Sasquatch Fest 2016
with The Cure, Florence and the Machine, Disclosure, Sufjan Stevens, Savages, Mac DeMarco and more
Gorge Amphitheater, WA • May 27th-30th, 2016
by Alexa Harris
Along the Columbia river in Washington, the almost absurdly picaresque Columbia Gorge serves as the backdrop to a 4-day weekend of camaraderie, free expression, and plenty of music. Sasquatch! fest featured some big-name acts such as Florence and the Machine and The Cure, but only drew a disappointing attendance of 11,000, compared to the past average of 25,000. This is likely due to the fest’s lack of star-power of other festivals. However, the one major thing that Sasquatch! has over other comparable festivals (Coachella, Bonnaroo, etc.) is the location. Having the Columbia Gorge as the backdrop to the festival is simply unbeatable. The view is jaw-dropping gorgeous.
Variety is key for festivals to keep you going, and musically Sasquatch! did a pretty good job incorporating various genres into the festival. The social scene of the festival was overall extremely pleasant. As is typical with music festivals, the everyday social barriers seem to completely disappear and suddenly socialization between complete strangers becomes the norm, and soon enough you find yourself sharing your food rations with your camp-mates talking over what acts you’re looking forward to that day. It was a freeing environment that was all and all very warm and generous.
However no festival goes on without any flukes, and Sasquatch! was no different. The festival was subject to the whims of nature, especially on Sunday. Extreme winds led to various delays and cancellations throughout the early and mid-day. As well as this, there was a nearby forest fire, resulting in smoky, ashy air and high nerves among festival-goers and bands alike. Jessica Boudreaux, lead guitarist and singer of the band Summer Cannibals, expressed her concerns during their show early Sunday asking the crowd, “are we all going to die in a wildfire?” The festival served as a sort of giant billboard for advertisements. It was inescapable, from the heavy advertisement from Pepsi Co all over to the kind of shocking amount of tobacco advertising from the double-decker Newport ‘pleasure scene’ to signs advertising $12 packs of Marlboros for sale at the festival. All in all though, despite it’s various bumps along the way, Sasquatch proved to be a great time for those who came out. Even with the cancellations of shows on Saturday, it led to certain perks such as a surprise, acoustic, hill-side Leon Bridges set. Here’s the break down of how it all went down for me, day-by-day, and show-by-show.
Friday: From the attitude of the show, you would’ve thought that A$AP Rocky was the final show of the night. A good half hour of the show was spent not with A$AP performing his song but with another person hyping the crowd up, chanting for A$AP Rocky to come out. Though this was somewhat excessive and egotistical, the actual show he put on when he did come out was high energy spectacle to behold led by the great showmanship of A$AP Rocky himself in a fantastic denim on denim ensemble. His strong presence seemed to somewhat make-up for the fact that he came out late and didn’t sing all of his lyrics.
Many referred to the El Chupacabra stage as the dance tent, and as the first show I immediately understood why. Todd Terje provided a great atmosphere to just come and dance between other shows, though as a show itself it didn’t particularly stand out as anything besides your standard EDM dj set.
The anticipation was high as everyone waited for the first headliners of the weekend, Disclosure. The crowd was packed full of people ready to dance, and I had to pay close attention to where I was and where my friends were, because I was destined to get whisked away into the massive crowd. Disclosure’s danceable tunes were made ever more so and they were paired with fun visuals & lasers to go along with it.
The 2nd day felt like my first real day at the festival. I woke up to the amazing view from just outside my tent of rolling hills for miles. I headed into the festival grounds early to get an actual look around at the place and get familiar with the layout of the grounds I’d be navigating for the next few days. It was a fairly low-key day, the calmest out of the four for certain.
I was able stop on by Hibou early in the day. While I didn’t get to see the whole show, what I did get to see was really lovely. It was a calm and laid-back set, as is expected for a concert at 1:30 in the afternoon. The Seattle-based band’s melodic, reverb-heavy, somewhat nostalgic sounding pop music was the perfect for laying out in the grass to.
Raury is not an artist I would expect to see or particularly enjoy at 2 in the afternoon. However, the 19-year-old rapper’s energy and ability to connect with the crowd got everyone surprisingly hyped for such an early set and made it a great time for everyone there. He constantly talked to the crowd between songs, encouraging everyone in the crowd to turn to their neighbor and introduce themselves and make new friends. He also talked about how beautiful he found everything to be and how appreciative he was to be there and to have everyone come out to see him. He also gave a shout out to all the ‘indigo children’ in the crowd, which Raury identifies as himself and is also the title of his first album he put out in 2014. Raury put on a great show because he was great at engaging with the audience and performed his songs with great enthusiasm.
The crowd at the stand-up comedian’s show was relatively small, but despite the turn out, Moshe Kasher’s hilarious set got a lot of good laughs. He did a great job at tailoring his set for his audience, starting off the set with a good deal of jokes about music festival culture itself. He also does a great job with engaging his audience and improvising around the reactions of audience members. Kasher’s set was ultimately a hilarious look into the comedian’s personal life and experiences that also expertly incorporated the setting of the show itself and those who attended into the show.
Natasha Leggero has a uniquely dry and sharp sense of humor both shocked and greatly entertained the audience. Her cutting comments about her disdain for children and parents and questions to the audience such as “has anyone in here been pregnant? [silence] … well, not for long anyways,” had the audience in hysterics very quickly. Her comedy is quick, cutting, and to-the-point and her jarring honesty about the world is absolutely hilarious. I was very sad to have to leave her set early, but as festivals go it overlapped with another show I needed to see.
To put it simply and bluntly, Ty Segall is one crazy goddamn dude. One of the first things I noticed at the show was the loud and wild nature of the show, not just with the band, but the audience as well. The moshing was incredibly intense at the front of the crowd, with full-out running and shoving. Ty Segall was an intense presence and he and his band rocked out hard the whole show. The whole band had interesting get ups, Ty Segall and the drummer both had tie-dyed shirts, while another member had an all-orange suit and hat, and another wore a tan-suit and blue tinted glasses. Whenever Ty Segall talked between songs, he screamed completely random and absurd comments such as “my doctor told me, ‘no more eggs for you’ and I said ‘Fuck you man! I’ll eat all the fucking eggs I want!'” At another point, he put on his iconic creepy baby mask (which was also half ripped) and began to speak in ‘baby talk’ and cried out, “Mommy? Mommy? I thought we were supposed to go to a fun festival… maybe you’re with your new boyfriend.” Segall also pointed out to the crowd and stoically would repeat over and over “today is a beautiful day.” It was a very fun and crazy show, but also left me, and surely everyone else who saw it, with the question, “What the hell did I just watch?”
M Ward’s music was pleasant enough to listen to, but I don’t know if it had to do with me seeing it right after Ty Segall’s wild set, but I found the show to be terribly boring in comparison. The music was pleasant enough, but with so many other things to see and do at the festival, it just wasn’t engaging enough to really be particularly exciting to me or memorable.
Shannon and the Clams’ dreamy, shoegaze-y, ’60s surf rock sound had the crowd dancing away at the Yeti stage. The band all wore memorable, glamorous, matching sequin ensembles which was extremely fitting with their sound. The music would go all over the place, from kind of punk-y danceable tunes to slower 50’s inspired songs with elements of doo-wop that were better suited to soft swaying. By the end of it, my body was confused, but also extremely happy. Though I’m not always sure where their sound is going, all I know is that Shannon and the Clams is doing some great things, and that I dig it a lot.
The amphitheater was completely packed for M83, and for good reason. M83 delivered a show very much fitted for an amphitheater or arena, an extravaganza of visuals and lights all set to funky, electronic music made to groove to. I turned in early Saturday night, but M83 was a great way for me to end the night.
Sunday was a tumultuous day of high winds and not-so-distant forest fires. However, it also turned out t be a good full day of fun shows, that started with some serious punk girl power, went on to some wonderful music to chill out to, and finished off with some serious star-power.
“Those are some bad-ass gals!” was the sentiment of the guy in front of me in the crowd that I could not agree more with. The Portland band Summer Cannibals were some hardcore grunge rocker gals. Their sound was reminiscent of angsty, garage-band punk, and the set was complete with head banging and all. The lead singer and guitarist, Jessica Boudreaux, was one hardcore girl. During the set, she even called out a guy in the audience who yelled something obscene at her and shut him down to cheers from the crowd.
London-based post-punk band Savages rocked out at the Bigfoot stage. The lead singer, Jehnny Beth, was extremely interactive with the crowd, spending around as much time in the crowd as she did on stage. The group really embodies girl power (with 4 hardcore gals comprising the band) and the spirit of punk itself. Despite the air being thick with ash and winds blowing hard, nothing was going to hinder Savages from putting on a great show.
Texas native Connor Youngblood’s chill electronic music attracted a good crowd. Everyone just sat around on the grass, relaxed, and enjoyed the beautiful ethereal sounds. His music, inspired by electronic acts like James Blake as well as film scores, is just simple, relaxing, and beautiful. His dog, Juneau, even made an brief and adorable appearance on stage during the set. I think the feeling a lot of his fans express is surprise that he’s not more famous, and I echo that myself.
Cult-favorite indie rock band Yo La Tengo played for a pretty decently sized crowd at the Bigfoot Stage. I have to be honest, their music doesn’t exactly lend itself to the most exciting stage show, as the dreamy noise-pop style is better suited to swaying and light head-bobbing than to dancing in a crowd. However, I don’t mean to knock it for not being the most energetic show I’ve seen, it was still immensely enjoyable show, especially for the hardcore musicophiles in the crowd. The three-person group is extremely talented, and their live performance is very strong. It isn’t a surprise that the group is critically acclaimed. All in all, Yo La Tengo is an immensely talented powerhouse of a band that, while they have a good sized following at the moment, I could easily see becoming a much bigger band in the mainstream.
Baio, the solo act of Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio, is like the perfect culmination of indie rock/ electronic. The funky, electronic tunes were perfect for the dance tent (El Chupacabra) his stage act was absolutely everything I hoped and imagined it would be: cool visuals and lighting, cute, dorky dancing from the man himself, and a smaller-sized but passionate crowd very into the show. Listen to Baio, go see Baio, love Baio.
Oh, Mac Demarco. Love him? Hate him? It’s debatable within indie-music enthusiasts-realm. People can joke about his immense popularity and the annoying sect of his fan base that boast about smoking cigs and dress exactly like him. People can say whatever they want, but Mac Demarco is one hell of a performer. He’s also possibly the most likeable human being on earth. Known for his goofball persona and sometimes crazy antics on stage, he always makes time in his set to joke with the audience, crowd surf, and play absurdly long guitar solos. It’s not a true Mac Demarco show unless there’s a like 10/15 minute rendition of “Still Together” towards the end of the set. Mac is both a good musician and just an altogether fun dude, and half the fun of seeing him live is just listening to him and his band mates joke with each other. People can make fun of his persona or his fans all they want, but this guy knows how to put on a great show.
The electronic power-duo Purity Ring are the perfect act to see late at a music festival. Their fun dream pop music paired with a stunning stage set up of hanging twinkling lights and colorful crystals makes feels like it takes you to some futuristic second dimension. Even though the conditions at the time of their set were pretty harsh, being pretty cold with high winds blowing the hanging lights around, it seemed to not even phase the band. Lead singer Megan James was an absolute pop icon, she performs with extreme confidence and an intensity that makes her just an amazing strong presence. She’s just the embodiment of what it means to be a pop star.
The Cure has come a long way since the height of their fame in the 80s, but that hasn’t slowed them down one bit. They had the longest set of the whole weekend, with a whopping 2 and a half hour show. The audience was filled, and everyone, young and old, gathered to enjoy the music of a band that’s somehow timeless in the way it is able to resonate with differing generations.
Monday, the last hoorah! The festival went out on a bang with some fantastic shows to close out the weekend.
I hadn’t actually heard the music of this band before seeing their set, but I couldn’t not see the set of a band with a name as amazing as ‘Thunderpussy’. Since their set was earlier on in the day, it was a somewhat smaller group of people, with a handful of die-hard fans sporting their Thunderpussy tees right at the front of the crowd. The band was pretty much what I was expecting from the name, a group of bad-ass rocker chicks playing some good ol’ fashioned Rock n’ Roll. They’re like a modern day version of The Runaways. Their description on Soundcloud kind of says it all, describing the band as a “sex bomb” that will “blow up in your face like a handful of napalm” and my personal favorite descriptor, saying that the band is “rock n roll’s new diamond in the muff.”
“Thao & the Get Down Stay Down”
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down was one of the acts I was most excited to see, and I’m not sure if it was my high expectations going in, but I left this show with mixed feelings. I love the band, but I have to be honest that Thao sounded a bit off-tune sometimes throughout the set. However, as it went on, it got better as they got more into the swing of it. They also did a cover of Missy Elliot’s ‘Get Ur Freak On’ that rocked me hard. Their live performance was definitely lacking musically in comparison to their studio album, but the show was still a good time that was still great to head bang to.
I wholeheartedly believe Grimes is some 90s boy-band-eque space alien princess and I haven’t seen evidence to convince me otherwise. The show started off in what I thought was a pretty wild way, with just dancing at the start. A few dancers performed before she even came out. What then followed was an hour long set of Grimes performing at 100% the entire way through. There was no resting for Grimes, every single song looked like she was giving it her absolute all- dancing wildly, singing her heart out, and just full on screaming at points. Many points. One of my favorite things about Grimes is that she is just so clearly doing exactly what she wants to do and isn’t afraid to freak people out. She feels like doing a long blood-curdling scream and rolling around on the stage? She’s going to do just that. She’s a wild and creepy pop princess that is doing exactly what she feels like.
“I’m so ready to cry.” This was the sentiment of the guy standing in front of me, and it makes sense. Sufjan Stevens’ music is known for being intensely heart wrenching and sad, Sufjan even joked about this during his show saying “it wouldn’t be a Sufjan show without some songs about death.” Despite this, the show itself was significantly more fun and lively than one would expect listening to his music. He puts on a true extravaganza, full of bright colors, trippy visuals, balloons, confetti, and a few outfit changes. One of my favorite things about seeing him live is that along with your typical instruments used live (guitar, bass, drums, etc) the band also included a horns section, which gave the music a nice depth and complexity that just made the show all the more interesting. The bright and strange outfits and props for the show had this strange juxtaposition with the music, they didn’t seem to quite make sense together. As opposed to, per say, a show like Of Montreal, where you get those same kinds of strange outfits and trippy visuals, but it fits perfectly with their funky, upbeat music. Much of Sufjan’s music, on the other hand, is mainly acoustic, slower, and cover dark topics like illness and death.
Though the stage show feels a bit forced, an overcompensation for the emotional nature of the music in an attempt to make the show more ‘fun,” the setting did work well for certain songs of Sufjan’s that build into something more upbeat, like “Vesuvius” from his album The Age of Adz. Sufjan expressed during his set that after so long of touring with his last album (and probably his darkest one to date) Carrie and Lowell, he was happy to be performing more of ‘fun’ songs. While I think a decent amount of the crowd was surprised and slightly confused by the kind of trippy, flaming lips-esque show that Sufjan puts on, it was overall I think I great time for everyone who was there.