Sasquatch! is like summer camp for music lovers. You don’t know what it’s like to experience a weekend at the Gorge in George until you’ve been there. We can do our best to describe it to those who ask, “What’s it like?” but the look of the sun cutting through the clouds at dusk while a power chord sweeps over us from two-story speakers, or the enormity of the main stage filled to the brim with screaming fans can only be experienced… words fail us.
I have been to three versions of this unique festival as a photographer and one as a fan. Each had it’s own feel and flow but this year was far more entertaining than any I’d been to before. The lineup was packed from beginning to end with incredible musicians ranging from the southern-fried and sassy duo Shovels and Rope to the powerhouse performance by Mumford and Sons.
Most music productions start off a little slower on the first day and build up to the bigger acts later on, but not Sasquatch.. not this year. Right out of the gate on Friday they threw ZZ Ward, Vampire Weekend, Father John Misty, Arctic Monkeys and Macklemore at us. I could hardly wrap my head around one set before the next one started up.
The big win of the night was, of course, Seattle’s hometown hero Macklemore. He has a way of drawing in his fans, pulling them into his world; one minute he dives into an intensely personal story about his addiction and subsequent recovery, the next he’s literally surfing over the crowd in a blow-up crocodile pool toy. He may have moved on up and made an impression on the rest of the world, but Ben Haggerty will always be a Seattle boy.
Just like the first night, the rest of the festival went by in a blur of vibrant colors, animal costumes, face paint, beer and music. Always music. The best shows of the festival didn’t come as much of a surprise (ie Mumford and Sons, The XX, Edward Sharpe and Sigur Ros for starters), save for a few.
The Tallest Man on Earth is a band of one and only carries a guitar on stage with him, but his presence filled the entirety of the main stage. I was blown away by his charisma, beautiful music and exuberance. His show is not to be missed.
Along the same vein, Radical Face was unassuming but wonderful to behold. He had a sweet and subdued personality that held you like a warm hug. I was nearly entranced by his performance, melancholy as the lyrics may be, as he sang his way through storylines with beautiful melodies. This was my first experience with his live performance and it was well worth the wait.
Sean Nelson is back at it again with a new band and new sound but luckily he brought along his same great voice. He and his new wife Shenandoah Davis, a talented musician in her own right, have a wonderful chemistry together that’s palpable as they smiled and sang their way through each song. The pop-rock sounds of Harvey Danger has been replaced by more laid-back and hum-inducing ballads. I for one can’t wait to hear the new album.
When Empire of the Sun took the stage, I had no idea what I was in for. By far they put on the most extensive show of the festival. From head (elaborate headdresses) to toe (platform boots) these guys put on quite a performance. The music was a lot of fun to dance to but the real entertainment value was in the on-stage presence complete with dancers wearing skin-tight sparkling leotards, headdresses rivaling those of the lead singer and glowing orbs suspended around their heads. It was hard to know where you should be looking from one moment to the next but there was never a dull moment.
Last but not least I have to mention The Postal Service set. Their music has a special place in my heart for many reasons, not the least of which was helping me through a hard time in my life. I missed the one, and only, chance to see their live show nine years ago and I was bound and determined this time to stay till the very last song, despite the pending three-hour drive back to the city at eleven o’clock at night. It was one of those rare moments when I simply sat back, lost myself in the massive crowd and let the music flow over me like a warm breeze. Ben Gibbard sounded genuinely happy to be back in the Pacific Northwest after his stint in LA. I can only speak for myself, but I am ecstatic to have him here and making music for this project again.
And just like summer camp when you were a kid, after the first day or two of trepidation you found your place amongst the campers and let the experience envelope you. When it was time to head home, amidst unending hugs and farewells from newly found friends, you wish you didn’t have to leave. Sasquatch we’ll miss you, and can’t wait to see you next year.