The Sasquatch Festival: Day One
The Gorge; George, WA
we were, roarin' down I-90 like a magnetic bowling ball catapulting toward
sheet-metal pins. Stoned. Ripped. Wasted. Er, St- ... St- .. on- ... erp,
[cough] ... -oned ... wasted.
Headin' to Sasquilla with our tires manically skirting the highway and our
heads in the drunk tank, it wasn't long before we found trouble burbling in
the underbelly of the small-town animal. Well, trouble is a relative word, but
at the very least the situation was uncomfortable. Specifically, the owner of
a small bodega [Beau - Day - Gah] wouldn't allow my colleague and I to use the
bathroom after a looooooong search turned up no gas stations. BALLS! We got
over that one quickly, as a Mexican restaurant manager nearby gladly
"SHOOOR, of COURSE you can use our bathroom! What do I look like, some sort of
heartless savage? Just purchase our most-expensive dish and you can use our
facilities all you want ... A-HA-HA-HA! I KID, I KID ... Do your worst, Alfred
R. Poodanger!" [quote edited for funniness]
We had more trouble checking in at our campsite. Approaching the Man in Charge
yielded an awkward conversation that would taint our enjoyment of the site's
Billy T. Burglebum, site manager: "HEY!!! YOU KIDS READY TO PARTY!!!"
BTB: "WELLLL... not here. We pride ourselves on a clean, sanitary site with
little-to-no distractions, mmmk? Haha, didn't mean to get your hopes up! And
hey, you can holler all you want until 10 p.m., but then it's LIGHTS OUT,
He might as well have given us the ol' ‘We don't take kindly …' line. What did
we expect? My dingleberry for a companion reserved us a spot at Stars 'n'
Stripes RV Park, otherwise known as a small-town republican stronghold
disguised as a campsite. No shit. We might as well have painted "Liberal
Jagoff" on our chests and walked around handing out PETA pamphlets for all the
sympathy we were going to get. An explosion could have been triggered at any
second. Little did we know that magenta-necked camp counselors and stringent
site policies would be the least of our hassles.
During our three-day excursion to the 2006 Sasquatch Festival, aka South by
Southwest for Hick Dummies Stuck in Washington and/or Canada, we
performed/witnessed the following acts:
— saw 17 bands
— scissor-kicked two helpless sunbathers
— ate 3-and-a-half pounds of M&M/peanut/raisin trail mix
— shit eight-and-a-half staplers
— were told that "only 20 people are allowed to photograph Arctic Monkeys"
— became discouraged by how good Arctic Monkeys were in lieu of the photo ban
— used the word ‘Malkmus' out of context enough to Malkmus a friggin' Malkmus
— endured 67 pelts to the skull, care of bite-sized hail
— watched helpless and pantsless as a Canadian dude asked for a jumpstart
while we were taking off our rain/hail-soaked clothes once ... DAMN CANADIANS!
GIMME ONE HOT MINUTE, EH?
— waited in vain for "Bela Lugosi's Dead" to kick in 14 times
— made terrible "In da ‘Haus" jokes, complete with inappropriate German
accents, for four full hours after Bauhaus' set
— ate, between us, 17 granola bars from the press tent … in one afternoon
— missed Rogue Wave and nearly removed my own spleen with a pair of garden
sheers in a jolting fit of despair once
— commented on how Death Cab are "a cutesy band even manly men can get into"
seven times while trying to look manly
— threatened to murder our camping neighbors while they sat and listened
— took an ice-cold coin-op shower due to no change twice
— considered guiltily masturbating in one of the Gorge's outhouses five times
— took cover with hundreds of others under a tiny overhanging roof once
— saw several out-of-control Canadians chanting "Go Oilers" in unison nine
— listened to the new Tool in the parking lot once [with my metal Super
Needless to say, this wasn't your typical concert experience. This wasn't a
casual roll in the hay; this was a soggy, bloated, three-day poundfest. At
times our "vacation" resembled a struggle for survival, and at no time did we
ever smoosh our bums into the grass and relax. How could we? Too many bands,
too many stages, too many changes in weather; too-too much.
When we arrived in the parking lot it was tempting to turn back while we still
had our dignity. With TV on the Radio belting some awfully sour vocals clear
into the parking lot, one could only imagine how bad it would get once we
stood face to face with the beast. A few rad-ish drum jams aside, TV on the
Radio blew big-time ass, proving once again that indie hype means less than
the fuckwits that create it.
After our first monstrosity, we figured things could only improve. Oh, what a
smelly sack of shit assumptions can become! Thinking HIM were either a) a
Canadian post-rock superband or b) a teeth-gnashing grind-metal group, it was
tough not to be curious. When their Johnny Depp-in-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean
frontman finished applying his Hot Topic eyeliner and made the stage his
strudel, it was apparent HIM are actually THE SHITTIEST BAND ON THE PLANET.
NO, SERIOUSLY, THESE GUYS BLOW HARDER THAN A HUMPBACK ON METH. THE WORST PART
IS THEY PLAYED SO LOUD WE COULD BARELY HEAR EACH OTHER MAKE DISPARAGING
COMMENTS, THUS THE SHOUTING TONE.
Talk about pocket-rocket-rawk; this glorified hair band sounded so unoriginal,
so alarmingly bereft of an identity I don't even know whom to compare them to.
Andrew WK? Naw, not commercial enough. Early Poison? Naw, not gay or shiftless
or unoriginal enough. That terrible Creed-esque band I saw a few years ago
that featured former Nirvana drummer Chad Channing? Bingo!
Let me lay it out for you: Freewheelin' rock/metal with catchy synth parts and
anthemic choruses. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it sure did to the kid
next to us. He was raising his goblet of rawk to the sky and heil-ing his
devil horns. It made me feel guilty for taking notes so deprecating you could
almost smell the lemon-acerbic "wit" wafting from the ink. I even pretended to
care so's not to put the poor dude out. But pretty soon I couldn't help
myself: I jumped up, grabbed my crotch and screamed out a classic Grim Reaper
soprano scrotum scruncher for no reason other than to imitate a band I respect
much, much more than HIM. Man, they were SO BAD. I really can't emphasize this
enough. Fuck, I wish you were THERE, dude, so you coulda seen it for yourself!
Despite the tragedy of the above-mentioned ballgaggers, the first day did more
to justify our attendance than any that followed for one reason, and one
reason alone: FUCKING BAUHAUS!
Sounding like a gloomier version of Echo And The Bunnymen's "Show of Strength"
with a gloomier version of Neil Diamond straddling a mic stand for
accompaniment, frontman Peter Murphy and Bauhaus parlayed their knack for
gloriously repetitive rock into a dynamic performance. They may have
"invented" goth after forming in 1978, but in a live setting their post-punk
side protrudes more than any other entity. Murphy's jockeying for stage
position was a pleasure to behold, all naive, childlike spin cycles (with arms
flailing) and gratuitous grandstanding that could only come from across the
pond. The bass and drums were stuffed so far in the pocket it's amazing you
could hear the blokes, and their songs used rather redundant rhythms and riffs
to lure all onlookers into a flame-ridden frenzy. A lot was expected of the
reunited quartet, and Bauhaus filled the crowd's early Eighties prescription
with purple pills to spare. Bonus: They didn't really have much new material,
so the set consisted mainly of older joints, keeping the ‘Rolling Stones after
Tattoo You came out' factor to a minimum.
Closing out Squatch's first night, Nine Inch Nails hauled a huge stage set-up
and did a workmanlike job of mauling the many plot points of their
ever-expanding cadre of electronic anthems. As desultory as much of their
material is, Trent Reznor and his hired goons — Twiggy Ramirez and drummer
Josh Freese among them — sacked the crowd repeatedly while occasionally
reverting to the elements we all wish Nine Inch Nails would trim. YOU know
what I'm talking about: Those in-between songs that sound like bad Ministry or
decent Killing Joke, with snappy choruses and digital gadgets the world caught
up with years ago.
However, with razor-edged tracks like "Burn" cutting through the clutter like
a hot knife through a cut of semi-nutty edam cheese, it was impossible to
remain embittered for very long. And the light show, my stars the light show!
Shifting from strawberry fields to leopard skin, the constantly fluctuating
patterns skittering around the stage were enough to grrrrant NIN the benefit
of the doubt. What's more, Reznor sounds exactly the same as he did
back in the day, his vehement vocals on "Closer" justifying the tired croaks
and gurgles of the backing tracks. Coming up short when weighed on the Bauhaus
barometer, Nine Inch Nails fared better than one would have guessed at a show
primarily focusing on indie-rock, though it was clear many attendees were
there largely to see Reznor do his thang and planned on packing it in after
And with that, the first painful entry in my Sasquatch Festival 2006 Diary
scrapes to a hault. Little did we know it would fast become the day we had it