May 29th, 2008 | by Amy Mccullough Music | Posted In: Columns, Columns

How I Spent My Sasquatch! '08 Vacation

     
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2520755810_9c5e1c2e7c_mAs this clever li'l blog by OPBmusic's Jeremy Petersen pointed out, Sasquatch! is not for the shallow of pocket (read Jay Horton's somewhat, ah, looser accounting here).

That's when being something like a music editor (or photographer, for that matter) comes in handy. Not because we make a lot of money, mind you, but because publicist types like it when we tell (or show) you how awesome and worth your money such a fest is (and, therefore, give us a free ride). This year, I'd argue, it probably was worth all that dough (be it Jay's $575 or Petersen's $430). And, you know, I did pay for gas, food, booze, camping, sunscreen (yes, I'm that rare breed of music writer that occasionally leaves the dark smoky confines or rock clubs for a grass- and sun-infested outdoor event), drugs and boarding for my canine compadre back in Portland. Nothing's really free, right?

Nevertheless, I am redder in skin, wearier in body and certainly lighter of purse, but I also saw some fantastic music this weekend. Without further adieu, here's a play-by-play diary of how I spent my Sasquatch! vacation:

FRIDAY

10:37 pm, at the Campground
resersI'm sitting in my tent shoveling macaroni salad into my mouth from a "picnic pack," which basically amounts to a giant bucket (see left), when I hear a group of campers break into a cappella song after song (ranging from Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer" to Weezer's "Say It Ain't So"). It all begins with a joyous rendition of "Faith." I am warmed by the drunken symphony and a camper at a neighboring site excitedly declaring, "I wanna go sing with those people!" Then it becomes clear that they're singing the Limp Bizkit version of "Faith"—which I had (thankfully) forgot ever happened. The aggressive delivery of the title word made it beyond clear, though. I am slightly bummed. I put my picnic pack in the cooler and call it a glad-the-five-hour-drive-is-over day.

SATURDAY

7:45 am, at the Campground

handdrumI am awakened by the sound of one of our 20-year-old stoner neighbors—who make it beyond apparent how "wasted" they constantly are at every available turn—playing quite possibly the most out-of-time hand drum I've ever heard. He claims to be on acid and calls for the whole campground to wake up. The neighbors to our other side threaten to smash his drum in before a more reasonable fellow walks up and asks nicely, saying, "You know, a lot of people are tired and hungover. Can ya please keep in down?" The jackass then ceases to play for at least two hours while somehow twisting the story every time he re-tells it to make it look like he told the dude who asked him to stop off. The fact that his silence continues belies his faux-badassery.

9:16 am, at the Campground
baconI smell bacon. I hear a camper approach the source of the bacon and ask if its possessor would consider any sort of bacon barter. The camper in need says, "I'm not trying to be weird. It just smells really good." Perhaps the craver of porcine meats didn't realize there's bacon for sale in the camp store. Then again, the Vegetable Thins were $6.75...


12:53 pm, Wookie Stage
I catch a few minutes of self-congratulatory British guitarist Newton Faulkner. He plays a cover of "You Spin Me Right Round" and exhibits his percussion-heavy acoustic style (he slaps and taps the body of his guitar a lot). The schtick gets old fast. A precedent for mediocre daytime acts at the Wookie Stage is set.

1:33 pm, Yeti Stage
Nick Delffs walks out onto a little riser of amp cases making something of a catwalk in front of the stage during the Shaky Hands' killer set. Fans reach their hands up to touch and/or praise the warbly voiced Portlander, treating him like a bonafide rock star. A gal in the crowd even grabs his butt—and looks darn excited about it. "Why and How Come" sounds fantastic, as does the rest of their set. I feel proud to call them a hometown band.

2:23 pm, Yeti Stage
Seattle's Throw Me the Statue, who I was really excited to see, are charmingly enthusiastic but put on a pretty lackluster set. Their upbeat, dance-leaning pop comes off a bit sloppy (the keyboardist even came in with backing vocals at the wrong time on one song). I think maybe the sound at this particular stage is bad. Other bands prove this is not the case.

3:35 pm, Yeti Stage
Singer-songwriter Joshua Morrison—who simultaneously reminds me of Mark Kozelek, Mike Kinsella (Owen, American Football) and Ben Gibbard acoustic (think his Home split with American Analog Set's Andrew Kenny)—admits that the plane circling above with an ad banner for upcoming flick The Rocker is distracting him. He plays a lovely set, backed by bass and cello, anyway, while moments of shade give relief from the Gorge's brutal sun.


Gorge
Sun-baked hills; looks like a postcard doesn't it?

4:35 pm, Main Stage
Host and upcoming Rocker star Rainn Wilson (also of Six Feet Under, The Office) comes out to explain that the National has been moved to closing the Yeti Stage. Their tour van broke down in Canada and they are running late. America-sounding (the band, not the country) folkie ensemble Fleet Foxes take their place, playing their second set of the day on the Main Stage. It is nice, but it is not the National. I am bummed to learn I will miss the NYC gloom-rockers for Okkervil River, who I refuse to miss. (The photo at the very beginning of this post, which documents the crowd at the Nationals' Yeti Stage closing set, shows you how many people did not make the same decision.)


Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes


5:25 pm, Yeti Stage
David Bazan puts on an excellent solo show, refuses to play Pedro the Lion songs. He does honor one request for side-project Headphones' "Hot Girls" amidst plenty of religion-centric new tunes.


David BazanDavid Bazan


6:45 pm, Yeti Stage
I am getting nervous watching awesome Seattle dream-pop band Grand Archives—ex-Band of Horses member Mat Brooke's new muse—because it's totally rad, and I want to see all of it. But, like I said, I refuse to miss any of Okkervil River. Grand Archives is excellent, singing in a three-part harmony that sounds like one massive, lovely voice and executing all its album tracks perfectly. Then they break out an amazing cover of Sam Cooke's "Another Saturday Night" that'd put Colin Meloy to shame. When Brooke says he "ain't got nobody" and claims to be looking for someone to share his money with 'cause he "just got paid," I believe him.


Grand ArchivesGrand Archives


7:15 pm, Wookie Stage
I scramble over to the meadow for Okkervil River, who seems especially giddy this evening. They open with "The President's Dead." Bass player Zach Thomas sings emphatic backing vocals, filling the shoes of recently departed keyboardist Jonathan Meiburg (who split from the band to focus on his own Shearwater project). Another fill-in includes Charles Bissell from the motherfucking Wrens on electric guitar (ex-River player Brian Cassidy left recently, as well, in this case to be a dad). I am beyond stoked. Bissell lends his own characteristic crunch to "For Real" and contributes his equally distinct falling-off-at-the-end-of-each-line backing vocals to "It Ends With A Fall," a track I'm super duper excited the Austin folk rockers included in their set. This is the best show of the festival.

9:50 pm, Main Stage
Rain starts coming down as Isaac Brock and company break into all-time personal fave "Trailer Trash." The whole set, in fact, is peppered with relatively obscure, older tracks—"Trucker's Atlas," for one, "Here It Comes" (from rarities volume Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks), for another. The rain looks pretty magical falling behind guitarist Johnny Marr and Brock, whose roaring yelps and chest puffing are in full effect tonight. The lighting's just right to make each rain drop appear behind them, illuminated in the jumbotron. I get the feeling the Washington middle-of-nowhere-ness might be making Brock feel a little nostalgic. He finishes with "Spitting Venom," my fave track from the band's most recent We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank and a perfect closer. He plays some uber-whammied Modest Mouse-ian guitar toward the end and caps the song with a soft but still maniacal rant, thanking the crowd and leaving the stage. I do not stay for R.E.M. I am tired and hungry after forsaking food all day in the name of money. Three words are cycling through my mind: must have brat.


Modest MouseModest Mouse


10:17 pm, in transit
The Breeders are playing "Cannonball" as I make the trek from the venue toward the campground. I'm glad I got to hear that, at least peripherally.


The BreedersThe Breeders


11:23 pm, at the Campground
I can hear R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" echoing over from the Main Stage. It sounds pretty cool. Cheese oozes out of my brat. The picnic pack is back in action. I just saw Okkervil River right into Modest Mouse. All is right with the world.

SUNDAY

1:30 pm, Wookie Stage
The daytime Wookie Stage curse continues. I had listened to What Made Milwaukee Famous' recent What Doesn't Kill Us on the drive up, and I was digging it. It's kinda glammy and kind all over the place, but enjoyable. When the tight-playing power-pop outfit took the stage on Sunday, though, it just seemed kinda cheesy. Maybe it was the sunglasses. Or maybe you need to be bad or funny looking to get away with a voice like that.


Sunday-8What Made Milwaukee Famous


2 pm to 4:15 pm, various
I flit back and forth for a couple hours, first catching a bit of the Heavenly States: They were singing some words about the sun chasing the moon as a backpacked kid got chased by security through the crowd and toward the Main Stage. The kid didn't even look like he was trying, while the security dude was sprinting his ass off. Despite the kid's poor effort, he gets away. I am dumbfounded.

My boyfriend and I mosey over to the Main Stage for a bit of Blue Scholars' set. We run into Sound mag and ex-WW music editor Mark Baumgarten hustling his rag from a hillside tent. Hugs and chatting ensue. Blue Scholars sound pretty rad, though a guest emcee's mic isn't turned on for part of one track. Still, DJ Sabzi dons a pair of wicked specs for a throwback R&B-based number, and fellow Seattlite Ben Gibbard later gives them a shout out. The positive NW hip-hop vibes—which receive many a shout out—cannot be stopped.

Tegan & Sara are cute, catchy. They dish out audience-targeted spunk. Not surprising.


Tegan & SaraTegan & Sara



Blue Scholars
Blue Scholars

6 pm, Wookie Stage
Rogue Wave has an enormous crowd. Frontman Zach Rogue is amped, and the band subsequently plays one of the best sets I've ever seen 'em deliver. The San Fran rockers finish with the lead track from sometimes-boring new album Asleep At Heaven's Gate. It sounds epic, soaring, awesome. The whole thing re-piques my interest in the band. In fact, I'm listening to their excellent '04 debut Out of the Shadow right now!


Rogue WaveRogue Wave


6 pm, Wookie Stage
A certain something I bought back in the campground starts to set in during Mates of State's set. I move to the back of the meadow to avoid the seemingly suffocating crowd. The Mates have guests: a string section. I kinda like it at first listen—until I realize the strings have stolen all the older tracks' punch. This is a duo that thrives in simplicity (or at least the guise thereof). The title track to new album Re-arrange Us is pretty undeniable, though. I am sold, despite some issues with bad sound and the volume fading in and out (I'm assuming that wasn't just me).


Mates of StateMates of State


7:15 pm and on, Main Stage and various
That certain something makes funk-roots band Michael Franti & Spearhead's early evening Main Stage set, uh, memorable. Thank god for feel-good music. I dance!


Michael FrantiMichael Franti


Death Cab For Cutie proves they are truly arena material, and semi-stalkery new track "I Will Possess Your Heart" proves a notable edition to their live show (my boyfriend, also under aforementioned influence, deems it the "best song ever," in fact—though he may have been exaggerating). They play "Photobooth." I freak out. The set ends with "Transatlanticism" and an audience-bathing fusillade of near-blinding white light from the stage. I have a "come to Jesus" moment with Death Cab. They are an excellent, excellent band. And I feel they gave Sasquatch! a little something extra just for Robert Smith.


Sunday-34Death Cab's Chris Walla



Sunday-49
Death Cab's Ben Gibbard

It suddenly occurs to me that I'm freaking giddy about the Cure's headlining set, even though I hadn't really given much thought to it when originally perusing the lineup. My enthusiasm is briefly (and welcomely) interrupted by "Hopscotch Willie." Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks are jamming amidst purple and red lights over at the Wookie stage. They sound awesome and I am beckoned over for a few songs after a stint in line for the Honey Buckets.


Stephen Malkmus
Malkmus

Then it's Cure time: Read more about that in this week's Here Comes Your Fan column.


The Cure
The Cure's Porl Thompson


The Cure
Complete badass Simon Gallup


The CureThe man himself, Robert Smith


12:54 am, on the way back to the Campground
We stop in the general store to purchase ice. They are out of ice. Ice is eventually acquired at the campground store after some ten-pound-bags-of-ice confusion.

MONDAY

2:14 pm, Wookie Stage
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down break the earlier act Wookie Stage curse. They sound rad: tight rhythm section, upbeat 'n' jangly eclectic sounds borrowing from country, jazz, folk and pop, a spunky frontwoman with an interesting voice. I am bummed that I only arrived early enough to catch their last song.


Thao
Thao Nguyen

2:43 pm, Main Stage
Unsure what to do with myself, I watch Pela set up and play their first few songs. I have the same this-sounds-good-but-just-isn't-grabbing-me experience I've had often over the weekend. I wander over to the Main Stage to catch the second half of the Hives. Their garage rock rave-ups are just that—all catchy and amped up with balls-out delivery. Frontman "Howlin'" Pelle Almqvist is hilarious. He climbs ladders and unbuttons his shirt. He claims the band receives power from its all black outfits with white sneakers. He mentions planting explosives all around the venue—which, presumably, peaceful guitar-master Doug Martsch (Built to Spill) would later diffuse.


The Hives
The Hives

3:15 pm, Yeti Stage
I mosey on over to the Yeti to catch Seattle goth-poppers Say Hi (formerly Say Hi To Your Mom). I am forsaking a bit of Built to Spill to catch 'em, which is a surprising even to me (as it would be to anyone who knows me). But I like Say Hi, and I think I've seen Built to Spill live more than I've seen any other band live, so I make a sacrifice. After all, that's what's required at these festy fests; sometimes an old fave makes the cut, sometimes an old fave falls to curiosity and songs about vampires. And Say Hi frontman Eric Elbogen introduces at least three songs by saying, "This is a song about vampires." They play "Sweet Sweet Heartkiller" as I finally succumb to Martsch's six string-wailing talents.

3:52 pm, Main Stage
Built to Spill is aptly rocking, with usual auxiliary guitarist Brett Netson (Caustic Resin) in tow. I sit on a hill walkway's stone wall for "Carry the Zero," a song I'm really, really happy I didn't miss. I make my way down to the floor after being kicked off the wall by security. "Big Dipper" ensues, and an suitably epic rendition of "Unconventional Wisdom," from most recent album You In Reverse, closes out the set. A bunch of media- and band-related folks line the side of the stage, rocking out. Looking out over the Gorge and back at Martsch's closed eyes and totally-focused-on-playing zen demeanor, I think, "This is the best place in the world for a Built to Spill show."


Built to Spill
Built to Spill (or, at least, a piece of their luggage)

4:47 pm, various
I'm at somewhat of a loss for a good three or four hours. I catch the end of Siberian, who play appropriately icy, expansive rock that sounds real good from the Yeti Stage's shaded hill. I enjoy a $7 gyro (the only food sprung for inside the venue besides an elephant ear the day before) while listening and watching this gal in a full-on gold swimsuit dance off to the side of the stage. She is wearing only that, a shiny gold one-piece bathing suit—not the bikini top and shorts or swimsuit and cover-up ensemble many gals are sporting, just a metallic swimsuit and a pair of shades. She has a funny, creepy-legged style of dancing. She reminds me of Cat Power in her more trashy/glam pre-sobriety days. I have a hard time not staring (that's what sunglasses are for!).

I then stick around for Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground. My boyfriend comments that it seems like someone raided a college freshman orchestra class and crafted a band. It's an apt statement: There are horns and strings aplenty, tons of people on stage and a ramshackle approach. After they finish, I hear a guy leaving say to his friend in mock Kay Kay conversation: "What kind of music do you play?" "Fun." Pondering my mixed feelings, I notice the aforementioned Mark Baumgarten doing somersaults down the hill with gold swimsuit girl. I am amused.

I then bounce around between stages, basically trying to avoid Battles (too noisy and esoteric for my tired mind), Kinski (too loud and in-your-face rockin' for my lackadaisical mood) and Flight of the Conchords (too unfamiliar to me to sound like anything but a poor Tenacious D ripoff).

I am eventually saved by Jamie Lidell. A Motown-sounding horn section backs his soulful croon, and I eventually get off my lazy ass and bop around a bit. His more experimental DJ/hip-hop stuff is pretty interesting, too, but I'm a sucker for traditional soul. As such, his Al Green-leaning pandemonium strikes me more than his beat-tastic sounds. Regardless, he overstays his welcome, coming back for an encore (the first time I've seen a non-headlining act do this all weekend) and then kinda refusing to leave! He and and band play a humdrum "Multiply" that drags on far longer than it should. Lidell should have quite while he was ahead.

9:15 pm, Wookie Stage
It's 45 minutes after Ghostland Observatory was supposed to start. It's partially Jamie Lidell's fault. And it is making Flaming Lips fans nervous, as many of them were probably planning to catch the beginning of Ghostland's set before heading over to the Main Stage. My boyfriend—who, it should be noted, counts the Flaming Lips among his all-time favorite bands—and I decide to stay for Ghostland, as the last time we saw the Austin electro-rock duo, they were awesome. And the last time we saw the Flaming Lips, they played like five songs in between what felt like (and probably was) two hours of Wayne Coyne talking—and explaining each song, no less.

Ghostland (a duo that claims to be not a band, but "an agreement between two friends to create something that not only heals their beat-driven hearts, but pleases their rock ‘n roll souls"), on the other hand, apparently goes all-out every single time they play, bumping heavy and irrestibly dance grooves and more straightahead rock (occasionally), all while frontman Aaron Behrens screams at the audience: “Don't stop! Get on down!” and slinks around the stage like a freakin' stripper. Meanwhile, beat-master Thomas Turner either plays live drums or stands stoicly, clad in a light blue satin warlock robe, and rocks a tower of multiple keyboards. They are fucking rad. Even if you don't like Ghostland's music off-hand, you should see ‘em live. It's one of the best things out there.


Ghostland Observatory
Aaron Behrens strikes a pose.


Ghostland ObservatoryGhostland Observatory


9:57 pm, on the fence between Main and Wookie Stages
Despite the Lips' annoyingly talkative Roseland show, we abandon Ghostland during new track “Heavy Heart,” which I like to think of as the “dink dink” song, to see what Coyne and company are up to. Hardly to our amazement, Coyne is talking. We walk back and forth from the top of the Main Stages' lawn (to hear the Lips when they actually play) to the fence atop the hill (where you can still hear the sounds of Ghostland throbbing across the meadow).

Coyne has now led the crowd in half-talked-through singalongs of “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “Yoshimi,” playing broken up and, in my ears, disappointing versions of each. Don't get me wrong, the Flaming Lips sound fantastic when they are in the midst of playing a song, and the eye-fucking stage arrangement of flying saucer light show and naked chick dancing are great. But I'd rather hear both the aforementioned tracks rocked out then have them explained to me while I sing half of ‘em myself (after all, I'd sing along with the whole damn thing if it was playing).

Meanwhile, Behrens is berating the audience, name-checking the band and still playing. The Lips draw us back over with “Vein of Stars,” the "Who knows?/ Maybe there isn't..." song from At War With the Mystics. It's fairly warm atop the hill, despite some increasing wind and a distant threat of rain. The Lips finish their set, and we decide to just take in the encore, if we can hear it, on the way out.


Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, grinning so wide it makes me feel bad for being mad 'bout all his yapping.

TUESDAY

7:09 am, at the Campground

handdrumThe 20-year-old stoner-helmed hand drum makes a reappearance. Driving away, I say, “Man, I thought we might make it out without having to experience that ever again.” Rhythm-less jackass campers notwithstanding, Sasquatch!, which proved pretty damn exhausting in three-full-days form, ends on a fine, fine note—you know, figuratively.



Links:
Sasquatch! Fest
The Gorge (venue) on Wiki
The Gorge (region) on Wiki

Photos: courtesy of Sasquatch!'s community Flickr, mostly by Sean Pecknold and Christopher Nelson.
 
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