Sasquatch! Music Fest Musings

A note from the arts editor: As the summer festival circuit revs up, EW arts intern Bryan Kalbrosky reflects on a very special weekend at Washington’s Gorge Amphitheater for Sasquatch! music festival — a weekend filled with a smorgasbord of contemporary music giants. With Pickathon, What the Festival, Oregon Country Fair, MusicfestNW, Willamette Country Music Festival, High Sierra Music Fest, Outside Lands and Burning Man on the horizon, here’s a friendly reminder to drink lots of water and watch out for the nosebleeds (read below).

Images by Brinkley Capriola

When I think about Sasquatch 2014, I’ll always remember the text written on Andre 3000’s jumpsuit during OutKast’s opening night gig: “Everything is Temporary.”

It’s important for festival-goers to remember that the Sasquatch! music festival at The Gorge in Washington exists in its own alternate universe. It’s not every day, of course, that one is able to wake up in the morning at sunrise to a bizarre blend of blaring electronic dance music mixed with the mooing of cows. The unique location situated along the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest blesses those that make the pilgrimage to Sasquatch with a sensory overload of breathtaking rolling hills, where vibrant green trees meet the sharp crispness of the nearby river.

Sasquatch, it seems, truly brings people closer together; we become more appreciative and accepting in this sacred environment. When one rocks the infamous Sasquatch wristband, nothing feels quite like reality; it always feels better.

That’s why my trusted moleskin — originally packed with the intent of taking reminder notes about the weekend — is inscribed only with the same wise words shared with us by Andre 3000. When you’re at Sasquatch, the celestial beauty of the universe is temporary.

But pictures floating around the Internet capture memories inspired by everything from the morning pre-breakfast 24 oz. of Rolling Rock at the campsite to highlights from each stage, colorful face paint, daisy chains, oversized floppy hats and (most significantly) the blissful smiles of friends and strangers gathered together as one.

After a group of UO students began a noticeably loud “Go Ducks!” chant in line on Friday afternoon before the festival began, the first show that I saw was De La Soul. While the veteran group was unable to hide the fact that they had been performing together for 25 years, it was awesome to relive their long history in hip hop. Later, they shouted out Chance The Rapper — who fans would be seeing just a few hours later.

While Chance may be on the opposite end of the hip-hop spectrum, the 21-year-old Chicago native instantly became a festival favorite. Chance had been sick for the previous month, even missing weekend two of Coachella. The emerging star, however, stole the show with soulful renditions of originals like “Everybody’s Something” from Acid Rap as well as “Prom Night” from the 10 Day mixtape.

Like many others, I lost my mind when he covered the theme from the cartoon Arthur. During this song, he pleaded with the crowd at one of the biggest shows of his budding career to chant the hook (“Everyday it could be wonderful!”) along with him over and over, and over again. Chance appeared humbled to be spreading positive vibes, comfortable and eager to be back playing on stage.

Two of the most underrated shows at the festival occurred back-to-back on Friday evening, including a Phantogram show underneath dancing pink clouds during sunset at the Bigfoot Stage as well as a jaw-dropping performance by Classixx at the EDM tent (“El Chupacabra”) once night had fallen. “Fall In Love” by Phantogram and the psychedelic Classixx remix of “Psychic City” by YACHT — featuring an interactive projection of YACHT singer-songwriter Claire L. Evans blowing kisses at the crowd — stick out as highlights.

OutKast, however, was the absolute showstopper for Sasquatch this year. Andre 3000, Big Boi and their live band had the crowd singing along to hit after hit, including killer performances of “Roses,” “The Whole World,” “Ms. Jackson” and “Hey Ya!” The recently reunited Atlanta funk legends threw a party for the festival, already considered to be a much more genuine celebration of their impressive catalog than their Coachella gig had been.

Those reeling from an incredible performance by OutKast that looked to keep dancing could pick between Rudimental (London-based electronic collective known for boasting a live band, including a horns section) and South African rap-rave duo Die Antwoord to end the night. Depending on where you were in your head on Friday night, one band could have been a significantly wiser choice than the other.

The vibes on Saturday were more rock ‘n’ roll than the hip hop of the previous day, which meant that the Dodos were a perfect band to start off the afternoon.

Their performance under the beating sun at the Bigfoot stage was more danceable than I would have first predicted, and they got me feeling ready for performances by the Growlers, Violent Femmes and Washed Out later in the day. Comedian Eric Andre from Adult Swim also offered his humorous observations about the festival (and the drugs that come with it) for those that wished to chill out a bit between sets.

Perhaps the most exciting stretch of the weekend, though, came around sunset on Saturday night when M.I.A. helped spark one of the biggest dance parties of the weekend on the fest’s main lawn.

Her spirited energy helped spill into the crowd at the neighboring EDM tent for Chet Faker, whose sweet melodies and relaxing beats had the crowd feeling good and ready for another long night. The next set was my favorite surprise show of the weekend, in which female disc jockey TOKiMONSTA — from Flying Lotus’s record label Brainfeeder — threw down remixes of pop music’s most fun tracks.

The National, which headlined on Saturday, proved to be the perfect band to listen to and absorb their emotions while relaxing under the night stars after another long day.
While it felt like every part of my soul was clinging on to the idea of staying at Sasquatch forever by the time Sunday had hit, a heartwarming performance by tUnE-yArDs to open the afternoon on the main stage kept my spirits high. Merrill Garbus, frontwoman, shared her set list of polarizing loops and a mind-boggling global influence that had the entire festival feeling delighted.

After receiving a tip from a trusted friend, I hurried over to Brooklyn-based Lucius at the Yeti Stage. I found myself immediately obsessed with their charming stage presence, where the two lead female vocalists wore all black and matching bleached bob haircuts. They showcased remarkable and charming band chemistry, as well as gorgeous 5-part harmonies and three different drumbeats to keep rhythm. “Don’t Just Sit There” and “Go Home” were two of the most startlingly phenomenal songs I had seen since arriving at the festival.

I was also glad to thank them for their show when I ran into them on the main lawn at the Cold War Kids before the (brilliant) comedy performance by Demetri Martin.

Following the lineage of impressive female vocalists on Sunday, SoCal sisters HAIM dominated the main stage with powerful rock music and a West Coast sound that the crowd completely ate up. Their refreshing set the tone for quality shows on the main stage on Sunday, followed by Kid Cudi and Queens of the Stone Age.

Parquet Courts and Portugal. The Man were met with two awesome mosh pits for their shows, and both had me dancing through the night until I suffered a random nosebleed. The nosebleed, however, helped me remember that the folks at Sasquatch are quite literally some of the nicest in the world and one woman even offered to help me wash my hands as I patched myself up before heading back out to the dance floor.

Before returning to the campsite for the final night, I was able to catch electronic sets by Tycho and Major Lazer. While the gigs literally could not have been any more different if they tried, they both offered fantastic nightcaps to an incredible weekend — with one even featuring fireworks and twerking.

Sasquatch 2014 was one of the most unforgettable journeys that I will ever experience. While I know the entire experience may have been a temporary “portal” into euphoric bliss, I also learned that everyday it could be wonderful if we allow ourselves to find the joy around us. Of course it helps to be surrouned by some the best contemporary musicians in the world.