“Washington’s biggest music gathering, Sasquatch Music Festival, was hosted by The Gorge Amphitheater this past weekend. Located above a vast network of canyons and a fat river, this venue prides itself on the epic views that provide a natural backdrop for main stage and a massive hill that overlooks that stage. Like every year, the festival brought a host of different genres and styles for four straight days of bands, DJs, and comedy acts. This year’s crowd was smaller than previous years, as the campground didn’t quite fill up to its maximum capacity. Nonetheless, attendees were eager to enjoy the long weekend, whether that be through rad music, good company, or just the spectacle that is The Gorge Amphitheater.
Friday’s schedule kicked off strong with Seattle soul group, Grace Love and the True Loves, who rocked the main stage with loud and proud tunage. The main singer Grace Love was an excellent pick to fire off this year’s festival and had people dancing all the way up on the hill looking over the main stage. Next up was London based alt-pop band, Oh Wonder, who put on a phenomenal performance. For only touring for a couple years now, their whole group was owning the stage and incredibly gracious to be playing a show in such a beautiful venue. Their main singer sported a brightly colored dress which fit perfectly with their melodic and energetic songs blasting into The Gorge. Following closely after was singer and songwriter, Andra Day, who belted soulful R&B flavored tunes that resonated into the crowd. Andra rocked the stage with a throwback style microphone and a stylish fur coat as the golden hour sun shined low and bright behind her.
After Andra Day, a break came in the main stage lineup which led me to the Bigfoot stage where California rapper Vince Staples was off to a fiery start. His performing style can be described as aggressive yet lyrical. Coming right off of a strong 2015, Vince has been gaining resounding recognition in the industry and his ability to ignite a crowd shows it.
As the fading sun marked the end of the first full day of Sasquatch, the pit in front of the main stage began to fill up fast as fans were ready to mosh for rapper A$AP Rocky. Unfortunately, A$AP did not appear until the very end of his set where he performed a few of his hits and then left. It was disappointing to only get a fraction of his normal routine as he was one of the lineup’s premiere rap artists.
Facing a crowd let down from A$AP’s mishap, chart-topping DJ duo Disclosure got right down to business and lit up the entirety of the hill with flashing lights and deep bass grooves. They delivered cut after cut and had the crowd singing along almost instantly.
After a dance heavy session at the main stage, chill wave artist Chet Faker brought his acoustic masterpiece to the Bigfoot stage. Hearing Chet’s songs live are a must do if you’re into his style. He had the crowd in a trance throughout his set as he sported his long jacket and burly beard. His voice is incredibly powerful and yet so soft. It was an ideal way to end the first night of Sasquatch.
Day two’s schedule was more packed than day one with acts starting as early as 1pm. Around the campground, you could tell some people were enjoying the sunshine a little too much and had started turning a reddish hue. Nevertheless, everyone was ready to beer up, gear up, and make the journey to the venue gates. From then on it was straight tunes for twelve more hours under the late May Eastern Washington sunshine.
Starting the day off with tasty beats and feel good lyrics was Seattle rap group Brothers From Another. More than anything, they were stoked to be enjoying Memorial Weekend in such a beautiful location and humbled to be playing main stage. After a short transition, Raury took the stage looking like a modern day Hendrix complete with a bandana and open shirt. Rapping over soulful hip-hop beats, he gave it his all, but ultimately his set should have been scheduled for a smaller stage. He didn’t have the presence for a main stage act. Still though, the set was energetic and welcomed by the crowd.
Following Raury was John C. Riley, who surprised the crowd by coming out to announce Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats. Both Rateliff and his band mates brought back time with their energetic folk rock topped off with Nathaniel’s belting voice. You know you’re rocking the main stage at The Gorge if you have fans dancing way up on the hill to your set.
Moving back to the Bigfoot stage, Ty Segall & The Muggers took to the stage in an eccentric fashion, having fun and blasting psychedelic rock with modulators flaring and guitars wailing. At times, mosh pits broke the crowd into a frenzy, and at others, everyone was slowly swaying to a quieter and more relaxed section. Ty decided to get weird with it and was singing bits with a creepy baby mask on his head.
The next acts on the main stage were alternative folk band Lord Huron, and 90’s hip hop group Dicable Planets. Lord Huron rocked out with upbeat folk tunes that merged acoustic elements with electronic layers. The combination created a chill vibe for the pit and onlookers posted up on the hill. It was a pleasant scene as the sun was setting over the mighty Gorge.
With the sun hanging low over the sky, Dicable Planets took the stage wearing fresh fits while illuminated by the golden light behind them. This group was mostly active in a different age for music, and brought the funk back in the best way possible. Groovy bass licks, soulful conga rhythms, and multiple vocalists all combined to give the crowd a show. Their back and forth rapping style made it seem like they were having a conversation over the beats and gave it a very 90’s feel. Their sunset groove session was just what the crowd needed in order to prepare for the highlight of the weekend, the legendary synth-pop group M83.
Blowing any previous shows out of the water, M83’s synth-heavy 80’s inspired beats accompanied by the insanely powerful vocals by their lead singer, Anthony Gonzalez, made for a performance that echoed throughout The Gorge. The sun had just set which created an intensely visual performance from their stage design. Bright neon lights illuminated the pit and surrounding hills with intense colors while their group jammed out hard with the crowd. Their energy would slowly fade from time-stopping, long synths to jump-up dance sections that had the whole pit moving to the beat.
The way M83 played, it was going to be hard to top a performance as epic as that one. But sure enough, after a short walk to the Bigfoot stage, Vic Mensa delivered. I was unsure what to expect from rapper Vic Mensa, but he certainly put on a show. Vic had a simplistic yet creative stage setup and his lyrics were commenting on modern culture and relevant topics. He was using his fame to spread positive messages and it was working. I’ve never seen a rapper do that so successfully at a live show. His lyrical flow was consistent with modern styles but he gave it his own flare, showering the crowd with Patron, and sending a fat stage dive into the crowd below during one of his songs.
The award for largest crowd for any act of the weekend goes to renowned dancehall DJ group Major Lazer. The pit was filled to the brim while the entirety of the hill was packed with fans ready to get their dance on. Major Lazer burst onto the stage with flames reaching into the sky and an energetic troupe of dancers shaking their hips to the beats. The set soured through a range of electronic genres including moombahton, trap, reggae, and dancehall. The DJs moved quickly from song to song, delivering a quick succession of bass heavy tunes to a wild audience.
Once Major Lazer came to a close, the ender for the night came onstage. Tycho slowed down time with his long stretching ambient synths layered softly along with melodic instruments and subtle drum rhythms. After a full Major Lazer set, which most likely consisted of at least 50 songs in total, it was nice to relax and zone out to Tycho’s beautiful synths and atmosphere.
Sunday rolled along quick enough and early arriving fans were hit with with news that the main stage would be closed until further notice because of strong winds. The Gorge usually gets a fair amount of wind, but Sunday was bringing some intense gusts through the venue and campsites. Plumes of dust were kicking around as festival goers scrambled to gather flying camping equipment and their friend’s extra pair of sunglasses to keep the eyes safe and sound. This news kept people away from the main stage for most of the day as early acts were getting cancelled or, if they were lucky, rescheduled to different stages. Houndmouth, Saint Motel, and Frightened Rabbit were all cancelled to fans’ dismay.
As people started to avoid the main stage and the hill, large crowds started to build for acts on smaller stages. Deep Sea Diver was a group that wasn’t intimidated by the larger crowds and rocked out with some good ol’ fashioned psychedelic rock. It just so happened that stage decorations for a group performing later in the day were seashells. The whole framework of the Bigfoot stage was waving in the wind and created a moody and fitting atmosphere for the band’s set. It felt like they were playing under the sea.
With the main stage still being closed, all attention was on the Yeti and Bigfoot stages. Autolux, The Twilight Sad, Summer Cannibals, and the Savages didn’t let the attention get to them and gave the people what they came for; solid tunes and good vibes. The surf-rock band, Tacocat, were scheduled for the main stage, but got rescheduled and proceeded to rock out in the tent overshadowing the El Chupacabra stage.
Rumors were flying around about The Cure playing in the dance tent, and the approaching wildfire possibly creating an evacuation. It was an odd day to say the least. Nonetheless, Leon Bridges decided to take matters into his own hands and proceeded to walk up on the hill where everyone was lounging. He played an exclusive acoustic set that fans will be talking about for years to come. He was sincere and thanked everyone for bearing with the situation. A real stand up guy just wanting to bring the music to the people.
With no official statement on the situation of the main stage, fans gathered around the Bigfoot stage to see Canadian singer/songwriter Mac DeMarco on the last show of his tour. Mac’s set felt genuine. The band members were constantly joking amongst themselves and grooving with the crowd as they serenaded half of Sasquatch. With a voice that had both girls and guys on their knees, Mac would talk with the crowd in a soft voice between songs and even jumped into the crowd only to loose his shoes and socks within seconds. Sasquatch Festival could not have planned his set any better. The last minutes of sunlight lit up Mac and his band mates in a golden ray and their “last song” ended up being a 25 minute jam mesh that sounded like a low-key band practice in the best way possible.
Finally, the main stage was up and running again in time for Alabama Shakes to come in and dominate the stage with soulful blues rock. Brittany Howard, the main singer, absolutely killed it with passionate vocals and a confident demeanor. Although the main stage seemed to be missing some speaker power at that time because, compared the Major Lazer and M83, the Alabama Shakes were not at the same volume level. This was a let down for people sitting up on the hill that wanted to feel included in the show.
After an electric Alabama Shakes set and just before The Cure would be coming on, electronic music duo Purity Ring took to the Bigfoot stage with an impressive visual display of LED lights that slowly changed with the tone of the songs. The main singer, Megan James, put on a lively performance with her impressive vocals that fit with the chill wave synth music that defines their group. As Purity Ring ended, the crowd split in two; one half heading to see the end of Allen Stone’s rescheduled show followed by electronic trap DJ, Baauer, and the other half rushing to make sure not to miss any of The Cure’s set.
The Cure have an endless discography of rock hits and have gained a worldwide following over the many years they have been touring, and yet they did not draw a hefty crowd. It seemed to be the confusion surrounding the main stage closures, or just millennials taking over the music scene, that caused this to happen. The previous night had Major Lazer headlining the main stage with a crowd twice the size of The Cure’s attendance. Fortunately, that meant more Cure for the rest of us fans. Hit after hit was belted out by the timeless rock legends from England and the crowd response was limited but passionate. They continued to play a two hour set that lasted into the A.M. hours. The real fans seemed to get their fix, but there was definitely something missing.
As The Cure was dominating the main stage, Baauer was taking over the dance tent with sub bass and cleverly placed samples from a wide range of genres. He had the whole crowd jumping up and down for a solid hour with cut after cut coming from his own discography, as well as other popular electronic artists in the trap / dance genres.
The dreaded last day came at last and masses of people came streaming from the campground to experience one final day at Sasquatch Music Festival before they had to go back to their real lives. The wind decided to give Sasquatch a break and the main stage was open for the first artists of the day. Early acts on the main stage included Thunderpussy, BORNS, and Odd Future affiliates, Casey Veggies and Syd Tha Kyd. Despite the let downs from the wind earlier in the weekend, these groups held nothing back and gave it their all. Each one commenting on how lucky they were to be in such an incredible and scenic venue. Syd Tha Kyd, a rising vocalist from California, performed with The Internet and brought a soulful twist to the rap genre. Alternative rock group X Ambassadors even played a tasteful rendition of the late great Prince’s hit song, ‘Purple Rain’.
Keeping the vibe alive in the afternoon, Canadian born artist, Grimes, put on an energetic show complete with dancers and Grimes herself playing the guitar with a drumstick for part of the set. You see something new everyday right?
While most of the early day concert goers were enjoying the main stage acts, the Yeti stage came through and featured the wild experimental rock group, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. The crowd wasn’t huge but they sure acted like it as King Gizzard’s group wailed and mashed hard for the people. King Gizzard’s sound blends together a number of different genres and the melting pot they’ve created can only be described as face-melting.
Back on the main stage, indie folk singer, Sufjan Stevens, came on with a squad of bandmates all dressed in an odd mash of neon party and native american styles. Visually, it looked pretty, but it didn’t match the music at all and they seemed to be trying too hard. Overall, Stevens had a talented voice, but something about the whole theme seemed to not click and the crowd was in a lull.
Once Sufjan ended, Florence and the Machine got the party started again with their melodic indie rock and hit tunes that had the whole hill singing along with lead singer Florence Welch encouraging just that. It felt like Florence was performing with the crowd rather than at it. The visuals were intense but simple, burning bright only when the songs picked up. For being the center of attention from thousands of people in the pit and on the hill, Florence looked right at home and was loving the crowd response.
With the main stage acts over with for the weekend, the remaining concert goers flocked to the Bigfoot stage for Grammy Award nomination Jamie XX and the El Chupacabra tent for Caribou. Jamie XX played a smooth house set for an music hungry crowd not ready to head home yet. The vibrations stretched out from the Bigfoot Stage speakers and his 80’s inspired synths and mellowed out vocals filled the crowd with bliss.
For my last show of the weekend, Caribou stepped up to the plate and brought a wave of groovy tunes in the dance tent. While Jamie XX had the bigger crowd, Caribou gave Sasquatch a proper closer with their hit song, ‘Odessa’. After a full weekend of constantly being on your feet dancing the day away, it was nice to slowly sway to the smooth synths and juicy drums of Caribou.
Walking back to the campsite on the last day is always a reflecting time. Looking back on all the wild shows, the laid back shows, and the shows where all your friends were at together. Sasquatch Music Festival brings Washington and neighboring states (yes that includes you B.C.) together once a year for a weekend where everyone can have the time of their lives and listen to live music and relax. It all kind of blends together in the end, but the epic shows always stand out. This year, I tip my hat to M83’s mind-blowing performance on the Sasquatch main stage and give shout outs to Mac DeMarco and Digable Planets. You guys killed it. Until next year Sasquatch.”