By the morning of my third day at Sasquatch I was beginning to have a routine. Up by 8:00am I had enough time to eat, wash up, check my equipment, pack, and change. My well was pretty much empty, and I was running entirely on adrenaline, but I was ready for my final day of Sasquatch.
Before leaving for the festival I had decided not to stay through to the bitter end and close things out with Beck. The grand finale of Sasquatch for me would be the John C. Reilly and Friends performance. After that I would bid farewell to this haven of music I’d called home for four days. I was looking to get a head start on the majority of concert goers and get the hell out of dodge before shit got crazy. It took three and a half hours to park when just a portion of the cars were arriving, what would it look like the following morning when all the cars were leaving.
Those who weren’t able to take Tuesday off were already leaving. I had decided that I needed to pack up all my stuff including my tent in the morning so that I: A. Wouldn’t be tempted to stay for the entire evening and B. Wouldn’t be breaking down a tent amidst a hoard of fleeing cars. I’m the kind of person who builds a nest somewhere and feels nostalgic at the mere thought of leaving it. Needless to say the process of breaking down my tent was a tad emotional.
I made my final hike down to the festival, trying and failing to time things right as to avoid waiting in the hot sun. This morning it didn’t really matter. I was a seasoned veteran now, ready to shoot as many pictures, and see as many concerts as possible. I was going to go big then go home.
The Sights at Sasquatch
As with every day previous, the mornings grew less and less crowded. Between those who’d already left and those t too hungover from three days of festival going, it was pretty quiet even by the first show’s 12:00 start time. Even those of us in the press seemed to be feeling the pain and by the time The Sights took the stage it was just myself and another girl marching down the photo pit.
The Sights weren’t playing to gently wake up a crowd, they were there to punch you in the face and throw ice water on your bed. Hailing from Detroit rock city, these guys played the their blusey-rock power-pop with all the enthusiasm and heart of a band playing a sold out stadium. Lead guitarist Eddie Baranek, bounced, skipped and windmilled the shit out of his guitar, literally forcing people to pay attention to what was happening over at the Bigfoot stage. Of the thirty or so bands I photographed in my three days at the festival, The Sights were one of my absolute favorites to shoot. The excitement for playing provided some stellar photographs and a lot of fun. Good ol’ classic Rock-n-Roll in it’s most honest and pure form.
Gold Leaves at Sasquatch
It was a bit shocking to the system to leave the infectious vivacity of The Sights, and come to the laid back grooves of Gold Leaves. Not in a bad way at all, because Gold Leaves brand of folky-rock was like drinking a warm mint tea, warm and leaving you feeling fresh.
This Seattle Quintet is one of many folk infused bands to come out of the city in the last five years. Their sound traces the edges of Fleet Foxes, with winding vocals and etherial instrumentation. The negative connotations surrounding this music always seem to feel valid until you’re standing right before it, letting the music wash over you. Only then do you get an opportunity to see just why so many bands have been making music like this. It just feels really, really good.
Walk the Moon at Sasquatch
Walk the Moon
Monday was a fun day. I mean that in every sense, the crowds were having a lot of fun, I was having fun, and the bands were having the most fun of all. This was true throughout the weekend, but it was more apparent on Monday than any other day. From The Sights to Walk the Moon, the afternoon was already filled with energetic and happy bands, loving being on stage at Sasquatch.
Walk the Moon, was the last of the as yet undefined genre, like Electric Guest, Little Dragon, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, and others, they blend traditional indie pop-rock with an electronic undercurrent. I don’t think anyone in Sasquatch was as excited to be there as these guys were. Despite being from Cincinnati and a complete unknown to me, after asking a series of people if they were familiar with the band about to take the Bigfoot stage, I learned that they have a decent following of people.
Making themselves up in primary war paints, they seemed to be playing a foot off the stage. I wanted to bottle their energy up and save it for my drive home. These guys clearly loved what they were doing and the audience ate it up like a Poor Moon
Despite playing in other successful bands, including Fleet Foxes, Crystal Skulls, and The Christmas Cards, Poor Moon formed and began playing really striking music together.
I’ve long felt that the Fleet Foxes have such an identifiable sound that it’s difficult to escape it, Poor Moon has Foxes’ DNA built right into it, but it also manages to find a foot hold in country blues from southern roots. The bands name itself comes right from a Canned Heat song, but you can also find similarities with Creedence Clearwater Revival. On stage they had a kind of jug band feel to them with a stage so full of instruments that the members were awkwardly positioned, making it difficult to get really great pictures. The crowd surrounding the Yeti stage knew exactly what they were waiting for and Poor Moon delivered, no gimmicks, just pure musical love.
Chelsea Peretti at Sasquatch
I had a great day of comedy ahead of me in the Banana Shack with Chelsea Peretti, followed by John Mulaney, and Nick Kroll. This was going to be very good. Chelsea was the only female comedian of the weekend (not including Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia) which I felt was a travesty, considering how many great female comedians there are out there right now who just are being recognized by organizations like Sasquatch.
I’ve been a fan of Chelsea’s for years now, dating back to her early web projects like blackpeopleloveus.com and the web series All My Exes. She appeared in the pilot episode of Louie as the date to a very uncomfortable Louie CK. Then she began writing for what is without question one of the best comedies on television, Parks and Recreation. Her comedy special aired last year on Comedy Central, and when ever on of those awful lists of fifty best female comediennes comes out she’s always near the top.
I hesitate to describe Chelsea in the way I’m about to do because comediennes are constantly being judged not by the quality of their work, but by the quality of their work compared to the men in a heavily male dominated profession. Chelsea’s set could best be described as a full force of feminine bravado, satirizing the worn out exaggerated male bravado so popular among your standard brick wall comedians. When the men complain about women and their “weird and mysterious moods” it’s a kind of insult that turns women into objects. Chelsea flips that and objectifies men with equal vehemence. She’s been compared to Sarah Silverman, but truth be told she’s quite different, but equally hilarious. She had a full and supportive crowd, so Sasquatch, pay attention, people will take the time to see Comediennes.
John Mulaney at Sasquatch
One of the best comedy bits you’ll ever hear is John Mulaney’s bit about playing the song What’s New Pussycat on a diner jukebox twenty-one times in a row. I probably don’t need to say much more than that, other than he’s hysterical.
A writer for Saturday Night Live and creator of the I Love the _____ show’s series I Love the 30’s. John also has to excellent comedy albums available The Top Part and New In Town. To this point all the comedians I’d watched were more of a traditional joke-punchline type. John Mulaney is more of the funny storyteller type. He tells personal stories, true or not it becomes irrelevant, because they’re just fucking funny. The highlight of his set was the time he met Bill Clinton in the early 90’s.
Damien Jurado at Sasquatch
Most bands seem to have a shelf life of about ten years, after which their music begins to become stale. They will always have their diehard fans, it’s just uncommon for bands to have an outstanding twelfth album the way that Damien Jurado has. His 2012 album Maraqopa is perhaps his strongest. He’s been called the modern day Dylan, the godfather of modern folk, and a dozen other names that really just distract from a nearly 20 year career in the Pacific Northwest. To me he’s an elder statesmen, categorized along with Karl Blau, Calvin Johnson, and Mark Lanegan, and credited for having helped sustain a tradition of beautiful Northwest music. Maraaopa turned Jurado from what had become a easily identifiable folk-rock into this incredible folk-blues-soul. I highly suggest picking this album up.
Sasquatch is known for being on time with their acts and not falling to far behind. At some point on Monday however the Bigfoot fell way behind schedule and I had to juggle John Mulaney at the Banana Shack with Damien Jurado, but it was well worth the wait. He and his band brought the strong soul that they’d recently cultivated to the stage in Herculean form.
There’s a green sticker on Jurado’s guitar in the form of Washington state, in the middle it reads “home” and that is exactly what this performance felt like. No artist better represented the Evergreen state than Damien. The only black spot on the performance was how it ended. So far behind schedule the bands final song was delivered without them even knowing it, the plug was pulled and they left the stage with an abrupt “thank you” to the audience.
Nick Kroll at Sasquatch
The most recognizable face of comedy at the festival was easily Nick Kroll. Along with movie roles and guest appearances on some very funny shows, he stars on FX’s The League as Ruxin. The audience knew who Nick was, even if they weren’t terribly familiar with his standup routine.
I was more familiar with Nick’s characters like, Bobby Bottleservice, Fabrice Fabrice, and El Chupacabra. This set wasn’t a cast of characters it was just Nick performing along with his Budweiser Tallboy. Okay the Tallboy’s role was limited to fizzing over at one point but still, my point is that Nick is at ease on the stage like almost no one else. His jokes were funny and had everyone rolling on the grass inside the Banana Shack. Nick could make reading the phonebook funny.
Vintage Trouble @ Sasquatch Music Festival
There was one band who I had never heard of and knew nothing about, and yet even before arriving at Sasquatch I’d had them pegged as a band I wanted to see. To understand the turnout at a specific stage you sometimes needed to look at the neighboring acts, Vintage Trouble had to compete with The Joy Formidable and the soon to be one hit wonder FUN. By the end of their set when I looked out out on the sea of people with their hands in the air, clapping, and jumping I understood the power of great music and solid performance.
Vintage Trouble is a dusted off record jacket from Buddy Guy, James Brown, and Cream. Pure retro soul-rhythm and blues-rock-n-roll goodness. The band entered the stage dressed right out of a 1967 rock band with fedoras, vests and ascots, all of which would seem gimmicky if they weren’t so amazing. The quartet pow wowed around the drum set shaking hands and a group fist bump, this was clearly a group of guys who loved the music they were making and the people they were making it with.
From the first note of the first song these guys had the entire audience at attention. It was a modest crowd at first, but slowly grew overtime to be what might have been the second largest crowd the Yeti stage would see. You couldn’t help but clap along with the committed and energetic lead singer Nalle Colt, who told stories between songs and dazzled with sexy dance moves. Their performance was second only to the tUnE-yArDs on the entire weekend I’m convinced that anyone who didn’t witness Vintage Trouble tearing it up, was unable to come away with a full experience of Sasquatch.
Shearwater at Sasquatch
Coming to the realization that I only had an hour left to cover as much of the festival as possible I went into full on panic mode, running from stage to stage. Because of this I caught a song here and there of many bands, but not full performances. Shearwater was one of those bands, I feel confident in saying that I caught enough to give you an idea of how they did.
Their name alone conjures up images of flannel and ripped jeans at the edge of the Seattle Grunge movement. They’re much younger than that, and their sound is far more developed than say The Thrown Ups. As for what exactly they are? I’m not sure. At times they sound folky, other times like a hard edged rock band, and lead singer and guitarist Jonathan Meiburg has the deep smooth voice of an 80’s pop band.
On stage they look like a rock band, and rock they did. There’s a feeling of something bigger to Shearwater’s music, a more grand scale or a vast expanse. Vintage Trouble was going to be a very tough act to follow in the Yeti stage and they did so with ease.
Shabazz Palaces at Sasquatch
I’m not sure what drove me to the Bigfoot stage to watch the electronic Hip-Hop duo Shabazz Palaces. Maybe it was the fact that they were the first Hip-Hop act to sign with Sub Pop, maybe it was their Northwest origins. Regardless I’m glad I did, because they were fabulous.
For two guys sitting behind a lap top, drums, and keyboards, they were surprisingly engaging. Synchronized hand movements, mixed with their unique blend of classic hip-hop, strange electronic tones, and African tribal samplings made for a hard hitting show. There is something mysterious about the pair, something their not telling the audience, not necessarily something that effects the music but rather permeates it. I’m not much of a hip-hop fan, and generally I’m a hard person to really impress with that kind of music, but I loved what they were doing on stage.
The Cave Singers @ Sasquatch Music Festival
The Cave Singers
With just two performances left I was beginning to feel the festival blues. For three days I’d done nothing but watch comedy and music, and soon it would end. I would have to get back in my car and for the first time really process three days worth of experiences.
On a list of bands that I was not familiar with but should have been The Cave Singers top it. Despite being around since 2007, I’d never experience their brilliance before Sasquatch. The Cave Singers are the tributary for The Murder City Devils, Pretty Girls Make Graves, and Hint Hint, and despite looking like they just walked out of a shitty sports bar in Auburn Washington, they make surprisingly stunning music.
Their soulful folk-rock was mesmerizing and has had me obsessed since the festival. Occasionally I feel that I’m the only person as into the genre’s I’m into, but here was a band, and a grassy lawn at the Bigfoot stage full of people who seemed to share the same interests. If you’re like me and still haven’t heard of The Cave Singers you’ll definitely want to give them a listen.
John C. Reilly and Friends @ Sasquatch Music Festival
John C. Reilly & Friends
About twenty minutes prior to the shows start, it seemed that festival goers and the press figured out that John C. Reilly was the John C. Reilly of Step Brothers, Walk Hard, and Chicago fame. Devoid of any real over bearing celebrity presence, Reilly was the biggest star presence of the weekend and by the time he took the stage, the area surrounding the tiny Yeti stage was filled to capacity.
Clearly John C. Reilly understood that his celebrity would be the perfect opportunity to not inflate his ego, but rather to introduce fans to a stage full of really talented musicians. This is exactly what he did, through out the performance he would take the time to highlight one specific performer, many of whom wrote or played music for Walk Hard.
Clearly he understands his fan base, walking out on the stage with his acoustic guitar reading Dewy Cox across the face, he introduced himself as, “John C. Reilly, AKA Dewy Cox, AKA Dragon,” That last one a nod to Dale Doback in Step Brothers. All the stardom, and comedic shenanigans aside, John C. Reilly and Friends played a very honest set of really good classic country music. I wouldn’t be staying through the evening for Beck, but for me this was exactly the finale I was looking for at Sasquatch.
The photo pit for John C. Reilly was so packed that only those with professional cameras were allowed in, we were also instructed to take constant pictures or get out. I spent two songs snapping as many shots as possible before I ducked out. I was done. All I had left to do was survive the walk back to my tent. For the first time in three days I walked up to a food stand near by the stage as not to miss my final show. I bought a $10 plate of boneless chicken “wings” and curley fries. Basically chicken nuggets and fries. Far from gourmet I would have eaten hot shit at that point. I sat on the patio in the media building over looking the Yeti stage and watched John C. Reilly finish up his set. A large part of me wasn’t ready to leave this musical haven yet. I wondered for a moment if it was possible to catch a few more performances before I left, but in the end decided against this. I’d accomplished everything I’d set out to do, and now it was time to go home.
I walked out the festival gates and made my way back to my car. About half a mile from my camp site, it hit me, four days of driving, standing, walking, and clicking photographs had taken its tole on me. Every muscle in my body ached, including muscles I didn’t even know I had. Did you know you have muscles behind you knees? I didn’t. I do have a hard time complaining, with the exception of gas and a little food, I was able to attend an incredible weekend of music and comedy at the expense of Sasquatch, I really didn’t have anything to complain about.
On my drive home I reflected on the last four days while fighting off sleep. I’d never been to a music festival before, and certainly not one like this, but of the people I talked to and the articles I read, Sasquatch is considered to be a hidden gem of the music festivals. Why is that you say? Were it to take place in the South Western United States it would certainly be a bigger deal, more on par with Bonnaroo, SXSW, or Coachella.
That’s not to say that Sasquatch isn’t a big deal. I met people from as far away as Calgary, New York, Sweden, and the UK. The real difference is that this festival is less about seeing celebrity sightings and holographic gimmicks. It’s really about a love of music, set amongst a picturesque and surreal landscape. I had expected to see a multitude of fall down drunks, and kids so hight off their ass they couldn’t see straight. Yes there were drugs, I watched one kid pull a pharmacy in a zip lock baggie out of his back pack at Head and the Heart. For the most part this was a peaceful, music loving crowd, who were just like me and wanted to see as much as possible.
In part two I mentioned that if I wanted to see all these bands individually somewhere in town or close to town, it could take years. But here, in just three days I saw them one after the other, after the other, and there is something magical about that.
It was requested by one of our loyal readers that I compile a Sasquatch playlist, to get an idea of the best sounds of the weekend that you can find out there on the information superhighway. Make sure to check back Tuesday as I publish our Sasquatch 2012 playlist.