by Tara Kelly Kearns
I felt the slow bass beats pounding through my body as I walked over to the Bigfoot stage for experimental hip hop group Death Grips. Out in front, thrashing his body around, taking giant step after giant step out onto the stage extension, Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett’s presence was extreme. He was not afraid to put the mic down his pants, daring the audience to be shocked, and occasionally holding the mic as if it were his own manhood. Backed by a DJ holding down the beats and mixes, the group’s slo-mo-aggro energy had the crowd throwing their hands in the air and banging their bodies into one another. While I couldn’t understand much of the lyrics, except a f*ck here and a f*ck there, I felt the angst, power, and hypnotic pull of the music that made me want to join the audience in stomping and jumping.
Having seen Atlanta-based Cody ChestnuTT already once this year, I thought it wasn’t imperative that I see his set. However, as I walked by the Bigfoot stage and the music pulled me in, I realized that I was dead wrong and that I wanted his easy, soulful voice and positive vibes to fill me up. While Mr. ChestnuTT is in his mid-40s (which seems old within the context), it has brought focus and meaning to his work, which is a mixture of blues, soul, hip-hop and rock. His band sounded tighter than ever, with funky bass lines and tight rim shots on the drum kit. Dressed in a t-shirt, red cardigan and signature light blue army helmet, Mr. ChestnuTT has put his focus into the music and his performance, singing with dedicated passion. The audience appreciated his happy and benevolent energy and grew in size and volume as a result.
When I arrived at the Bigfoot stage for Twin Shadow’s set, I observed that guitarist and singer George Lewis, Jr. was dressed in what people of the ‘80s would have imagined those in the future would wear. He was shirtless in a long jean jacket, donning bright bleach blond hair and swinging a ruby red guitar around the stage. I really enjoyed his rough rock & soul voice, which was slightly deeper and more mature than his age and size would have implied. The music is poppy and feel good, settling sometimes in the ‘80s synth pop genre, and other times tapping into the ‘90s roots with harder, more punk-like guitar riffs. Backed by a drummer, bassist, and multi-keyboard player, Lewis was having a great time, and so was the crowd. During the middle of the set, he expressed his genuine excitement and appreciation for being at Sasquatch, stating that they had been there two years earlier and the audience had grown to twice the original size.
British indie and experimental rock band Alt-J has grown exponentially in popularity since they were booked for Sasquatch and that was apparent when fans of the group were vying for space in the densely packed audience at the Bigfoot stage. Their sound is minimalist and each song section is distinctly different, yet somehow still cohesive with the theme of the song. The band creates its unique sound using vocals, bass drums and two guitars, but leaving plenty of space in between notes and ideas within the song so the listener can savour the experience. My favorite element of Alt-J’s performance was the a capella Simon & Garfunkel-like harmonies that were a completely refreshing contrast to most of the music over the weekend. Although there demeanor was mostly serious and focused, Alt-J did take the time to give thanks to everyone for being there. And though the rain did let up, I’m pretty sure their die-hard fans would have stood in the snow to hear their favorite band’s set.