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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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    Saturday

    Charles Bradley – Sasquatch Stage – 1:05 p.m.

    charles bradley Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Ted Maider

    Charles Bradley was born in 1945, making him a dogged 67. And instead of worrying about hip replacement, he’s more concerned with pelvic thrusts – a great way to gauge his performing ethos. The “Screaming Eagle of Soul” hit the stage looking slick with a grateful smile running from ear to ear. As he ran through hits from his solo debut, No Time For Dreaming, the crowd (a healthy mix of devoted fans and innocent morning passers-by) grew increasingly more receptive to his illustrious showmanship. It was wildly apparent that Bradley has the pipes to match his stage persona, especially as he crooned “The World Is Going Up In Flames” to a just-rousing Gorge. –Winston Robbins

    Rob Delaney – Banana Shack  - 2:00 p.m.

    rob delaney Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Ted Maider

    “Always open with not a joke,” Rob Delaney remarked, after commenting on a fan’s Montreal Expos hat. As a Twitter sensation, Delaney has posted countless laugh-out-loud moments under 140 characters, but onstage he proved equally adept at spinning a short story long. He seamlessly transitioned from an all too-revealing critique of anal sex to Danzig fan letters, selling him as a captivating teller of the dirtiest and most personal of stories. -Frank Mojica

    Portlandia – Banana Shack – 3:00 p.m.

    portlandia Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Ted Maider

    Sasquatch!’s Portlandia live experience began with a simple but memorable gem of awkward humor as Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein each read alleged text messages from the other to the crowd, with Armisen’s increasingly affectionate closings rebutted by more and more cold formality from Brownstein. The slideshows of old family photos, second-place Dracula poems, and cycling, and the Q&A session that followed all proved chuckle-worthy to some starstruck fans, but the shortage of surprise guests and traditional skits increasingly dwindled the over-capacity crowd to a more modest showing. -Frank Mojica

    The Civil Wars – Sasquatch Stage – 3:15 p.m.

    After the trashy beats and flashing lights of Girl Talk and Pretty Lights just the previous night, I was a little skeptical that a folk duo from Nashville could fill Sasquatch!’s cavernous depths with just two voices and a guitar. But once again, the screens saved the day, broadcasting images of the happy (and pregnant) couple, which made up for what they may have lacked in ingenuity with charm. Onstage, the Civil Wars’ carefully harmonized folk alternated between the embarrassingly honest choruses of contemporary country and Bible-belt stompers like “Barton Hollow”, and the latter fit the Gorge’s craggy, unforgiving landscape much better than the majority of the songs they played. But then frontman John Paul White would say something like, “This is the biggest audience we’ve ever played to, and we’re so happy to be here, and there’s a lot of times when people really don’t give a shit, so thank you so much!” and I’d have a hard time finding fault with their music because it was too pretty. –Harley Brown

    THEESatisfaction – Yeti Stage – 3:30 p.m. 

    theesatisfaction e1338333626134 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Harley Brown

    Across the festival from the Civil Wars, another couple was making their version of baby-making music at the Yeti Stage. Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons, otherwise known as Seattle future-funk duo THEESatisfaction, were bumping, grinding, and talk-singing over an engaging backbeat that drew just as much from variegated African percussion as it did 808s. I usually approach vocalists with a pre-recorded soundtrack with trepidation, but Irons and Harris-White assuaged any fears I had with synchronicity between verses along the lines of MC Lyte and the group’s instrumentals. Even though Shabazz Palace’s Palaceer didn’t make an appearance for his guest spot on “Enchantruss”—girls can dream, can’t they?—lyrics like “You’re breaking my bad habits/So we can wake and bake instead” still went over just as well, especially with this crowd. Unfortunately, awE naturalE’s subtleties, like the duo’s subtle mouth sounds and call and responses on “Bitch”, were lost live. –Harley Brown

    Kurt Vile and the Violators – Bigfoot Stage – 4:15 p.m.

    kurt vile Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

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    It was still a sluggish afternoon at the Gorge as Kurt Vile began his sound check, and he wasn’t about to change that mood. Sluggish is Vile’s bread and butter. His shoegaze folk kept the pace evenly for his set’s entirety, and as he sported cuts from last year’s Smoke Ring for My Halo, the crowd wasn’t unresponsive, but they weren’t ecstatic by any means. They were somewhere in the middle for “Jesus Fever”, but by the time he closed with “Freak Train”, the webbed-shoes and the bare feet started moving and kicking up dust. –Winston Robbins

    Dum Dum Girls – Bigfoot Stage – 5:10 p.m.

    dumdumgirls 1 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Colin Athens

    In the five o’clock hour, the sky at the Gorge was heavily overcast with rays of especially bright light peeking through the clouds. Similarly, the ’60s girl group-themed vocals of Dum Dum Girls were wrapped in a garage and shoegaze haze. While the pieces fell into place on set highlights “Bedroom Eyes” and “Only in Dreams”, the lively choruses aimed for catchy but lacked sharpness in their hooks, while harmonies were lost in a sea of reverb and persistent sound issues. Like a Dum Dum Pop, the set offered a little sweet but not completely satisfying treat. -Frank Mojica

    Childish Gambino – Sasquatch Stage – 5:25 p.m.

    childish gambino Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Ted Maider

    We all know Donald Glover is a jokester, but the more you listen to his raps and see his performances, you start to feel he’s found his true niche. On Saturday afternoon, Gambino took to the Sasquatch stage as a blazing force in hip-hop, opening with the club-influenced “Firefly”, which automatically sent the crowd into a frenzy. After that, everyone was bobbing up and down as he dropped a new jam for Questlove, touched fans with “Freaks and Geeks”, and sparked a riot of a crowd with “Bonfire”. Gambino knows how to throw down on the mic, and it might not be long before Donald Glover becomes something of the past and Childish Gambino becomes his true identity. –Ted Maider

    araabMuzik – Banana Shack – 5:40 p.m.

    aarabmuzik 2 e1338286158666 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

    And now for something completely different: Not only did araabMuzik, the MPC-destroying performing and recording moniker of Abraham Orellana, take the stage after Portlandia, he suddenly became a dubstep artist when I had been expecting Instrumental University’s low-slung trap claps and airy synthpads. After araabMuzik’s hype man took the stage, providing a bigger, louder version of his recorded hypewoman (“You are now listening to araabMuzik” with the frequency of a radio personality), Orellana took the distorted piano that opens “1, 2, 3 Grind” and dropped it into that telltale wub-wub. Crowd control staff got involved shortly thereafter, practically lifting people out of the way to attend to multiple flower-tiara’d girls atop their boyfriends’ shoulders, who couldn’t have been more than 12 or 14 years old. You’d be hard pressed to say araabMuzik didn’t know his audience, but the question is, which audience? –Harley Brown

    Metric – Sasquatch Stage – 6:40 p.m.

    metric e1338280359318 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

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    After playing a very brief acoustic set in the Kokanee Tent comprised of “Help I’m Alive”, “Youth Without Youth”, and the world debut of “Synthetica”, Emily Haines and co. took to the Sasquatch stage to play to the masses at a very boisterous Gorge. Metric has gained a considerable following, and sure as the sun, they all showed up to sing along with every word – even the songs off the group’s forthcoming effort, Synthetica. In fact, their set was very Synthetica heavy, which weighed down the pacing for casual fans, but with help of old favorites like “Satellite Mind” and “Dead Disco”, they still made it a full-fledged pop-rock extravaganza. –Winston Robbins

    tUnE-yArDs – Bigfoot Stage – 7:30 p.m.

    tuneyards 11 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Colin Athens

    Among a small sampling of people I talked to at Sasquatch!, all had polarizing views on tUnE-yArDs’ music. “Oh, you’ve got to see them live,” I said, knowing that Merrill Garbus is a theatrical virtuoso that will mesmerize hapless bystanders with her clarion yawp. Sadly, the sprawl the Bigfoot stage and the dubious acoustics proved somewhat of a foil to tUnE-yArDs’ set, as jittery onlookers around me enjoyed bopping to “Gangsta”, but were definitely looking for something that hit harder. Even “Powa”, which was played early in the set and usually silences whole clubs, came out tepid (the vocal loops Garbus recorded in the beginning didn’t seem to ignite later in the song, as evinced by Garbus’ big goofy grin to the bass player at the end). All the elements were there, though– her gesticulations, her spot-on voice, her theatrical flair — everything that made tUnE-yArDs so impressive when she started this very same tour over a year ago. –Jeremy D. Larson

    The Shins – Sasquatch Stage – 8:10 p.m.

    the shins 2 e1338280748707 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

    The Shins’ set was nearly upstaged by a hang glider. First one, and then a few, and then many people suddenly pointed at what seemed to be a flying go-cart zooming low over the canyon toward the setting sun (Choice excerpt: “What the fuck? Did you see that or were you too busy looking at your hand?” and a few seconds later, noticeably more distressed, “What is happening?”). But Mercer’s tenor commanded attention no matter the surroundings, especially while wailing the chorus on “Kissing the Lipless”, which opened the Shins’ set. For this performance, the band upped classical piano keys in the mix, softening the edges around the clipped enunciations on “Caring Is Creepy”. It still sounds smoother on record, but I appreciated the experimentation. The Shins played a good mix of old and new songs, indulging in “New Slang” and taking the time to jam out on tracks like “The Rifle’s Spiral”. The Sasquatch himself even made an appearance: Toward the end of the Shins’ set, he snuck out from behind the stage setup, essentially Port of Morrow’s album art. But Mercer is a professional and, of course, the band played on. –Harley Brown

    St. Vincent – Bigfoot Stage – 9:00 p.m.

    stvincent 1 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Colin Athens

    Once the night finally rolled in, St. Vincent took the crowd at the Bigfoot stage to an even darker place. Annie Clark ferociously pummeled her guitar until it surrendered its utter jagged wickedness, jolted along like a haunted robot to her band’s twisted rhythms, and even attacked a theremin on “Northern Lights”, all while unleashing angelic cries. The effect was akin to being kicked in the gut and hugged simultaneously. After tearing through a cover of The Pop Group, Clark left the safety of the stage to be thrown around like a rag doll by a completely enthralled crowd during the riot grrrl rager “Krokodil”. As hard-hitting as the juxtapositions between the hideous and the gorgeous on the live interpretations of Strange Mercy and Actor highlights were, it was this set-closing one-two punch of punk rock appropriation that stole not just the St. Vincent show but the weekend as well.  -Frank Mojica

    Jack White – Sasquatch Stage – 10:00 p.m.

    jack white 6 e1338281050682 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

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    If anyone’s going to break the set-in-stone festival set times, not to mention his own rules about live performances, it’s Jack White. After playing almost until his allotted time of 11:30 p.m., he left the stage with his all-male backing band and returned with the same when I had been expecting his all-female band, since he almost always switches halfway through his set. And then he blew through his end time with “We’re Going to Be Friends”, “Hotel Yorba”, and “Seven Nation Army”.

    But that wasn’t nearly the best part of Jack White’s set. Nor was his ability to noodle through rock and roll’s evolution over the past 60 years or so years, or the prodigious talent of the predominantly Nashville- and Detroit-based Los Buzzardos, nor was it the millions of dollars worth of equipment on stage. No, the best part was probably when he played the Raconteurs’ “Steady, As She Goes”. “Here’s the part where I ask you to sing along. I don’t care if you don’t know the words, or if you don’t want to sing the words, or if you can’t sing the words, or if you don’t know what the words mean, or if you won’t know what they mean until you drive home tonight.” With that, he commanded the audience to sing, “Are you steady now?” At the third repetition, White and Los Buzzardos crashed into the final verse and got two thousand people to jump up and down, hands in the air, in unison. No glow sticks necessary.  -Harley Brown

    The Roots – Bigfoot Stage – 11:30 p.m.

    the roots Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

    Photo by Ted Maider

    Saturday was stacked in terms of artists that warranted seeing. It seemed as though I was running all day to catch so and so’s set at a different stage, and I don’t think I was the only one. As a result, there was not much energy left in the reserves of most of the festival-goers. Those that stayed were yawning and standing on weak legs, but it was no fault of The Roots. They, as always, brought their “A” game and then some. In fact, as the masses migrated from Jack White back to camp or their cars, many were sucked in as The Roots crew dipped into their back catalogue, playing their anthemic “Proceed” followed by a funky off-the-cuff version of “Jungle Boogie”.

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    Drummer/hip-hop guru Questlove was sporting a different haircut (I guess he decided on cornrows for the evening), but the sound remained the same. Both Quest and Black Thought kept the ensuing massive hoard entertained throughout, dusting off more oldies like “The Seed 2.0” and “Mellow My Man” both of which were folded into choice cuts from their previous two albums, How I Got Over and Undun. By the end of the night, they were playing to the largest audience The Bigfoot stage saw all weekend. And yes, they played the Jimmy Fallon song. –Winston Robbins

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