June 02, 2012

Sasquatch 2012: The Good

I don't run. I've never enjoyed it, and I probably never will. But when an obscenely long traffic jam almost caused me to miss the beginning of the Sasquatch Music Festival this past weekend, it seemed like the only option. Leaving the rest of my car-mates, I trekked the endless car line by foot to ensure that I didn't miss a second of the greatest festival in the Northwest. After about 45 minutes of speedwalking, I entered the grounds with sore feet, an overfilled backpack, and a whole lot of excitement. Despite the exhausting and undesirable beginning to the weekend, it didn't take long for the music and overall vibes to win me over.

This year I saw shows that were awe-inspiring (Bon Iver), rock-your-socks-off heavy (Jack White), and rife with Canadians (Hey Rosetta! and Said The Whale). I witnessed a new British invasion of songwriters (Ben Howard and Dry The River), the latest phenomenon from Iceland (Of Monsters and Men), and the next great actor turned musician (John Reilly). With a backdrop that was constantly lauded by artists as the most beautiful venue they had ever seen, Sasquatch is truly a unique festival experience. Combine The Gorge with the inherent friendliness of Northwesterners, the beautiful weather, and a superb lineup, and out comes one of the finest music festivals in the country.

See all of our photos here.



Walking into the festival to the infectious beat of "Pass You By" instantly put a smile on my face. The very first artist to perform on the new, and very intimate "Maine" Stage, Scribes treated those in attendance to a lively set of some of the hottest rhymes coming out of the Northwest. Although many would-be-attendees were painfully stuck in traffic, Scribes drew all the folks who wanted to squeeze every last minute out of the weekend, as well as those who were ready to party early.

Of Monsters and Men

Iceland's latest import was the clear fan favorite on Friday, drawing an enormous, and very lively crowd to the mainstage fairly early on the first day. While thousands of attendees were still in line to enter the grounds, those lucky enough to make it in time were busy jumping around to the group's fun Arcade-Fire-meets-Edward-Sharpe sound. Lucky for die hard fans, they also played a mini set in the acoustic tent, proving that they can rock stages large and small.

Said The Whale

Definitely the sweetest Canadians we met all weekend, Said The Whale put on a rousing show, drawing a large crowd of fellow Vancouverites. Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft's trading vocals sound even better together, and the crazy, spastic drums of Nathan Shaw keep the show exciting. They sing about nature an awful lot, and there isn't really a better place to talk about beautiful nature than The Gorge.

Alabama Shakes

Saying that the Bigfoot Stage was packed for this show would be an understatement. Everyone who has seen a music blog in the last year was at this show to witness Brittany Howard tear the place down. The group was as tight as could be, letting Howard own the spotlight with her phenomenal voice. It is one of those voices that sounds like it could knock you over with one yell, yet she doesn't abuse it. She doesn't let loose all the time, making it all the more amazing when she does.

Dry The River

One of the most pleasant surprises of the weekend, Britain's Dry The River captured the hearts of all at the Yeti Stage with their unique blend of folk and hard rock. After seeing a bit of their opening set for Bowerbirds a few months ago, I came away with mixed feelings about their loud folk sound. But thankfully, I gave them another chance. Seeing their full set, and the sheer variety of their talents, made the show one of the best of the day.

Jack White

Mr. White had a stage presence unmatched the entire weekend. He commanded the crowd with his madman-like persona and broad setlist. Playing songs from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and his solo album, White kept the night exciting, and loud. One of the most epic moments of the festival came after he closed the set with "Seven Nation Army." While the band stopped playing, the crowd of 20,000+ could not stop chanting the melody.

Hey Marseilles

The seven gents in Hey Marseilles had a tough opening noon slot on the mainstage, but they made the best of it. Their mellow folkestral tunes were a perfect way to start the day. Lead singer Matt Bishop's voice translated beautifully live, and they ran through tracks from their debut album, To Travels & Trunks, with grace. It was nice to see such a friendly bunch of musicians, as well as such a nice blend of folk and classical instruments.

Hey Rosetta!

I arrived at their performance with high expectations, after I heard fans raving about their live show all day. It only took one song for me to realize they were right. Hordes of Canadians came out to catch their hometown heros, and to watch frontman Tim Baker's howl echo across the Gorge. Fueled by rabid fans, the group rocked harder than expected, especially on material from their latest album, the magnificent Seeds. Watch out America!

The Head and the Heart

I have seen The Head and the Heart four times now, and this performance, their second in a row at Sasquatch, was the best. After performing at the Gorge for the first time last year, the group was back in their home state for a victory lap. Drawing an expected enormous crowd, and earning a great slot opening for Beirut, the crew played most of their beautiful debut album, as well as two great new tracks (you can hear them on their recent Fuel/Friends Chapel Session).


Beirut is widely considered one of the best live bands around these days, and they lived up to their reputation. Zach Condon, and a very mismatched looking backing band powered through hit after hit, spanning their entire career. With the great Perrin Cloutier on the accordion, they sounded sophisticated, professional, and so so good.

Bon Iver

At least a dozen times during Bon Iver's headlining set, the crowd was so deafening that I truly could not hear myself. Unlike most fans who chose to express their excitement by screaming their lungs out, I was too much in awe to make any noise at all. Instead, I watched in silence, trying to squeeze every last instant out of the best show of the weekend. Justin Vernon, with a very large backing band consisting of two drummers, two guitarists, two horn players, a bassist, and some multi-instrumentalists, played a powerful set including his entire new album, as well as most of his debut. For songs off For Emma, he opted for a fuller sound than on the record and it worked better than I expected. For the stunning "Blood Bank," the track was transformed into a huge production, that had an absolutely gorgeous, enormous sound. Vernon's voice, even more pure in a live setting, caused almost everyone in attendance to tear up at some point, whether it was during "Skinny Love" or "Re: Stacks." This show could not have been better. Vernon himself put it best when after opening with "Perth" he chuckled, "This is pretty fucking cool." We agree.

Ben Howard

I, along with a large portion of the Sasquatch crowd, was very excited to see what British songsmith Ben Howard would be like on stage. While technical difficulties cut his set time down to a paltry 25 minutes, he made the best of it, leading the crowd through sing-alongs, and inspiring every single fan to wait around. His acoustic tunes will no doubt be making waves in America soon.

John Reilly and Friends

It is safe to say that the large majority of the crowd that showed up to see John Reilly, wanted to see Dewey Cox, the country musician character he played in the movie Walk Hard. But Reilly, who has quite a good voice, as well as stage presence, took the music seriously. Luckily for fans of his movies, he sported his Dewey Cox guitar, and had plenty of jokes about Sasquatch at the ready, giving the crowd lots of laughs. Reilly's self-proclaimed reason for being there was to publicize the artists he was performing with, his 'friends'. And it worked! His fellow performers, Tom Brosseau and Becky Stark provided excellent backup vocals and made the show awfully cute.

Tenacious D

This performance, while I thought I knew what I was in for, was a huge surprise. Because the funniest part of this comedy act is the lyrics, which are often hard to discern live, I wasn't expecting much. But the sheer stage presence of Jack Black and Kyle Gass led to one of the most exciting performances all weekend. With a giant penis shaped "Fenix" on stage with them, they romped around stage, having a shred battle with a Sasquatch, and being attacked by a space squid. You can't not be entertained by that.

See all of our photos here
Photos by Rachel Fidler and Jonah Ollman


Anonymous said...

great stuff
i agree

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