Sasquatch! Music Festival 2016, Day 4: Sufjan Stevens

photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

After arriving on the main stage at Sasquatch! Music Festival in a Value Village-via-80s workout tapes-via acid getup and leading his band through a dramatically reworked “Seven Swans”, Sufjan Stevens laid down the mission statement for his subheadlining set: “God is in the house.” He paused, then added, with only slightly more humor, “Sufjan Stevens is in the house.” What followed that almost Kanye-level ambition-setting statement was one of the most unique, unpredictable, and joyous sets that this year’s festival circuit will see. Of a completely different tone and style than the austere performances in support of Carrie & Lowell, the show played like a Sufjan Stevens’ Greatest Hits set on paper, albeit one where every song was transformed to some degree musically and performatively. Joined in center stage by a pair of backing singers/dancers, Stevens made good on his promise to celebrate rather than mourn onstage, flipping the Carrie tracks to be more vivid – an electro slow-jam version of “All of Me Wants All Of You” makes no sense whatsoever in theory but it was fantastic in practice – and drawing heavily from 2010’s The Age of Adz (aka “The One Where Sufjan Freaks Out”) in both setlist composition and aesthetic. And if you weren’t willing to go deep into the bizarro world Bible study party with Stevens, you’d be forgiven – he played “Impossible Soul”, the 25-minute multi-movement song that will always be the most challenging thing he’ll ever do in its entirety. That being said, it was only a year ago that Stevens was in sweatpants, regularly (though understandably) crying through his performances. On Monday, he was standing on a tinsel-covered ladder, wearing a giant silver mushroom hat with a disco ball on his chest while singing through a vocoder, wearing a goofy grin the whole time. Somehow, that latter scene might have been the most beautiful moment of the whole weekend.

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