Allen Stone and his band were the first act on the mainstage Friday night, and without a doubt, they opened up Sasquatch! with a bang. Stone’s set was 45 minutes of pure energy. He played all of the crowd favorites, including “Sleep”, “Satisfaction”, “Unaware”, and his wonderful version of Bob Marley’s classic “Is This Love”. The backing band sounded tighter than ever – they played three quarters of the set with no breaks, using pieces of classics like Stevie Wonder’s “Livin For The City” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as transitions between songs. The band sounded incredible on the mainstage and, by the grins on their faces, the crowd could tell they knew it. Stone set the bar high early in the day, and he and the band left with much love from the audience as Of Monsters and Men began their setup.
I’m not sure how much Alex Schaaf paid for his looping pedals, but he’s certainly gotten his money’s worth. Although only three members strong onstage, the members of Yellow Ostrich frequently created backing vocals, rhythm guitar lines, and pretty much anything else they needed through their looping pedals, and I’m sure it’s saving Schaaf a ton on touring costs. What’s even more impressive is how the loops seamlessly fit into Yellow Ostrich’s tight and dynamic live show. Along with their army of loops, drummer Michael Tapper and multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez form a sleek vehicle for Schaaf’s songs. Friendly and earnest, Schaaf is a likeable personality onstage, and what was once his lo-fi bedroom project has now turned into a live music tour de force. After a few hours of overcast skies, the sun came out right around the time Yellow Ostrich came onstage - it seemed a promising and appropriate omen for these three.
Metal Chocolates took the “Maine” stage in the early evening for an excellent set.
When Of Monsters And Men arrived onstage, they were met with cheers from the biggest crowd of the day up to that point, and within a few minutes of their first song, it was easy to see why. Of Monsters And Men’s music strikes one of those universal chords that few bands can reach. Their earnest take on indie-folk is melodic and inviting, and it’s hard not to sing along to their lush choruses and their Arcade Fire-esque chants. They didn’t just belong on the main stage due to their enormous band size (six core members plus another touring member), but because they’re a fast-growing upstart with a lot of promise. By the time they got to “Little Talks”, it was clear that this band is destined for bigger things. Watch out Bjork, Sasquatch! might have a new favorite Icelandic export.
As Polica took to the Bigfoot stage, the crowd was instantly mesmerized by vocalist and front woman Channy Leaneagh. She controlled her spacey vocals with a handful of pedals at the foot of her microphone stand. One created a strong echo, another transformed her voice with creative use of auto-tune, and a third harmonized her voice with a synthesized line. Between switches, Leaneagh glided across the stage seamlessly, dancing this way and that in perfect form. If Leaneagh wasn’t enough, Polica’s two drummers set different drums to different speakers to create a trippy stereo experience. All in all, Polica’s live energy and arrangements spoke well of (and possibly outdid) the unique sound created on their latest album.
In theory, live hip-hop should be simple: Get onstage, get the crowd hyped up, ask them to bounce with you and then start spitting your rhymes. In practice, it’s not as easy as it seems, especially if the crowd doesn’t know your music. But The Physics brought all they know along with a live band and in the end, their gamble paid off. With a well-oiled rhythm section and a pair of backing singers, the Physics effortlessly attracted a crowd that consistently grew as the show went on (one of the few bands at Sasquatch to do so) and more importantly, everyone walked away with a clear knowledge that they just saw one of Seattle’s best hip-hop outfits. The real question is, how much longer will it be before until everyone at Sasquatch! is chanting, “P-H-Y-S-I-C-S?”
As can be expected, Santigold is awesome live. Her mixture of punk, dub, dance, pop, and hip-hop is unparalleled, and everything that fans loved was shown in full form on the mainstage during her set. Santigold’s band and backup dancers were all dressed up akin to the outfits seen in videos of hers like that for “Disparate Youth”. They wore bright African patterns in vibrant colors and her band additionally wore cartoony hats and necklaces. Santigold came on stage to open with “Go!” wearing gold streamers all over and the crowd loved it. She was very interactive with the crowd and even got those relaxing on the lawn all the way in the back to stand up and dance along. For her classic song “Creator”, she invited a dozen or more people up on stage with her and wouldn’t start the song until security had coordinated how to get people out of the pit, over the press area, and up onto the massive stage. All in all, Santigold put on a fantastic show and incorporated her fans in every way possible.
In the Banana Shack, STRFKR was met with a massive turnout. Joshua Hodges came onstage in a Technicolor dream coat of sorts, making him look like a psychedelic wizard as he sang and banged out keyboard parts. To match their sound, the crowd was met with a blaze of light from the stage, and with each blink of the strobe lights, the crowd got crazier. As the set went on, the songs gradually built into dance tracks and the tent continued to fill tighter and tighter. Their crazy set was exactly what the audience was hoping for, and it made for one of the best band/audience interactions of the day.
Mark Lanegan is not a typical rock band front man. His face obscured by his long hair and a baseball cap, Lanegan walked on stage silently, gripped his microphone with both hands, and instantly launched into a set heavy on tracks from his most recent release, Blues Funeral. He may not have addressed the crowd or gone for a stage dive, but Lanegan remains a magnetic performer nonetheless. Tight and muscular, his brooding growl was only equaled by his rumbling live band, who helped him tear through a mix of garage-rock stompers and thunderous blues numbers. Although his audience was mostly comprised of longtime devotees (most of whom were perhaps as old as Lanegan himself,) he drew every last note from his chest as if he was a preacher sending his message to a congregation seeking blues-rock salvation. To all aspiring front men out there, start taking notes.
The great thing about Girl Talk shows is that Greg Gillis gets casual festival lovers and jaded hipsters to dance side by side, with reckless abandon, to Kelly Clarkson. Gillis sampled at least two Clarkson tracks in his mainstage set of mash-up insanity, along literally hundreds of other top 40 artists from the past 40 years. Of course, if you’ve heard any Girl Talk’s latest 3 albums, this should come as no surprise. Gillis drew heavily from his insanely popular album Feed The Animals and drew a decent amount of material from the newer All Day and older Night Ripper. But much of Gillis’s showmanship was comprised of new mash-ups. Highlights included a phenomenal mix of M83’s “Midnight City” with Missy Elliot’s “Work It”, Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” vocals tossed over Drake’s “The Motto”, and “Get Low” slapped on top of that killer instrumental part in the middle of Metallica’s “One”. After 75 minutes of nonstop dancing, Gillis wowed the crowd and left them in serious need of recovery. But alas, they got no such mercy, because less than five minutes after Gillis left the stage, Seattle hip-hop superstar Macklemore appeared on an elevated soundstage and played an unannounced mini set. Seriously, it couldn’t get any better than this.
There are some bands whose sound completely dies in an outdoor setting, but Explosions in the Sky are exactly the opposite. Their music is built for large-scale, cathartic experiences shared by throngs of people. In other words, they’re an ideal festival band, and judging by the enormous crowd for their stage-closing show, there were a lot of people at Sasquatch! who wanted to experience the West Texas group’s emotional guitar symphonies. The crowd swooned with every swell of noise and cheered with every quiet breakdown. It was a phenomenal experience for everyone involved. “Mother Nature sure is something spectacular up here,” exclaimed guitarist Munaf Rayani as he picked up his guitar. “We’re going to try and keep up with her.” If there was any band that could soundtrack the breathtaking beauty of the Gorge on Friday night, it was this one.
Finishing off the night, Pretty Lights played a killer set of dance and house over on the main stage.
More Sasquatch! 2012 coverage to come, so stay tuned!