Sasquatch overall, now that it’s done
I acclimate so quickly to my environs, it’s almost hard to believe just 24 hours ago I was making my way down the short path from Cave B toward Sasquatch. In those 24 hours, I saw performances from Loch Lomond, Heartless Bastards, the Pica Beats, Deerhoof, Grizzly Bear, Horse Feathers, Santigold, Blitzen Trapper, the Dutchess and the Duke, and Fleet Foxes. I took a few minutes to inhale the extraordinary beauty of the festival’s natural backdrop, chatted with artists and industry folks, drank some beer, ate some food, cursed the hot sun as I walked up and down and up again the remarkably steep hill between the main stage and the Yeti, sweat my ass off, napped in the grass, and sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic through Cle Ellum as Sound magazine’s own Erin Resso cursed other drivers (lovingly, natch) and braved the Mighty 90 to get us all home safe and sound.
I’ve survived my fair share of music festivals through the years, have lived to tell of late night jam sessions and impromptu fiddle parties, have slept on plenty of hard grounds not fashioned for comfortable slumber, have squinted my ears against the unlikely task of making music coming through giant speakers into wide-open outdoor spaces sound good. But my festival experiences in the past have pretty much stuck to the all-acoustic folk and bluegrass end of the spectrum. Make no mistake. Despite the roots-heavy Americana bent of this year’s Sasquatch line-up, it’s still a rock festival. Since the one Lollapalooza to which I had tickets (the last time I was supposed to see Jane’s Addiction) sometime in the ’90s got closed down due to hurricane season in Central Florida, this was my inaugural rock festival experience.
I managed to make it as folk festival-like as possible, but reached outside the confines of the genre from which I make my living to enjoy sets by Hockey, Of Montreal (in brief, between using the toilet and running back to the main stage), King Khan, M83, and Nine Inch Nails. No regrets from any of those sets—I’d see all of them again if given the chance. But it was, without question, Bon Iver who made my weekend. I would even go so far as to pull that set into my as-yet-non-existent list of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Singer-songwriter Justin Vernon does all the things with music which make it so remarkable, pulling together lyrics and accompaniment which reach toward the same ultimate goal—to communicate and inspire an emotion far too large and unwieldy for words alone. Together with an impeccably tight backing band, Vernon seemed to access the collective intuition of the crowd, the deeply clear and star-strewn sky, all the heat of the day, and whatever it is that haunts his creative psyche. It was an incredible set which, when I thought about it several times throughout the weekend, made me smile at the sheer knowledge I’d witnessed such a thing in such a place.
Another highlight was watching from behind as the Fleet Foxes played what was, for me, the final set of the festival. (Shows continued well into the night on Monday, but we left after this set.) I wasn’t there last year to witness Robin Pecknold and company playing to what I’m told was a fairly sparse crowd. But, on the final afternoon of the festival, with the intoxicating array of styles and sounds still swirling in my ears, the local harmony-driven quintet delivered a set that felt like a soft, easy breeze clearing everything away. In that same spot on Sunday, the Avett Brothers had thrown down an incredibly impressive set. Meanwhile, on the other end of the festival, on the Wookie stage, Portland’s Blitzen Trapper proved why they’re the next best thing out of the Northwest—swinging in that sweet spot where Americana and indie rock seem to unexpectedly intersect.
Then there was the whole discovering new artists thing. St. Vincent solidified her place in my collection, while the Heartless Bastards stole the title of “The best band I didn’t really know anything about before Sasquatch.” With the whole thing over and done with, I’m glad there’s a year between now and the next one. It might take that long to process all the great music (and some of the not-so-great). So long, Sasquatch, ’til next year.