Sasquatch 2012 | 05.25-28.12

Happy-crowd-lady---Kyle-JohnsonThe 11th Sasquatch Festival took place during Memorial Day weekend at the Gorge Amphitheater, one of the greatest concert venues in the United States.


Zola Jesus - Christopher Nelson

Zola Jesus. Photo: Christopher Nelson

“Picture This” (track 18, Hello Nasty, 1998)

A huge part of the venue’s magic is its clifftop location in one of the most awesomely beautiful places on Earth, the Columbia River Gorge. Four days of music, camping, and festival hi-jinks in south-central Washington, a few hours from Portland and Seattle. Let’s talk about what we saw this year.

(track 20 Hello Nasty, 1998)

In tribute to the recently departed MCA, aka Adam Yauch, we are reporting our experiences using song titles from The Beastie Boys (legends, Rock and Roll Hall of famers, and 2007 Sasquatch headliners). Speaking of tributes, these are the ones we witnessed:

  • Blind Pilot mashes up Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” with their song “Tongue Tied.”
  • The Roots get the crowd singing along to the Beasties’ “Paul Revere.”
  • Deer Tick perform “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” while clearly exercising that right.

“To All the Girls”/“Hey Ladies”
(tracks 1 and 8, Paul’s Boutique, 1989)

To look at the pop charts, you would think female artists are limited to a pretty narrow spectrum of styles. Fortunately, the Sasquatch Festival presented a number of innovative and talented ladies who expand the notion of a female artist. Each woman mentioned below is an exciting role model for a new generation of girls and boys.

  • The Civil Wars – Joy Williams, half of this fetching husband/wife duo, joined her lesser half to weave onstage chemistry into beautiful folk harmonies. Their live performance far outshined their schmaltzy, vanilla-tinged studio work. Their lounge-y flavored version of “Billy Jean” was inspired.
  • Alabama Shakes – The unassuming guitarist and frontwoman Brittany Howard screams and wails with a soulful power that must be seen in person to truly appreciate. Ms. Howard’s no-hold’s-barred live performance is putting this talented young Alabama band on the map.
  • Tune Yards – Merrill Garvis’ innovative use of vocal and percussive loops is best enjoyed in a live performance. We got a celebratory air and a dance vibe that her studio work betrays.
  • Dum Dum Girls – These reverb-drenched ladies who rock out melodically are all about the visual style, decked out like indie pinup goth-y girls. Each time their super cute drummer smacked the crash cymbal, she made a face that seemed to indicate she had a very scary side.
  • St. Vincent – Annie Clark is a guitar goddess; I’ve never seen anyone work that whammy bar with such passion. In fact, she uses her whole body for every note that she plays.
  • Thee Satisfaction – These two Seattle-based ladies use choreographed dancing, loops, and a laptop to bring an impressive blend of hip-hop, funk, and R&B.
  • Wild Flag – This hard-rocking group of indie veterans have the most “traditional” rock sound of the female artists we saw. As veterans, they could be jaded to the experience; instead, they appeared to have as much fun as the crowd.
  • Little Dragon – Singer Yukimi Nagano’s mix of vocal power, sweetness, and melody perfectly complimented her constant dance movements throughout her performance.
  • Zola Jesus – The haunting operatic vocals that emerged amid a wall of keyboards, guitar, and electronic-sounding percussion gave us chills.
  • Metric – If you have never listened to Emily Haines sing loud on a warm sunny day, you have not truly experienced Metric the way you should. “To believe in the power of songs/ To believe in the power of girls.”
  • The Joy Formidable – Lead singer Ritzy Bryan is a tiny sweetheart of a little Welsh thing whose unbelievable vocal power, stage presence, and guitar work is punctuated by joyfully awesome psychotic expressions when she is making a rock ’n’ roll point.
  • Feist – Leslie Feist knows what she is doing at this point in her solo career (which has spanned over a decade), and it shows. Her guitar solos are examples of the power of economical playing—using only the necessary notes.

“Dramastically Different”
(track 10, The Mix Up, 2007)

When you attend a festival, your perception of a band can completely shift, or you can discover a band that you have never heard of before. The following performers surprised and impressed us—and now we are fans.

  • Grouplove
  • Kurt Vile
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • Thee Satisfaction
  • The Joy Formidable
  • The Civil Wars
  • Alabama Shakes
  • Dum Dum Girls
  • We Are Augustines
  • Starfu*ker
  • Gary Clark Jr.
  • Dry The River
  • Craft Spells
  • Here We Go Magic

“Sure Shot”
(track 1, Ill Communication, 1994)

Of course, there were those who we have already seen live, or whose expectations completely live up to—and sometimes surpass—what we hope. These performers continue to be, for us, must-sees.

  • Jack White
  • Zola Jesus
  • M. Ward
  • Cloud Cult
  • Feist
  • St. Vincent
  • Girl Talk
  • Metric
  • Little Dragon
  • The Cave Singers
  • The Roots
  • Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • The Helio Sequence
  • Blind Pilot

“The Maestro”
(track 14, Check Your Head, 1992)

There are some musicians who require special mention. Of course, all musicians are something special…but these performers have some special superpowers that elevate them to another plane of existence, and watching them exercise their craft was an honor.

  • Jack White
  • M. Ward
  • Gary Clark Jr.
  • Kurt Vile
  • Charles Bradley
  • St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark)
  • The Roots

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