Sasquatch! Music Festival ’11 | Part 3

The precipitation didn’t send anyone running to the exits; instead it seemed to kick the dancing up a notch. It was almost as if the rain was part of the show.




The Old 97’s

I have seen the Old 97’s several times, and I have also seen (lead singer) Rhett Butler’s solo show a couple of times. As always, it was a little silly to watch Butler posture with his rock and roll poses. But it was also heartwarming, like seeing an old friend’s idiosyncrasies after years of being apart. Those boys are hard-worked road veterans, and it showed in a totally great way. They still sound like a bar band that got a little big for their britches. Hearing their songs again brought out the same feelings of nostalgia I felt seeing Death Cab for Cutie. I was also really glad that they have not tried to take their roadhouse band sound and evolve it into some kind of stadium rock (such as what Kings of Leon have done). Instead, they have remained true to their roots for almost 20 years.

Noah and the Whale

“5 Years Time” is just one of their many celebratory songs that sounded perfect for the sunny day. Their new songs all have an “up with people” sound, with lyrics like, “It feels like his new life can start” from “Life is Life,” “Tonight’s the kind of night that everything can change," from “Tonight’s the Kind of Night,” and “Give is all back just to do it again, turn back time to be with my friends,” from “Give It all Back.” Click here to hear the set yourself at NPR’s Website.


What an awesome dance party. Two guys whose musical backgrounds seem extensive really get the party rocking during the fest’s last afternoon. They occupied the same time slot on the main stage as two other fantastic—and very different—dance parties (see The Head and the Heart and Fitz and the Tantrums). With vocal harmonies and synth riffs, they sound like a funkier version of Hall and Oats.

However, one of those guys plays a mean guitar and talk box, so they are more than a band capitalizing on nostalgia. And as I said, this was all about energy. I didn’t know any of the songs from the Canadian band (except for a few that I’d heard them perform on the Internet from the Coachella Festival), yet I danced to every song. The whole crowd was right with me, creating one of the most energetic experiences of the weekend.


Hailing from Oxford, England, these boys have multipart harmonies and an enthusiasm for live performances that push them past a typical singer/songwriter sound and into territory similar to The Head and the Heart and Noah and the Whale. I had never heard of them and was delighted to hear that many of their songs had a Celtic drinking song quality to them.

Most importantly, the lead singer echoed my sentiment exactly when he said that he wished “all life could be like a music festival.” 

White Arrows

I only caught a snippet of the end of their performance. What I saw was a band of young fellas totally giving their all on one of the smaller stages. The lead singer jumped into the crowd and was dancing excitedly with the audience. If that does not illustrate musical passion, nothing does.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Sharon Jones worked as a corrections officer at Rikers Island; she knows how to be directive. She also knows how to tap into the soul of a crowd while throwing some funk all over. 


The music from the band was powerful, tight, and smooth. Her vocals were strong and solid. That’s only part of the spectacle—this “110 pounds of soul excitement” was a preacher at the church of funk.  


During the set, she went off on a rant about feeling the music, that music comes the heart and that soul music is not about a race or a color, “It’s about feeling the music in your heart.” She was out of breath after testifying about how her ancestors had come here as slaves and then she broke into an African dance. When that was over, she shouted out that she was fired up and needed to get her shoes back on before launching into another musical spectacle. This woman and her band were another shining example of a how a powerful, talented performer can lift your soul up to the heavens.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

That two people can create so much energy with acoustic guitar illustrates the awesome power of music. These guys don’t speak fluent English, yet they convey an intense joy and respect with their playing, their dancing, and their smiling faces. During their set a dark cloud approached and eventually dumped a burst of rain on the crowd. This precipitation didn’t send anyone running to the exits; instead it seemed to kick the dancing up a notch. It was almost as if the rain was part of the show, because when this song ended, so did the rain. The dance party did not.

The lightning fast fingers of these two guitarists were all that they needed for their set. Rhythmically, Gabriela beat on her guitar in between notes (which is so very impressive to watch) and kept the dance party going. It was in full swing, with a line of people kicking and bouncing in time with the music stretching the length of the venue. They said that they are not touring, but that the beauty of the Gorge drew them to this festival. At the end of their set, they graciously and formally bowed to the crowd, who continued to applaud even as the house music started. Listen to this set at NPR’s website, though the audio, while impressive, does not quite do justice to the intense, magical energy that I witnessed.



I watched these guys (their name is pronounced “chk chk chk,” because…well, just because) perform on my way out of the festival grounds after seeing Rodrigo y Gabriela. I have seen them before, so I pretty much knew what to expect. I didn’t have the energy to really join in the party (after all, I had been dancing day and night all weekend), but it appeared that the lead singer Nick Offer had the energy I was missing. The band’s female vocalist, Shannon Funchess (who often adds something special to the mix with her dancing and strong vocals), was absent from this performance but Mr. Offer seemed to make up for it.

He was intense, and although he did steal a hat from someone, the only vibe I was getting from him and the band was a positive one. Like Conor Oberst, they pointed out the pervasive commercialism of the festival (“Does anyone else feel like buying a Honda?” as they were playing on the Honda stage), but it felt playful rather than angry—similar to what Reggie Watts was doing.





The Decemberists

I was really bummed that I was leaving and missing out on another example of a NW legend, but I could see rain coming, and I needed to drive for three hours over mountains. Driving away, I saw a huge dark cloud and impressive lightning approaching the amphitheater. At this point, I remembered that Sasquatch! was being webcast and that I had a new fancy iPhone I could use to listen to the show while I drove.

While my mind reeled at the wonder of technology, my phone brought me the Decemberists’ final song, “Mariner’s Revenge,” from their album Picaresque. During a dramatic pause in the song, a bright bolt of lightning streaked across the sky, and I heard the crowd in the webcast cheer. While I wasn’t there to witness it, it sounded great. You can find this entire performance, and many performances from the weekend, at The world is truly a beautiful place.


I was also pretty bummed that I was going to miss out on this festival-closing set. They are a great live band, and one that I have seen before. They certainly have become legends, and I was interested to see if Jeff Tweedy and his band was going to add to the infectious enthusiasm theme I had been noticing. He did.

NPR streamed the show, so I was able to listen on my smartphone. The two-hour set provided the perfect backdrop to my drive home over the mountains in the dark and back into the lights of the city. | Tony Van Zeyl

 Photos: Kyle Johnson, Christopher Nelson, and Jackie Kingsbury via the official Sasquatch! Music Festival photostream on Flickr. Check out all the photos here:


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