Thousands upon thousands of people, Coors Light in hand, descended on the world-famous Gorge Amphitheater in The Middle of Nowhere (George), Washington for the behemoth Sasquatch! Music Festival taking place over Memorial Day Weekend, Friday to Monday, May 24th through the 27th. Many people have argued that this year’s lineup, featuring the likes of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mumford & Sons, Sigur Rós, and The Postal Service to name a very few, is the best it has ever been. Not to mention, the scenery at this festival may just be better than any other festival our fine country has to offer. Unique to the Pacific Northwest, festival goers hailing from the region come prepared for both rain and shine as both literally can occur within minutes of each other. Cans of beer cost $11, margaritas cost $14, and many, MANY people are smoking weed. Yep, it’s a festival all right. Good thing there are tons of great bands to keep us entertained.
Japandroids @ Honda Bigfoot Stage, 6:05 PM to 7:05 PM
For a two-person band, Vancouver, BC’s Japandroids have a big sound. They work really hard on stage, perhaps because they have to make up for the fact that there aren’t any other members. Save for an appearance at this year’s Coachella and South-by-Southwest (QRO photos), their appearance at Sasquatch! marked the beginning of their current tour, and what a way to kick it off. Even technical difficulties with sound didn’t keep them from having fun and getting a lot of energy out of the large crowd who trekked over to the Honda Bigfoot Stage to catch their set. Their most recent album was last year’s Celebration Rock (QRO review) off of which they played the high-energy “The Nights of Wine and Roses” and the slow-jam, as singer Brian King put it, “Continuous Thunder”.
Arctic Monkeys @ Sasquatch! Stage, 8:30 PM to 9:45 PM
Being known as an indie band, Arctic Monkeys sure are hard-hitting. They can almost be classified as a hard rock band. They have definitely set themselves apart from the slough of other indie bands out there. Perhaps that’s why they were invited to play Metallica’s Orion Music + More Festival in 2012. Either way, their day one set on the main stage at Sasquatch! did not disappoint.
Looking a bit more like a gang of greasers than a rock band, they took the stage in vintage garb and lead singer Alex Turner had a slicked-back hairstyle that made him look like he had been cast in Grease On Broadway. He even pulled out the token black comb from a back pocket and slicked it back a couple of times. Perhaps the fact that they hail from England actually makes them cool rather than make one think they are posers.
Even though the looming Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (see below) sign hanging above them lit up prematurely during their set, it didn’t stop them from romping through hits like “Do I Wanna Know?”, “Brick By Brick”, “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor”, “Suck It and See”, and “505” to name a few. It was all no-nonsense rock and the crowd loved it.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis @ Sasquatch! Stage, 10:30 PM to 12:00 AM
The Pacific Northwest’s own Macklemore & Ryan Lewis brought the house down as the headliners of the first day of Sasquatch!. “When this summer is over and I’m sitting down with my parents and they ask me which festival was my favorite, I wanna be able to say Sasquatch!” he bellowed into the microphone about halfway through his set, which, for the most part, consisted of songs from his and Ryan Lewis’ most recent hit album, The Heist.
Fans were treated to more of a tour performance rather than a festival performance in that the stage was completely overtaken by their setup. Many times at festivals, there is nothing special on the stage except the performers themselves to set them apart from the rabble of ones that came before them. But for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, it was easy to see that the stage was their domain. There were trees and cacti spread throughout and Ryan Lewis was housed on a tall platform in front of a massive video screen. Further, there was a string ensemble as well as an entire horn section that doubled as dancers.
Even featured artists from The Heist were present to sing their parts. Most notably, Wanz was in tow to vocalize his iconic part on the hit song “Thrift Shop”. Other Seattle-based artists Ray Dalton sang on a couple of songs, namely, the single “Can’t Hold Us” and the beautifully voiced Mary Lambert on “Same Love”.
Attendees really felt like they were a part of something special. “I have been working my entire life to get here and play The Gorge!” he hollered after the set’s first song “Ten Thousand Hours”, for which he surprisingly emerged from below the stage on a tall platform. Those words rang more true than they may have elsewhere because of Macklemore’s home being the Pacific Northwest and because he told a story about how he grew up coming to shows at the world-famous venue.
Suuns @ Yeti Stage, 2:00 PM to 2:45 PM
Montreal’s Suuns are a band worth keeping an eye on. They are a great blend of electronica and rock. Like many acts these days, they don’t actually have a bassist, but rather a guy who plays a menagerie of synths and samplers, which can often widen the range of sweet things you can hear when they perform.
They helped kick off day two of the mighty Sasquatch! Festival by playing the hardcore festival goer-packed Yeti Stage. Many acts have proved themselves on this stage and have been asked back to play the main stage in following years. Many of the songs that made up their set were from their recent Images Du Futur, such as the ever catchy yet haunting “2020”.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Sasquatch! Stage, 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are scary. Don’t worry; they are scary in a good way. Co-singer and bassist Robert Levon Been actually snuck out into the crowd undetected towards the front of the stage to seemingly stand there and survey the situation before the trio took the main stage midday Saturday, all dressed in black leather (of course…). Hayes then proceeded to wear a black hood for the entirety of the performance. Rebels, indeed. To be honest, it didn’t look like they really even wanted to be there, but sometimes the greatest performances are born from such situations. They were there to get down and bring their particular brand of straightforward dirty rock to a surprisingly packed crowd.
Songs played were all fan favorites such as “Berlin” and “666 Conductor”. Of special note was the group’s newest member. Even though she’s been a part of the band for about five years now, Leah Shapiro was a commanding presence behind the kit as she laid the heavy-hitting foundation for the group’s performance. No offense guys, but let’s face it: female drummers are just awesome.
Nick Offerman @ El Chupacabra Stage, 6:10 PM to 6:55 PM
This performance could quite possibly be the highlight of the entire Sasquatch! Festival. I mean, who doesn’t love Ron Swanson? That persona has infused itself into Nick Offerman’s being so much that a fan near your correspondent who was wanting an autograph actually yelled out, “Ron!… I mean Nick! Can I have your autograph?” Don’t think Nick/Ron heard, otherwise this joker may have gotten the famous Offerman stare down.
As far as his performance goes, it had a bit of everything. He walked on stage shirtless to wild cheers from the crowd and said, “You were promised moderate nudity, and that has been fulfilled.” To make things better, he then clothed himself in an American Flag button-up shirt that only he could pull off wearing while actually looking semi-cool.
The stand-up performance took place in the Chupacabra Stage, comprised of “Nick Offerman’s Ten Tips For Prosperity.” Some of which were, “Engage in romantic love,” “Say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You,’” “Have a hobby or a discipline,” and, you guessed it, “Eat red meat.” At face value, these don’t necessarily sound that comedic, but he did a great job of interweaving his dry sense of humor into them and making some of them into songs he sang while playing acoustic guitar.
The end of the performance, however, was the true bit to write home about. Offerman’s wife Megan Mullally (or as she is known on Parks and Recreation, Tammy 2 – formerly of Will & Grace) joined him onstage with her partner and backing band, collectively known as Nancy and Beth, who also performed earlier in the day on the Yeti Stage. To bid the crowd farewell, the Offerman-fronted collective performed none other than the song “5000 Candles In the Wind” by the incomparable Mouse Rat, dedicated to Pawnee’s own Li’l Sebastian.
The xx @ Sasquatch! Stage, 9:00 PM – 10:15 PM
To say the least, a concert experience by The xx is something to behold. It has this mysterious way of being high energy and intense, yet relaxing and almost coma-inducing at the same time.
The stage setup for the England trio’s main stage performance on Day Two of the Sasquatch! Festival was pretty minimal. But the lights show was incredible. Coupled with the dropping temperature as the Saturday sun was setting, it put off a truly icy vibe.
Co-vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim voiced their genuine gratitude at being asked to play the main stage at this year’s festival as a few years ago they were on one of the smaller stages (QRO photos). All too often when concertgoers are attending a show at The Gorge they (understandably so) keep their attention entirely forward on the stage. But if you take a second to turn around and actually take in the scope of this venue, it really is something to behold (QRO photos from Sasquatch! 2012). So from that point of view, it’s easy to see why The xx were so humbled to be playing a stage of such size and scope.
Musically, their songs were incredibly well executed as most of them are highly intricate and involve lots of timing. The set drew from both of their critically acclaimed albums, xx (QRO review) and the recently released Coexist (QRO review).
The highlight of any performance from these guys has got to be the way that Croft and Sim’s voices blend and flow together. For as subdued as she seems on stage, Croft is quite the emotionally powerful vocalist. Their set was a festival highlight, to be sure.
Sigur Rós @ Sasquatch! Stage, 11:00 PM – 12:30 AM
It might sound cheesy to say it, but a performance by Sigur Rós isn’t so much a performance as it is a celebration. And that is exactly what their headlining set at Day Two of Sasquatch! felt like. Yes, as festivalgoers always seem to be able to do, they even found a way to dance happily to the often hard-to-find beats of the Icelandic band’s unique, yet easily identifiable music.
They closed out the night playing a hit-packed (if you can refer to their songs as ‘hits’) set consisting of popular songs “Hoppípolla”, “Svefn-g-englar”, and “Glósóli”. Good luck trying to pronounce any of those. Y ou’d know them if you heard them, let’s put it that way.
There were almost too many people on stage to count, but in addition to Sigur Rós’ three-core members there were also two auxiliary instrumentalists as well as full string and horn sections. It might sound excessive, but their music commands that multitude of people in order to be pulled off correctly. For as intricate as these songs sound on the albums they come from, the performance was spectacularly well executed. If only there would have some way to shed light on the enormous backdrop of the vast Columbia River Gorge, it would have been a great addition to the ethereal experience that was this performance. Please, be sure to check Sigur Rós out if you haven’t before and they come to a city near you. You will not be disappointed.
Deep Sea Diver @ Honda Bigfoot Stage, 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM
Having had stints in both Beck’s touring band and most recently The Shins, Jessica Dobson is becoming quite the giant in the indie music community. Despite her presence in these far-reaching acts, it’s easy to tell that she is most in her element in her own project, Deep Sea Diver.
This five-piece band helped kick off Day Three of the Sasquatch! Festival, and despite some drum difficulties including drummer Peter Mansen’s (Dobson’s husband) high tom falling off mid-song, they played an entertaining set on the Honda Bigfoot stage, which actually featured a cover of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”. The rest of the set list consisted of songs taken from their 2009 EP New Caves as well as their recently-released full-length album, History Speaks, which features one particularly cool song in “Nwo” with it’s echoing pianos and syncopated drum patterns.
Deep Sea Diver’s music is, at times, typical indie with lots of reverb on the vocals etc., but it’s quite surprising how proficient of a guitarist Jessica Dobson actually is. When you see her play it’s no wonder that she was asked to play with Beck and The Shins.
Youngblood Hawke @ Sasquatch! Stage, 2:10 PM to 2:55 PM
It’s understandable why L.A.’s Youngblood Hawke, despite being a relatively new band, would be asked to play the main stage at a festival like Sasquatch!. They are a very high-energy and happy band to watch. Lead singer Sam Martin bounds all over the stage and just has this energetic presence about him. Their set featured songs drawn from their debut album Wake Up with songs like “Rootless”, “Forever”, and the popular single “We Come Running”. Musically, they run the risk of falling flat at times, but in a concert setting, the energy of their performance more than makes up for that.
The Tallest Man On Earth @ Sasquatch! Stage, 4:20 PM to 5:20 PM
Kristian Matsson, or as he’s more well known, The Tallest Man On Earth, is an interesting guy. First off, he’s a heck of a songwriter. Comparisons between him and Bob Dylan have been abundant throughout his career. Secondly, he has an odd intensity about him, which really comes forth in a concert setting. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a super nice guy and continually thanked the large crowd for listening, but at one point he had to clarify, “I’m not drunk or high or anything, I’m not some weirdo, I just want to make sure you like this song… Actually, I am pretty weird…”
All of that aside, his songs are beautiful. It can be really easy for acoustic singer-songwriters’ songs to all blend together and get old after a little while, but that doesn’t happen with The Tallest Man On Earth. His guitar playing and lyrical composition are incredible so it becomes really easy to see why so many comparisons have been drawn between him and Bob Dylan.
His set drew on songs from all three of his studio albums, 2008’s Shallow Grave, 2010’s The Wild Hunt, and last year’s There’s No Leaving Now, and included the amazingly beautiful track “Wind and Walls”.
Dropkick Murphys @ Sasquatch! Stage, 5:40 PM to 6:40 PM
The minute Boston’s Dropkick Murphys took the main stage at Sasquatch! there had to be many people in the packed crowd thinking, “What are these guys doing at this festival?” Their extremely hard-hitting Irish-tinged music definitely felt out of place amongst a sea of indie bands, but it was awesome. Speaking personally, I was glad they were there to do what they do and keep all these indie bands balanced. I’m just glad I wasn’t in the pit.
Their set featured songs like “Shipping Off To Boston” from their 2005 album The Warrior’s Code, “The Boys Are Back” from this year’s Signed and Sealed In Blood (QRO review), as well as “Rose Tattoo” from Signed and the Rose Tattoo: For Boston Charity EP, which featured Bruce Springsteen as a guest and helped benefit victims of the Boston Marathon bombing last month. Their set ended with quite a treat in that they performed a ripping cover of AC/DC’s “T.N.T.”. It seemed quite fitting, because when their set was over it was as though T.N.T. had gone off in a sea of indie fans. Awesome, indeed.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ Sasquatch! Stage, 7:10 PM to 8:10 PM
This band is something to behold. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are really more of a collective of musicians than an actual band. There were about twelve or thirteen members scattered about the main stage during Sunday’s Sasquatch! festivities. However, having so many people to look at certainly doesn’t deter one from enjoying the great music that this group makes.
Lead singer Alex Ebert (you thought his name was actually Edward Sharpe, didn’t you?…) was all over the place, dancing around and engaging with the crowd like a good frontman should. At times, he was so lost in the fray of their happy music making that he didn’t even know what songs were next in their set and had to ask the rest of the band.
Fans were treated to the likes of the popular “Home” from 2009’s Up From Below as well as “I Don’t Wanna Pray” from last year’s Here. At one point Marcus Mumford (of Mumford & Sons – see below) was invited out to join the group for a song, which was a special treat. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros joined Mumford & Songs back in 2011 for their Railroad Revival Tour (which was chronicled in the recent Grammy-winning documentary, Big Easy Express – QRO screening review). In addition, they have yet another album coming out in July of this year. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.
Mumford & Sons @ Sasquatch! Stage, 11:00 PM to 12:30 AM
If you haven’t seen Mumford & Sons live then your respect level for them is about to get bumped up a few notches. Sure, they are all over the radio, even to the point that they’re easy to get sick of, but their live show is something else entirely. It has this raw emotion to it, not to mention the four members themselves (even though there is a vast number of backup musicians) are great performers and are really fun to watch.
Their headlining set on Sunday night kicked off with the great “Lover’s Eyes” from their incredible sophomore album Babel (QRO review), which was released last year. Among the other songs played were the ever-popular “Little Lion Man” from their 2009 debut album Sigh No More, “I Will Wait”, and the great “Lover of the Light” for which Marcus Mumford actually sat behind the drum kit and sang the whole song while playing the killer and energizing drum part for the song. Who knew he could sing so well AND play drums? Oh, the talent.
In short, if you have heard either or both of Mumford & Sons’ albums and need some re-energizing in terms of your love for them and they aren’t coming to your town anytime soon, then check out their live album The Road To Red Rocks, which was released last November.
Ryan Bingham @ Sasquatch! Stage, 2:45 PM to 3:45 PM
For a guy from Los Angeles, Ryan Bingham sure has a country-western vibe both in look and sound that you wouldn’t expect from someone hailing from the City of Angels, but good for him for being original. When he and his backing band took the main stage to help close out Sasquatch! on Monday, it was easy to see that they meant business. And despite a turn in weather, it didn’t dampen his or the gathered crowd’s spirits.
Bingham has gained a good measure of notoriety in the last few years for his involvement in the film Crazy Heart, namely, penning the song “The Weary Kind” for which he won an Academy Award. Even though that helped bolster his career, it doesn’t take a genius to see that he may be trying to distance himself from that and prove that his talent is far more reaching. “The Weary Kind” was not one of the songs played; instead many cuts from his latest studio album Tomorrowland were included in the set.
There was a lot of beer and whiskey sippin’ and some good old fashioned gettin’ down to be had. But all jokes aside, Bingham is a talented songwriter and guitarist and his passion for what he does completely shows up in his live performance.
Imagine Dragons @ Sasquatch! Stage, 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Imagine Dragons pack more energy into their performances than a lot of bands that are out there right now. They work hard and have an undeniably positive vibe. Lead singer Dan Reynolds made sure that the crowd knew that they are just a bunch of “regular guys” who love to make music and who feel lucky to be in the position that they are in. It all sounds a bit on the cliché side, but there’s was a certain amount of genuineness not seen in a lot of other acts that state such things.
There was lots of auxiliary percussion on the stage. That seems to be more and more the thing to do these days. There were many drum breaks and drum line solos between and during songs, which wasn’t the most original thing in the world, but still kept things interesting nonetheless.
Due to that Azealia Banks canceled her Sasquatch! appearance, Imagine Dragons were bumped to a later time slot and actually given the standard hour and a half that the festival headliners got. It was quite the opportunity for them, indeed. It was easy to see that they weren’t taking it for granted. They obviously played their huge radio smashes “Radioactive” and “It’s Time”, but the gathered crowd basically got to hear the entirety of their debut album Night Visions due to the extra amount of time.
CAKE @ Sasquatch! Stage, 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
CAKE’s Sasquatch! set was a treat – there are no two ways about it. Fans got to hear to some of the greats like “Short Skirt, Long Jacket”. “Love You Madly”, and, of course, their set-closer “The Distance”. Lead singer John McCrea confessed that they don’t use a set list so it was a bit of a refreshing free-for-all vibe, where he even took a request from the crowd at one point and played the deep cut “Stickshifts and Safetybelts” from their debut album Fashion Nugget.
There were a couple of moments where McCrea spent a little too much time playing ‘this half of the crowd vs. that half of the crowd’ singing games, when they could have just packed a couple more songs into their set, but his dry sense of humor made up for that. Overall this was one of the treat sets of the festival.
The Postal Service @ Sasquatch! Stage, 10:00 PM to 11:30 PM
There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the reunion of The Postal Service. Between the last Death Cab For Cutie album Codes and Keys (QRO review), his solo album Former Lives (QRO review) and subsequent tour (QRO photos), and now this reunion and 10th anniversary reissue of The Postal Service’s classic album Give Up (QRO tenth anniversary reissue review), Ben Gibbard has been one busy guy the last few years. Perhaps he’s trying to keep busy in order to keep his mind off of losing Zooey Deschanel (a.k.a. The New Girl and ‘She’ of She & Him – QRO live review). I still say he’s the one better off in that situation, but that’s a discussion for another time entirely…
By Monday night, the crowd had noticeably thinned out a bit from what it had been earlier in the weekend, but many stuck around to watch the iconic group close out the 2013 incarnation of Sasquatch!. After all, who knows when the next time we’ll see these guys will be. Well, after their massive reunion tour, that is.
Jenny Lewis (QRO solo live review) of Rilo Kiley (QRO album review) was in tow due to that her vocals were featured on so many songs throughout Give Up. Obviously, attendees saw the likes of many of the tracks off of Give Up including “Such Great Heights”, “Nothing Better”, as well as ‘new’ songs “Turn Around” and “A Tattered Line of String”.
Overall, it was a good performance. It wasn’t necessarily the most high-energy way to close out such a big festival, but a good way nonetheless. Perhaps the intention was to end things on a bit of a nostalgic note. For most of the 21-ish age people there that might not have meant anything, but for the 30-ish crowd it was probably quite the night.
Well, the mighty Sasquatch! beast has gone dormant for another year. Over 25,000 people are going to go back to their normal everyday lives where beer and food is actually priced somewhat normally. The animal costumes are going to get hung up and for some people, it might be better if they were just burned. It’s hard to know whether or not next year’s lineup will be able to top that of 2013, but these festivals seem to have a way of just growing and growing. Who knows, perhaps Sasquatch! will one day go the way of Coachella and span two weekends. Either way, this year was a good one with many worthwhile musical and comedic acts. I would say “Cheers,” but there are probably still thousands of hungover folks who want to puke at the mention of alcohol. Until tonight, that is…