June 7, 2011

On being Sasquatched.

The crowd at The Head and The Heart

Sasquatch Music Festival tromped into The Gorge last weekend for its tenth anniversary (my maiden voyage), and rocked for four days solid. As I told the Twitter on Monday morning, “day four of any music festival should really be subtitled in small elegant script: good god are we still doing this?” But even when we were feeling a bit road-weary and dusty (camping compounded matters), we were still acutely aware of being thoroughly spoiled by music, in one of the best festival lineups this summer. And that sublime natural setting really leaves nothing to be desired. Except maybe a hot tub.

You can see all my pictures (and some additional commentary) here, and these are the noteworthy things I’ve been telling my friends about from the weekend.

Foster The People

Fresh-faced LA band Foster The People was the single largest-attended shitshow of a third-stage act I’ve ever seen. You know, where they book a band nine months ago and by the time they play the festival they’ve outgrown the stage a few times over? (see: M.I.A. at Coachella 2008) Not that I minded; there is something electric about being pressed in so tightly dancing with your neighbors that you half-fear a riot, and people climb onto the rooftops to express their dancing selves. Foster The People’s new album, the fittingly-named Torches, is out now and they have completely sold out almost every stop on this U.S. tour. Quoting from the MGMT playbook with dancey hooks and shimmery vocals, they beefed up their set with a dizzying array of instruments, percussive and otherwise. They just looked like they were having a darn huge amount of fun, despite their deer-in-the-headlights expressions at times.

Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People (EP version)

Check it:


Seattle’s Macklemore was one of my favorite unforeseen stage-stealers of the festival for me. His smart hip hop was ebulliently performed and full of terrific flow, kinda reminding me of Eminem except minus the part where he bitterly hates women. The reception from the Seattle-heavy crowd at the Bigfoot Stage was completely deafening, and I walked away wordlessly shaking my head, wondering “what just happened?!” He was a supernova of awesome. If I ever get a chance to see him again (I know, he was just in Denver, I don’t want to talk about it) I absolutely will, and you should too. Plus, he had a sweeeet denim jacket with fringe glued on the sleeves and David Bowie (circa Labyrinth, even better) that he painted by hand on the back.

EDIT: This is a fucking fantastic video.

The Head and The Heart

Several members of The Head and the Heart came to Sasquatch last year as attendees, and I might have been briefly reminded of the line from Princess Bride about “she was once a commoner, like yourselves …perhaps you will not find her so common, now.” (oooh sorry, nerd alert). This year the band was ushered in to play the mainstage to a hefty, passionate crowd who sang along to all the words. I’d never seen them play to a home-state crowd before, and the swell of emotion was really nothing short of impressive and almost feverish. This was the largest show THATH has ever played, and a year ago they were just in the crowd, wearing their handmade band t-shirts, waiting for things to happen. And happen they did.

During their tight and melodic set, Josiah motioned several Seattle musician friends out to jubilantly sing and clap on “Lost In My Mind” – so much happiness. Then during the penultimate song of their set, “Down In The Valley,” I turned to look behind me at the crowd. Wow — lining the whole front ridge of the lawn, 150+ people were standing arm-in-arm, forming a human chain that swayed back and forth. Strangers and strangers. Scoff if you will about the unbridled unjadedness that a move like that entails, but I loved it. I’d never seen anything like it. I’m glad that sort of uncool joy is still fostered somewhere in life.

The Head and The Heart at Sasquatch 2011, via NPR


Like the all-encompassing hurricane their name suggests, Typhoon was everything I had hoped for, and I’ve been hoping for a lot. Theirs was the first set of the day on Sunday, at a balmy bright noontime slot on the second stage. Crowding the stage with a dozen people playing everything from trumpets to cello to bells, they radiated a conviction and a deep joy. It was the best kind of catharsis; the dude next to me appeared to be having a full-on religious exorcism of some sort, but of the life-affirming variety where you just throw your head back and sing your guts out. I sang right along, as loudly as I could. Watch for an interview with frontman Kyle Morton soon, we talked about real good stuff after their set.

Typhoon at Sasquatch 2011, via NPR

Guided by Voices

Speaking of life-affirming, my first time seeing Guided By Voices was the punk rock version of that, soaked in tequila and lit on fire with a few dozen jump kicks and windmill-arms. It’s probably been said by dozens of other folks before, but how is Bob Pollard still alive? The man was chugging Jose Cuervo at 3pm in the afternoon and not even flinching, while guitarist Mitch Mitchell chain smoked the entire show. No, seriously, he had a guy sidestage that would run out and hold his cigarette when he had a particularly amazing solo, and then put it back in his pre-cancerous maw. BAD. ASS.

Game of Pricks, Live at Sasquatch


Aloe Blacc

You know what that is right there in the picture? That’s what Aloe Blacc looks like just before he takes away your woman.

Speaking as a representative of the female sex, I can say that man is smooooth, there in his purple shirt and fitted grey vest, hat tilted just so. His music fused old-R&B sensibilities with swaggering brass and those clean beats, for one of the festival’s absolute most fun sets. The crowd (and, um, me) ate it up.

Aloe Blacc at Sasquatch 2011, via NPR

Basia Bulat

The first thing you might notice when you walk up to a Basia Bulat set is that yes, she is very petite, and the guitar she is wielding threatens to overtake her. The second thing you notice is that her voice is massively huge, seeming to belong to a woman three times her stature. It has an honest and open timbre, and is honey rich and soulful. I first heard Basia’s music in a short little song someone recommended for my Stomp/Clap Mix – she seems to love the hand/foot percussion as much as I do, and I was thrilled when she ended her set with this old gospel song rendition:

Hush (traditional) – Basia Bulat, live at Sasquatch via NPR

Iron & Wine

[image credit Kyle Johnson for Sasquatch]

I had never seen Sam Beam and Iron & Wine live before, but I’ve imagined the moment many times as I’ve laid in bed with his music filtering into my headphones on repeat. On Saturday evening, I finally got my chance and was pretty blown away. Following the lead of his more robust recent material, his live show has unfurled and bloomed into something that is multi-instrumental, and incredible.

I wound up backstage later that night, and was sitting next to Sam as he ate his dinner and held a baby. It somehow struck me as oddly incongruous, this quotidian existence, even though I largely see musicians as humans just like anyone else. I realized why it seemed odd to me: Sam seems like some sort of otherwordly locust-eating prophet, who is untouchable by mere humans. His songs are just that good, that monumental. His set did not let me down, in fact when he launched into this song, I dissolved into a temporary hot mess, totally unexpectedly, and I couldn’t tell you why. I think it kicked in at the swell of the background singers, and the feeling in the lyrics of finding a center so far from the familiar.

Walking Far From Home (live at Sasquatch 2011) – Iron & Wine, via NPR

Sharon Van Etten

Speaking of unexpected tears, the other artist that evoked a reaction in me was Sharon Van Etten, just from the devastating power in her voice and the sharpness in her words. I’ve heard a handful of her songs and decided then and there at her Saturday set that hers is some music for me.

Sharon Van Etten at Sasquatch 2011, via NPR

*The Gorge really is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful music venues I’ve ever been in; almost every performer commented on it in some way. Lucky for me, the other two winners are in Colorado (Telluride mainstage and Red Rocks) to hear me tell it.

*Twitter is really fun.

*There are certain things that should never, ever be bumped at high decibel levels in the Premium Campground at 2:00am, and 25-minute long remixes of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” is undeniably one of them. Fuckers in the RV.

*It is apparently THE festival to attend if you wish to dress as an fruit, monsters, and/or yetis (or…this??) Or maybe that was just the Flaming Lips anticipation.

*You haven’t really lived until you’ve broken a toenail in the riot that is a Sleigh Bells tent show at midnight.

*The beers really truly do cost $12. I was warned; I scoffed. But they were soooo gooood: I may have even made up a theme song/homage to Color Me Badd, called “Shocktop, Ya Don’t Stop.” It was fantastic.

A festival and a weekend well-lived.

BONUS: Listen to many of the weekend’s best sets on NPR


Aloe Blacc crowd, and the view

Seattle Rock Orchestra (covering Radiohead!)



Wheedle’s Groove (and you should see this movie)

Fitz & The Tantrums

Ahh, camping.

Ahh, Gorge.

And, most importantly: It is never to late to holler.

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May 25, 2011

Here we go Sasquatch!

Tomorrow morning I catch a flight to Seattle to prepare for my first weekend at the Sasquatch Festival (celebrating its 10th anniversary this year!). Normally a standing work commitment prevents me from Sasquatching, but this year they were so kind as to schedule my conference in Vancouver starting the day after the festival ends. So some friends I will be packing our tents and diving headlong and happily into the fray.

This has long been high on my list of music festivals to attend, and I have never partaken in the stunning natural beauty of The Gorge (although I sent a writer-friend in 2009). As it has been every year, the lineup is completely marvelous. I jumped into the fest on faith and legacy without closely examining the lineup, and as I sat down in earnest to craft my schedule this week, I was left mouth agape in wordless pleasure. Holy heck do I get to see some great bands I have never seen before!

Here are my recommendations for this Sasquatch weekend 2011. If you are coming as well, please come find me and say hello, or if you are not, you can stream the whole weekend on KEXP. I may also have to get me a poster or two.

Due to several conflicts of scheduling (especially Saturday!), I may also need to find a way to clone myself, okbrb.


Set up camp!
Biffy Clyro, 5:05– 5:50, Bigfoot
Bob Mould, 5:45– 6:30, Sasquatch
Death From Above 1979, 8:00– 9:00, Sasquatch
Foo Fighters, 9:30– 11:30, Sasquatch

Seattle Rock Orchestra (Radiohead tribute!), 12:00– 12:45, Bigfoot
Alberta Cross, 12:00– 12:45, Sasquatch
The Radio Dept, 1:05– 1:50, Sasquatch
The Globes, 1:20– 2:05, Yeti
K-os (goood stuff), 2:00– 2:45, Bigfoot
The Head & The Heart, 2:10– 2:55, Sasquatch
Aloe Blacc, 3:00– 3:45, Bigfoot
Dan Mangan (yayy!), 3:30– 4:15, Yeti
Sharon Van Etten, 4:05– 4:50, Bigfoot
Wolf Parade (last show ever?), 4:20– 5:05, Sasquatch
Wye Oak, 5:40– 6:25, Yeti
Iron & Wine (never seen him, despite my love), 6:45– 7:45, Sasquatch
Bright Eyes, 8:15-9:15, Sasquatch
Robyn, 9:00-10:00, Bigfoot
Sleigh Bells, 10:10– 10:45, Banana Shack (!!)
Death Cab for Cutie, 9:45-11:30, Sasquatch
Bassnectar (fun), 11:30– 12:30, Bigfoot

Typhoon (!!), 12:00– 12:45, Bigfoot
Wheedle’s Groove, 1:00- 1:45, Bigfoot
The Moondoggies, 2:00- 2:45, Bigfoot
Fitz & The Tantrums, 2:10– 2:55, Sasquatch
Basia Bulat, 2:25– 3:10, Yeti
Tokyo Police Club, 3:15– 4:00, Sasquatch
Other Lives, 3:30– 4:15, Yeti
City and Colour, 5:10- 5:55, Bigfoot
Archers of Loaf (Eric Bachmann!), 6:20– 7:05, Bigfoot
Flaming Lips, 8:00- 9:30, Sasquatch
Yeasayer, 9:00– 10:00, Bigfoot
MSTRKRFT, 10:00 – 11:00, Banana Shack

GIVERS, 12:00– 12:45, Bigfoot
Young the Giant, 12:35– 1:20, Sasquatch
Noah & The Whale, 2:00– 2:45, Bigfoot
Chromeo, 2:45– 3:30, Sasquatch
Guided By Voices (!!), 3:50– 4:50, Sasquatch
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, 5:10– 5:55, Bigfoot
Foster the People, 5:40– 6:25, Yeti
Surfer Blood, 6:20- 7:05, Bigfoot
!!!, 7:30– 8:30, Bigfoot
The Decemberists, 8:00- 9:00, Sasquatch
Wilco, 9:30– 11:30, Sasquatch

Whew. Right?!

And then in addition to all that, I also have managed to finagle in a pre-Sasquatch house show in Seattle on Thursday night with both Cataldo and Hey Marseilles (both recent faves of the highest caliber), and a post-festival club show in Vancouver with a favorite fellow blogger to see Bahamas and Noah & The Whale.

I am pretty sure I might collapse into a happy pile of musical satisfaction by sometime next week, so wish me luck. I’m off!

[pretty Sasquatch 2009 stage-view photo credit Dainon!]

Tagged with .
May 31, 2009

Riffing on Sasquatch

Fuel/Friends’ good friend Dainon from Utah went to Sasquatch Festival in Washington with my neighbor from across the street in Colorado. Go figure. I stayed home — but he reflects on his weekend well-spent in a special guest post.


Riffing on Sasquatch
by Dainon Moody

There’s a difference between the casual concertgoer and someone who attends a music festival. Well, several, in fact. Here’s a start. One’s looking for something to bump and grind to on a Friday night. The other has to plan for cheap airline tickets, a steady diet of free Beef Jerky samples and dried cherries for three days, carpooling in the back seat of a cramped Jetta for five hours in a row, overzealous country cops, 82 degree sunshine without the shade and, on top of that big pile o’ goo, which bands to see and which to leave far behind because, let’s face it, you just can’t see them all, no matter how hard you try to manage it.

I’ll go ahead and allow you to decide which is which.

See, the festivalgoer is not unlike a bird watcher in his or her dedication. I mean no offense to those who watch birds. I know little of the sport. I can chalk up my entire bird watching experience to seeing Blue Jays run smack into my grandma’s big Missouri sliding glass door time after time after mostly hilarious time. But, stay with me on this. There’s a real commitment involved in festivals. This is the hobby we have chosen. And there are parallels to consider. We may not be able to manage very believable whippoorwill birdcalls, but we’ll scream our lungs raw in appreciation when the guitar solo hits our ears right. We may not use binoculars to seek out whether or not, say, there are black speckles on a robin’s breast, but we’ll bone up on reviews and listen to your band’s songs weeks ahead of time in hopes of identifying one in your band’s onslaught of the hopefully familiar.

There’s more. We’ll take a barrage of photos of you as you perform, no matter how far away we are, no matter how dark it is; we never give up hope for the one blessed unblurred shot. And, if we’re really lucky, we’ll try to take them with us included and we’ll act as casual as we can manage standing next to you (with varying results, sure). We’ll even go about attempting to grab video of the songs in your catalog that we really, really like, avoiding the sing-a-longers standing nearby and pretending as much as we can that we don’t have shaky hands in the process. It all adds up to dedication. Let’s face it—in another line of work, we’d make for excellent peeping toms. As it stands, we’re simply superfans. We might even take a bullet for you if you catch us on the right day.

The ironic part of this is that, while we do have to commit to a lot and plan like crazy, we never have to commit to a band for very long once we get there. This definitely speaks to the single kids, as well as those adults who can’t make a decision to save our lives. If you’re not as good live as you are on CD (I’m looking at you, Passion Pit), we’ll know in a song or two. We don’t need to stick with you an hour. We can wander off to a new discovery or to a more tested-and-true kinda musicality. TV On The Radio and Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver win our devotion, easy. Santigold in the sunshine? The Gaslight Anthem doing a Pearl Jam cover, from the Singles soundtrack no less? We’ll stick around for gems like that. Nine Inch Nails? Eh, not so much. Hey, it is what it is.

Sadly, not everyone goes for the music at a festival. About half of the guesstimated 75,000 attendees at Sasquatch were using the music as a soundtrack to their $9 beer dranking and hours-long naps and apple bonging (it’s exactly what you think it is). Sometimes they were ingenious enough to sneak alcohol into the festival inside a flask shaped like binoculars or a hollowed-out loaf of bread even. Some just wanted to draw magic marker tats on one another. And still others were just around to see exactly how many sloppy, slobbery kisses and such they could get away with in the midst of wide-eyed onlookers (and it was a whole, whole lot, it really was). The rest of us? We were the bird watchers. We were the grizzled prospectors. We were sifting through the gravel, picking diamonds out of the rough stuff. We sought and found.

I can only speak for these eyes and these ears. For the curious, here’s a smattering of my findings.


Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele out of Mississippi? Both a surprise and a revelation. He was like Jens Lekman with an even better sense of humor. Maybe Elvis Costello with more of the boogie woogie infused into his tunes? The glasses and slicked hair cast him as a total geek of a guy, but he found my smiles. I mean, he had background singers manipulating the female doowop sound! He had a ukulele and he knew how to use it! One song was so good, you just wanted to hear what would come next. And then the next after that. It was easy to buy that album. It was one of the easiest sells I can recall.

The Decemberists? Need to buy the new album, pronto. Passion Pit? Need to listen to the album instead of the concert.

M. Ward was solid as a rock, he was. He’s a real pro at what it is he does. He knew he only had an hour to give us a show, so he took just seconds between songs, barreling from one to another so quickly, his set was just a cough away from being one long, beautiful melody. It pains me to write it, but Zooey wasn’t much needed.

It was good to fight for the spot that allowed us to see Bon Iver from just 20 feet away. It’s just unreal how good Justin Vernon sounds live, but he does. He just does. Whether he’s doing songs from his first album, the new EP or even throwing in a Kathleen Edwards cover to appease the pot smokers, he’s on top of his game. I think he knows it. There were sound snafus and it didn’t much matter in the end. He saw past them and showed his stripes. Hearing and watching his little crew do “Creature Fear” with enough ferocity to break his strings at the end of it all? That sealed the deal for me. That set opened me wide and made me a bigger fan than I already was.

VIDEO: Bon Iver at Sasquatch, w/ Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond – “Flume”

Heartless Bastards? I just love you. The Dutchess & The Duke? Thank you so, so much. Grizzly Bear? You done did what I thought you’d do. That band needs a bigger hug from the public, sure, and maybe it’ll happen with the new album. But you can get lost inside their harmonies pretty easily. It’s exactly what the band wants, too, so just let it happen.

There were more, but that ought to do, right? I’m running a bit long as it stands.

Biggest regret? Missing the Builders & The Butchers out of Portland. Scamper away and take them in because you’ll hear something just fantastic in them. Believe it. And The School of Seven Bells! Why’d you have to play while The Avett Brothers were? You intrigue me, but the Avetts stole my heart out from under me. I hope they make and sing their solid brand of country songs for the rest of the years I am alive. Then—and only then—will it be enough.

VIDEO: Avett Brothers @ Sasquatch – “Murder In The City”

You can only take so much festival. Sometimes two-and-a-half days’ worth is your breaking point. And you know it means missing Girl Talk and Explosions in the Sky and Erykah Badu but, you know what? You put your arm around Annie from St. Vincent. You left with an autographed copy of Grizzly Bear’s latest. You saw the lead singer of Monotonix perform so hard, he earned a flesh wound for his art … and, despite the blood coming out of his head, kept on going. You heard enough songs and saw enough good, solid bands to last you, what, a good month or two? Perhaps.

VIDEO: Monotonix drumming in the Sasquatch crowd

The mind wants more, maybe, and the miser in you wants to get the most out of what was a gifted ticket anyway (it’s the principle of the thing!), but there’s a time to retreat to your own bed, stop loving on the perfect 80 degree sunshine and give Sasquatch a kiss on the mouth goodbye. It was good, so crazy good, but goodbyes are inevitable. You can only take so much.

Still. Thanks, Sasquatch. I’ll remember you well.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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