get there early, because these young indie masterminds are sure to play to a packed crowd of flannel-clad Northwesterners.
Montreal rockers Wolf Parade are on indefinite hiatus, so it’d be wise to catch their 4:20 set on the Main Stage. These Canadians rock with the best of them, fusing influences (and band members) from the likes of Modest Mouse and Hot Hot Heat. The band’s 2005 album Apologies to the Queen Mary was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. However, if you’re clamoring for more indie folk a la The Head and the Heart, Baltimore’s Wye Oak hits the Yeti Stage at 5:40. The husband/wife duo swap Mates of State‘s sometimes unbearable cutesy tendencies for walls of distortion and noise that perfectly complement the otherwise softspoken duets and melodies.
As evening draws near, choices become more and more difficult. If you’re more in the mood for a jazzy take on the folk scene, Iron & Wine clambers aboard the Main Stage at 6:45. Sam Beam is celebrating the release of his second full-band LP in Kiss Each Other Clean, an album that sees him employ such unheard-of experimentation as wah-wah pedals, synths, and gospel choirs. At the same time, lo-fi indie punkers The Thermals will rock the Yeti Stage, and chillwave mastermind Washed Out takes his summery dance-pop to the Banana Shack. If that wasn’t enough, the Bigfoot sees dance-rock duo Matt & Kim take the stage at 7:30.
Perhaps a wiser decision could be reached by which headliners one wants to see. Bright Eyes follow Iron & Wine on the Main Stage at 8:15, and Conor Oberst’s acclaimed project is playing on the heels of their acclaimed new album The People’s Key. Bright Eyes has been a figurehead of the indie folk scene since their inception in 1998, and their concerts are not to be missed. On the other hand, Swedish pop mistress Robyn hits the Bigfoot stage at 9:00. Hot off the release of her greatest-hits-in-the-making album Body Talk, Robyn has dominated stages at festivals across the world, and Sasquatch is bound to be no different.
Headlining the night is Seattle’s own Death Cab for Cutie, whose new album Codes and Keys has been making the rounds on and off the air. The guys take the stage at 9:45 and play well into the night. For those few night owls who haven’t gotten their fill, electronic producer and candy kid Bassnectar takes the Bigfoot stage at 11:30, while thrash masters Sleigh Bells sneak in a performance at the Banana Shack at 10:10.
SUNDAY, MAY 29
Sunday doesn’t waste time, with the much-hyped Smith Westerns hopping on the Main Stage bright and early at 12. Their mix of glam and garage rock has been scoring them fans everywhere they go, and Sasquatch is sure to be no different. Seattle’s own Moondoggies rock the Bigfoot stage at 2, bringing their group harmonies and multi-instrumentation to bigger and better heights. Back at the Main Stage, Tokyo Police Club will make indie rock waves at 3:15, but that might be to a crowd of tweenage hipsters because critically acclaimed dream pop duo Beach House follows their set at 4:20 – a coincidence that many will probably see fit to take advantage of. If you don’t believe it, check out the insane clip for their track “Walk in the Park.”
Local dance-rap group Mad Rad take the Yeti stage at 5:40. Renowned for their wild shows (a number of which led to a temporary ban from most major Seattle venues), they’re not an act to miss if you’re a fan of a good time. Stick around afterwards for comedy-rap group Das Racist, infamous for “That Taco Bell-Pizza Hut Song” and giving away watermelon and fried chicken at live shows (gee, one wonders where they get their name). If such antics (understandably) don’t strike your fancy, the freshly reunited indie rock legends Archers of Loaf hop on the Bigfoot stage at 6:20. Or if you’re in a punker mood, the Main Stage features Irish punk all-stars Flogging Molly, whose mosh pits are some of the best there’ll ever be. Fiddles and electric guitars and drunken hollering never sound so good as they do in a Flogging Molly pit.
Of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Flaming Lips, who’re playing their hit album The Soft Bulletin in its entirety (as well as other hits) on the Main Stage at 8:00. Stunningly, the Lips aren’t headlining this year – that honor is held by the Pacific Northwest’s rock titans Modest Mouse. Expect to hear cries of “Float On” for the remainder of the weekend. If (somehow) neither of those acts rock your socks, catch an evening of jean-stretching dance, beginning at 10 in the Banana Shack with MSTRKRFT. The group’s live show at last year’s Bumbershoot nearly trampled several people because of inadequate floor space, but the expansive Shack should be enough to withstand the onslaught. Closing the night is instrumental jam duo Ratatat, whose psychedelic guitar riffs and drum loops will enchant the stoned and the exhausted on the Bigfoot stage at 11:00.
MONDAY, MAY 30
This year’s Sasquatch is more of a marathon than a sprint, and if you’re not completely winded by the fourth day, you’ll be one of the few (or one of the ones who didn’t drink). Monday’s lineup starts the earliest, with the punk-leaning noise pop Wavves taking the Main Stage at 11:30. Frontman Nathan Williams overcame personal issues to craft last year’s King of the Beach with ex-bandmates of the late Jay Reatard, and the result is a youthful summer romp that should be right at home in the Gorge. 1:40 on the same stage sees alt-country heavyweights Old 97’s bring their brand of hip-shaking tunes to the Gorge. Though the 97’s have been around since 1993, the band’s stage presence is as youthful and exuberant as ever. It’s a sure bet they could easily rival twee-pop’s Noah and the Whale, who hop aboard the Bigfoot Stage at 2:00, following a performance by disco revivalist Twin Shadow at 1:00.
As you’ve noticed, reunions are the story of Sasquatch this year. The blasts from the past continue with Guided By Voices, the formative garage rock group spearheaded in 1983 by Robert Pollard. They’ll rock the mainstage at 3:50, paving the way for a soulful Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings at 5:10. The funkadelic R&B group will undoubtedly make the Gorge shake her luscious hips, but they’ll face stiff competition from the much-hyped Foster the People, playing the Yeti at 5:40. KEXP favorites Macklemore & Ryan Lewis also take the Bigfoot stage at 5:10, so excruciating decisions will have to be made.
Following Sharon Jones will be returning duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela, whose performances are nigh unforgettable. The group employs furious strumming and and hand-on-guitar percussion that’s flat-out stunning. But if you’re more into lo-fi bedroom pop, Best Coast plays the Yeti at 6:45. There’s good money on Wavves joining her onstage, or at least a sloppy Blink-182 cover. Meanwhile, on the Bigfoot, dance-rockers !!! (pronounced CHK CHK CHK) take the stage at 7:30. Performing multiple frenetic sets at last year’s Capitol Hill Block Party, and numerous in-studios at KEXP, !!! is one of the best dance acts at Sasquatch this year, and guaranteed to get your toes a-tappin’.
Elsewhere, Colin Meloy’s The Decemberists will duel dubstep icon Skrillex for the attention of the 8 o’clock crowds. Meloy’s troupe will rock the Main Stage, will Skrillex will drill his wub-wub into the ground at the Banana Shack. If you need to actually consider which of these shows to go to, KEXP is confused. KEXP would like you to calm down and take a warm bath. Maybe have a peep over at this here tumblr (occasionally not safe for work).
If that decision wasn’t painful enough, the last three bands of the festival all overlap at some point or another. It’s a three-way brawl between Chicago’s alt-rock heralds Wilco, headlining the Main Stage at 9:30, Bradford Cox’s acclaimed experimental indie rock group Deerhunter (Bigfoot, 9:00), and Major Lazer the dub-influenced-dancehall-reggae group formed by two skinny white dudes (Diplo and Switch, respectively). They’ll bring the Banana Shack to a close starting at 9:30.
There have obviously been omissions from this preview, but such is the way of Sasquatch! Everyone goes for different reasons, though most of them are music-related. If you’re unfortunate enough not to attend, don’t forget to check back here as the festivalunfolds for KEXP’s live stream of the event.