“There, among the reek of piss and shit, a flower grows.”
How the fuck can all these kids afford to go to Sasquatch? Tickets for this year’s fest, which was held over the Memorial Day weekend (May 25-28), cost $315 apiece. Factor in a few tanks of gasoline at $4.20/gallon (the Gorge Amphitheater is 150 miles from Seattle, 256 from Portland, and many more from elsewhere), booze, and drugs, and you’re already pushing $500. Then include a $9 Live Nation basket of chicken and curly fries per meal and $13 cans of PBR. Spread it over four days. That equals a shitload of money! Yet, Sasquatch 2012 was lousy with young people. Consider it the Pacific Northwest’s Burning Man, Jr. It doesn’t help an aging hipster’s self-esteem when a girl tells you, “You’re not old until you’re 25.”
Main Stage Mayhem
While a lot of interesting music occured on the side stages, let’s take a look at the three main acts that closed out the festival each night (not counting Friday because I was still ensconced in Portland). Jack White, touring now under his own name, played a raucous Saturday-night set that got the pit dancing. For 90 minutes, White and his crack new band covered not only material from his solo debut Blunderbuss, but also songs from the annals of The White Stripes, Dead Weather, and The Raconteurs (“Steady as She Goes” particularly lit up the festival goers). The frontman, curled deep into his Jack White persona, can now rely on a band to fill out the sound, but cuts like “Hotel Yorba” and the set-closing “Seven Nation Army” all sounded great.
For Sunday, I decided to catch Bon Iver from the relative safety of the hill. I’m not a big fan of Justin Vernon’s sophomore record, and maybe a theater setting would have suited the music more, despite the band’s attempt to make it stadium-friendly with big musical flourishes and lights. We bailed after four songs, as the dipshit kids around us decided to body-sled down the hill over and over rather than listen to the music.
A more subdued crowd showed up for Beck’s festival-closing set on Monday night, although a raccoon scaling the stage’s scaffolding did provide some good pre-Hansen entertainment. Leaning heavily on material from Odelay, the 90-minute set felt a little sleepier than Beck shows from the past, featuring slowed tempos and no Hansen dance moves. A three-song mini-set of songs from Sea Change was particularly deadly. However, closing track “E-Pro” featured not only appearances by Tenacious D and a man dressed in a Sasquatch suit, but also one from freshly minted internet-star Beck Jr., who tried to recreate some of his dance moves for the crowd. Watch that kid, Beck. Breakdancing can make him into an asshole with a big ego.
How to Meet Girls at Sasquatch
01. Be face-paint guy. Walk around with a little face-painting kit and the ladies will be lining up for your attention.
02. Show them a wristband that is different from theirs and promise them a chance to meet Beck.
03. Wait until they get drunk and tell them that you’re the bassist in Deer Tick.
04. Buy them a $13 PBR.
05. Carry a water bottle. With H2O stations few and far between, water is a hot commodity. It’s the equivalent of bumming a cigarette in a bar.
Side Stage Valor
Some of the best music of the fest took place on the smaller Yeti stage, a much more intimate way to catch some sets if sitting miles away from the main Sasquatch stage isn’t your thing. Zola Jesus closed out Sunday night on this small stage. Dressed entirely in white, Nika Danilova fluttered about the stage like an albino bat. Danilova usually cloaks her club shows in darkness and strobe lights, but as she played songs from both her Stridulum EP and LP Conatus in the waning sunlight, the singer proved she has the chops to step out of the gloom.
The “Good Citizen” award goes to Los Angeles band Vintage Trouble. While we inadvertently caught the set because we had some downtime, frontman Ty Taylor and company certainly stood out from the multitude of disaffected hipster bands by delivering a set of blistering soul music. Taylor howled and danced like a young James Brown, busting moves in a tight suit despite the mid-afternoon sun trained directly on him. After the set, Taylor and his band hung around and talked with fans. The band will be opening for Lenny Kravitz this summer. I guess none of us will be seeing that, right?
Jonathan Meiburg informed us that he drove from Richmond to Austin in a van before jetting out to the Gorge for the show. Too bad Shearwater’s set was so sparsely attended. I blame it on scheduling. I mean, seriously! Shearwater vs. Feist vs. Shabazz Palaces!? Despite a strong set of songs that touched not only on new record Animal Joy, but also older chestnuts from Rook, Meiburg’s challenging music just couldn’t win against the beautifully-voiced Canadian and a hot rap duo on Sub Pop. It made the next conflict even more pathetic: The Cave Singers vs. Silversun Pickups vs. John Reilly and Friends (more on him in a bit). Grrr.
Titties, Pussy Lips, and Ass Cheeks
Two years ago, face paint and animal hats were all the rage at Sasquatch. As we made our way to the Gorge, my friend and I tried to guess what this year’s fashion statement would be. While face- and body-painting subsisted, those cutesy animal hats were nowhere to be found. Instead, it was something out of Burning Man.
While many groups attended the fest in coordinated costumes (I saw Vikings, Injuns, fishheads, etc.), I have to hand it to the ladies who came in thigh boots and short shorts. I’m not talking Daisy Dukes, but shorts that rode so far up into the ass crack that half the cheek was hanging out. “I think I just saw that girl’s rectum!” my friend shouted. This wasn’t just an isolated incident, folks. People in the press tent dressed this way. As we sat on the lawn during a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah set, I looked over at the woman sitting next to me. The wind had blown up her skirt and, to quote the inimitable Patrick Stewart, “I saw everything.”
A Quick ‘Thank You’ to Metric
Dear Metric, thank you for being so boring. I had the best nap of my life during your set with my hat over my face, the glorious sun beating down on me.
Is That a Banana in Your Pocket?
I caught three sets at the oddly named Banana Shack, the covered pavilion where dance acts and stand-up comedians could entertain festival-goers hoping to escape the sun. On Saturday, I caught an early set by internet hot topic AraabMuzik. As the young folks danced around me, I noticed the set felt more like a DJ spinning and lacked the incorporation of the glossy trance samples that made Electronic Dream such a success.
The next night, I caught James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem fame in da shack. Although his band is now retired, its residual fame brought people out in droves to catch the DFA all-star in action. Those expecting to hear “All My Friends” or “North American Scum” would be disappointed. Murphy did a strictly DJ set, incorporating disparate elements such as Dee-Lite into his jam. It did, however, threaten to drown out some of Bon Iver’s quieter numbers from across the amphitheater.
The final set came on Monday evening as the masked SBTRKT hit the stage. Beginning well before the slated time, SBTRKT did more than replicate the music from his record. Of all the DJs, this set turned into a bona fide dance party, and I was actually sad I had to walk away early to line up for Beck’s show.
Starfucker (not the band)
Two of the biggest crowds of the festival appeared before some of the smaller stages. One-hit wonders fun. (that’s the band name) drew in folks hoping to hear that ubiquitous radio song, and people came in droves to catch a glimpse of John C. Reilly. However, when they heard that the actor and his friends would only be playing country songs, the crowd dissipated nearly as quickly as it appeared. Kudos to Reilly who took a moment to pose and shake hands with his fans after the set.
Don’t Get Them Wet
Mogwai canceled their Monday-night performance at the last moment, leaving festival organizers scrambling. Deer Tick manned up and played a covers set in their place, hitting favorites from The Replacements, Nirvana, and Beastie Boys. A British journalist, clearly disappointed that she would not be seeing Mogwai, moaned that the band had canceled on her five times now. When she asked me why they canceled, I so gallantly quipped, “I guess someone fed them after midnight.”
A Totally Shameless Moment
I told someone that I saw the best and worst of humanity at Sasquatch. The tender moments, such as people sharing water and food or cuddling on the grass warmed my heart, but the blackest moment still haunts me. A couple made out furiously one afternoon. The girl had her legs wrapped around her beau as they went to town. Pull back and you will see that this coupling took place in front of a row of 20 Honey Buckets. Pull back even more and you will see a crowd of more than 40 people standing there watching. There, among the reek of piss and shit, a flower grows. Oh, humanity.
Some More Music
Kudos to the ladies. St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, and Wild Flag all turned in strong sets on the Bigfoot stage. I missed it, but I heard that Annie Clark did some epic crowdsurfing. Carrie Brownstein and friends covered Patti Smith and Fugazi during a windy set, and Merrill Garbus bellowed into the microphone. “Gangsta” was pretty fucking epic. I did also catch Kurt Vile’s set, but it was besieged by sound problems.
Overheard at Sasquatch
“My life is over,” one young man claimed. “I’ve seen Tenacious D. I don’t think I have anything else to live for. My life goal is fulfilled.”
We skipped Tenacious D’s set.
Catch Ya Next Time
Three sets I regret missing were Alabama Shakes, The War on Drugs, and Spiritualized. I could hear the Shakes from the parking lot when we arrived, and they sounded great. The War on Drugs took 15 minutes to start due to sound issues, and we had already moved onto the next thing. Finally, Mogwai’s cancellation bumped Spiritualized’s set into direct conflict with Beck. Decisions, decisions. We went with the big name. Sweet Jane, when ya gonna die?
We waited for Beck to the take the stage, the pack of bodies generating warmth on a chilly high desert night. It was the end of four days of partying, the crowd a little subdued and less pushy. Three young girls stood in front of us, their wristbands the only indication they were of drinking age. One of them stood with droopy eyes and open mouth. The other two moaned about some destroyed blunts.
“Do you think this is okay?” one asked as she swallowed dry pot out of a baggie.
“Why not?” her friend answered. The droopy-eyed one just stared into space.
They then produced a flask and cried out, “Slapshot!” One girl took a swing. Her friend smacked her in the face. Droopy just kind of grinned.
“You want some?” one turned and asked us. “You have to get slapped if you do.”
My friend agreed, took a swing from the Johnnie Walker, and then got slapped in the face. They pointed the flask to me.
“I’m underage,” I said.
This confused them for a moment. “I’m joking,” I said.
One of the girls turned and took me into a full embrace. “You’re my best friend,” she proclaimed, pushing her face into my chest. She then pulled away. “Am I freaking you out?”
“I’ve been hugged before,” I answered.
Then the girl with the droopy eyes blinked, mumbled something, produced a pipe, and took a big hit. I realized here that everything was right with the world.