by Tara Kelly Kearns
The third morning of Sasquatch looked like it might be the day of rain. But after only a few sprinkles in the morning, the sun and clouds stayed their dry course and danced the day away.
The few people that woke up and got it together in time were able to make it in time for Seattle’s own Deep Sea Diver. Singer and lead guitarist Jessica Dobson (who has also played with the Shins) recognized the crowd’s “morning” sacrifice when she said, “Sasquatch! You made it! We’re playing so early it’s practically morning.” While the crowd was small to start, it swelled as people funneled onto the festival grounds. DSD sounded tight – their beats sharp and solid, even when changing tempos and time signatures. Their indie-rock sound sometimes steals from ‘80s synth-pop influence and had the crowd moving, sometimes even clapping along. Rounding out DSD was drummer, and husband to Dobson, Pete Mansen, a bassist, another guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist / back-up singer Kendra Cox, drummer from Seattle’s Lemolo. Cox and Dobson’s vocals blended well together, and Dobson is honing her vocal craft, often using her voice as an instrument – changing the tone and quality for emphasis. Near the end of the set, Dobson paid homage to Mariah Carey by covering “Fantasy,” which she said was “one of her childhood favorites.” DSD introduced a new song during their set, which was my favorite of the set, and hopefully the direction they are continuing to go.
If you enjoy celebrity sightings, even local ones, then Kingdom Crumbs’ set at the Cthulhu stage was the place to be. I spotted some of Seattle hip-hop’s finest, including members from THEEsatisfaction and Fly Moon Royalty, which says that KC is worth keeping an eye on. Made up of four young men of various ethnic backgrounds, they share the duties of MC, laptop controller, and synth. Their beats were minimal, some of which threw me back to the Doggystyle days of Snoop. While differing mic levels made it sometimes difficult to hear the words, their energy and choreography made it entertaining to watch. They loved getting the audience going and having them wave their arms in the air and clap along –and the young audience, which was already dancing, didn’t need much coaxing.
In the evening, I headed down to the Mainstage to watch the small army that is Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I certainly expected to be entertained, but I didn’t know that I would have as much fun as I did. While a 13-person band might seem a little excessive, every part was well-used, from two drummers and three guitarists, to an accordion player and upright bassist. Their lead singer bounded around the stage, and even into the audience, taking on a Jesus-like persona, touching people and holding their hands. Opposite the male lead singer is a female vocalist who, immediately upon singing, was greeted with cheers from the happy crowd. Their music felt like going to church, not the kind where you pray to God (even though their lyrics touch on religious and biblical themes), but where singing and playing songs is worship. The happy, gospel and revival-like songs create happy listeners, this being one of the best crowds at Sasquatch. Back on stage, special guest Marcus Mumford sang back-up vocals on one song and the brass section from Mumford & Sons accompanied on the final number. During that last song, the two lead vocalists also invited audience members to tell stories on the mic, which left some wanting and others cheering. Overall, the entire set was an example of the mood of the place, the music and the band: sharing stories, caring for one another, and just plain having a good time.
As the sun was going down looking over the Yeti stage, southern duo Shovels & Rope played country Americana for the growing crowd. Armed with drums and guitar and led by powerful and raspy female vocals, they sang songs of taking care of babies and country livin’. The talented duo even swapped instruments during the set, always keeping the strong stomping rhythm alive with a pounding kick-drum, but balanced by beautiful harmonies. Truly southern, they verbalized their gratitude, thanking “y’all” for being there.
Back at the Mainstage, veteran performer Elvis Costello played old hits and new, sweating profusely as he tore up the guitar. Accompanied by keys, bass, and drums, the older and more experienced band was locked in perfection with one another not missing a beat and showing the youngsters what years of experience can accomplish. Their swinging rock, with influences in reggae and other funky beats stood on its own, but guest and lead singer of Wild Belle added texture with back-up vocals while “watching the detective.”
The dark of night was perfect for the bright lights and neon colors that accompanied the set and dancers during Grimes’ set at the Bigfoot stage. A solo performer, she commanded the stage, a balancing act between robot-like dancing and moving her experimental electronic music forward layer upon layer. Unfortunately from where I was standing, it was difficult to hear her breathy and ethereal vocals, but with each song the volume increased as the oversized crowd somewhat lessened. Grimes’ music moved between dub and pop electronic, but always kept a thundering beat that had those who could move dancing. She produces all of her music on stage without the use of a laptop, which is something not seen in most electronic formats.
Mumford and Sons at the Mainstage was part of the reason Grimes lost some of her audience during her set. By the time I arrived, everyone was standing or dancing and singing along with every word of England’s most epic blue grass / Americana quartet. Backed by strings, brass, and drums, their sound was at its fullest, making even the slothiest of people want to go out and make change in the world. Each song pulsed forward with a heavy bass kick-drum, with banjo licking and four-part harmonies orchestrated perfectly. Apparently the band had been at the Gorge for three days enjoying the sights, informing the audience that if there were ever a place called heaven, this would be it.
At the Bigfoot stage, people picked up their 3-D glasses and slowly gathered for Primus, unsure of what was to come. The screen behind the stage warned us that 3-D could present potential balance and vision problems. No one seemed to worry though, as every person was a die-hard Primus fan and would be there no matter what. Frontman and bassist Les Claypool is a legend, talented on bass and wildly eccentric. His age has given him experience, but not changed his love of music nor propensity for the odd things of life. Though the guitar, bass, and drums dominated most of the set, his vocals played an important role by conveying a “damn the man” message and periodically taking on a spooky and almost villain-like quality. The 3-D effects added a psychedelic element that impressed the crowd and, as Claypool pointed out, could be more or less intense depending on one’s state of mind. What was most impressive, however was the band itself. The music builds on anticipation and each instrument took its turn showing off – speedy guitar riffs, complicated bass slaps, and syncopated drum fills. Each performer has years of experience that has lent itself to perfecting their craft. Primus played long and loud, saturating each song with rock jams, but leaving space for the enamored audience to absorb their amazing talent.