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Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

on May 30, 2012, 4:19am
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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.

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.

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Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

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.

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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

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

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

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

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

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”.

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

Sunday

Hey Marseilles - Sasquatch Stage  - 12:00 p.m.

hey marseilles Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Fully aligned with those squinty-eyed early birds, the seven-piece Seattle chamber met the first crowd of Sunday with warm cello, fiddle, squeeze box, trumpet, and acoustic guitars backed with that big beat stomp. Props to their arrangements, which despite the all too familiar sound, flow in and out of the music without lulling a song into a weepy sleep. Eager, earnest, and polite — perfect for the first smile-and-nod of the day. –Jeremy D. Larson

Reignwolf – Yeti Stage – 1:20 p.m.

reignwolf10 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

He’s the kind of band that makes other bands roll their eyes at him — but that’s part and parcel why I stood and watched Reignwolf’s whole set. He’s Jordan Cook from Saskatoon, clearly a Jack White acolyte, and a complete cock-ass showman on guitar, playing pentatonic riffs with one hand and holding the mic with the other. For the first part of the show, it was Cook alone on stage, stomping on a drum, pleasing the living shit out of himself playing guitar and singing unabashed blues. His band came on a couple songs later and added a bit of a Black Sabbath via Spinal Tap groove-metal to the sound– a foreign vibe for most of the bands playing Sasquatch!. Of course, he was wearing a black leather jacket, doing The Lip Curl, pointing to screaming women in the crowd, standing on the bass drum, and sitting on the security guy’s shoulders. He’s without a record, but full of so much unabashed spirit, theatrics, and style that his live show is all he needs for now.  -Jeremy D. Larson

Here We Go Magic – Bigfoot Stage – 3:00 p.m.

here we go magic Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Colin Athens

“Is everyone stoned?” Everyone probably should have been for this colorless start to the afternoon, which evaporated almost as soon as it pulsed from Jen Hunter’s admittedly formidable bass. I don’t know if it was the fact that Here We Go Magic’s bass-heavy blend of krautrock and psychedelic afterthoughts should be heard in a dark, enclosed space (i.e. headphones) as opposed to the blinding light and wind of midday in the Gorge, but the heavy atmosphere the band was trying to drive home with rhythm fell flat. They were effective when combined with more engaging foils, like vocalist Luke Temple’s Hayden Thorpe-like falsetto on “Tunnelvision” or the uptempo “Collector” with its synthesizers and catchy repetition of “I’ve got a mild fascination.” –Harley Brown

Blind Pilot – Sasquatch Stage – 3:30 p.m.

blind pilot Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

Sunday was a bit of a slow morning, so to hear Blind Pilot’s keen harmonizing and to see their smiling faces was truly a much-needed energy booster. Since last playing at The Gorge, they released We Are the Tide, a far more ambitious album than their debut and one that’s primed for a live setting. The best of the new bunch was the astoundingly beautiful “Half Moon”, and they left just enough time to play some of their golden oldies like “Oviedo” and “The Story I Heard”. Their tight, Northwest folk struck a chord with the Northwesterners at ease, who all came out in droves to see local rock on the mainstage. –Winston Robbins

The War On Drugs – Bigfoot Stage – 4:10 p.m.

war on drugs Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Colin Athens

The hairs were grayer in the crowd for The War On Drugs’ set as Adam Granduciel’s humbuckers made their bossgaze music spiral out across the field. This was my first time seeing the band at a big festival on a sizable stage, though they hardly seem suited for any other environment. Their rolling guitar lines, no longer tangled in a small club, are given the chance to stretch and breathe in the wind. “Baby Missles” could stand tall next to any Springsteen song at Wrigley Field, and even the moseying “I Was There” wrapped around the crowd as Granduciel merely suggested the melody for those great lyrics: “I was there to catch a man/I thought I had him by the hand/I only had him by the glove.” Oh, and a fairly large dance circle broke out during “Come To The City”, instigated by a guy in a top hat wearing a black shirt with neon letters that read, “I’m In Cancun, Bitches.” Won’t find that at a rock club. –Jeremy D. Larson

Beat Connection – Banana Shack – 4:40 p.m.

beat connection Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

Sunday was the windiest day of all at Sasquatch!, so to hole up in the Banana Shack to catch Beat Connection’s electro-savvy surf rock was a major relief. Not only did it get everyone out of the wind, it invited them into an atmosphere of rock ‘n’ roll straight from the beach. They ran through most of their Surf Noir EP over their short set, hitting triumphant strides during “In The Water” and “Silver Screen”. –Winston Robbins

M. Ward – Sasquatch Stage – 5:25 p.m.

m ward Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Among the list of names that could have potentially headlined the festival over Pretty Lights was M. Ward, a man who needs very little introduction. If you’re a rock enthusiast, the man shreds like there’s no tomorrow. If you’re an indie vet, he’s written some of the best indie folk of our generation, and to the layman, he’s the other half of Zooey Deschanel’s She & Him project. I feel like any one of those criteria would deem him an eligible suitor for headlining, but alas, he was mid-day on the mainstage. None of that mattered once he started plunging deep into his enormous back catalogue. His latest effort, A Wasteland Companion, was well represented, but he also played a surprising amount of 2009’s Hold Time. What’s more, “For Beginners” and his cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” were greeted with special warmth. He and his band (which included Bright Eyes mainstay Nate Walcott) played a tight, enjoyable set to finish off the afternoon at the Gorge. –Winston Robbins

Active Child – Yeti Stage – 5:40 p.m.

activechild 1 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Colin Athens

Admittedly, I was hesitant about how Active Child could pull off their affecting, unconventional sound live. Any doubts promptly dissolved upon witnessing Pat Grossi belt “You Are All I See” with a power only hinted at on the album of the same name. Instruments outnumbered people by at least a two-to-one ratio, but the trio switched back and forth to recapture the intricately layered nature of the album. The pacing picked up after Grossi switched from harp to synth for “Playing House”, with the crowd breaking out in one of the weekend’s unlikeliest sessions of clapping and dancing along. -Frank Mojica

Wild Flag – Bigfoot Stage – 6:20 p.m.

wildflag 2 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Colin Athens

Right after Wild Flag’s set, I tweeted “Wild Flag > Jack White,” which elicited more responses than I’ve ever gotten, with people asking, “Are you sure about that?” I’d like to blame such an inflammatory statement on the comedown from Flag frenzy, but the truth is, the post-Sleater Kinney/Helium/Autoclave supergroup singlehandedly overturned my predilection for male-fronted rock. Their whole set simply annihilated, acting as the antithesis to White’s testost-rock: On “Racehorse”, Carrie Brownstein stretched open her red-lipsticked mouth and screamed, “You’d better RIIIIDE!” after commanding her rapt audience to “pony up” and “put your money where your sweet, sweet mouth is.” She and fellow guitarist and singer Mary Timony held their instruments aloft, letting the feedback buffet an audience slightly older and tamer than the festival’s general population but no less appreciative (“They fucking rocked it!”, “That was sick!”).

Despite the sanctity of Wild Flag’s performance, the foursome indulged in light moments like the falsetto harmonies on “Electric Band” and Brownstein’s infamous Portlandia humor (“We’re happy to be here in this Whitesnake video wind tunnel onstage”). During a cover of Patti Smith’s “Ask the Angels”, Brownstein took a moment to push against Timony’s forehead while the latter riffed, finally butting her away to finish the song. It was such a classically rock ‘n roll moment that reminded me of the age-old question: Are men necessary? Probably, but the ladies onstage certainly made me think twice about it. -Harley Brown

The Walkmen – Bigfoot Stage – 7:30 p.m. 

the walkmen 4 e1338284633865 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Anyone who had the foresight to stick around at the Bigfoot Stage for the early evening also had the privilege to see the veteran musicians of Wild Flag and The Walkmen put on two of the weekend’s best sets back-to-back. While the former technically hasn’t been around for that long, The Walkmen have been playing together for a decade, and it shows. Hamilton Leithauser moves seamlessly from the Bing Crosby croon of brand new material like “We Can’t Be Beat” to throaty favorites like A Hundred Miles Off’s “All Hands and the Cook”, all the while busting the veins in his neck with his signature wail. Cuts off Heaven bounced with enthusiasm, but older songs sounded well-worn with years of experience and ceaseless touring. After such a professional performance, it was surprising to hear Leithauser say dryly, “We’re rarely invited in the first place, so it’s an honor to be invited back.” But when several shirtless young men crowd-surfed during “The Rat”, slamming the front row into the barricade, I think I understood where he was coming from. –Harley Brown

Apparat – Banana Shack – 8:00 p.m.

apparat Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

I’m going to come right out and say it: I have a very rudimentary knowledge of Apparat and its history. All I know is that someone handed me a copy of The Devil’s Walk earlier this year, and I was infatuated by Apparat’s collected combination of the sentimentality of Aqualung with the beat-centricity of Modeselektor. I don’t want to jump the gun and say anything prematurely, but there were some serious Radiohead vibes coming off the Berlin outfit’s stage. As they drifted in and out of songs it was easy to get lost in their melodic beats. “Sweet Unrest” even evoked chorus chanting from those fans who were relishing the opportunity to see the out-of-towners play Sasquatch. And like I said, I’m not overly familiar with the band’s complete works, but I know for certain they put on a hell of a show for a very big audience (many of whom were just lining up early to see Mr. James Murphy).  -Winston Robbins

Beirut – Sasquatch Stage -8:10 p.m.

beirut7 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Meanwhile, over at the Sasquatch! stage, every single couple at the festival was settling into what would be three hours of some of the most unabashedly romantic indie music today, starting with Beirut (which one friendly, older gentleman in a tie-dyed Pink Floyd t-shirt next to me called “tragically romantic”). I got to Beirut’s set just in time for “Postcards from Italy”, as Zach Condon’s ukulele washed over a field of blankets and ketchup-stained curly fry containers with the setting sun. And then the horns kicked in, mirroring the tenor and vibrato of Condon’s own warble, which should be patented or put in a glass case somewhere for future generations—I’m sure more than a few were conceived that night—to marvel at. I was pleased that synth-based songs, like “My Night with the Prostitute from Marseilles” and Gulag Orkestar’s version of “Scenic World”, which sound thin on record, were fleshed out with a live drum and Beirut’s copious instrumentation.

When I asked my musically-trained fellow correspondent why “Scenic World” was so good, he didn’t have an answer. Instead, he asked, “Why is Beirut so good?” Maybe like the Gorge, both have an inherent beauty that’s difficult to explain or scientifically reconcile. The bassist, who threw his hands up in ecstasy during “Rhineland (Heartland)”, seemed to think so, too. –Harley Brown

James Murphy – Banana Shack – 9:30 p.m.

james murphy Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

And then it was time to choose. Do you go with the uber-hip funky disco of James Murphy or the crowd-friendly fest of pristine folk that Bon Iver had to offer? It might be the most important decision you ever make. This decision could ostensibly define you as a person. Okay, maybe not. But there were enough bodies in the Banana Shack to consider that the ratio may have been much, much closer to 50/50 for Bon Iver/James Murphy than one might have guessed. And those in attendance to see Mr. Murphy were certainly not let down. He began his set with a humble question – “Can I play some records now?” – not aimed at the crowd, but at the sound guy.

Regardless, both gave him their adamant approval, and that’s how it was for the next two hours: Murphy in his headphones, going back and forth between his turntables and the table he had set up behind him, full of vinyl (a formidable collection, to be sure) and drinks. The man brought the party so nonchalantly, it was easy to forget he was the ringleader. What wasn’t easy to forget, though, was the constant flux of disco and rave he kept thudding for the next two hours. And perhaps the most endearing part of his set was that he didn’t play a single song that anyone was familiar with, and it was still a solid two-and-half-hours of non-stop dancing. After going half an hour longer than he was scheduled for, he announced that this was “the most fun festival show in a long, long time,” and I doubt anyone in attendance would argue. One of the strongest sets of the festival, through and through.-Winston Robbins

Bon Iver – Sasquatch Stage – 10:00 p.m.

bon iver 2 e1338285461717 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Full disclosure: “Skinny Love” made me cry. Right after a guy wearing what appeared to be a faux-fur head wrap and a tie-dyed tank top asked me if I was “journaling” and asked me for a hug, this hardened journalist got a little verklempt. It’s hard not to when thousands of people shout, “Now all your love is wasted/Then who the hell was I?” at the top of their lungs. Like the other cuts off For Emma, Forever Ago, it received the Bon Iver backing band treatment, swelling with lush strings and horns that would have sounded out of place on Justin Vernon’s mostly acoustic debut. Fortunately, he didn’t take himself too seriously, pausing after “Perth” to say, “This is pretty fucking cool!” and admitting that “Towers” was about “sweet, sweet college” while “Holocene” was about drugs and alcohol.

Another disclosure: I did not enjoy Bon Iver’s set on Saturday night, Colin Stetson’s mind-bending circular breathing aside. The swaying burlap curtains hanging from the light fixtures, glowing tiki lights onstage, and “Towers”’ 10-minute jam session was all too much. I was probably the only one who felt that something was missing—except the people next to us who wondered if this was a dubstep show—but I had a hard time finding For Emma-era’s emotion behind songs like the almost unrecognizably orchestral “Blood Bank”. After a performance so far removed from Vernon’s original intent, I wasn’t surprised to hear he’s taking five years off from Bon Iver. –Harley Brown

Monday

Gary Clark Jr. – Sasquatch Stage – 2:10 p.m.

gary clark jr 2 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Before he even started his first song, the crowd down in the pit chanted “Gar-ry! Gar-ry! Gar-ry!” It’s an unusual reception for someone playing so early in the day, but Gary Clark Jr. is the latest guitar god. Under a scorching sun, Clark shredded some vicious guitar solos and scraped his guitar strings with wild abandon in a manner more intimidating than anything in the swamps of the Delta. The blues may have been around for decades, but Clark proves that there is still freshness and innovation to be drawn from that world. –Frank Mojica

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Sasquatch Stage – 3:15 p.m.

 I last saw Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at Bonnaroo in 2006, fresh off the success of their self-titled debut. Even though the tent had been dark and hot as a jockstrap and the set was plagued with technical difficulties, the band’s wild-eyed enthusiasm made it worthwhile. Six years later, I approached another Clap Your Hands Say Yeah festival set, this time post-Hysteria, with some reservation. Even though the band members stayed static onstage, “Same Mistake” and “Hysteria” swept big and clean across the dancers—two of which held their right hands and clapped their left hands together, embodying the happy-go-lucky spirit of my first CYHSY show—in the front section, and old cuts like “Heavy Metal” still invigorated in a live setting. The telltale buzzing keys cuing “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”, however, sounded old and tired, as though the band couldn’t muster the energy to play their most popular song anymore. It only reminded me that there will never be another Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. –Harley Brown

The Joy Formidable – Sasquatch Stage  - 4:20 p.m.

joy formidable Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Thankfully the rocky landscape of the Gorge is a sturdy one, because The Joy Formidable fired a set of catchy pop backed by the kind of shoegaze noise that could cause an avalanche. The Welsh power trip performed like rock stars and were given a likewise response, especially for set high point “Whirring”. After a promise of a return and a completed album, the Welsh power trio ripped into “A Heavy Abacus” for a fast-paced, roaring close, which ended with drummer Matt Thomas pummeling solo for the finale. If anyone in The Joy Formidable deserved their own time in the spotlight, it was Thomas because his especially frantic style was one of the hardest-hitting of the entire weekend. -Frank Mojica

fun. – Bigfoot Stage – 4:40 p.m.

fun 1 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Colin Athens

After reading lackluster reviews of Some Nights, judging the album tracklist by its cover, and getting sick of the person who drives around my block blasting “We Are Young”, I didn’t have high hopes for fun.’s Monday afternoon set. I was the only one, apparently, since the band drew the second-largest crowd to the Bigfoot Stage after the Roots’ performance on Saturday night. And I have to admit, everyone else was right. Fun.’s set was, well, fun. Frontman Nate Ruess, who sported a “FUN.” basketball jersey with his name on the back, sounds uncannily like Freddie Mercury. His band also specializes in Queen’s bombastic, theatrical rock, minus the sense of humor. Their arena rock gets people singing along to ridiculous lyrics like “my friends are higher than the Empire State” (although that was probably because in this context, it was true). It’s true that Ruess’ stale soliloquy on “Some Nights”—“I sold my soul for this/Washed my hands of that for this/Miss my mom and dad for this?”—is kind of cringe-worthy, but who has time to think about that when you’re singing along? –Harley Brown

Feist – Sasquatch Stage – 5:30 p.m.

feist Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

On the Sasquatch stage, Leslie Feist illustrated how she can grip a crowd while actively avoiding shortcuts, even going as far as to omit obvious old favorites such as the iPod commercial sensation “1 2 3 4” and reinvent others. For opener “When I Was a Young Girl”, Feist took the stage backed by only a drummer as she gave the song a makeover with country-tinged guitars, while “Mushaboom” was stripped down to an almost unrecognizable form. For penultimate “Comfort Me”, Feist asked the crowd to channel Bon Jovi or their favorite ’80s band to wave their hands and sing along all the “na na na’s”. The result may have reminded her of New Kids on the Block, but for the crowd it was the latest in a nonstop series of engrossing moments. -Frank Mojica

The Cave Singers – Bigfoot Stage – 6:50 p.m.

cavesingers 1 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Colin Athens

Seattle-based folk outfit The Cave Singers both managed to follow fun.’s anthems and set the stage for Deer Tick, whose covers set was to take Mogwai’s place after them. Frontman Derek Fudesco even sounded like John J. Macaulay, spitting gravel into the mic while he shook duct-taped maracas. The group’s more angular cuts, like “Black Leaf” and “At the Cut” from several years ago, got a four-day-tired audience on their feet—literally, a guy was wrapped in a blanket at my feet, rising only to tell his friend, “I’ve never been so tired in my life” before going to lean against the barricade—more than their quieter, more acoustic ballads. All in all, though, it was a good mix. I was just disappointed they didn’t have time to play their 10-minute version of ZZ Top’s “Legs”, which they promised they would later play acoustically next to the frozen margaritas. –Harley Brown

Silversun Pickups – Sasquatch Stage – 7:00 p.m.

silversun pickups Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Sometimes a band’s meant to play a festival at a certain point, and the Silversun Pickups were destined to perform at the Sasquatch stage, amidst the sun’s last plunge into the Gorge on this Memorial Day weekend. As exhausted as the crowd was, the California rockers’ loud fuzz breathed some life into the wary spectators, and frontman Brian Aubert even offered some comedic respite. ”Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes,” he exclaimed, quoting Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, all before launching into classics like “Panic Switch” and Lazy Eye”. How could we not oblige? –Ted Maider

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists  - Yeti Stage – 7:50 p.m.

Like The Cave Singers, Ted Leo also realized he was fighting a battle against festival fatigue. “Thanks for sticking it out for all four days,” he said, peppering his high-wattage set with Paul Stanley quotes and regret that there wasn’t an Erin Esurance hologram onstage with him (“But in this light, it probably wouldn’t work anyway”). The knot of fans clustered against the oncoming cold yelled things like “More of the same! Similar to before!” after Leo ripped through fan favorites like “Me and Mia” and “The One Who Got Us Out”. His band rocked so hard that they broke a bass drum pedal on “arguably their wimpiest song,” “Bottled In Cork”. Even though the crowd was small and the night was getting cold, Ted Leo’s warm stage presence and brutally intimate performance gave off enough energy to last the rest of Sasquatch! 2012. –Harley Brown

Deer Tick – Bigfoot Stage – 8:00 p.m. 

deer tick Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Mogwai’s performance was cancelled due to travel issues, and Spiritualized was promoted to their closing timeslot, while a second Deer Tick set was added to the schedule. “We’re not here to play any Deer Tick songs”, announced frontman John McCauley before tearing into a special covers set that included Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and The Replacements’  ”Waitress in the Sky”. High points were a raucous rendition of “La Bamba” and becoming Deervana for “On a Plain”. It may not have been the post-rock giants, but Deer Tick’s cover set was still a special treat that made the most of the moment. –Frank Mojica

Tenacious D – Sasquatch Stage – 8:15 p.m.

tenacious d 4 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Those who remained Monday evening quite possibly stuck around just for Tenacious D. Not only did they attract one of the largest crowds of the weekend, but also the liveliest. When JB and KG arrived on stage in comedic white fur coats, everyone surged (like an At the Drive-In reunion sort of surge), and things got tough. “We want to shut this motherfucker down,” Jack Black screamed, backing this statement up with on-target renditions of “Tribute”, “Kickapoo”, “Senorita”, and plenty more. The set’s true highlight, however, was when the festival’s mascot arrived for Pick of Destiny gem “Sasquatch” to shred some mean guitar solos in the name of rock. Only at the Gorge– and only with Tenacious D– could such a memorable performance take place. –Ted Maider

Spiritualized – Bigfoot Stage – 9:30 p.m.

spiritualized 11 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

 Photo by Colin Athens

Due to Mogwai’s late cancellation, Spiritualized was moved back an hour and a half, forcing everyone to wait longer, but giving them the last slot on the Bigfoot stage, with plenty of time to go over – which they did. After opening with a blistering rendition of “Hey Jane”, Jason Pierce and his band ran through a very sizable portion of their latest LP, Sweet Light, Sweet Heart. The party didn’t really begin, though, until they dropped “Ladies And Gentlemen, We’re Floating In Space” in tandem with the quiet ballad from the same album, “Stay With Me”. At 11:00 p.m., half an hour after they were supposed to be finished, they began a rousing live version of “Come Together” that had the dismally small crowd rocking back and forth in unison. That would be their last song of the night, but it was as triumphant a note to end with as the one they rode in on. In all seriousness, there should have been a lot more people at The Bigfoot stage to see the legendary UK outfit (to be fair, he was competing against Beck’s headlining set), but Pierce was unphased by the small turnout, and he rocked just like everyone knew he would. -Winston Robbins

Beck  - Sasquatch Stage – 10:00 p.m.

beck 2 Festival Review: CoS at Sasquatch! 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Before the final set of the weekend, the main stage screens ceased the cycling of advertisement slides for corporate sponsors and upcoming concerts to show footage of a raccoon climbing the rafters. The surreal moment was the perfect segue for a performance by a weirdster chameleon such as Beck. Earlier in the week in Los Angeles, Beck reunited with his Sea Change band for the first time since it was recorded, and at the Gorge they took advantage of this special assembly to perform album standouts “Lost Cause” and “Sunday Sun”. As stirring as the renditions of these heartbreak odes were, it was the more upbeat hits like “Devil’s Haircut”, “E-Pro”, and “Loser” that predictably drew the biggest response, even if the man himself seemed somewhat disinterested.

Near the end, Beck and company were joined by Tenacious D for a rare performance of “Mutherfuker”, giving this year’s Sasquatch! its final “can you believe that happened?” moment. Beck may have been an odd choice for a headliner, namely for the lack of any new material, but he showed how fun it can be to just hear the crowd-pleasing hits combined with oddities for the more seasoned fans. -Frank Mojica

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Photographer(s): Jeremy D. Larson, Ted Maider

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