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Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

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    sasquatch2012 8 e1338366033654 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Ted Maider

    Most people who came to Sasquatch! camped in tents and RVs in either the more peaceful VIP camping section or the favela on the hill camping section. Fellow writer/photographer Harley and I were in the very small minority of people who drove home every night after the whole festival was over. During the night drive back to Quincy, WA, we’d try to suss out and synthesize the day’s music, the people we saw, what costumes they were wearing, what native culture those costumes were appropriating, the things that were mumbled to us by a guy two vials deep into the evening, or “did you see that husband just yelling at his wife just then?” and were we possibly the only sober people there and should we just try to buy some drugs at the camp grounds tomorrow and oh look there’s the fourth ambulance of the week coming toward us racing back to the festival grounds. Then we argued for a long time about Bon Iver. Maybe we should stay sober.

    All this handwringing led to this: You can’t really report honestly about a music festival unless you really allow yourself to accept the festival culture, which, for better or for worse, is what prevailed at Sasquatch! this year. Much of the middle card included fantastic bands finishing up long tours with a stop at The Gorge (e.g. Explosions in the Sky, tUnE-yArDs, Charles Bradley, Kurt Vile, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The War On Drugs, The Head & The Heart, The Joy Formidable, etc..) and despite the lack of non-Seattle hip-hop and any kind of metal/hardcore/punk band, the four-day holiday weekend appeared to be less about connecting with the music of the festival and more crafting an “epic weekend” to remember forever.

    I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call the first view coming up over the hill of the Gorge breathtaking. The topographical setting of the festival lends itself to a larger-than-life experience, which is certainly what the sequencing of the lineups were aiming for:  swelling lines of guitars, big beat stompy folk rock, Girl Talk b/w Pretty Lights, and Tenacious D being the most metal thing at the festival. There were a few magnetic moments, some special little minutes from the days that resonated in the realm of music, like Deer Tick’s impromptu covers set, or Jack White’s flawless headlining set, or Spiritualized closing the second largest stage playing to a crowd of less than 200. But in the end, Sasquatch! went for the big feelings and for the most part scored. The music heard at The Gorge just sounds better, feels better, is better because of Sasquatch! being what it is: a vacation.

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    Since I didn’t go all Vice Magazine and paint my face, don a poncho and a day-glo trucker hat, and get “mangled” as one guy told me, Sasquatch! was really what you made of it. It’s your trip and how much of it you want to remember is entirely up to you. I think the lineup this year wasn’t as strong as it was in previous years, but you’re surrounded by people who are trying — chemically or otherwise — to have a good time. There was a group of people who asked me to take a photo of them with their phone as the sun set on Monday night and against my exhaustion, frustration, they all looked so happy. That’s how you do it.

    Jeremy D. Larson
    Managing Editor 

    Friday

    honeyhoney – Yeti Stage – 5:05 p.m.

    As one of the first artists of the day, honeyhoney was late for load-in thanks to the traffic entering the festival. Fortunately, they arrived just in time to tackle the unenviable task of opening a festival. There may be shades of country to honeyhoney, especially in the voice of banjo-shredding frontwoman Suzanne Santo, but their brand of Americana was delivered with a spirited rock energy that captivated the few and faithful among the crowd. At the halfway point, guitarist Ben Jaffe marveled at how the view from the stage looked like a Bob Ross painting, but without the “crazy people.” Also under the spell of the Gorge’s unparalleled beauty, Santo commented that she would have painted us into such a work. –Frank Mojica

    Of Monsters and Men – Sasquatch Stage – 6:05 p.m.

    The topographically stark Gorge was the perfect backdrop for Icelandic six-piece Of Monsters and Men, who have stepped into a Mumford and Sons-sized footprint with their high-stepping version of the folk power ballad. Vocalist and guitarist Ninna Hilmarsdottir—who bore an uncanny resemblance to Maggie Gyllenhaal, especially on the basketball court-sized screens flanking the Sasquatch Stage—led the band in anthems like “Little Talks”, which roused the sizable audience with “Hey!”s punctuating trumpet rotundas and acoustic guitars. They closed with “kind of a new song” (which doesn’t seem to be new at all, since it appeared on My Head Is An Animal along with the rest of their set), “Mountain Sound”, whose title and repeated mantra, “Sleep until the sun goes down,” seemed appropriate in light of the soon-to-be-setting sun and the venue’s rocky acoustics. –Harley Brown

    Poli̤a РBigfoot Stage Р6:30 p.m.

    polica Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

    After the ominous intervals of set opener “Fist, Teeth, Money”, vocalist Channy Leneagh’s voice had dropped a few octaves. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it was later pointed out to me that she simply didn’t Auto-tune her set. It’s a choice reveal that the band’s confidence has grown even since South by Southwest in March. The dual drums and Chris Bierden’s bass thundered as always, but Leneagh allowed herself to depart from their compartmentalized rhythm, riffing on “Lay Your Cards Out” and new song “Raw Exit” (formerly “Exit Raw”), which they’ve been playing live for a while and hopefully will make it onto their next album. I couldn’t tell if the audience knew of Polica or simply happened to wander over in a substance-induced stupor, but given the applause and bodies movin’, it appeared that many left converted. –Harley Brown

    Little People – Banana Shack – 6:40 p.m.

    little people Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Ted Maider

    The Banana Shack was dismally underdeveloped this year. Shortening and widening the tent was great for the late night sets, but if you were slated for a day slot at the Banana Shack, that basically meant you were in for an all too sunny electronic appearance. Little People was among the first of many to experience this misfortune. He looked so out of place, sitting in the sun with his mixing board, a whimsical array of looping instruments. He even messed up on recording the looping segment on one of his songs, and took about a full noticeable minute to correct it, but he got there, against all odds. Impressive stuff live and in the flesh. -Winston Robbins

    Santigold – Sasquatch Stage – 7:10 p.m.

    santigold e1338250855377 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

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    Whenever conversing with my international festival-going friends about covering Sasquatch!, the response was always along the lines of “That’s the one with the dancing guy, right?” That viral video of the dance party to Santigold’s 2009 performance of “Unstoppable” has become a festival legend and was the top conversation topic among fans on the hill and in the pit over what would happen for a sequel. Such a follow-up never happened, as Santigold left that moment preserved in time and pushed forward for a new adventure. Supported by a band in aquamarine Egyptian costume and backup dancers whose choreography seamlessly flowed from retro to hammer-wielding robotic stylings, Santi White created an all-inclusive carnival that offered something for even the pickiest music aficionados. Drawing upon everything from rock to dancehall to hip-hop, Santigold distilled various genres down to what makes each uniquely fun and blended them into a breathless 45 minute party that reassured the crowd that they didn’t need to follow anyone’s lead to let loose and just dance. -Frank Mojica

    Mark Lanegan Band – Bigfoot Stage – 7:45 p.m.

    mark lanegan 2 e1338250962731 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

    It’s fitting that at least one critic has compared Mark Lanegan’s voice to leather, specifically something along the lines of “a well-oiled baseball mitt,” because he took the stage like an all-star up to bat: His gargantuan frame was clad in a straight-brimmed Starter and windbreaker, and he gripped the mic stand like a—you got it—baseball bat. Ball-playing metaphors aside, Lanegan’s supple rasp texturizes more than anything else, and lacking anything substantial to rub up, makes for a boring performance. His Band’s slow jams showcase its uniqueness but don’t add anything even close to Screaming Trees’ screamadelia or his scary/sweet collaborations with Isobel Campbell. -Harley Brown

    Girl Talk – Sasquatch Stage – 8:30 p.m.

    girl talk e1338251031524 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

    Greg Gillis has one of the most simple business models in music: a compendium of popular samples that run the scales from Biggie Smalls to Kelly Clarkson, and a straight “party or die” attitude. Feed The Animals and All Day were well represented, with prominent samples like Lil Wayne and Birdman’s “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. Far more intriguing, however, were the new samples, which involved M83’s “Midnight City” versus Missy Elliott’s “Work It” and Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” juxtaposed against Drake and Lil’ Wayne’s “The Motto”. In other words, look out for some great mixes from Girl Talk in the near future. There’s a time and a place for each genre of music, and Greg Gillis takes it upon himself to make it that time and that place whenever he dons his sweatsuit and picks up his confetti cannons. He pulled out all the stops for Sassy, though, closing out the night with an impressive firework show that included a spark shower straight out of a Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial. –Winston Robbins

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    Explosions in the Sky – Bigfoot Stage – 9:15 p.m.

    explosions in the sky1 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Colin Athens

    It took more than a little willpower to tear myself away from Girl Talk’s piece-by-piece striptease and onstage dance party to go see Explosions in the Sky, which I knew would place me squarely back in the time when Explosions graciously provided the soundtrack to my final thesis. One of the first things I noticed was that I have never seen a band take themselves so seriously: Bent over their instruments, all the members of the band kept their eyes closed for the duration of their songs. Their fingers stretched wide across the frets, enormous on the Bigfoot Stage’s screens, to achieve those raw, open chords that make listening to their prog-rock so visceral.

    It was the perfect time of night to listen to them, too, since the darkness allowed everyone to fully absorb their resonance without visual distractions. Explosions closed with “The Only Moment We Were Alone”, putting their dubstep neighbors to shame with that nine-minute build—which in and of itself climaxes several times—before finally, finally unleashing a wall of noise that shuddered through everyone at the same time. It was one of many moments reminding the festival attendees that we weren’t alone. –Harley Brown

    Pretty Lights – Sasquatch Stage – 10:15 p.m.

    pretty lights e1338254065137 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

    After Explosions in the Sky, Pretty Lights’ variations in dubstep minor were a whole different exercise in tension and release, starting with the countdown to his set flashing on Sasquatch’s aforementioned giant screens. Derek Vincent Smith’s one-man electronic outfit deals more in mid- and down-tempo than some of his EDM contemporaries, but he still sprinkled enough wubbery drops to satisfy what must have been the attendees raining confetti of glowsticks down from the hillside. Even though his set lacked the immediacy and WTF factor of Girl Talk’s instantly recognizable mashups just a half hour before, I appreciated Pretty Lights taking its time, segueing into “Finally Moving” as the glowsticks rained down in wave after wave. –Harley Brown

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