The Gorge in George, Washington never fails to be one of the most spectacularly surreal settings. Driving in, it seems that you are in the middle of nowhere, only to be in the endless company of dramatically weary cattle and subtly glorious vineyards, but the natural amphitheatre and Columbia River valley suddenly emerge, acting as if they are backdrops from a classic Eastwood film. Masses of all ages unite and the excitement builds as you see the transformation of infinite farm land into an infinite throng of cars and people and tents and music and drugs and beer. It’s a mad, beautiful mess. People flock, like blissful maniacs, to the festival grounds in a warm train of giddiness. As the breeze rolls across the land, through and around the barrage of tents and cars, it never fails to carry with it the sweetly pungent smell of a freshly-lit joint. Such a feeling of comfort it is, even the sight of Honey Buckets brings a sense of welcome contentedness. This will be home for the next four days and we all couldn’t be happier about it. Sasquatch! is a place for true music lovers to meet for a very long weekend of play (minus a select few jabronis – you know, the ones who pound a bottle of Lucky Duck wine and proceed to straight-arm flex their triceps right up against your face).
Day 1 – Friday, May 25
The kick off evening was packed with energy and love for all. Of Monsters & Men and Santigold were not to be missed. Explosions in the Sky were the absolute highlight of the evening. No visuals were necessary for this otherworldly, drop-to-your-knees type of performance. It was a visceral, tangibly synesthetic experience packed with swollen guitar riffs. Pretty Lights was a show as to be expected at the end of the first evening (i.e. an under-the-influence, enormous dance party). It was just the right accompaniment for the oddly satisfying thrill of throwing any amount of glow sticks in the air.
Day 2 – Saturday, May 26
THIS was a day of soul and power. THIS was a day of absolute talent. THIS was a day of music to be felt, inside of your body, in the moment and allowing it the power to make you feel a purified warmth. Such sincerity and awe was felt this day, often enough to make you feel alone in the audience, just the band and you, just us two.
Afternoon highlights included Pickwick and Charles Bradley & the Menahan Street Band. No man or woman in music could possibly be as humble as Mr. Charles Bradley. At the tender age of 64, he is “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” and an absolutely beautiful privilege to see. Alabama Shakes has a vocalist who is worship worthy — a true-life goddess of soul. It is worrisome even trying to put words to her talent.
An evening, headline performance by Jack White included “Dead Leaves & the Dirty Ground,” “Steady as She Goes” (with the whole festival chiming in “Are you steady now?”) and “Sixteen Saltines.” White and his band were outfitted in sexy black suits against a sexy white backdrop, including an even sexier white piano. It was, perhaps, a response to White’s own utterly sexy self with his covetous porcelain skin juxtaposed against his jet black hair. It was a subtly stunning scene.
The Roots gave Donna Summers and MCA tributes with their usual, expertly well-rehearsed skills. In the dance tent, Wolfgang Gartner himself stated the following via Twitter: “just closed out the dance tent at Sasquatch Festival – no exaggeration, that was hands down THE best gig I have ever played in my life… and those are strong words. but that shit was on some spiritual out of body experience level that I’ve never even seen before. supernatural.”
Day 3 – Sunday, May 27
A beautiful, sunny afternoon was spent with Trampled by Turtles, Tycho (a near perfect marriage of aural and visual stimulation) and The War on Drugs. This lead to an even more beautiful dusk spent with The Head & the Heart, who gave a final encore performance of “Rivers and Roads,” leaving one of the singers in tears of gratitude. Apparat played the dance tent with the sun just setting over the river valley, as if gifting a perfect visual accompaniment to their powerfully Germanic, electronic music. Nothing but love was felt in that dance tent. The music penetrated our bodies in complete consensual exchange. Apparat gave us a fluid compendium of sounds and we gave them absolute adoration in return.
Headliner Bon Iver put forth a show for every emotion. Very rarely can a live music show cause uncontrollable weeping and then moments later cause delight-filled laughter and warm exhilaration. It was unbeatable to bear witness to Justin Vernon and his guitar serenading the crowd with an acoustic version of “Skinny Love” and then fully rock out with his 10+ piece band to “Beth/Rest.” To share in this experience is something none of us will soon forget, particularly the whole of the festival swaying in unison and repeatedly belting out, “What might have been lost?” at the closing of the set.
Day 4 – Monday, May 28
As the festival began to wind down and a very long four days were nearly up, the energy of the crowd was somewhat subdued, but still ready for a good party. The Sheepdogs, the Cave Singers, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Spiritualized were gentle and enjoyable performances. Tenacious D were on absolute fire and brought the house down with their comedically-charged performance. Furthermore, Feist was as beautiful as ever and came out to enjoy the festival, following her show, with the few remaining patrons.
Ultimately, only a few lowlights can be noted: Mogwai couldn’t make it across the border and their set was, very unfortunately, cancelled. Said the Whale put on a very strange performance of poor quality. Dub music closed out the night on Sunday with Feed Me – an awful decision. And mediocrity was the word for Blitzen Trapper, St. Vincent, Kurt Vile and the Violators and Coeur de Pirate.
Sasquatch! may humbly remain in the shadow of Coachella, but that is by and large a numbers and trends conclusion. Sasquatch! is truly about the music, getting dirty and sharing in a mutual love of our people and our talents. Showers are scarce, the aromas are often ghastly and, by the end, we all look a filthy, hot mess, but that’s Sasquatch! – good music and good people in an astonishingly good place. Peace and liberality, my beautiful tulips. See you next year.
By Caitlyn Browning
Jack White photo: Kyle Johnson
Click here for the photo gallery.