I was just starting to get my bearings when we we burst out the door of the media room to start this musical adventure called Sasquatch. No time for adjustment, let’s dive right into the deep end, right? Rather than give you a sense of the whole festival, I’m going to take you on a smaller step-by-step journey of each day by introducing you to bands that made an impact on me. Not necessarily the best bands, the craziest bands or even good stage shows… it could be all of those things or none, but there are those acts that stick in your brain and that’s what I’ll be introducing you to throughout this 3-day series of posts. The overall theme of the weekend? Dancing, dancing, dancing. Yea yea, that’s the theme of every festival, but the pure unadulterated joy I saw on faces throughout the weekend is what really struck me. So strap in, throw on your dancing shoes and enjoy!
It’s hard to nail these guys down; super energetic and donning sort of subtle pirate-themed apparel (the kind you can get at Goodwill at the last minute). Wearing a ski jacket in 80 degree music fest. Twins that seemed in sync even when I wasn’t sure where they were headed. A solid performance and the crowd didn’t shy away from them in the slightest. They drew in a larger audience for earlier on in the first day and not a small number were specifically there to catch these dudes in action. Action is what they gave us despite the sweltering clothing, complete with jumps and criss-crossing the stage every chance they got.
Hurray for the Riff Raff:
She eased into the set with some slower honky-tonk tunes but after a few songs she got over her seemingly typical subdued nature, got comfy with the crowd and started whipping that hair around to her own music. It’s great when you see a sweet, low-key band really let loose on stage. The first time I saw her was a few years ago at the (sadly now defunct) MusicFest Northwest in Portland at a small divey, but very busy, bar. It was fantastic, but the whole night was filled with sad singer/songwriter music and she was no exception. Glad she was bitten by the groove bug.
Gang of Youths (GOY):
It was very clear from the moment I walked up that this Australian band relied heavily on their hunky frontman to schmooze the crowd, get the ladies revved up and smile his way into everyone’s hearts. If I sat down with the music and listened to the lyrics, it’s very possible I’d find some solid teenage angst to connect with, broken heart redemption to lament over or empowering “get back up on your feet again” feels, but the music felt somewhat forgettable. The crowd would beg to differ, there were some scream-singers in the audience that passionately wanted to be up on stage singing along. GOY fun and energetic and get the ol’ feet moving, but if it weren’t for the great stage presence and flying curled locks of the lead singer I would have a hard time remembering them through the long weekend of music.
Taking a Break – Pond playing frisbee:
It was a welcome sight at this heavily white-laden festival that there were more than just one or two soul/blues bands performing. Suffers hails from Houston and brought the soul and the funk with them. It was a little less showy than I would have expected from the genre, but I think they just have some work to do on their stage presence. The front-woman was sassy and sweet, but not the extreme of either, and maybe that’s what I was expecting (a diva or sweet southern gal), but that might be my failing and not theirs. Regardless, she had a great voice, that if pushed a little harder and forced out to the audience a bit more, would captivate anyone nearby. The big band sound backing her was a lot of fun and I was glad for the easy and fun feel on that first day.
To be honest, I was wondering if this scantily-clad band of hometown mistresses would attract enough attention from the already sunburned crowds of Sasquatch on Friday, but I had nothing to fear. The fans came out in droves and while they may have trickled in like so much water, by the third or fourth song there was a full on rapture of hands clapping and cheers coming from every direction as these ladies showed the Gorge what they were made of. The dance moves were sultry, the costumes were glittery and the music was lush like always. I will never have a bad time at Thunderpussy show.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about Tash when I decided to cut out a little early from the Thunderpussy set to see her. I’d read a little about her YouTube fame and the talent that struck a chord with so many viewers through that medium. She plays multiple instruments and does it with a rough demeanor that you can’t help but smile about. She’s real with herself and her fans “If you’re homophobic, you’re not welcome here!” she yelled among other body and identity-positive demands (and of course the audience screamed back in agreement). It seemed she wasn’t exactly comfortable being in front of an enormous group of people watching her intently (and she definitely attracted a large crowd), but she was ecstatic to be on stage creating music and sharing it with anyone who’d listen.
These guys were one of the big winners of the weekend for this overwhelmed photographer. Yes, it was fantastic having a lead singer that moved around the stage almost too fast to capture, leaping out into the audience and back again then making time to give us picture-worthy poses like the ones below… but it was more than that. I hate to say it, but I rarely see a band live that gives me the inkling to buy their album. There may be a great song here or there and I’m happy to see them live again, but buying their music is reserve for the very special few, and this time it hit home. There’s just something about them that spoke to me (or rather, sang to me… womp womp). I can’t wait to put their album on repeat the next time I’m sitting around editing or feeling like a good dance-off in my living room.
If I were going to see any one set the entire weekend, it was going to be this one. I had missed out the night before seeing him in Seattle, so I wasn’t going to miss him at the Gorge. I had a huge grin from ear to ear the entire set as he danced, sang and walked his big naked feet across the stage. From his odd artistic opening donning a rubber life-sized brain, to hopping back and forth as he sang without any waver in his voice, I just stood in awe of his talent and straight up athleticism. When the first few notes of “Once in a Lifetime” dropped so did our jaws, we couldn’t believe he was performing this in front of us and within the first half of the set! It was thrilling and fun and silly and wonderful. I took a rare moment to myself and enjoyed his entire set singing along, dancing and smiling like I’d never seen a day without sunshine. Thank you David Byrne, for just being you.
I’d been looking forward to seeing this killer bassman since last year’s Capitol Hill Block Party. I didn’t get the chance to photograph his set and I was so bummed about it that every time someone brought up his performance I started to pout. While his set wasn’t quite up to the excitement of last year’s (I may have watched from waaaaay back to at least know what I was missing), it was still really fun and a way to slow down the evening and just enjoy a good bass groove.
This act was a surprise. Someone hanging out in the press room suggested we head over to this set and I said “why not!” because I’m all about seeing music that’s new to me, especially at a festival like this. Following up Thundercat with some funky soul music (or wonky funk as she puts it) was just about perfection. Based out of London, Nao has been making waves in both the UK and US on electronic and dance charts. She flipped her long locks, spun, danced and had all of us feeling the rhythm within moments of the first note. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more from this one.
Tyler the Creator:
It was late; we were all feeling the heat and exhaustion of the day, but that didn’t stop us from holding on a little longer for Tyler. His shows are always entertaining and the stage had slowly been adorned with props throughout the day that were used to build his set. It felt like a stage play of Jurassic Park when it was all said and done completely with a fallen tree staircase for the Creator to leap, run and saunter down as he sees fit. As always, he used the worst lighting of the night during the first three songs showing his not-so-subtle dislike for photographers (and most likely all media). Poking at us with lyrics about just taking a damn picture. I say you do you, and while his lyrics don’t speak to me, his talent and stage presence gets me every time.