“Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.”
– Oscar Wilde
“I’m not really sure, but it’s a Tiny Mix Tapes article, so why not?”
– David Harris, when asked what the fuck the quote above has to do with anything.
We had barely set foot beyond the gates when someone shouted, “Stop her!” Somehow, the dark-haired girl in a sailor cap had squeezed by security and began to tear-ass down the hill, her progress impeded by her high-heel boots and the multitudes of festival-goers who paused to watch the bedlam. “We’ve got a runner!” someone shouted as the girl lumbered by, her arms flailing to help her gain momentum. She barely made it 10 yards before a yellow-shirted security guy tackled her to the ground, the two of them collapsing into a pile of burly man and thigh-high boots. Moments later, the guard escorted out, gripping her arm. As she attempted to yank it away, she yelled, “Get the fuck off me!” So began my third descent into the Sasquatch Festival. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
This will likely be my final Sasquatch Festival. I know every year I bitch and moan like Murtaugh and Riggs about being too old for the face-painting and animal-hat-wearing denizens that line up for middle-of-the-road indie bands ranging from Tame Impala to Imagine Dragons. But let’s be honest, most people don’t come to Sasquatch to listen to the music. Go to any one set, remove yourself from the fans in the first few waves of people and what does one see? Folks standing around, shouting at one another, vomiting up beer froth into a field or staring down and cursing as their cell phones drift in and out of service. I may sound like a grouchy motherfucker, but Sasquatch, you’ve turned me into a grouchy motherfucker. In the spirit of the great Nick Offerman, whose stand-up set treaded on 10 Tips for Prosperity, here are my 5 Ways Sasquatch Made a Bitter Old Man and 5 Ways I Actually Had a Good Time.
After arriving in the middle of the afternoon on Friday, we shouldered up for the Japandroids set 6:05 p.m. set. Getting there late, a wall of people separated us from Brian King and David Prowse, and most of them didn’t appear to give a shit about the rock taking place on stage. So rather than banging my head to “The House That Heaven Built,” I had to listen to people carry about Macklemore’s set later that evening. Everywhere we went all I heard was, “Macklemore this, and Macklemore that.” Jesus, Macklemore is so popular he bumped Vampire Weekend off the main stage. So I stood my ground for Japandroids, I danced along to Matthew Dear’s impressive set, I even caught the last 45 minutes of Vampire Weekend’s show, including an off-key version of “Walcott.” Then I skipped Macklemore.
Speaking of Getting Old…
It is clear that Sasquatch wants to cater to a younger crowd. I admit that I have absolute penis envy for Coachella each and every year (Blur! Stone Roses! Nick Cave!), but we live in the Pacific NW and this is our festival. But what’s up with trying squeeze out the old farts? Besides Elvis Costello, there was no one on the docket who put out an album before 1991. Add the entire decade of ’90s and only Dropkick Murphys, Built to Spill, Sigur Rós, and Cake (ugh) join that list. I get it, Sasquatch. I will go watch the shows at the Oregon Zoo band shell instead.
Here’s an idea. Get rid of the beverage-enforcement folks. Look, the kids are going to drink anyway. That’s part of going to a festival. Sneak in a flask, get someone to buy you a $10 can of Budweiser… But I don’t want these folks to lose their jobs. Why not turn them into GARBAGE ENFORCEMENT? Seriously. Each and every night, the festival grounds look like something out of “Fraggle Rock.” I saw more than one person drop a bottle/can/food wrapper on the ground just feet from a recycling bin. Where are these people coming from? Isn’t the Pacific NW supposed to be all environmental and shit? But you can drop your food. That’s fine. Some dude dropped an entire order of curly fries on the ground. Some other people walked through them. Then a group of kids happened upon the pile. “Oh, look!” one said. “Curly fries!” They ate them.
I don’t know how to put this lightly, so I’m just going to throw it out there: During Matthew Dear’s set, I stopped some older dude from finger-raping a 17-year-old girl. She was obviously drunk and began grinding up against this older dude who looked like a villain from a John Hughes movie with a pronounced underbite. Not only did he begin to grind his pelvis into her rear, he began to move his hands up and under the bottom of her shorts. After getting between them, I told the girl to stay behind me. “He put his finger up my butthole!” she shouted. I don’t know what’s worse: the actual perpetration itself or how cavalier she was in the re-telling. She should read some Styron.
I gritted my teeth against Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ stinky “Home.” As it finished, I worked my way to the front of the main-stage crowd to get up close for Elvis Costello & The Imposters. After waiting 45 minutes, Costello appeared looking mean and lean, ripping into “Lipstick Vogue,” kicking off a hits-fueled, 75-minute set that concentrated mainly on older material. As I sang along to “I Want You,” “Watching the Detectives,” and “Oliver’s Army,” I looked around me and saw that no one, save another dude with grey hair, was singing along. Don’t get me wrong, the crowd was polite, but like the girl in front of me who had been standing there for seven hours attested, they were all there to see Mumford & Sons. “My whole life has been leading up to this moment, to see Mumford & Sons,” one girl who looked like Lindsay Lohan squealed at one point. I went back to my tent, and incubated myself with alcohol and drugs before Mumford & Sons took the stage.
1. Iceland: Even though a music festival isn’t an ideal place to see a show, sometimes things work out just right and a set totally inspires. Sigur Rós put on a challenging headlining set Saturday night, playing 90 blissful minutes of music that spanned the band’s career. Some technical problems kept it from being perfect (Jónsi’s vocals monitor ceased working at one point, turning “Glosoli” into an instrumental piece), and the band’s soft-loud music may have been too much work for some festivalgoers, but they put on the best performance of the weekend.
2. Changes: I first saw Matthew Dear when he toured on Black City. His growth as a performer was apparent Friday night. Dear moved the stage like a true rock star in leather pants, playing a captivating hour of dance songs that had everyone around me dancing. Not all changes are for the best. The xx played a set on the gigantic main stage, and they adjusted their suffocating sound. The best part about their music is the claustrophobia of emotion, and while the songs still sounded great, the big-arena sonics did them a disservice. It held my interest even as I sat up on the hill about a mile away.
3. The Laughs: What’s funnier than watching Danny Brown perform? Listening to a white, teenaged girl behind you singing along about eating pussy.
4. The People: Look, collectively everyone at Sasquatch sucked. But take some time and introduce yourself to people and you will soon realize that everyone is there to have a good time. So people are just more conscientious about it than others. Over the course of the weekend I engaged in conversations about music, food, religion, beat some folks at Trivial Pursuit, lost to some folks at Trivial Pursuit, shared flasks, passed around a joint, and laughed about the aggro bros in the next campsite. It brings you closer together. It makes us more human.
5. New Bands: Most unknown bands blow. I’m sorry, but they do. But each year, I stumble onto something at Sasquatch that turns my head. This year, the South Carolina duo Shovels & Rope caught my attention. Husband and wife Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst played a clutch of heartfelt country songs that made me linger at the small side stage. I give them credit for sounding different. That’s at least something, isn’t it?
We headed back to Portland just after dawn. I had missed our neighbors fucking and then arguing just a few hours before, saved by the foresight of plugging into my iPod. She was angry that he came into her. My body sore from too much abuse, sleeping on the ground, and not enough sleep, I started to feel sad about breaking up with Sasquatch. I’ve never been one to get back together with an ex. But who knows? There’s always a first time for everything.
[Photos by Kirsten Pardun. More pictures from Sasquatch! 2013 on the next page.]