Opening a main stage at a festival can be a daunting task, especially for a band that isn’t used to playing festivals. ” This is a little different than our basement,” noted singer Galen Disston, “but we’re really honored to be here.” Lucky for Pickwick, a legion of fans rushed to the front of the stage, and with their support, Pickwick tore through a set of groove-based rock that started the day off with a bang. Their energy was high and their musicianship was tight, so by the time they closed with the one-two punch of “Do the Ostrich” and “Windowsill”, Pickwick had more than proved they could hold their own in venues outside of their living quarters.
Reptar opened up the Bigfoot stage with a great set of their psychedelia-tinged indie rock. They will definitely be a band to watch in the upcoming year.
One of the biggest gripes against music festivals is that they don’t allow the artists to connect with their audience on their own terms. Often, members of the audience might just be camping out for another band or not have any idea who they are about to see. While this may or may not be the case at Sasquatch!, it certainly wasn’t evident when Charles Bradley hit the stage. Bradley is over 60 years old and sings soul with all the power and prowess of James Brown. The crowd present instantly responded to his sound, and every word he spoke pierced the air surrounding the main stage like a sword. Bradley did an excellent job mixing more solemn tunes about the difficulties of live and success with upbeat dance tunes that the entire audience could relate to with ease. His love for the crowd oozed out of every line. “One of the things that life gives us is love,” Bradley said, near the end of his set, “Those that take love from you are those that need it the most, so do not worry about what they might take from you.” Bradley’s wonderful sound won out on the dance floor, but his wisdom and joyous spirit made his performance one of the most memorable of the day.
Said The Whale brought great energy to the Yeti Stage for their early afternoon set.
Blitzen Trapper‘s Saturday afternoon set was a homecoming of sorts for the band. After playing the smaller Yeti stage five years ago, they have graduated to the main stage, and their set showcased the progress the band had made to get to that point. Although they started out slow, playing a pair of folky, relatively low-key numbers, it wasn’t long before the Portland quintet turned it up and launched into a set of country rock burners. By the end of the set, guitarists Eric Earley and Erik Menteer were trading dirty, roaring licks with each other, only stopping to get offstage right before their set time ended. If the band continues to grow at this pace, we can only hope they’ll return to Sasquatch! before another five years pass.
On the “Maine” Stage, today was Heaven for Seattle rap fans as Fatal Lucciauno, Grynch, and Sol performed back to back to back. The energy was insanely positive, and all three acts were met with plenty of affection from the crowd.
Despite some microphone issues and a slightly delayed set, once they began, Craft Spells owned their time on the Yeti stage. They drew possibly the biggest crowd at the Yeti stage all weekend, and for good reason. The band was very, very tight, and Justin Vallesteros’ Bernard Sumner meets early Moz vocals sailed through their sound. The band played much of their new EP Gallery as well as Idle Labor material and had the whole crowd dancing side to side like it was 1985.
Alabama Shakes drew a massive crowd to the Bigfoot stage in the early afternoon for a fantastic set. The band looked like they were having the time of their lives, and it was evident that the crowd were too.
With most Sasquatch! attendees coming from Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, who doesn’t like Portlandia here? “It’s way too easy to be from the Northwest right now”, Carrie Brownstein laughed to herself. Her and Fred Armisted went back and forth with jokes concerning the sincere oddity of the Pacific Northwest that we all have grown to know and love. Topics involve biking signals, hipster dads, and explaining the Dead Kennedys to old people. With every geographic name-drop Carrie dished out, the crowd went wild. Fred played along, throwing in his own jokes about being from the east coast and not understanding Portland, and keeping good energy up in the crowd throughout. For fans of the show, the Portlandia comedy set was exactly what they could have hoped for: two people who love to love their hometowns and share it with other people.
When the Civil Wars arrived to meet their rapturous crowd, two things were immediately apparent: 1) Joy Williams was heavily pregnant and 2) they were both significantly taken aback by the massive audience that came to see them. Feeding off this energy, the duo put on a show that soon proved to be a highlight of the day. Although they’re solely platonic friends and musical partners, there’s a palpable chemistry between Joy and John Paul Williams. The two frequently played with each other throughout the set, switching microphones on the fly and adding clever ad-libs left and right. It’s this playfulness that makes The Civil Wars such a great band and was also what made the two-piece band fill the Gorge like no other that had played thus far that day.
Taking one break from the famous THEESatisfaction stoicism, Cat stops and smiles. “This is a great view” she said looking out from their stage. There was a lot more metaphorical significance to that short sentence than she may have thought. From the Yeti stage, THEESatisfaction could indeed see all the way down into the valley across the Gorge. But at the same time, long-time THEESatisfaction listeners finally get to see one of Seattle’s freshest new acts take Sasquatch! by storm. THEESatisfaction were as smooth and mysterious as ever, playing a lot of old material as well as a handful of tracks from their highly acclaimed new record awE naturalE. Giving in to the summer aesthetic, for once, THEESatisfaction were all smiles, and after several years of growth and a breakthrough this year, everybody at the Yeti stage had a blast watching them take a well-deserved victory lap.
Kurt Vile played a chilled out set on the Bigfoot stage in the late afternoon. He and his band played it cool and let the audience enjoy his quality tunes without demanding too much audience interaction. Vile was quiet, coming up to the microphone when it was time to sing, but otherwise, he focused on guitar work and made subtle glances at his band to keep everything in check. That’s not to say that he didn’t get loud, though. Vile picked up the intensity as his set went along, but he allowed the audience to reflect and relate instead of just respond with applause. As always, Vile’s songs were gorgeous, and his performance made for a great stop during a hectic day.
Photographer Morgen Schuler caught some great shots of the Yeti stage performance of Dry The River later in the afternoon.
The music of Com Truise is littered with nostalgia. Old school sci-fi noise and chill-wave envelope filtering give his tunes a vintage aesthetic. But underneath, Seth Haley’s music is as cutting edge as any dance engineer in the room. The Banana Shack was packed full of fans getting a kick out of every sample Haley tossed in here and there, but most of all, just dancing the night away.
Whether you like him or not, nobody can really deny that Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino threw down during his set on the main stage. Glover never missed a beat and barely seemed to take a breath between lines. He was back and forth across the stage faster than any cameras could keep track of, and his crowd of fans was very, very responsive to that. A full band backed Glover, including a violinist who played all the strings from Gambino songs “Freaks and Geeks” and “All That Shine” live. For more basic tracks like “Bonfire” and his version of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” (which samples the Jamie xx remix of the track), the band got up and danced along to Glover’s rhymes. All in all, Glover’s set was a pleasant surprise, and “Lights On” ended, the crowd bid him farewell with thunderous applause.
AraabMuzik is known far and wide to be the Jimi Hendrix of the MPC drum machine. There are YouTube videos with HD cameras that can barely keep up with Abraham Orellana’s hands, and as light screens in the Banana Shack attempted to show live footage of Orellana’s hands at work, they completely failed. Orellana flew across his MPC with inhuman speed and his beats – combining hip-hop, dub step, and drum-n-bass – were punishingly intense. Picture a 45 minute dub step drop with infinite amounts of drum fill and you start to get the picture. Appropriately, the crowd barely knew what to do with themselves – they faced a solid tossup between just staring in awe of Orellana’s work and head-banging their brains out. In the end, it was 110% of both.
Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel have been playing music together for a long time, and as the Helio Sequence get older, they only get better. On the Bigfoot stage, they sounded as fantastic as ever, playing several tunes from the new album (due out on Sub Pop Records in the Fall, said Summers) and most of the songs off of their last release Keep Your Eyes Ahead. The new material sounded great, using the electronic backing track less and utilizing more guitar reverb and echo to thicken up the textures. But as always, Helio Sequence were as hopeful and inspiring as ever. Onstage, Helio Sequence looked and sounded fantastic. Summers and Weikel worked off of each others’ energy and played a studio-worthy set. As always, these Sasquatch! veterans left no one unsatisfied.
It’s always a risky move playing new material live. It’s even more risky when you’re playing to an audience that may not even know your older songs, but that’s exactly what Metric did with their main stage set on Saturday. Although they have four albums to draw from, most of their set list was comprised of songs from their forthcoming effort, Synthetica. Emily Haines was perhaps the most engaging singer on the main stage that day. Sauntering across the stage, Haines and the men of Metric ripped through an hour-long set that never slowed down once it started. After finishing with a massive singalong to an acoustic version of “Gimme Sympathy”, it was clear that the risk paid off. Sure, only half the songs in the set had been publicly released at that point, but I sure didn’t see any leftover Metric shirts at the merch stands at the end of the night.
The award for the most trippy show of the day definitely goes to Purity Ring. As Corin Roddick and Megan James came onstage, all of the lights went off in the Banana Shack. Already filled with fog from machines in the corner of the room, the place was a dim, cloudy mess. But as Roddick started up the music, he seemed to hit various light bulbs around his instruments in order to light them up. At the same time, he controlled various effects on James’s voice to make it echo, skip like a scratched record, and even drop an octave. Honestly, I had no idea what was going on half the time. Roddick’s hands flew across his setup as his lights lit up and extinguished in synchronicity. James tiptoed around the stage, occasionally hitting a large marching drum on the opposite side of the stage (there was a light inside that, too). Whatever it was that Purity Ring did, it was awesome, and the crowd was completely hexed by whatever black magic they were using.
Lord Huron also played a great set on the Yeti stage.
Merrill Garbus took the stage by herself for the first three minutes of the Tune-Yards set on the Bigfoot stage. Tune-Yards is first and foremost her project, but it was amazing to see how much noise Garbus could make all by herself. Using her famous voice and drum looping technique, Garbus created a full band’s worth of sound and her strong presence on stage demanded the audience’s attention. Finally, bassist Nate Brenner and the Tune-Yards saxophone section filed onstage to play their hit song “Gangsta” altogether. Garbus’s music seems to capture a sense of childlike wonder and naivety akin to that seen in Maurice Sendak’s book Where The Wild Things Are. If this is indeed her goal, then the Tune-Yards live show accomplishes this task even more exuberantly than the albums do. Tune-Yards is a wild rumpus onstage, and once the crowd abandoned all their preoccupations, they were too.
Quebec songwriter Coeur De Pirate played beautifully over on the Yeti stage. With devout fans and some Quebec residents in the audience, Beatrice Martin’s songs of love and loss stole the hearts of all present.
There was a five year gap between the last Shins album and their most recent one, Port Of Morrow, but their live performance has certainly not aged a day. In fact, it’s quite possibly gotten better. James Mercer and company were faced with the task of warming up the crowd for Jack White, so appropriately, they brought the loudest tunes out of their catalog. Even on the two songs where they turned it down a bit, “September” and “New Slang”, there was an acknowledged intimacy that spoke just as loud as the charging riffs of “Simple Song” and “The Rifle’s Spiral.” Their performance was both an affirmation that The Shins are one of the seminal bands of the last decade and a reminder of how much they were missed while they were gone.
St. Vincent shreds. For anyone unaware of this undeniable fact at her Bigfoot stage set, they left with newfound knowledge of her face-melting skills. Annie Clark is a flurry onstage, alternating between two personalities like a schizophrenic. On the microphone, she is confident yet reserved, carefully placing each of her beautiful notes where they belong. But as soon as she backs off at the end of a line, Clark looks possessed. She tiptoes around the stage almost en pointe while ripping out killer lines on her guitar, all sent through a T-Rex-esque glam rock fuzz effect. In the wind, Clark’s curls flew everywhere as her music raged on. With strobe lights blinking and the wall of sound unending, St. Vincent’s set was one of the best of the day. The songs of her new album Strange Mercy have never sounded more epic, and even Mr. White setting up over on the main stage would have been in awe of her phenomenal performance.
There were a lot of incredible performances at Sasquatch on Saturday, but Jack White‘s headlining set nearly every one of them look like amateurs. Backed by his all-male backing band, Los Buzzardos, Jack White nearly leveled the Gorge with a set filled with classic tunes, engaging singalongs, and face-melting solos. When you’re an artist with a catalog as deep as Jack’s, you’re almost too big to fail, but rather than resting on his laurels, Jack aired out plenty of new solo material alongside cuts from all three of his other bands. The result was a loud, monumental, and extraordinary performance that will be talked about for years to come.
The Roots took to the Bigfoot stage as the last act of the night. As Jack White’s set finished, more and more people crowded up and around to set up for one big party. As the band came out onstage, they started in on a funky drum and bongo line. As Black Thought emerged, he threw a shout out to several of the musical legends that left us recently including MCA. With that, the band busted into a funky, soulful version of the Beastie Boys classic “Paul Revere”, and the crowd went absolutely nuts. Black Thought built on that energy for the rest of the night, and The Roots played one of the most fun sets of the day. Black Thought drew the crowd’s attention to the band’s excellent showmanship and connectivity. Pulling from their huge catalogue and some funk classics like “Jungle Boogie”, the Roots ended the night with a continuous bang. Their legendary set was a perfect way to end this wonderful day of music.
More Sasquatch! soon, so check back tomorrow!