The 2013 Sasquatch diaries, pt. II

Show Date: May 26, 2013

{This year, John in Ballard brings us all the bands that caught his attention at The Gorge during Sasquatch! 2013. Read part one of his weekend-in-review here!}

Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver kicked off Sunday with a fun, captivating early afternoon set. They premiered some new music that was well received, and even did a really great cover of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”, complete with front woman Jessica Dobson shredding some guitar solos during the choruses. The rest of Sunday’s Sasquatch lineup was loaded from top to bottom with great hip-hop, most notably one of the bigger names, Detroit rapper Danny Brown, who had a pretty energetic crowd gathered at the main stage for his set. Brown can be a polarizing figure: his voice is an acquired taste, and his drunk and drugged out persona isn’t for everyone — but man, is he fun to watch! The Sasquatch crowd ate it up and was happy to dance and rap along with him. Brown ran all over the stage and often down among the fans, where he did a lot of call and response with his energetic audience. Another standout, O.C. Notes, closed out the Seattle hip-hop stage on Sunday with a nice set of genre-blending sounds. With the Golden Gods (Trent Moorman on drums, Erik Blood on Bass, Thomas Hunter on guitar) backing him up, Otis Calvin & Co. banged out tunes that at times sounded like hip-hop mixed with some jam band and funk — Calvin’s vocals were often put through an echo delay, and on occasion sung through a bullhorn. 

Swedish band Shout Out Louds played a really poppy set that was easy to enjoy, even for passerby who don’t know their music all that well. They had great energy and their sound is almost tailor-made for the festival set. They ended with their 2007 song “Tonight I Have to Leave It”, which I hadn’t realized until this point sounds like it could have easily fit into the Cure’s late 80’s early 90’s catalog right between “In Between Days” and “Friday I’m In Love”.

Easily the highlight of Sunday’s performances, and one of the highlights of the entire festival, was Atlanta rapper Killer Mike’s late evening set on the small Yeti stage. He opened with his 2012 single “Big Beast", as he came bounding on stage surrounded by smoke and neon lights. He ended the song repeating the closing line over and over with no backing beat: “I don’t make dance music, this is r-a-p, opposite of the sucker shit they play on t.v.” After a few songs, he took a break to take in the applause and chants of “Kill-er Mike! Kill-er Mike!” When he spoke, his voice cracked as he was clearly moved by the show of support. Numerous times throughout the set, he would let the music drop out at the end of a song and he would repeat the last verse by himself. It made the set feel more intimate and gave more gravity to the words he was saying. He told his crowd that when the sound people asked him where his hype man was, he said, “I don’t need a hype man, they’re my hype man” and pointed to the audience. Fellow collaborator El-P (who also played earlier in the day) joined him on stage for their song “Butane”, but this set belonged to Mike, and he turned in one of the best performances of the weekend.

Grimes closed out the Bigfoot stage with a set that was high on visual stimulus, but left a little to be desired when it came to sound. The problem wasn’t with Grimes herself, just that her music needed to be much louder. It felt like a house party where everyone was excited and ready to dance the night way, except the buzzkill neighbors called the cops — so the music was half as loud as it needed to be. It was a shame too, because other than the sound problems, Grimes was putting on a really good show, often jumping out from behind her sound equipment to dance to the music. She was even flanked on each side by dancers, who did their best to keep the crowd into it. She closed her set with “Phone Sex”, which the crowd happily danced along to.

Monday started off with what most Sasquatch attendees had feared would come all weekend: rain. This is the northwest though, and nobody at Sasquatch was about to let a little drizzle get in the way of enjoying the final day of the weekend. Minneapolis rapper P.O.S. came on stage pretty casually, but quickly picked things up and delivered a energetic, intimate and fantastic set. After his opening song, he was jogging back to his DJ when he slipped on the wet stage and fell flat on his back. Realizing he couldn’t really run and jump around like he wanted to, he made the impromptu decision go down and rap with the audience. Leaning up over the barricades, he jumped from one side to the other, rapping over his enthusiastic fans. I got the sense that P.O.S. wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as audience response, and he seemed a little surprised and genuinely excited that so many people not only showed up, but also jumped around and sang along to all his songs. Dirty Projectors played the same stage a few hours later, and as usual, blew the crowd away. Even though they looked like they were kind of cold, they battled through the weather and played a great set of fan favorites. The highlight of the set were the “Stillness is the Move” and set closer “Useful Chamber”, both highlighting the angelic vocals of co-lead singer and guitarist Amber Coffman.

Over on the Yeti stage, Menomena played a raucous set of songs pulled heavily from their last two albums, Mines and Moms. Since the 2011 departure of co-lead singer Brent Knoff, the remaining duo have avoided all the songs featuring his vocals, which unfortunately comprises a lot of their best songs. Thankfully though, Menomena still have a geat catalog of material to pull from, and they still know how to put on one hell of a live show. On their tour last fall, the band played live as a five piece. For this show they were down to four members, with Justin Harris playing four different instruments over the course of their set.

One of my most anticipated sets of the weekend was for Alt-J, the British band who’s had a huge year thanks to their fantastic Mercury prize-winning debut album An Awesome Wave. The band had a huge crowd gathered well before they went on stage, somewhat impressive considering they went on at the same time as The Lumineers. Awash in neon blue and pink lights, the band played made their way through their set with amazing precision. While some bands throughout the weekend had issues with sound or their instruments not being mixed right, Alt-J had no such issues — in fact, they sounded amazing. Their music hinges a lot on timing and vocal intricacies, and they nailed it on both counts. It was certainly one of the best sounding sets I heard all weekend. In addition to all the crowd favorites from An Awesome Wave, they also filled their set with a few covers: front man Joe Newman and keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton did a fully a cappella version of “A Real Hero” from the Drive soundtrack, and they also did a cover that sounded like the beat of Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” but with different lyrics over the top of it. A little research revealed that it was a mashup cover that they debut’d on Australian radio station Radio J last fall, that combines “Still D.R.E.” with Kylie Minogue’s “Slow”. Like the rest of their set, it sounded amazing.

Closing out Sasquatch 2013 was one of the most anticipated reunions in recent years, The Postal Service, with duo Benjamin Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello joined on stage by Jenny Lewis and Laura Burhenn. Their stage setup featured a large neon light display that was made up of numerous vertical columns, almost resembling a sort of giant, futuristic church pipe organ. Gibbard played drums on many of the songs, with Lewis filling in on others. They played pretty much every song they have in their catalog, including a cover of “Our Secret” by Beat Happening, who Gibbard called 'the best band in the world.' All in all it was a great way to close out the festival, with many fans beign gleefully transported back to the early 2000’s, when The Postal Service were ahead of their time and Sasquatch was setting the standard for what a NW music festival should look like.   

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