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Sasquatting In The Pacific Northwest

05:31 PM Tuesday 5/29/12 |   |

Not only did Pollstar contributing photographer John Davisson encounter the musical beast known as Sasquatch!, but he managed to bring back proof of its existence.

The Sasquatch! Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Quincy, Wash., is now in its second decade as one of the country’s top festivals, resulting in another sold out Memorial Day weekend of music at the venue sitting on the edge of the Columbia River and located only two hours from Seattle. I’ve been attending since 2008 and I love returning to see the venue and bands even though it is about as far from my home in Florida as possible (without leaving the continental U.S.).

The weather is always mild, sometimes cool enough for a sweater after dark, and it never seems to get too hot or wet for the performances. The music always features some of the great new breaking bands and some of the best headliners. Like most festivals, the music is flavored to the tastes and sounds of the area (Pacific Northwest in this case), but with plenty of variety. Most fans camp there for the weekend (I can’t as I need electricity and wifi to get my photos out, but I can tell that the fans enjoy the weekend away from civilization). We’re all sasquatting for a 4-day weekend of music.

The party started on Friday afternoon. My first band was Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss, an Americana duo with a Seattle edge. The rest of my day included soul (Allen Stone), indie (Yellow Ostrich), Euro-pop (Of Monsters and Men), and more Americana (Honeyhoney), plus Polica, the Mark Lanegan Band, Santigold, and James McCartney before ending with electronic dance music from Girl Talk and Pretty Lights.  And yet, I still missed out on some other nice bands, but that always happens at festivals.

  • Yellow Ostrich

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 25, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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Santigold brought a bunch of fans onstage during her set of dance music and wore several colorful outfits. Girl Talk has invested in more production but still played his entire set of mashed-together hits with a couple dozen fans dancing onstage with him. He was surrounded with video screens and his crew kept it interesting by toilet papering the stage and audience. His set ended with confetti and fireworks and a waterfall of sparks at the back of the stage. Pretty Lights had an awesome light show and the fans were constantly sending glow sticks up in the air to rain down on other fans.

  • Girl Talk

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 25, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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Saturday was a full day of festival fun, beginning with a short acoustic set by Iceland’s Of Monster and Men in a sponsor’s tent. I’m not sure how they caught on in America, but their pop is certainly infectious ear candy and fans seem to know the songs well enough to sing along.

  • Of Monsters And Men

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 25, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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My next stop was the main stage for the r&b stylings (in the James Brown vein) of Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaires. His story is an interesting journey from Gainesville, Fla., to New York to a recording deal with Dunham/Daptone Records. It may have taken awhile but he’s a natural entertainer and the music had the fans dancing along.

Blitzen Trapper on the main stage was also a nice choice for early in the day, a chance to chill a little. Then I drifted up the hill to the Bigfoot Stage for one of the latest buzz bands – Alabama Shakes – which shook it up southern style in the Pacific Northwest. I also wandered into the nearby Banana Shack tent to check out a few minutes of Portlandia, which was part comedy, part reality TV as Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen (with a cameo by Carrie’s father) reminisced about nearby Portland (with many landmarks familiar to people in the audience). The Banana Shack was a mix of comedy and dance music throughout the weekend.

  • Alabama Shakes

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 26, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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I spent the rest of the day checking out a variety of sounds from Kurt Vile (psychedelic), Jamey Johnson (country), Dum Dum Girls (subpop rawk), tUnE-yArDs (tribal vocal loop weirdness), Araabmuzik (hyper kinetic beat-driven EDM), and THEESatisfaction (black feminist hip hop…I was curious, ok?).

My day ended at the main stage with the Shins playing to a packed lower bowl in the amphitheatre, followed by Jack White with his blue lights and white stripes. Good ol’ Jack was dressed up for the show but it did not stop him from shredding on the guitar as he played material from throughout his career, including several new arrangements of classic White Stripes tunes. Definitely the best he’s sounded in years.

  • Jack White & His Band

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 26, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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  • The Shins

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 26, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

I began on Sunday by checking out comedian Howard Kremer in the Banana Shack for a few minutes before sampling the music. I caught a lot of indie music again, and some jamgrass courtesy of Trampled by Turtles. Howlin’ Rain rocked pretty hard, as well as The War on Drugs who were more psychedelic. We Are Augustines was probably the hardest rocking act I saw on Sunday though, and I liked them. Wild Flag was pretty fun and Carrie Brownstein seems to enjoy rocking out in her new band.

  • Wild Flag

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 27, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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My favorite indie bands of the day were The Head and the Heart, who get nice grooves going and Blind Pilot, who are mellower but get some nice textures going (I particularly liked the horn sounds they added to their mix). During the Head and the Heart, the fog machines were cranking and sunlight began wafting in through the lighting rig, making for an awesome effect.

In the Banana Shack, I caught some dance music from the Beat Connection (a mix of computer music and analog instruments) and the human beatbox Beardyman. My favorite act in the Banana Shack though was Tycho, a group that plays more chill ambient electronic music with nice video behind the band (on LED screens rather than from a projector like the last time I saw them).

My favorite act on Sunday though was an unexpected treat on the small Yeti Stage. ReignWolf (nee Jordan Cook) played an impressive set, handling guitar and drums by himself for part of the set and making as much glorious noise as the White Stripes. He also covered Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” handling mandolin, vocals and kick drum by himself. He’s just starting out, but will probably be growing in popularity a lot over the next year as people catch him live. That’s how Bon Iver grew and look at him now, headlining Sunday Night at Sasquatch! with an excellent set.

  • ReignWolf

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 27, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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By the time Monday rolled around, I was pretty tired, but I still managed to check out 18 artists.

Some of it was comedy (not that I was tired of music, but laughter is good, too). One of the first acts I caught was Ben Howard, a new artist from the UK, and he had a nice crowd at the Bigfoot Stage. The audience included two girls in the front row who had a sign with their phone numbers. They even let me take a photo of them with their sign. I guess they didn’t consider that their phone numbers might be seen by millions of people because of my photo, who might call them day and night until they need to change their numbers. Fortunately for them, I am a professional and cloned out the numbers to protect them.

  • Ben Howard

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 28, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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  • Say What?

    Ben Howard fans at the Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 28, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

Another interesting act was Awesome Tapes From Africa, which is a DJ act by Brian Shimkovitz, as well as a blog and a record label featuring rare African music that Brian collected. It is not your standard festival fare, but was quite enjoyable and fit in well in the EDM Banana Shack.

John Reilly & Friends had a sizeable crowd at the Yeti Stage. I think it was his acting fame that drew the curious, but it was an entertaining take on roots music. Gary Clark Jr. also killed on the Sasquatch Mainstage.

  • John Reilly & Friends

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 28, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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The night ended with Tenacious D and Beck. Tenacious D played their usual mix of comedy and music that satirizes rock stars. I would tell you my favorite part of their set, but why spoil it for you?

  • Tenacious D

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 28, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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  • Beck

    Sasquatch! Music Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Wash.
    May 28, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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I only caught the beginning of Beck’s set, but it included “Loser” and “Devil’s Haircut.” What better way to close out Sasquatch! 2012?


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