Hey Marseilles opened the day up on the main stage with a great set of Seattle’s favorites. Their vast instrumentation and soaring melodies drew a large crowd for a show so early in the day. As always, their songs sounded fantastic.
It’s no surprise that a vocal giant like Bon Iver would bring another vocal-driven group on tour with them, but what is surprising is that the Sunday afternoon set by the Staveley-Taylor sisters was so precisely gorgeous, considering that the Staves have only been a band for a few years. Their sound isn’t a far cry from a lot of the bands that have been coming out of the English folk revival of the past few years, but what places them apart from their contemporaries are the three sisters’ immaculate harmonies. Not unlike their contemporary Laura Marling, their intertwining guitar and ukelele-driven folk sounded beautiful, with lyrics speaking of experiences from a person far beyond their years. It was a promising start for a group with a long road ahead of it.
Graffiti 6 played a set over on the Bigfoot stage that showcased their catchy pop sound.
The beautiful, sunny early afternoon was a perfect setting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. Starting with It’s a Corporate World opener “Morning Thought”, they slowly built energy to get the crowd warmed up. Halfway through their set, they played a noisy, experimental cover of the Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows”. The crowd was appropriately responsive, singing along with plenty of smiles and bobbing along to their tunes. With everybody still sore and a bit groggy from the night before, the band’s blend of chilled out lo-fi and shoe-gaze was a great to start the morning.
Reignwolf’s first outing at Sasquatch! was expectedly awesome. In typical style, he played most of his set by himself, running a bass drum up front with his foot, and occasionally playing the drum set in the back and playing guitar at the same time. His cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” was ridiculously cool. With the steady beat of the bass drum beneath his feet, Jordan Cook ripped guitar lines out while howling the intense vocal passages. For the second half of his set, a drummer came out so that Cook could really wow the crowd with his guitar chops. His ending guitar solo was about five minutes long, and fans were screaming and yelling far before it ended. If Sasquatch! has learned nothing else from Cook’s first show here, they learned that Reignwolf is a force to be reckoned with, and he should return as soon as possible to a stage that better accommodates the crowds he drew.
Hospitality filled out the Bigfoot stage with a strong set early in the day.
Trampled By Turtles‘ mainstage set on Sunday afternoon was an unforgettable dance party that not only beat the heat, but also set the bar for every other band on the stage that day. It’s not often that a bluegrass band gets a prime spot on a main stage at a music festival, but then again, Sasquatch! isn’t like any other music festival. The Duluth, Minnesota five-piece kicked off their set with a series of fast-paced bluegrass shakedowns, and once they started, they never let up. The audience more than responded to their enthusiasm. By their last song, even those seated on the lawn were rushing down to join one of the impromptu dance pits that had broken out all over the Gorge (this writer included).
Fly Moon Royalty killed it on the “Maine” stage early in the day. As Action Jackson cued up the tunes, Adra Boo swayed back and forth jamming out her vocals. From beginning to end, the crowd in front of the Maine stage grew exponentially and by the end, Fly Moon Royalty had garnered possibly the biggest crowd at that stage all weekend. The band sounded phenomenal on the massive sound system and the band was visibly pleased with how their performance went.
Here We Go Magic’s tripped-out indie rock was a great mid-afternoon addition to the Bigfoot stage’s stellar day. Much like on their albums, Here We Go Magic’s songs use a dizzying amount of time and pace changes to keep their tunes fresh. It’s this use of time and rhythm that makes their sound unique and interesting. That uniqueness certainly drew a crowd – the Bigfoot stage was packed full for their set. As the wind began to pick up, their sound swirled around and drew people in from all across the Gorge.
Howlin’ Rain played a killer blues rock set on the Yeti stage in the early afternoon.
Despite a great performance, Blind Pilot had it a bit rough for their Sasquatch! set. Blind Pilot thrives on their more intimate moments, and when combined with the mainstage’s atypically-quiet volume levels on Sunday, there wasn’t much they could do to grab the attention of anyone outside of the main floor. Israel Nebeker and company seemed unfazed, intent on delivering a solid performance (which they did), but I could almost guarantee that it would have been more effective and more impactful on a smaller stage. Blind Pilot are a good band, but their Sunday afternoon set came up short because they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but for dedicated fans, the set was a satisfying addition to a great day of music.
Spac3man and Dyme Def both killed it on the “Maine” stage in the mid-afternoon.
Santa Barbara band Gardens & Villa were met on the Yeti stage with a massive crowd. Some towards the front had come all the way from Santa Barbara to see their friends play. Others were from the Northwest and, like many of us, had fallen in love with the unique and enticing sound of their self-titled record. But all travels had been worthwhile – the band played a very strong set that showed off their catchy hooks and their musical prowess with ease. Gardens & Villa’s songs sounded even better in the live setting. Lead singer Chris Lynch alternated between playing guitar and wooden flute for much of the set (I don’t get the chance to say that very often) while busting out some fantastic vocal lines in and out of falsetto. On the right side of the stage, Adam Rasmussen manned a three keyboard setup to play all of their spacey synth lines. All in all, Gardens & Villa played fabulously, and the massive crowds left satisfied. Thus, when 5:15 rolled around, the line for their Easy Street signing came as no surprise.
As War on Drugs took the Bigfoot stage, the wind at the Gorge picked up significantly – so much so that in the back of the crowd, it was distorting their sound blasting out of the speakers. But War on Drugs embraced it. After all, they are one of those bands that can take a situation like this and make a phenomenal performance out of it. Wind blew the hair of Adam Granduciel everywhere as he walked around stage playing their huge instrumental introduction. The band was super tight and appeared to be enjoying themselves, despite the dust flying into their eyes. The crowd embraced the moment and gave War on Drugs the credit they deserved for killing it onstage. All factors taken into account, they played one of the most epic sets of the day.
Rising Seattle stars Beat Connection took the Banana Shack by storm in their mid-afternoon set. Their newly expanded live setup (now featuring Tom Eddy up front on vocals and guitar) allowed them to heavily increase their presence on stage and the crowd went wild for it. For fans of their acclaimed EP Surf Noir, listeners may have heard something slightly different than they were used to. But without a doubt, a bigger band has allowed their tropical tendencies to come alive and really embrace the crowds. This was seen more than anything else in the new material played off of upcoming album Palace Garden. For Beat Connection classic “Silver Screen”, they pulled out a three-piece horn section, which stuck around for a new song afterwards. For recent single “Think/Feel”, Chelsey Scheffe came onstage to do the vocals live. By the end of their set, the dance tent was overflowing with fans dancing along to their upbeat and altogether embracing sound. Why all the surprise appearances, you may ask? If nothing else tonight, Beat Connection proved they are here to stay, and their Sasquatch! set was a declaration of this undeniable fact.
It’s easy to tell if a band is excited or to be at a festival or just going through the motions for the paycheck, and Deer Tick was firmly in the former category. “If you can’t tell, I started drinking early today,” said singer John McCauley prior to Deer Tick’s opening song. “Let’s hurry up and get this set over with so I can get drunk and party with you guys.” The crowd’s enthusiasm for their dirty brand of alt-country was only matched by their hunger for McCauley’s amusing stage banter. From their opening chords to the crashing closer of “Let’s All Go To The Bar,” Deer Tick’s set was a rowdy, riveting 45 minutes of music, and only a few hours later McCauley was signing records for fans and fulfilling his earlier promise.
M. Ward took the main stage for a perfect late afternoon set. The sun was beginning to set and Ward’s easy vibe let everyone enjoy the beautiful sight surrounding the stage to a great soundtrack. He played lots of fan favorites from the acclaimed Hold Time and plenty of new material from A Wasteland Companion. As always, Ward contrasted his chilled-out sound with occasional shredding on guitar - in his own rite, the guy is a god amongst men. This isn’t the first time Ward has been at Sasquatch!, and with tonight’s performance, it certainly won’t be his last.
Wild Flag ended their set with Patti Smith’s “I See Angels” and there’s a good reason why. Not only did Patti Smith provide the inspiration for Wild Flag’s kickass image – the band emulates Smith’s style and presence with every note played. Mary Timony and Carrie Brownstein worked perfectly as the front women of the group, working off of each others’ energy and (obviously) dueling guitars often. On some tracks, Brownstein provided excessive riffs and high kicks, while Timony glared at the crowd and talk-sang cooler than Cherie Currie. On others, Brownstein took to the microphone with an angry snarl while Timony played harmony to her guitar lines and jammed with drummer Janet Weiss and keyboardist Rebecca Cole, who knocked out bass lines with her spare hand. Wild Flag were a sight to behold, and they held crowd’s undivided attention for the entirety of their set.
There were a lot of Seattle-based bands at Sasquatch, but none were as rapturously received as The Head and the Heart on Sunday evening. After spending the past two years touring behind their debut album, the folk sextet returned to Sasquatch! to be met with a massive crowd that filled the Gorge. Once they set foot on the stage, neither the crowd nor the band took a single moment for granted. Like the Foo Fighters at Lollapalooza 2011 or Oasis at Glastonbury 2004, The Head and the Heart’s Sunday evening set on the main stage was not only an affirmation that they’re now not just another band from Seattle, but also a glorious homecoming for everyone involved.
Earlier this year, The Walkmen toured to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their debut album, which seems doesn’t seem surprising because the Walkmen are constantly doing something. But it seems odd that the Walkmen have really been around for ten years. Surely enough though, the New York quintet have been making music for a decade now, and their Sunday evening set on the Bigfoot stage drew from their whole catalog to a crowd who ate up every moment of it. Impeccably dressed and magnetically intense, Hamilton Leithauser and company blasted through an hour of cuts from their catalog mixed in with songs off their newest album, Heaven. The new songs blended well with their old material, but it was their modern-classic “The Rat” that brought out the only crowd-surfers at the Bigfoot stage that day other than Wild Flag. Certainly a highlight of the evening, here’s to 10 more years of great music from the band.
Zola Jesus took the Yeti stage with all the darkness and mystery of her albums. The bass lines her band keyed out shook the ground and nearby buildings, while she belted out her disorienting vocal passages and her violinist sawed away. Her performance definitely captured the feel of her albums and fans took notice of it. She is yet another of the Yeti stage acts that is not to be ignored in the coming months.
On the surface, Beirut seems like an odd choice to warm up the crowd for Bon Iver, but their blend of Eastern European folk music and American indie pop turned out to be one of the biggest successes on the main stage that day. Quiet and soft-spoken (when he did speak), bandleader Zach Condon led Beirut through a series of horn-driven folk workouts, and if anything was clear about the audience’s reception of Beirut’s set, it’s that Sasquatch! attendees love horns. Every time the horn section would erupt, so would the audience, resulting in a lively and vibrant dance party throughout the Gorge.
Little Dragon owned their stagetime on Saturday night. Faced with the task of closing the Bigfoot stage against a James Murphy DJ set and the Beirut horn-driven extravaganza, the Swedish five-piece more than held their own, drawing one of the biggest crowds of the evening. To say that Yukimi Nagano is an energetic frontwoman is somewhat of an understatement. When she wasn’t providing vocals or percussion to compliment her bandmates, she was dancing just as hard (if not harder) than their audience. Blazing through one synthy jam to the next, Little Dragon’s dreamy, danceable set of synthpop was tight and punchy, and perfectly complemented the other two dance-parties that preceded Bon Iver on Sunday night. No longer just known for her guest spots with Gorillaz and SBTRKT, Nagano and company are now poised to break onto the next level.
As James Murphy finished setting up his turntable and equipment, he turned to the crowd. “Can I start playing records now?” he asked, using his headphones as a mic in classic DJ style. After the crowd’s tumultuous applause died down, he chuckled. “Actually, that was intended to be a technical question. Soundman, am I good to go?” The soundman gave him the go ahead and Murphy just smiled. Behind him, a table was set up solely dedicated to the collection of records that he had brought with him. In his two hour set, nearly everything spun was off wax. While this may seem archaic to some, Murphy performed in classic style with all the edge and punch of any other dance act that day. His mixture of disco, funk, and vintage New York house was a perfect blend that only he could pull off. “He looks so serious!” yelled a girl next to me, “Why does he look so sad?” Murphy definitely wasn’t as solemn as he seemed – rather, he was busy pulling off massive transitions between tracks that only a true master of the craft could even begin to attempt. The only times he broke this focus were those when he began to dance and sway and sing along to the records he loved the most. Murphy’s set was flawless and from the pit, it was a blast to dance along with a musical maestro to all of his favorite tunes.
Everything about Bon Iver’s Sunday night headlining set worked seamlessly - everything just clicked. The light show was dazzling, the rhythm section was pounding, the horns were blaring, and every time Justin Vernon sang with his angelic voice, it solidified that the guy who used to be best known for living in a cabin in Wisconsin is now a bona fide, A-list performer. Although they only have two albums and an EP to draw from, Bon Iver’s set played like a greatest hits set that most bands don’t achieve in their entire career. Opening with the crashing “Perth,” Vernon and company never missed a beat. Reportedly taking the next five years off from the Bon Iver moniker, Justin Vernon has not only set the bar for every other indie rock titan for the next half decade, but for himself as well.
One more day of Sasquatch! to come including coverage of Beck, Feist, and Silversun Pickups!