The Levon Helm Band / Ollabelle
Ryman Auditorium; Nashville, TN


As Emmylou Harris, guest # gazillion, trotted out onto the stage of the Ryman in a knee-length black gown, sparkly black fishnet hose, and cowboy boots, she softly uttered in her sweet, Southern voice: “Well hi, Levon! It’s about time you come on down to Nashville.” Damn right, Ms. Emmylou! When southerners catch wind of a Levon Helm “with special guests” appearance, said southerners might do well to make every effort to attend.

This night at the Ryman was unlike any other show I’ve seen before, there or anywhere else. It was special, fabulous, and bittersweet, and those who attended will likely remember it for many years to come.

The Levon Helm Band performance began shortly after the concert promoter presented Mr. Helm with a sparkly new mandolin, which he accepted graciously whilst wearing that familiar smile we all know so well from The Last Waltz. As he crossed the stage to sit down at his drum kit, a large, black pit bull followed him happily. Before sitting down, Helm carefully laid out his coat on the floor for his dog, which would come and go throughout the night as it pleased.

This lineup featured seven people at its smallest, including a two-person horn section, an organist, a pianist, and two guitarists, one of whom was the accomplished Larry Campbell. Helm, ever the entertainer, introduced a steady stream of special guests throughout the night. Little Sammy Davis, one of the first of these, tore it up on his harmonica during the blues classic “Sittin’ on Top of the World.” Sam Bush and Helm’s daughter Amy joined in on the Springsteen-penned “Atlantic City,” which appears on The Band’s Jericho. Joining in on the finale, which was, of course, “The Weight,” were Harris, Sam Bush, Buddy Miller, Amy Helm, and Theresa Williams. The encore, “I Shall Be Released,” featured these in addition to John Hiatt and Sheryl Crow, who were pulled out of the audience to join in.

The Helm/Harris duet “Evangeline” was an early highlight of the evening. With that great big grin, Helm strummed his mandolin during the performance, and despite his frail appearance and recent bout with throat cancer, his vocals were surprisingly strong. Harris’s voice rang out as sweetly as ever, and with eyes closed, listeners might think they had traveled back in time to hear the two in their glory days.

For every highlight, of course, there was a sad moment. In the most sobering performance of the evening, Helm Band guitarist Jimmy Vivino mimicked Richard Manuel’s soulful performance from Big Pink’s “Tears of Rage” (which also appeared on Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes, on which he was backed by The Band). One was instantly reminded of Manuel and, by extension, the more recently deceased Rick Danko. The appreciative crowd grew silent, as if they were meditating about the members of The Band who couldn’t be onstage that night.

Another performance that wound up being somewhat of a downer was the encore, “I Shall Be Released.” A virtual devalued counterpart to the version on The Last Waltz, this piece was marred by the fact that many of the guest singers did not seem to know the words (ahem: Sheryl Crow). It was hard not to think about the star-studded array from that Thanksgiving Day performance in 1976 where everyone from Neil Young to Joni Mitchell to Van Morrison to Bob Dylan to.... you get the picture, was singing along proudly and confidently.

These disappointments seem inevitable, however, when a performer whose prime has passed returns to the stage. The band certainly made up for it with other favorites by The Band that include “Ophelia,” “(I Don’t Want to Hang Up My) Rock ‘N’ Roll Shoes,” and “Chest Fever.” Guitarist Larry Campbell attempted to guitarize Garth Hudson’s famous organ intro to “Chest Fever” and damn near pulled it off. There wasn’t a question about any of these performers’ musical prowess: they were good, and they knew it. That’s why they were onstage with Levon Helm.

Having heard a weird and difficult-to-place performance by Ollabelle back in 2004, I was not anxious to hear them a second time. Their music is more folkily gospel than gospelly folk, and I remember feeling nothing but confusion when I heard them open for Ryan Adams right before Hurricane Ivan blazed through the South. A friend and I opted for a steak and spaghetti restaurant instead, where I learned from a lady in the restroom that the restaurant was packed not because of the Levon Helm Band but because of Beyonce, who was performing across the street at the Coliseum. As we pulled out into the night after my one (and probably only) experience hearing one of my musical idols, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Beyonce would still be keeping audiences equally entranced 30 years from now. Something tells me she won’t.

The Ponys
Bowery Ballroom; New York, NY


Here begins the story of a show not meant to be…

In terms of rocking out or melting face, The Ponys have yet to truly misfire. Each of their three records eschew innovation in favor of brilliantly timed chord changes that melt face as much as they provoke bouts of boogie. They did, however, make one rather sizable gaff when they scheduled a headlining date in New York just hours after festivities at the Siren Festival on Coney Island had come to their sun-baked, deep-fried conclusion. And much like stomach fatigue that sets in after a day of funnel cake and Nathan’s dogs, those New Yorkers who weren’t vacationing may have already had their fill of rock ’n’ roll, as well. It happens.

So Bowery Ballroom was empty (on a Saturday, folks) when the Second City’s finest appeared just before midnight, their appearance so late and so inauspicious that it seemed nothing but obligatory. There was a bit of drone, a bit of feedback, and an awkward bit of waiting for bassist and frontman Jered Gummere’s special friend Melissa Elias. She arrived, and the foursome made do with the few heads in front of them, wasting little time in kicking out wholesome jams, the first few coming from the early reaches of their painfully underappreciated discography. Still, those who came for Memphis’s garage minimalist Jay Reatard or even those who came for The Ponys began filing out to the street just minutes into the set. “Half of our record label is on vacation right now,” Gummere muttered into the mike just before sleepwalking into old-ish jam “Little Friends.” It seemed as though The Ponys could also have used one of those.

Gummere in particular looked worn, the skeleton that adorned his T-shirt an odd portrait of the mood not just in the back of the room, but in strands of the middle and front as well. Not that many cuts like Celebration Castle’s “Glass Conversation” or Turn the Lights Out’s “1209 Seminary” didn’t bring warhead heat; they did. Notes were not flubbed, nor was any song free of the marriage between muddy J Mascis cat-hiss and squiggly Television licks that give much of The Ponys’ work such an addictive, albeit familiar, kick. But as the set lumbered on, it took the shape of a long sigh more than the brand of revelatory roar you’d hope for. A cadre of drunk girls in the front danced and screamed and snuck backstage before being chucked back into the thin crowd they came from. A squat man with his sweatshirt ’round his waist did the twist, his eyes closed tightly as he did his thing for the duration of the 40-minute set.

The encore was in line with the rest of the evening: short. They reappeared just as quickly as they would eventually leave, sprinting through a perfunctory version of “Ferocious,” the song’s title in no way indicative of the affair that evening.

If only.

Thee Emergency / The Hands / Faceless Werewolves
Sunset Tavern; Seattle, WA


Sex appeal in the midst of garage rock testosterone -- it was certainly the theme of the evening. In a musical landscape teeming with carnal acts of male chauvinism, ladies ruled the evening with a style usually reserved for royalty and admirers usually lined up to bend their knees to Meg White and Liz Phair.

Austin's Faceless Werewolves had the dubious honor of opening the show cold, but there was certainly a lot of fire in the Texas trio. Perhaps it was the femme fetale backbone, but the blistering guitar prowess of the man simply known as Baldomero was too tough and rugged to ignore. Most eyes were fixated on the drummer, whose golden locks and Betty Boop vocal styling gave even the biggest mullets a case of the jelly knees.

The biggest musical gift of Faceless Werewolves is their ability to switch genres and tempos effortlessly. While most of the set was dominated by tilted garage stomps, noticeable hints of country swing and finely aged surf rock crept into song after song. Texas living certainly influences the state’s best up-and-comers, and it’s certainly safe to say Faceless Werewolves are reaching past the Lone Star State with their musical brand.

Local boys The Hands had the unenviable task of following up aural sex appeal, and sadly they weren’t able to live up to the task. The Austin-based openers won the crowd over so quickly that The Hands either phoned in their set or just couldn’t get their mojo working sandwiched between the ladies of rock. After a few songs, I was ready for some fresh air (as was my company), but little changed in the set from my viewpoint outside. I chalk it up to an off night, as the buzz around the guys has been nothing but positive in Seattle.

Death-by-garage concluded with Thee Emergency. A steady blend of frazzled hair and old-world soul, Thee Emergency come across as the party-band answer to MC5. As tempting as it is to make a lame “Kick Out the Jams,” joke, the curvaceous Dita Vox did just that as she dominated the place with sex appeal and confidence. The Pacific Northwest doesn’t produce women like Dita (though the boys of Thee Emergency — at least in appearance — come a dime a dozen), and though I wasn’t seduced by her performance, it certainly wasn’t a surprise to see men fawning over her like a school crush. But don’t let her sexiness foul you; Thee Emergency knew how to pack ‘em in and keep ‘em talking well after the evening was through.

Photo: [Gregory A Perez]

Bob Dylan
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts; Bethel, NY


"No Smoking."

I stared, dumbfounded, at a sign bearing this proclamation at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock. No smoking? I'm sorry, but is it possible for the entire staff of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts to have suffered massive memory loss and forgotten just where they were? A girl wearing rhinestone sunglasses strolled past me, talking on her cell phone: "Yeah, I'm at a Bob Dylan concert. Yeah, I dunno, I don't really like him." It then struck me that a more appropriate name for this ... place might be "Woodstock, Inc." Fighting the urge to clap my hand to my forehead, I made my way through a sea of lawn chairs, peering toward the stage. One of those little black dots down there had to be Bob Dylan. The wavering, smoky strains of his voice were unmistakable.

A performance from Bob Dylan these days might be disappointing for those who remember him as the prickly, chain-smoking hipster in D.A. Pennebaker's 1968 documentary Don't Look Back. Still, this show was attended by a sizable amount of twentysomethings (myself included), proving that new generations of us young folks still appreciate this man's significance.

The mass of lawn dwellers (in various states of consciousness, I might add) and the ineptitude of the beverage vendors robbed me of the first few songs, but I managed to settle down on the grass to a fixed-up rendition of "The Levee's Gonna Break." Peering through my binoculars, I noted that Dylan (And His Band) wore matching black cowboy hats. The band's slick, bluesy sound was crisp and a little too calculated, but that crackling voice cut right through it. Bob Dylan would sing however he damn pleased, and we were lucky buggers for getting to hear it.

Still, Dylan can be a nice guy when he feels like it. The crowd-pleasers abounded, with "Just Like A Woman" (which I was lucky enough to hear as I approached the lawn), "Tangled Up In Blue," and "Highway 61 Revisited," though some were barely recognizable as a result of elaborate new musical arrangements and his wandering pitch. A full minute of "Blowin' In the Wind" passed before some of the audience members caught on and applauded appreciatively. "Spirit on the Water," a musing tune from 2006's Modern Times, drove the crowd to shout "NO!" as he sang, "You think I’m over the hill / You think I’m past my prime." I was not one of the chorus, but I was pretty proud of the man for being there in the first place.

Rounding out the encore with "All Along the Watchtower," Dylan introduced his band in a rare show of crowd interaction. He then went on to make this myopic statement: “It’s nice to be back here. Last time we played here we had to play at 6 in the morning, and it was a-rainin’, and the field was full of mud.” A jab at the original Woodstock, which Dylan declined to play? If he wants this aside to remain a mystery, you can be sure that's just how it'll remain.


Animal Collective / Marnie Stern
The Coronet; London, UK


During live shows, some bands like to perform songs that the fans pooled before them have heard before that night — favorites that engage and inspire, setting in motion infectious sing-alongs and a sort of dancing that sheds any indication of self-awareness. Some bands even like to return to the stage for encores. Apparently, Animal Collective does not fall within the ambit of some bands. This is a different sort of group, a truth made evident from just a single glance through their fascinatingly unpredictable catalog (one that includes a collaboration with a British folk singer whose first LP hit wax in 1970 and this year’s polarizing solo album, Avey Tare's Pullhair Rubeye).

Unfortunately, the queue outside the venue was so tremendously long that it prevented me from catching all but the last bit of Marnie Stern’s opening set. I enjoyed what little I heard, particularly, as it tied into her easy stage presence and her irreverent sense of humor. Following her set, she dispensed of her musician persona and became a fan herself, lurking visibly through the darkness on the side of the stage to witness the future of Animal Collective.

Just after 10 PM, Animal Collective spread across the stage in a row of three. Looking like a spelunker with his electronics awash in the light beaming from his headlamp, Geologist occupied the left of the stage, while an unassuming Panda Bear hunched over his equipment on the right. Avey Tare, peering out from beneath a hat cocked coolly to one side, grabbed the center position, leaving himself room to switch feverishly between some sort of equipment standing at the rear of the stage and a partial drum kit parked between Panda and he. Save the drum kit, all of the night’s music was to be generated electronically.

Three songs into the set — just after “Who Could Win a Rabbit,” which followed devastating renditions of “Doggy” and “Hey Light” that had Avey destroying a cymbal with one hand while steadying a bobbing microphone near his lips with the other — Avey announced that the trio intended to perform some new material. The guy behind me quickly called out “#1” (which is, for the uninitiated, one of nine tracks from the forthcoming full-length Strawberry Jam), assuming aloud that we were about to be showered with pieces of the great new record. They couldn’t possibly ignore the fanboy buzz that’s surrounded “Fireworks” during the past week, nor could they escape rocking “Peacebone,” which is slated as the first single from Jam. Well, in typical AC fashion they resisted these seeming inevitabilities, choosing instead to unleash a barrage of even more recent material, presumably to be released at some point, on some label, and in some format. And so went, at least for a bit, the possibility of massive sing-alongs and fits of cathartic fist pumping.

For the most part, the new songs sounded fantastic set against the backdrop of lush and choppy electronic soundscapes. The band was tight throughout, and the audience seemed to really take to the material, despite struggling with a ponderous unfamiliarity. The tracks were properly and expectedly diverse, and they succeeded at keeping AC relevant and exciting for at least a couple more years. When the band finally ripped into some older tunes near the end of the set, the crowd was quick to release the energy it had conserved while the newer stuff ran its course. “Leaf House” was a particularly lively closer. Suddenly, the guy with the black tank top and the terrific odor was not the only fan showcasing some wonderfully awkward dance steps.

Daniel Johnston / Sister Suvi / Dog Day
Zaphod Beeblebrox; Ottawa, Ontario


The question was not whether the pudgy, graying, tentative man on stage should be singing such lovely sentimental, vulnerable pop songs but whether he would make it to the stage that night at all. At least that was the covert opinion of many young scenesters among the crowd for this sold-out show in Canada’s capital city. The artist was none other than everybody’s favorite tortured soul, Daniel Johnston; hence, the voyeur faction was out in full force. Those expecting zany escapades not featured in the special features section of the The Devil and Daniel Johnston DVD would have to be disappointed, but those anticipating a heartfelt set by a truly unique songwriter would leave the venue on cloud nine.

Johnston ambled onto the stage at this club’s ungodly 10pm headline act set time to a barrage of cheers and claps as a man befitting of his “legendary,” “cult,” “outsider” status. Armed with only a battered acoustic guitar, he played a handful (literally) of his sickly-sweet and sentimental solo songs before being bolstered for the rest of the show by a crack backing band consisting of local musicians to great effect, even though more solo stuff would have been appreciated (especially a stint at the piano).

With trusty lyric notebook in hand (“Please keep the lights on, I can’t read my lyrics.”), the man known for delicately balancing his numerous disorders seemed very in control of the show, choosing wisely from his massive oeuvre of songs. Although he could have drawn more selectively from the over 400 compositions, he fed the sheep (including this wide-eyed hack) a great gruel consisting of songs that people would have called out for regardless. “Casper the
Friendly Ghost,” “Walking the Cow,” “Mean Girls Give Pleasure,” “Funeral Home,” “Speeding Motorcycle,” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Grievances” were delivered using that same lisped voice and messy strumming that we all have grown to expect and love.

Of course, much of Johnston’s appeal is his vulnerability and the amateurish qualities he brings to the stage -- songs are off-centered, off-kilter, and missing parts; his voice cracks, goes off-key at times -- and it makes it all the more endearing. Earnest, revealing and always emotional, Johnston had the crowd eating out of his hands before we or he had even arrived at the club.

Sister Suvi is a side project of Patrick Gregoire, of Islands notoriety. A trio prominently featuring singer Merrill on tenor ukulele (seriously!) and fiddle, they played an impressive set of jumpy, catchy songs that the audience absolutely adored. I am looking forward to an album release soon, partly to confirm that my scribbled “acoustic female-fronted three-piece Pixies” is still an accurate description of the band but mostly because quirky, confident songs like “Monsters,” “Nothing,” and “Run Run Run” were in my head for days after the show.

I missed most of the opening set by Halifax’s co-ed quartet Dog Day, but I overheard someone saying how much it “rocked.” I believe it. On a night when Daniel Johnston not only made it on to the stage but wowed the crowd and which saw an opening band that had the notoriously staid government grunts and restaurant servers of Ottawa swaying and clapping, I’ll believe anything.

Illustration: Ryan Flynn; full version [here]

Califone / Curtis Harvey / The Bitter Tears
Blender Theater at the Gramercy; New York, NY


The stage was overflowing with instruments. At least six acoustic and electric guitars were scattered across the floor, accompanied by drums, a banjo, classical bass, violin, keyboard, trombone, and trumpet. Before even catching a glimpse of the first act, I had the sense that we were in for a night of good, old-fashioned music making. These days, when it’s common for bands to be accompanied by synthesizers, laptops, and even iPods, such an array of instruments bring to mind a sort of timeless musical ideal. The evening that was to follow lived up to these high expectations, with performances evoking those fantasies we all must have, of secret cabals of mind-bogglingly talented musicians jamming for hours on someone’s back porch in the mountains. I’ve heard Califone referred to as “Americana,” and while for me that term will always be inextricably bound up with vitriolic patriotism, it seems an apt description for the folk and frontier influences that the band embodies.

Before I get too philosophical, though, let’s talk about The Bitter Tears. Three members of the all-male, five-piece band showed up onstage in ill-fitting vintage wedding dresses. The drummer opted for cat ears, and the comparatively tame keyboard player sported a hat and pipe straight out of a 19th century hunting lodge. Their horror-film facial expressions and penchant for falsetto (among other unexpected vocal affectations) were difficult to process at first. Was it all just some big, ironic joke? Well, whether it was or not, The Bitter Tears won me over as they blew through genres, from folk to cabaret and blues to silent film scores. The singer assumed various exaggerated characters, often jumping into the audience, still in that wedding dress, singing and grimacing into the faces of spectators. Though I’m still not sure what exactly I saw, I’m pretty sure I’m glad to have seen it.

Curtis Harvey is a veteran of Rex, Pullman, and Loftus, a collaboration between members of Rex and Red Red Meat, the cult favorite from which Califone evolved. This is all to say that he’s an old friend of the Califone family, a talented guitar player whose sound complimented that of the evening’s headliner. Harvey performed the first few songs solo, beginning by recording guitar parts, looping them, and using the loops to accompany himself. At first I wasn’t thrilled with his lyrics, on standard topics like love, regret, and the passage of time, but these reservations fell away as I got lost in the rich country and blues guitar and Harvey’s smoky, seasoned voice. His set only improved as members of Califone and The Bitter Tears began to join him onstage. I even bought into some of his unadorned lyrics, like the simple, witty, “I heard you started smoking… nice.” Harvey even took the time to teach the audience to sing the chorus to one of his final songs, instructing us to sing along as though we were singing to someone who had wronged us. It was a great moment, with each audience member transforming the personal betrayals that everyone has lived through into something universal.

“I guess it’s not cool, like, rock stuff,” said Califone frontman Tim Rutili, setting the mood for the evening with a heartfelt speech about a mentor who had introduced him to the arts when he was in junior high. As it turns out, that old friend, a bearded fellow named Tony, had recently moved to New York, and Rutili brought him onstage to sing a song and help launch his career in the city. The two men hugged, and Rutili looked like he might have been about to tear up. He was right, of course—it wasn’t “cool, rock stuff,” but it was emblematic of the identity that Califone has created for itself. They have no need for skintight jeans or rock star snarls; their music speaks for itself.

I have long been impressed by the way that Califone avoids and transcends the passing trends and fascinations of the independent music world. The band makes sleepy, gorgeous albums perfect for warm, languid summer nights. Their contemporary, improvisational brand of folk incorporates electronic elements without allowing them to overwhelm the traditional instruments that are integral to each song. Last year’s Roots and Crowns (Thrill Jockey) is probably their best work to date, and I was pleased to see it dominate the set.

They played each song into oblivion, with “Our Kitten Sees Ghosts” transforming into long, rambling jam. Because of its hushed quality, I had worried that Califone’s music wouldn’t translate to live performance, but the band adapted well onstage, producing a far bigger and more saturated sound than I had expected. Standout tracks from Roots and Crowns felt even stronger live, with Rutili murmuring the lyrics to Psychic TV cover “The Orchids” as though they were ancient secrets too sacred to say aloud. Califone, like Curtis Harvey, collected more and more members culled from the evening’s other acts as their set progressed. By the time they performed “Pink + Sour,” towards the end of the night, the stage was packed. I didn’t realize that I could love that song, which turns on the simplest but most exquisitely sour four notes, even more than I already did. Well, the live version, complete with strings and brass, was so good that time just stopped. The song could have gone on for five minutes or two hours. I have no idea because I was completely lost in it. Later, walking back to the subway, I could barely speak, but I did start to understand what Rutili means, in that same song, by “lost my language.”

[Photos: Sean Ruch]

Sasquatch 2007: Day 2
The Gorge; George, WA;

[The Gorge; George, WA]

Any discussion, mention, or, gulp, Review of the second day of Sasquatch 2007 must begin with a description of The Mighty Wind, a harsh tear of bad weather that affected everyone who attended, from the performers to security to lil' ol' people like you and me shivering on the grass. After experiencing a maelstrom of hail the year before I figured I'd snore my way through this year's festivities, and then WOAH-WOA-godDAMN, THIS SHIT IS RIPPING APART MY FLESH, NOT TO MENTION MY BRAND-NEW WEDDING-GIFT TENT. FUCK MEEEEE... WITH WIND!

Capitalization aside, this was some bad-ass wind. We're talking Wyoming-style wind, and for anyone that's been to Laramie and lived to tell about it, that's some serious shit. Worst of all, wind is the most invisible of enemies. At least with rain, hail, sleet, and snow, you can see what you're dealing with. When wind starts blowing, there's nothing to blame. It's like being pushed around by an imaginary friend or slapped in the face by Cosby in Ghostdad. Which sucks. And when the sun goes down, a playful wind suddenly becomes a deadly cooling force, adding an icy chill to already-frigid settings and turning those gleeful festival frowns upside-down. Argh.

Appropriately, I didn't even see it coming. Day 1, save a few unpleasant visions of Blossom with a guitar, was smooth sailing, and then FLOCK ME, I arrived at the Vantage campsite – a few miles from the gorge – Saturday night and realized my tent was fighting for its life. But when it comes down to it, FUCK the tent; I was more worried about getting some sleep. Every time I was about to succumb to Mr. Sandman a fierce ripple of wind would gash my tent. It was like being inside a transparent bicycle helmet and watching a nasty fall from the inside, over and over... which doesn't make any sense really; the gist of what I'm saying is this: without the tent, I would lose all hope of shelter. Honestly, I don't know how the tent survived all night, and as for sleep, I might as well have been trying to catch a few 'Z's in a meat locker on a bed of nails and broken glass; it wasn't happening.

Upon waking up in the morning – presuming we slept at all – we cooked up some kosher hot dogs (which is a whole 'nuther story; turns out I married into a non-gentile family) and tried to prevent sand from blowing into them. We also attempted to make ourselves believe we were having fun. But it was shitty, real shitty, just like all vacations are if you can't smile through the hard times. So we sucked it up and bore the brunt of the weather with, if not good, decent humor. Besides, we had work to do. I'd sooner of met Mr. Cock (the guy that issued us the speeding ticket in PART 1, remember?) at a rest area for some good ol' fashioned dinner jamming than let the elements turn me away from a concert experience. It was time to prove just how dedicated we were by covering Sasquatch 2007 without letting our sandy vaginas (or hot dogs, for that matter) slow us down.

As my wife and I finally walked into the 'non-hip-hop' Sasquatch Festival on its second day I could hear the middling sounds of {Blackalicious} emanating from the main stage. A part of me yearned to mosey over for the possibility of hearing “Chemical Calisthenics,” but I had a promise to keep; after almost seeing {Minus The Bear} about a dozen times, I was determined to finally witness their act in person. Not because I count myself a flagrant fan of anything they've done since their debut record/EP, but because I really wanted to see Dave Knudson, formerly of Botch (making more sense, isn't it!?), molest his guitar like only a true French-tickler guitarist can.

Unsurprisingly, Minus The Bear, save the painfully average vocals, were entertaining in a Chin Up Chin Up kinda way, in a Late 1990s kinda way, in a limited-but-so-what-they're-fun kinda way. And they thrashed more than just about any band at Sasquatch. Their frenzied guitar runs were practically built to please crowds, and Knudson didn't disappoint, weaving his spider fingers all over his fretboard. More than that, seeing this performance allowed me to skip Patrick Wolf's set, and for that I was brimming with surety; I had made the right choice.

I was also thankful for {Bad Brains}, because... they're Bad Brains. No matter how bad their material got over the years (ever heard Rise?), no matter how simultaneously empty and washed-up they sounded up on that Sasquatch stage, no matter how terrible those reggae songs are compared to the Real Thing, no matter how decrepit H.R. looked and sounded, no matter how perversely funny their classic songs are when interpreted 20-plus years after the fact, no matter how sad it was to see a legend debunked, no matter how many people are duped into buying shitty Bad Brains albums looking for the good stuff, no matter how shockingly little Beastie Boys' approval means, no matter how depressing it was to see punk-shirted fans in the crowd trying to make the performance something it wasn't, I can at least say I saw Bad Brains in concert. Hell, if someone asks me what year it was, I can just tell them is was the early '80s and leave it at that. What's more, Bad Brains didn't play any of their latter-day metal jams, which in turn didn't painfully remind me of the other once-punk acts that followed suit after hardcore died down (D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies, D.O.A., T.S.O.L.)... of course there's always parenthesis for that, eh?

Little did I know the debilitating average-ness of Bad Brains' set would be a relative glimmer of light compared to that of {The Polyphonic Spree}, which comprised what it likely the worst performance I've seen since... man, I can't even think of one. However, before I get to that I had a few things to get off my chest, which I detailed in my noteback as such:

– Holy god, what a lovely surprise! It appears that the folks that produce Chex Mix have added ADORABLE mini-bagels to many of their any-time snacks. Oh they're so cuuuute! I like to take teeny-tiny bites or pretend I'm a giant eating a handful of human-sized bagels. This is more fun than eating the heads off Haribo gummie bears!

– I'm sitting with a bunch of Canadians right now, whom live on an island near B.C. They seem nice enough, but when I told about my scaling of the two miles of steps in B.C. they don't seem to know what the Jiff I'm talkin' about. A strange bunch, these... One of the guys has an 'I Love Hot Moms' t-shirt on, which is cool but does he want to fuck my wife? Pregnancy fetishes are sick but real... They also mention there's a huge noise-rock scene in Canada that I can read about by visiting THIS SITE ( I, of course, tell them that only tinymixtapes covers noise with tha realness and that I'll never mention that crummy Canadian site in my review. Er, well, no, actually I promised to check it out, and did, sorry. At this point I overhear my wife telling one of the Canadians that Blossom's Mayim Bialik is playing a solo set at Ozzfest this year; I realize I've cultivated this joke for too long so I reveal the cold, awful truth: the closest thing to Blossom at Ozzfest will be Static X... which, actually, isn't too far away on the Puss-meter so hey, no reason to fret! Oh, one more thing: The Canadians are insisting I inhale some of their pixie grass, so, not wanting to be a party pooper, I do. Far the-fuck out, man, doobers!

– I'm a total fucking idiot. Just a minute ago Caro and I were kissing in the grass and a random girlie came up to us and asked, "Can I make out with you guys?" To which I instinctively replied, "SURE!!!" Then when she started toward us I saw the look on Caro's face, reconsidered and said, "Well, er, maybe not." The girlie sauntered off, disappointed. I pulled off a last-second save but I'm fairly sure my wife thinks ... hmmmm, not sure what she thinks really but I've possibly gone from being a Kevin Bacon-in-She's-Having-a-Baby figure to inhabiting a John Leguizamo-in-Summer-of-Sam space. Not good.

With a lot of tough choices coming up today I whipped out my official Sasquandary schedule and started making a diagram for Carolina. Stoned for the first time in weeks, I find myself getting downright obsessed with our order of operations. I map things out for her like John Madden detailing an off-tackle sweep, using arrows, underlines, and circles to make my point. When I'm done my schedule looks like one of Robert Crumb's brother's latter-day comics: messy, compulsive and worrying. Oh well, I'm serious about this shit!

– Caro's brother and I are having an argument-slash-conversation about Bjork's lighting scheme from the night before, which was mostly neon green. He calls it “J-lo lighting” and I don't know what in the name of Diddy he's talking about. Is it an unbridgeable generation gap separating our lines of reasoning? Is Caro's brother crazy? And who is this 'J-lo' character I keep hearing so much about? It must be a rapper in Fitty Cent's posse...

And I'm back to deliver the bad news about The Polyphonic Spree. To be blunt, after a brief infatuation with Polyphonic a few years back, I've come to realize more and more just how much I truly dislike their music. Was I lured in by their 30-odd-members-in-robes gimmick, dangled in front of me tantalizingly like an indie-rock baby carrot? Absolutely. Am I sorrowful in retrospect? You bet yer ass I am. The Spree's performance at Sasquilla outlined in florescent Sharpi everything I abhor about them. Their songs mostly sound like even-cheesier -- if that's even possible -- takes on “God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You” by Kiss from the Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey soundtrack: anthemic, anemic, choral, bloated, lightweight, bright on the outside but dead on the inside. Tim DeLaughter, who gets props from me for his days in Tripping Daisy and his forward-thinking ambition (he did, after all, sorta pioneer the more-the-merrier band dynamic), just looks silly on-stage, inhabiting a million clichéd stances and yelping wayyy over the top of his band, which was, by the way, comprised of only a dozen or so musicians. Not that I care, but that's some false advertising, is it not?

And why did The Polyphonic Spree stop playing? With a few more tunes to build steam, they might have managed to emerge from the drudgery of their first few songs, but with the wind blowing a bit – okay, TONS – DeLaughter announced that the Spree's set was done. He also said something about not wanting to die... what? I can understand leaving the stage amid heavy rain or, COUGH, hail, but... wind? How menacing is wind, really? Who gives a shit? You sure as hell didn't see festival attendees bolting for the gates as soon as a few gales picked up. Although it's possible they were forced to put a stop to their set, I say BALLS to The Spree. Afraid of dying? Shit, I guess people from the Pac. Norte just don't think in those terms. WHAT'S THE PROBLEM TEXAS NATIVE, GET A LITTLE WIND IN YER VAGINA?

With The Spree's set long gone, we trekked over to watch Tokyo Police Club, the only band left standing at this point. It should also be noted that, at some point, Spoon played. I don't know when, but they played. Suffice to say I wasn't there to see it, but that was no huge loss as I saw them as SXSW a few years back and didn't exactly get Freaked. We also managed to see a few {Money Mark} tunes, and I will say one thing about that and leave it alone: If you don't mind G Love, you won't mind Money Mark; however, if you have taste, avoid this fucker like Wal-Mart. No seriously, RUN LUKE, RUN FOR THE HILLS and such. Get my drift? Good.

Back to {Tokyo Police Club}, a band that is demonstrating just how out-of-hand the world of rock 'n' roll is getting. How can a group that formed in 200-bloody-5 have already played the Monterey Pop Festival, formed a fan club, and seen its frontman go into rehab? Has anyone outside the realm of blogger-dom even heard of these guys? Whatever happened to spending years fine tuning your sound and coming of age on trips to Hamburg? How are we going to hear another White Album when most bands have imploded or gone through an antiquated 'experimental' stage by the time they release their third or fourth album? Rock is dead, I tellsya.

Then again, maybe not; Tokyo Police Club ROCKED MY ASS OFF. No kidding, they were tight as a goddamn tiger and ready to spring, then pounce, on the surplus crowd that gathered in lieu of the MLB-style wind delay. I'm not so much a fan of all things TPC; it's mainly a certain point in most of their songs that gets me, where the kick drum starts dropping a fatty four-on-the-floor beat, the synths shift into pin-prick-y overdrive, and bassist/vocalist Dave Monks forgets about his workmanlike singing chores and focuses on diddling his four string. FUCK, maybe I was just desperate for a rawk fix at this point in the day, but I was locked in like the Millenium Falcon following the pull of a tractor beam. Of all the Hype bands I've seen in the ball-sucking Blog era, Tokyo Police Club are one of the only acts that didn't make me want to move to Greenland and start a biker bar in protest.

And wouldn't you know it, Tokyo Police Club even appear to have a sound they could remotely claim to be their own. Shades of this, shades of that, but never so much that you can't see the sun poking out. Monks' voice is serviceable if not superb, and that synth-player guy is the type of dude everyone should have in their band, teeming with enough energy to keep his comrades honest and shouting some pretty decent back-up vocals. As thee Club, ecstatic over their suddenly huge crowd and making the most of it, ticked down their set I gleefully anticipated {The Black Angels}' performance, as I had been spending quite a bit of time with their music. I reviewed them for TMT (what's this? Did I kinda rip them?), interviewed them for a magazine based in New Zealand (coincidentally me mum's home nation), and in the process listened to Passover more than any man would voluntarily listen to anything besides Oh, Inverted World, Person Pitch, or Is Night People.

Come to find out, the Angels' militant '60s drones don't translate all that well to a live setting. Their music, technically superior to Tokyo Police Club's randy workouts, seemed to flail in the wind, losing impact with every uniformly dull drum beat and fuzzy guitar lead. And what of the multi-media feast-for-the-eyes concerts I've heard about? All I saw was a band, and an unconvincing one, at that. Which leads me head-first into another realization: The Black Angels' music isn't really that climactic. Lay down a flippant, purposely droll rhythm, a riff fashioned from the buzz of The Stones' “Satisfaction,” a few ulterior riffs to thicken things up, add some spooky Lou Reed-rippin' vocals – which did actually come off quite nicely -- overtop and you have pretty much every wing the Angels use to fly. Oh, and don't forget to ensure the songs go on forEVER without changing even a wee bit; not a recipe for concert success, especially considering the size and scope of the Gorge, which eats bands like The Black Angels for breakfast and chases them with... {The Dandy Warhols}.

That's right, being the bone/thick-headed asshole I am, I insisted we stick around for the Dandies rather than make the trek to the mainstage to check on Spoon's status. Well guess what, I REGRET NOTHING! Er wait, what the fuck am I saying, of COURSE I regret my choice, as The Dandy Warhols slumped through much of their set. And here I was hoping to come out of this with a new respect for Courtney Taylor-Taylor (puh-leeze) and co.... but how can I not deride a band so obviously aided by studio tricks? Taylor-Taylor-Taylor-Taylor-Taylor-Taylor's voice was deader than wood from a soggy tree, monotone, deeper than necessary and absolutely lacking in the sort of charisma a young, un-hyphenated Taylor must have brought to the stage a decade ago. Did I really expect the Dandies to duplicate the shrill soprano from “We Used to be Friends”? No, but... but... but... it would have been nice to be treated to something even resembling the product pressed to CD.

Even with all their flaws sticking out like a paunchy beer gut (or my wife's pregnant belly) I still found the Warhols' set to be mildly enjoyable. They were one of the only groups at the 'fest with an unapologetically rock sound and stance, and a few of the familiar songs transported me back to the Days of Yore, such as when I turned on MTV one day and saw the video for “Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” and swore off the Dandies forever. But that's how they hit you; they disgust you, then they annoy you, then they irk you, then they don't impress you, then they fail to Rock you, then they... reel you in, flop on the line as you might. As despicable as Taylor-Taylor seems to be where royalties and other band-related issues are concerned, that's not the worst quality for a band to have. And so I give The Dandy Warhols neither a plus nor a minus; rather, I give them a shrug. And no, I DON'T “dig” on vegan food.

Next: {Interpol}. If you would have told me that, save the obvious highlights (Björk, Beasties), Interpol would be easily the best band at Sasquatch, give or take Grizzly Bear, I would have laughed in your face, spit in your mouth, and probably raped you. But there it was, glaring at me: Totally fucking post-punk excellence, care of a band that has some of the WORST live bootlegs you'll ever hear in your life. Surely, with a paltry four members they'd never compete with the gang-banging of The Arcade Fire, the previous night's penultimate act, right?

Wrong (and fuck you, for the record). Interpol were tighter, heavier, bass-ier, more urgent and flat-out better than the Fire, and Paul Banks' voice, indebted to Ian C. as it may be, flawlessly echoed the sheep-bleating of Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics. To be reasonable, Interpol's songs are perfect concert fare to begin with. They're consistent, each instrument is totally distinct from the other, and there's always a beautifully delicate, usually arpeggiated, guitar flourish at the end to drive home the melody. “Not Even Jail” was so sharp I'm literally getting head-to-toe chills as I think about it and write this; from the verses – which sound like an ominous mission – to the choruses – which sound like that mission's battle sequence – to the TRANSCENDENT instrumental breakdown at the conclusion, this track was so good it was almost sickening. And it was only one song; we were also privy to “Obstacle 1,” “Slow Hands” and a few tracks off the upcoming new album that, truth be told, sounded awkward enough that I'm not even going to analyze them further; Interpol obviously need more time to work out the kinks.

A tad disappointed with the non-inclusion of “Roland” and a few other tracks from the debut and dumbfounded at the stilted nature of the new tunes, I nevertheless cannot find fault with Interpol's set, a pounding, dramatic rendering of songs the indie public – and beyond – have fell in love with over the years. As obsession-affirming as Interpol's set was, it was a little bit of a letdown in that it signaled that another triumphant Assquatch weekend was coming to a close. But it also heralded the arrival of {Beastie Boys}, so it was with a giant bundle of nerves that I got ready to finally witness the spectacle of, as a stoned Canadian might say, “Beasters.”

They did not disappoint. I had a helluva time at their instrumental set the day before, but nothing touches a true-blue Beasties brew of quips, rhyme flips, production blips, and ninja kicks. In addition, considering Beck's limp show-ending puppet charade in 2006, it was inspiring to see such an old group -- I mean, who are we kidding? -- bring the goods. Mike D, MCA, Ad-Rock, and Mix Master Mike flaunted the antics we've all come to expect from hip-hop's first White Light, drilling through classics like “So What'cha Want,” “Intergalactic,” and... “Sabotage”... again? Well, I could have done without hearing a second eagle's-squawk version of their popular hit, but what can you do? Trust me, they made amends...

How they manage to throttle so hard in a live setting is somewhat of a mystery. What separates the bad live hip-hop acts (Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, Beans, from what I could hear, Blackalicious) from the good ones (Kanye West, The Roots, the fuckin' Beasties)? To me, it's obviously the Phun Phactor; the Beasties were kickin' it just like they would in a studio, an apartment building, or shit, a staircase, slanging a casual flow that gains strength as each member feeds off one another. It's Energy that rules the hip-hop roost, not strength-in-numbers, bravado, or whatever else passes for panache these days. Need I even mention the trio's sense of humor? They have the the art of stage banter broken down to a true science, especially Ad-Rock, who seemed to carry with him a schtickl of extra electricity, doing most of the between-song talking and generally infusing the 2007 Sasquatch Festival with a much-needed boost of un-stuffy levity and East Coast hipster swagger. Of course calling Ad a hipster might actually prove just how old I'm getting, so I'll let mah sleepin' dawgs lie, a'ight?

And that's it. Sasquatch. Festival. 2007. Dig it, bitch.

(Day 1) (Day 2)

[Illustrations by Carolina Purdum]

Peter Bjorn and John / Fujiya & Miyagi / Au Revoir Simone
Webster Hall; New York, NY


It’s weird: I had been thinking about Peter Bjorn and John and Fujiya & Miyagi as somehow connected for a while before I heard they were touring together. Though it would be hard to confuse their sounds, both are popular, ubiquitously buzzed-about indie rock bands that released celebrated albums earlier this year. Beyond that, I think it must have been that both band names are comprised of proper names and include the conjunction “and.” Whatever the reason, it just seemed appropriate that they would play on the same bill.

Au Revoir Simone, a local Brooklyn band, kicked off the night. A trio (Peter Bjorn and John later told us that they purposefully chose two other trios for the evening—“a trio of trios!”) of skinny, long-haired girls all playing keyboards and singing in unison, they pretty much screamed “gimmick” from the get-go. It’s not that I didn’t find their spacey, diffuse songs pleasant, but there just wasn’t much to like. All of the ethereality didn’t add up to much substance.

I was looking forward to seeing Fujiya & Miyagi, as I had been playing their Kraut rock-influenced album Transparent Things (Deaf Dumb & Blind) regularly for months. It’s so rare for music to be danceable and have strange, satisfying lyrics that it just never got old. Unfortunately, the band is much stronger on record than it is live. There wasn’t much that singer/guitarist Dave Best could do to punch up his sparse, whispered vocals, and no one in the band made much an effort to interact with the audience. While I continue to enjoy Transparent Things, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to see Fujiya & Miyagi live again.

By the time Peter Bjorn and John took the stage, I had grown a bit weary of the evening’s lackluster performances. Fortunately, the energetic Swedish sweethearts made quick work of redeeming the evening. Their stage set-up seemed to make light of their growing fame (I recently heard “Young Folks” in a Banana Republic outlet in Connecticut where, you might be interested to know, I was not tempted to make any purchases) and critical darling status, with each piece of equipment clearly labeled. There was a “Peter Bjorn and John Drum” and a “Peter Bjorn and John Bass Amp,” while the band performed in front of a curtain with “Peter Bjorn and John Backdrop” emblazoned upon it. Most of the set consisted of catchy, indie pop fare from Writer’s Block (Almost Gold), performed with boyish enthusiasm and ample dancing, both onstage and in the crowd. At one point, John lightheartedly demystified another concert cliché, reading from what may have been the set list and telling us, “The next song will be a soft song, then another soft song, then the hit.” They were true to their word, though a little humble, as the “soft song,” “Amsterdam” was by then almost as popular as “Young Folks,” the “hit.” Peter Bjorn and John see the humor in the indie rock hype machine and aren’t afraid to poke fun at it, laughing with, not at, their ever-growing contingent of fans.

Sasquatch 2007: Day 1
The Gorge; George, WA;

[The Gorge; George, WA]

aahahahahahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHa haHAHAHAhahahaHAHAHAHAH AHAHahahahaAHAHHA HAHaaaaa... ungh, efpb, blelrssteprhrlps ahaAHAHAHAHA HAHahahahahahaha, oh god, oh no, oh SHIT, AHAHAHAhaha AHAHAHAhahaHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHahahahahaAHAHAH AHAHAHAhahahaha hahaAHAHHAHAHAHA... [rub tears of laughter from eyes, wipe dripping nose] OHGODOHCHRISTAHAHAHAHAHAhaha hahaHAHAHAH AHAhahahaAHAHAHAHAHAA HAHprfptopsptssrltri slaafppfftffppftpff ptrfrffptprfpftpt... [gross].

Oh man, I'm sorry, but this is SO FUCKING HILARIOUS. I'm reading Sasquatch coverage on the web, and it's SOOOO obvious that none of these ‘concert reviewers’ were actually there. I just read that there was “no hip-hop” at Sasquilla 2-double-O-Silla -- which featured sets by Blackalicious, Beastie Boys, Saturday Knights, Gabriel Teodros, Mixmaster Mike, and Common Market, more hip-hop than 'squatch has ever hosted before -- and my side is cramping so bad I could swear there's a shovel, hoe, or some other sort of farming device poking it. BUT THERE'S MORE, oh shit man, peep this: Patrick Wolf's set was the BEST OF THE WEEKEND, AHAHAHAhahahAHAHAHAHA... but wait, nowaitwaitwait, there's more! I've also just been informed that Beastie Boys' funky, low-key, tossed-off instrumental jam session on Saturday night was FAR SUPERIOR to their real fest-ending Sunday-night set, which contained, well, rapping. What a goddamned riot, what a sham, what a... LAUGH. Man, it's like I was at a different show or something!

But hey, these things happen all the time. Sometimes you become too hip to cover a festival. As you grow progressively above-it-all, your ability to observe goes by the wayside. Then you spend half of your time taking lame, cute-as-a-spaniel, cocker, backstage Pixxx, and before you know it, you're wondering how in the hell you're going to cover this sprawling festival, spread out over three stages.

And you didn't expect the killer gusts of wind, didjya? Man, for a pampered non-West Coast puss-puss that must have put quite the damper on things. In fact, you probably spent most of your time in that Press trailer, didn't you? I stopped by and there were several of you tappity-tapping away on your laptops when real, in-the-flesh bands were playing outside. And you know what? I could tell you'd spent most of your time in the trailer; hell, everyone that attended the festival and read your recap on the following Tuesday morning can tell! Hey, it's not ALL your fault -- besides, didn't you have to stop-gap the article so it could run the following Tuesday? Yeah, see that's your biggest problem. Why rush it? Punching out a vaguely observational paragraph for each band that played might get you to press faster, but where's the LUV? Where are the harrowing personal stories? Where are the personal attacks? Where are the... opinions? Oh, right, you... you didn't... have anyyyyy. Well, I'm gonna do you a big favor and tell it like it izz like Freddy fuckin' Fender, with grainy, absolutely SHEEYAT photos and on-the-spot illustrations to boot!!! Hey, who knows, maybe my recollections will dredge up some brief memory flashes so you can write a good article too... Sound like funnnn?

GOOD, 'cause we're talkin' 'bout Sasquilla; I hopes yooz can diggit. Unless I'm tripping balls this was my fifth-straight year at 'squatch. It would have been my sixth, but I scalped my (free) tickets to the first year for $100 each and went to a Mariners game instead. Trust me, you would have too (Jack Johnson/Ben Harper were probably the best acts there). So I marched into a half-decade of memories this time 'round, and I'm happy to report that it was again a fun-oozin' doozy of a good time. The only real problem in writing articles about this event, year in and year out, is knowing where to start. So I'll just start from the beginning.

First off, I must mention that Sarah Silverman, who was supposed to host this edition of Sasquilla, was missing in action like MIA (who again had visa troubles and couldn't perform), but with no excuse. YOU SUCK, SARAH SILVERMAN (love yer show). Also, I must admit I was a little reticent about bringing my wife, Carolina Purdum, to Sasquatch, pregnant as she is (six months). A friend (you might remember his as Joel the Drunken Gimp from last year's Sasquatch review) even asked me about it a few days prior to the show after he informed me he wouldn't be able to provide drunken antics for this year's article:

All right man, have fun at the show. Is pregnant Carolina going to be able to handle the trip for two days straight?! And camping too? Hmmm...seems doubtful...

HA! My woman shirked all expectations by belly-walking through the entire weekend like a feisty land-crab, at one point even soldiering on while I caught a short, unplanned nap. She even contributed the DRAWRRRINGS you're seeing throughout. Will wonders never cease? This staying power, above ALL else, is why I married this woman... well, that and her cobb salads (though I should mention she sat down during Interpol)...

Back to the action: After thoroughly lecturing my passengers that the Purdum train -- taking the Road to Purdition -- was leaving promptly at 8 AM, I found myself rolling out of bed at 8:30 and feeling like a jack-cock. But being the shake 'n' bake driver I am, I knew we wouldn't be late and miss {Blitzen Trapper}, I just knew it. I'd missed Sasquatch's noon O'clock bands every year prior, but this installment was going to be different. I stuffed the gas pedal into the ground like the neck of a dude who owes me $10 and looked out for greasy pigs with my third eye. Unfortunately, packing, a stop for some delicious Arizona raspberry ice-t, and a quick pre-show tent set-up prevented us from arriving at noon, so I missed Blitzen Trapper. Oh, and I got pulled over for speeding by a Cock. No, seriously, the cop's name was Mr. Cock. NO, I'm SUPER-CEREAL, why won't you believe me? We seriously, honestly witnessed the true power of... Cock. I mean, only a real Cock would write me a $100 ticket on the way to Sasquatch, right? Man, that Cock had balls. I guess I should just be thankful though; at least I didn't get slapped, gagged, or spit on by Mr. Cock; that would been messy for all concerned.

And anyway, this [balls] story isn't [cock] about policemen [balls] named Cock [er, balls?] or speeding tickets [cock] issued by [balls] phallic Cock namesakes. I have integrity dammit, so PLEASE, allow me to focus [cock]. HEY! Zip it. So anyway, we got their too late to see Blitzen Trapper, which is a shame because a) I love reindeer, b) I love trapper keepers, c) I love noxious rock 'n' roll, and d) I think Donner is overrated. The sinking feeling in my chest when I repeatedly glanced at my ever-ticking watch was similar to how I felt when I missed Rogue Wave last year. It really hurts. I promised myself I wouldn't cry, but sure enough I let the waterworks fly on the way to Press Will Call, wiping my nose on my wife's dress, making ‘pfffft’ sounds and babbling things like “Wammy wanna watsch Tristen Blapper wink-wonk.” But, just as my wife said over and over, my tantrum wasn't helping the situation. It was time to grow up and face the music.

And face the music I did. My tears had been dry for maybe a few seconds when the bloated chants of {The Hold Steady} hit my ears, and I had to ask: Who did they blow to get where they are today? I went into their early afternoon set with an open mind and walked away promising myself to never, ever give them another chance to win me over. As I will periodically throughout my Sasquilla 2007 experience, I now refer you to the notes I scrawled while watching:

Jello Biafra, that dandy from Matchbox 20, that guy that fronted the band from the first Hellcatt: Give 'em the Boot comp – the one that sang about skating, shit what-the-bloody-hell band was that? -- and John Belushi = Craig Finn. Huck he ain't. Bass player's strings popping like G-pa's hip-bone; where did he learn to play?... After 20 minutes onstage Finn is sluggish, winded and mumbling. Not that it's a huge difference... he doesn't sing anyway; he talks, sorta shouts sometimes. People always say, “At least the lyrics are good!”; then again pretty much anyone could sing about drinking and drugging and receive a pass, so I HOPE The Hold Steady have more to rest on than that. I hope I hope I hope... Hoping... still hoping... Bob Hope springing eternal... Hope-ity Hope-Hope... Hopesville. Annnnd it's settled: The Hold Steady officially have nothing more to rest on. How quaint... Shitty band. Longing for Blitzen Trapper being replaced by hatred for The Hold Steady...Wondering if Heidi Vanderslice will quit TMT over this scathing indictment... Wondering how many liters of anger-drool my Springsteen friends would emit if they heard all the 'steen/Hold Steady comparisons. Wishing I could get high for no reason other than to blast Finn's slurring out of my mind. Anger. Wrath. Self-pity. When does Ozomatli start?

And that, my friends, is all I have to say about that. But my Great Pale Hope still burned within me, as I knew the worst was over. Wasn't it? Well, we'd see. For now we had {Ozomatli} to scrub and drip-dry the atrocities of the previous set, and the large ensemble didn't hedge its bets, delivering exactly what I expected: A diverse set of Latin-tinged tunes that non-Grants can dance to, with sprinkles of salsa, waltz, hippy-yam-jam, funk, and even calypso thrown in for good measure, not to mention snippets of instantly familiar songs such as “Love Will Tear Us Apart” squeezed into their at-times too-long jammy jams. The many dancers were egg'd on no-doubt by the consistent and plentiful rhythms offered by the, to have All Music Guide tell it, ‘hip-hop collective.’ But I feel otherwise; more on that later.

As soon as they took the stage, a woman began sauntering around on the grass with her baby in tow, so I took a picture to capture the mood, all-the-while thinking, DAMN, I COULD BE TAKING PICTURES OF THE BLOW'S KHAELA MARICICH HOLDING A PACK OF BUBBLICIOUS!! But hey, sometimes you gotta leave the real coverage to the ‘otha guyz,’ right? Ozomatli cranked through a half-dozen side-steppers and I realized the rapping was becoming awfully cliche'd, a dated facsimile of the truly gritty stuff a full-time rapper would deliver. That's a tough one, though; how many vaguely hip-hop ensembles get their rapping right? Very few. If I had a suggestion, it would be for Ozomatli to ditch the rapping. My notes agreed (imagine that!):

I remember that track Ozomatli did with Cut Chemist and that deeeeeeep-throated dude from Jurassic 5. Yeah, THAT guy, the one that's gonna go solo now that J5 called it a day... man, that was some hot gravy, but that was in 1998. Now the rapping just sounds dated; Chali 2na these dudes ain't. Moving on... Instrument round-up: Two singers/rappers, two trumpets, bass, guit, keys, two percussionists, drummer w/ full set. COOL! It's strange how so many bands resemble large gangs these days... It's like Steve Harvey said on Kings of Comedy: “Thirty-eight motherfuckas on stage and every one of them's gotta mic!” Ozo have enough members to pull off a West Side Story remake... Unlike The Arcade Fire it seems like every member has a reason to be here though; a nice touch... Love the brass. It's refreshing, the environment this band seem to bring with them wherever they go. Plus, they should teach university classes on how to hype up a crowd. None of that ‘throw yo hands in the ahyur’ shit; this is the real deal. Oooh, scored a weeeed cookie! Going to eat it during Björk so tinymixsenses remain strong. REMINDER: don't tell P you did drugs; then again he's probably got spies planted all over this place, so fuck it...

As the 'matli crew finished up their diverse, altogether-impressive set, I got ready to fix my eyes on the First Lady of Alt. Country Song, {Neko Case}. But it turned out Ozomatli weren't done. A member of the collective plunged into the crowd with a drum and incited several-hundreds of people to jump up and down with him, chanting a refrain I couldn't understand from up-top. Honestly, I'd never seen anything like it. Extra points awarded to Ozomatli; quite a group of firebrands, them. Where was I? Oh yeah bitch, Neko, aww muther-fuck it's Neko! No, she ain't model-pretty or Germanic or a former member of VU, but she's got heavier, thicker pipes than a plumbing outlet. After being forced off the stage by dint of hail last year, Case was back and ready to make the best of her slot.

And capitalize she did; her voice took flight from the notoriously sound-spotty Gorge stage, ringing in every nearby eardrum. “We're gonna try to make it through a whole set this time,” she laughed as she launched her spare, unsatisfying band – where are The Sadies when ya need em? -- into a few banjo-led numbers accompanied by banjo, with banjo. Did I mention there was banjo being played? I repeat the word because the ban-to-the-jo was mixed exceedingly high at first, distracting from any momentum Case's voice was building. In the end it was like a paper-mache damn attempting to hold back a tidal wave, but it was nevertheless distracting as hell and probably drove the Case-unaware away from the mainstage. And I self-quote:

Neko's voice is fresh as farm-grade funk, but what's with the cotton-pickin' banjo? That thing sounds like a mini freight-train, small but wicked-annoying/dangerous... I just told some nearby Canadians that I write for Tiny Mix Tapes. One of them lifts her head and says, “Oh yeah? Cool, I love music blogs.” Just shoot me in the teeth right now; I'm done with this world. Ooh, looks like they're finally replacing that goddamn banjo with an electric geetar. Lovely, but where's the bass? Hey, since I'm apparently ‘bloggerati’ do I get free shit?

At this point, my notes were discontinued because Case was holding my psyche captive. A wonderful version of “Favorite” combined her aching croon with a back-up singer for one of the most riveting harmonies I've heard in, shit, an embarrassingly long time. It was shocking the way her voice grabbed attention; as the people around me tried to talk to me about “blogging” I couldn't even pretend to listen, instead uttering, “Man, I just really love Neko Case” every so often to show I at least knew there were other people communicating with me. A sly cover of “Buckets of Rain” from Blood on the Tracks did little to dissuade my enthusiasm, though I found that once the backing vocals dropped out I lost interest somewhat, hoping they'd be back sooner than later.

Case was one of the weekend's bright spots, and it couldn't have come at a better time. I needed all the strength I could muster to withstand the sheer shock of seeing a man I thought I recognized in the crowd. He wore the same brown ‘artiste’ hat, warm-ups, goatee, and friendly fat-guy wobble, and I quickly realized that YES: He was the guy that sang several Lionel Richie songs, karaoke-style, on the Carnival honeymoon cruise I'd been on in April. WHAT THE FUCK! Did I mention that the jag-off had taken up so much stage time that my wife and I couldn't get our karaoke on? His rendition of “All Night Long (All Night),” while admittedly stellar, haunted my entire cruise. And how much cold cash did he bribe the song-chooser guy with? I tried to figure out what to do next: Do I confront him and risk a surefire Curb Your Enthusiasm moment? Do I walk away and remain forever haunted by his karaoke-rockin' half-bends and hand gestures? Do I just punch him as hard as I can and run away, hoping his bulbous stomach doesn't swallow my hand like a bologna sandwich with cheese?

I chose to slink away like the wuss I totally and completely am. Mercifully, by the time Case's set had concluded {The Blow} and {Visqueen} were both finished with their sets on the second stage, alas I wouldn't have to – ahem – I mean, get to watch them. HURRAH!!! At this point we stopped by the Press Tent, in all its glory. FINALLY, I AM AT ONE WITH MY PEOPLE, FREE TO ENJOY COMP'D GRANOLA BARS, SODA, AND THE WELL-COIFFED OPINIONS OF THE FELLOW BLOGGERATI. But then I was forced to abandon the idea of bonding with my fellow wordsmiths when someone at an adjoining table said, “I just read this GREAT article about the state of the industry!”... Are these people serious? The industry? Realizing that conversing with present company would lead to boredom the likes of which I'd never suffered before, I withdrew into myself, focusing on taking additional notes while gazing at the mountaintop windmills on the horizon. This strategy failed miserably, as I found myself scrawling the following incoherent half-poem:

Windmills spinning in the distance / Sebastian Bach monkey-biz beligerance / I saw Disturbed here in '99, Ozzfest / bad memories, curly-Q mullet diaper

WHAT THE FUCK, HAVE I LOST IT? I thought as I looked at the poem I had just written. But I got over it, somehow. From here all we had to do was watch a tiny snatchet of {Mirah}'s set before hoofing it to the Wookie Stage for Grizzly Bear. But this would be no small feat. Those who have become used to lugging their significant others to festival-concerts know the feeling all-too-well: SHE wants to watch Mirah, YOU want to watch Grizzly Bear, and for some ridiculous reason the two of you refuse to be separated. What to do? This is where I am forced to become The Great Convincer, the maker of deals, the threatener of withheld sexual favors. I will do anything to get my way, and get my way I will. So we agreed – after much ado -- to trek over to Mirah's stage and watch a few songs before embarking on a bear-sighting tour. On the way to see her we had the following conversation about attending Ozzfest this year (because it's free):

{Grant:} Hey, wanna go see Ozzfest this year? I mean, normally HELLS NO, but it's free... wanna go see it, for free?

{Caro:} What bands are playing?

{Grant:} Errrr, Ozzy Oz-something, ummm... Lamb Of... Lamb Of God?

{Caro:} Lamb Of God? What kind of band name is that? Our child will have nightmares in the womb. She'll refuse to come out until 2024, she'll end up being a Goth...

(Notice how I encounter her ignorant statement with something even wackier in hopes of offsetting it...)

{Grant:} Oh that's just fucking ridiculous. Besides, I think... I think Mayim Bialik is playing a solo set.

{Caro:} Who?

{Grant:} You know, Mayim Bialik, from Blossom!

{Caro:} That's... weirrrrrd.

Our important ‘talk’ was interrupted by the sublime sounds of Mmmmmmmirahhhhhhhh. After a few admittedly tight Mirah songs, including “The Dogs of B.A.,” we jogged away to experience the thrill of a good mauling, care of {Grizzly Bear}. And the Grizz did not disappoint. Their intertwining melodies cascaded through the air like Fourth-of-July fireworks, exploding into intense florescent colors and dazzling the ear with neon tones. It was strange the way their members snuck up on me. At first I thought their were only two members. Then I realized there was another dude tucked away to the right. Than I spotted yet-another member perpetually crouched below the others. While Grizzly Bear's sound itself was a bit spare considering that there were four people creating it, the exultant beauty that resulted was instantly memorable. And, as Scout Leader Kyle would say, they definitely “turned up the AC”:

Grizzly Bear. Clark Griswold. Grizzly Adams. The Gris Gris. The Montana Grizzlies college footbal team. Connected in some strange way? Naw... Unbelievable second vocalist is turning up the goddamn heat; actually he's sorta the lead vocalist but I hesitate to call him that because he mostly seems to contribute harmony. Either way I love this man, and I wager he is the secret ingredient that raises Grizzly above cub status. I'm noticing a heavy, unmistakable Avey/Panda influence... shit, while we're at it, Geologist and Deaken are probably in there somewhere... choirboy cathedral choruses... Black Heart Procession-like expanses of semi-drone movements... dubby, bubbly, tubby, tout-worthy... I'm loving the click-clacking, guitar-picking and sound swells that gush from their instruments like steaming-hot water from a mountain spring... when that thick-ass kickdrum enters the fray it adds a dark underbelly for those pristine voices... the chants of “chin up / cheer up” from “Lullabye” are causing my smile to add a few dimples to its curvatures...

You could almost say Grizzly Bear ruined my Sasquilla experience, because I knew it would be a daunting task for any band afoot to top them. Little did I know the {Beastie Boys}' instrumental set would carry a hefty portion of magic on its own, less ethereally pleasing than tha Grizz but perhaps more in tune with the fun-loving nature of festival goers. Along with -- I'm sure -- more than a few fellow attendees, I realized how much I love Beastie Boys all over again though hearing songs I forgot existed. All in all, it had been too long. Why hadn't I checked my head or visited Paul's bodega in so long? It's ridiculous how life's distractions can lure attention away from the important things.

Things like taking out “Time for Livin' ” for example. Here I was expecting mostly funky cuts -- of which there were more than a few -- only to hear some of the Beasties' best punk jams afforded new life. Not that the group are technically proficient, per se, but the songs themselves are bouncy enough to guarantee a reaction. I should also mention at this point that a young girl approached my wife and I and asked that my wife draw her some "sheep." Then we asked (FORCED!) the little girl to draw something, which she did (see both below). When we asked for her name she declined to give it to us. DAMN CANADIANS! Anddddd back to the show: A too-squealy version of “Sabotage” didn't come off quite right, but other than that there was little to complain about, as the Beasties' instrumental set was packed with enough ‘oomph’ to compete with most of the bands at the festival. And it wasn't even their Real performance! That would have to wait until Sunday, and it would be worth it, oh god almighty would it be worth it.

The absolute best thing about Beastie Boys' set, however, was that it allowed me to miss {Citizen Cope}, {The Long Winters}, AND {Aqueduct} (man, is there anything Beasties' can't do?), The Arcade Fire being the next band-of-interest on the main stage. Before the Fire got flarin' I witnessed {Manu Chau}'s last song, and boy, it was really something, a barn-burning strain of Latino punk that provided a direct antithesis to Ozomatli's fun-but-could've-been-better set earlier in the day. I'm not certain if the song I witnessed represents the Chau canon aptly, but it was red-hot, to say the least.

And, finally, there were {The Arcade Fire}. This was my second time stoking the Fire at a 'fest, and despite a album's worth of new material to pick from it seemed like the same show. I enjoyed their set, but I have a few problems with AF. First of all, even after extensive touring and performing, they still don't organize themselves very well onstage. As a result they often resemble an indie-approved Slipknot, with at least two members running around trying to look busy, maybe hitting a drum occasionally. It's fucking lame. Win Butler's kid brother William is the worst, spending half of his time throwing a drum up in the air then hitting it, once, over and over. At other times he ran around randomly or defiantly (?) hit a cymbal. It's all showmanship, and as a result The Arcade Fire only harness an iota of the energy they could if they ensured the instrumental trains were running on time.

My other problem with 'da Fire is that most of their songs are completely generic, somewhat moronic, and, worst of all, they don't seem to hold much power in a live setting, save a few gems (c'mon, you know what they are if you perused my review of Neon Bible). The crowd, which cheered adamantly when the whatever-piece unit took the stage, stood in puzzlement as curiously lukewarm renditions of songs like “Black Mirror” entered and exited the fray. What's worse, Win seemed scared, barely addressing the crowd and declining to really put his back into his lovely howls. The only thing worse than Win's hesitancy and William's unnecessary crowd-baiting were the depressing antics -- to put it kindly -- of Regina Chassaigne. Just who the fuck is this wench? Allow my notes to explain:

Regina seems to want attention, even more than thousands of people could possibly give her... She's mugging like a bartender, viciously mouthing the words to the songs even when she isn't assigned a vocal part. When she does add something it's a shrill “aaaaahhhhhhhh” or a squeaky chorus. She wants to be Arcade Fire's frontwoman really, really badly. Is she compensating for Win's reclusive stage behavior? Man, what a trainwreck. Now she's even putting her mouth up to the microphone as if to sing, then pulling away without uttering a peep. She keeps looking into the crowd like she's Maynard James Keenan, her nostrils a flare... I'm trying really hard to be polite but this girl is, to me, an annoying little Canadian piggie. Man, I thought that photo spread in Blender was cheesy but seeing her in action is even worse. Oh SHIT, she just said something in between songs. I think she said “thanks” but she moved away from the mic so fast you couldn't really tell. It was obviously a spur-of-the-moment thing that she thought better of at the last-minute. She should have just kept her mouth shut. In fact, I wish she would just let Win do the singing, she really sucks tailpipe. She's better off sticking to the drums.

Assuming I won't be murdered by a professional Canadian Indie-Rock Hit Squad after that little tirade, I'll close my Arcade Fire evaluation with a simple statement, one I've been making since, oh, 2004: Yes, the Arcade Fire are semi-decent, but, I mean, C'MON, GET THE-FUCK OVER IT!!! Phew, that felt good... With the puzzlement of AF behind me, it was time to let my senses be cooled by the frosty bite of a {Björk} peppermint patty. FUCK YEAH, I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO SAY THAT, BOOYAH! [clear throat] Anyhoooo, our expectations for the Great Icelandic Wonder were sky-high, despite the fact that I've never really given her much of a chance. Yes, I've heard sections of Vespertine and yes, Volta is amazing, but Björk and I just don't work as a pair; we're better off as casual friends.

Until now, that is; this lady's, in the words of a certain Mr. Show castmember, “got the gooods.” Running onstage in a strange yellow frock-looking get-up with an eight-member ‘chorus’ in tow, a spot-on rendition of Volta's “Earth Intruders” immediately tipped the crowd off: this was to be the highlight of the evening, Grizzly Bear or no. I can't really tell you much about the songs she played, save the obligatory “All is Full of Love,” but that was the beauty of her performance; it didn't matter if you were a fanatic or a detached observer. If you were at Sasquatch 2007, you knew Bjork's mettle to be authentic. Remarkably, her complete and utter lack of stage banter didn't come off as stilted or unnatural. In fact I'm guessing those in attendance felt a closer bond with Björk than they did with any other act of the day save possibly the Beasties. Her personality is displayed so nakedly within the guise of her songs. She's dark, bright, ominous, light-hearted, open, mysterious, simple, and complex all at once, and as she skips around the stage like a prairie-raised farm kid one can't help but wonder what planet she's from.

Maddeningly, the rigors of the day forced me to pass out for at least 20 minutes of her set. I woke up somewhat dazed and very, very disappointed at what I'd done. However, the magic still shone through even as my eyelids were clenched shut, and my ability to take notes, up to this point my greatest asset, went by the wayside. Through her entire performance, I only managed one sentence. Normally this sort of content dearth would freak me out, but it's still all I can really say about Björk's set:

This is one of the best things. Ever.

And there you have it! One day of concert coverage, stretched to the limit by an overzealous music reporter. BEANS! Stay tuned for Sasquatch 2007, Day II: Dust in the Wind, coming up as sooooon as I can get around to writing another novel. You won't want to miss it: impromptu make-out sessions, further Blossom discussions, J-lo name-dropping, more Canadians, 139 Beastie Boys-related performances... how can you go wrong?

(Day 1) (Day 2)

[Illustrations by Carolina Purdum]