Friday, May 30, 2008

Sasquatch Day 1

I have to say, Sasquatch turned out to be one of the better festivals I've attended. The Gorge scenery was amazing (especially when compared to the arid, scorching desert of Coachella), the weather almost perfect (just a little rain during REM), the crowds well controlled and not overwhelmingly large, the bathroom and water lines reasonably short, and it was relatively easy to get in and out of the park by car. The stages were close enough to each other to get around easily and having only 3 stages (Sasquatch, Wookie, Yeti, har har) meant there wasn't too much overlap between bands I wanted to see (unlike Lollapalooza's overwhelmingly large lineup and stages all over Grant Park) . My only complaint was expensive food and drink ($12 for a beer?) and very few choices, but that's not entirely unexpected at this point. I would definitely go to this festival again, if not just for the amazing drive from Seattle to George.

Here's a rundown of my Saturday experience:

2:10 Beirut. My friend and I pulled into the park to the sounds of Beirut; not a bad way to start. We made it into the amphitheater just as they were wrapping up; funny how a band that can dominate the Empty Bottle stage with people can look so small from a thousand feet up.

3:15 Ozomatli. We didn't want to give up the cushy grass spot we'd secured during Beirut, so we were forced to sit through this set. Bleargh. Latin music and rap- not the best combo.

4:20 The National. Or not. Seattle native Rainn Wilson (!!!), aka Dwight K. Schrute, came on stage to let us know that the National would not be playing because they "were too depressed and arty." Actually, their bus had broken down in Canada, so they would be playing at 7:45pm on the "Yeti" stage, the smallest stage of the 3. A blessing in disguise, as I would later get to enjoy watching the National with hundreds of people instead of thousands. So in their place, Rainn announced that we would get to hear from Fleet Foxes, who had played earlier on the stage at noon (this announcement came only after Rainn performed an extended reading of the wikipedia entry on foxes from his blackberry). I had heard much buzz about Fleet Foxes from P4k and the like and was surprised to find they were more sit-down folk-y (lots of long hair) than the rock I was expecting. It was a nice performance overall and I'll probably make a point to check out their recent album before seeing them again at Pitchfork this July.

5:25 The New Porngraphers. Joined by Neko Case and Dan Bejar (who had just finished up a Destroyer performance on the "Wookie" stage minutes earlier), Carl Newman struggled through his trademark sound difficulties (remember when he played an entire song in the wrong tune at Intonation a few years ago?) but charmed his way through them regardless. "Myriad Harbour" was the highlight of the set, one of the few Dan Bejar songs I actually like featuring some of the best call and response work since "Don't You Want Me Baby." (Kidding). (Sort of).

6:30 Grand Archives. We finally took off from the grass to hit up the smaller stages, which had the benefit of audiences that were there to actually see the bands instead of lounge all day in the amphitheater lawn. We needed dinner, and the food area was conveniently next to the Yeti stage, so we ate our $7 pizzas to the sounds of Band of Horses alum Grand Archives. They sounded like, well, a poppier Band of Horses.

7:15 Okkervil River. One of the bands I was most looking forward to, I had to pass on seeing M.I.A. (my only serious conflict) so I could finally see Will Sheff spit all over the front row with his ultra-passionate vocals on the Wookie stage. A pleasant surprise was the addition of Charles Bissell of the Wrens as a touring guitarist. Will did not disappoint, and he and Okkervil River brought a ridiculous amount of energy to the stage. "Unless It's Kicks" was everything I hoped it would be and more. My friend deemed this band her favorite new find of the festival.

8:00 The National. The National made it to the Gorge just in time, and the audience got to experience a much closer view of singer Matt Berninger's ultra intense, verge-of-tears singing style and the awesome violin stylings of Padma Newsome. This is slit-your-wrists music, but someone forgot to tell the dude standing in front of us, who was dancing to the "beat" like he was at an all-night rave.

8:45 Modest Mouse. We caught the tail-end of Modest Mouse as we returned to the main stage. I've given up on Modest Mouse as a live band, so I wasn't too bummed to have missed the majority of their set, save for "Float On" and "Paper Thin Walls". Someday I'll get a time machine and try to see them in 2001.

10:00 REM. At this point it was starting to rain, so we decided to check out the beginning of REM's performance before heading back to the Econolodge. (Lots of people go to Sasquatch for the camping experience, but I can't think of anything I want to do less after a long day of festival watching than camp, so we slept 70s-motel style). I thought there would be a lot of excitement from REM fans with this performance, but I was surprised by how incredibly lackluster the crowd on the pavillion seemed to be about the show- there was virtually no cheering. With a fresh round of sound problems, I heard "What's the Frequency, Kenneth", a new song, and some old song we remembered being better than it was before we decided we were bored and wet. We weren't the only ones, as a steady stream of people made its way out of the amphitheater to their cars/tents.

We took off Sunday to do some wine tasting in the area and recover before returning to the Gorge for the 3rd and final day of the festival, and most importantly, the day featuring Flight of the Conchords. Check back in on Monday for a recap of day 3's lineup.

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