I caught the beginning of Andrew Bird's set before leaving for another show. He was so small, and so hearty! He played his first song all by himself, using loop pedals, and I never get used to that. Every time I see someone do that and they stop actually playing the instrument but it keeps going, I feel like a kindergartener at a magic show. (And not that dick kid who's like, "I saw you put the quarter in your pocket, guy!")
Then he had his band come on, and they weren't extraneous, even though clearly he could just make a whole band out of his hands and feet and mouth. They grooved in that violin-rock-'n'-roll-whistle charm spiral for a while, warm and mellow. And as everyone but me already knew, Andrew Bird is the number-one-supremo whistler. JEEZ! I just wonder if his name was already Bird and he learned how to whistle coincidentally, or he named himself that because of his birdlike tendencies? I refuse to google for answers. I'm leaving that mystery in my brain.
Akron/Family's new album, Sub Verses, was part of our drive-up-here soundtrack, but it didn't mean I was prepared for their live show at all. I think of them as more plinky and feelingsy (admittedly, this is basically Never Heard of 'Em territory), and yet they opened so loud and guitar-ed I had trouble breathing; their music was inside my lungs. While they managed to have lots of oooh/aaaaah sing-alongs, it was way more animalistic than I was expecting.
As I've said on this blog before, I can't really stand hipper-than-you frownsters who glum their way through sets, and Akron/Family were the fucking champs of expressing how very happy they were to be here. They also made tons of grinning bandmate eye contact, were endlessly cheerful to each other and the audience, and just generally made it seem like it was the best idea you ever had to pay money to come stand in a field and watch them play music and their best-ever idea to come join you. Vocalist-bassist Miles Seaton extolled the unique magic of live music and somehow made that gratitude and celebration a new, exciting idea. We're all having the best party! Together! HIGH FIVE! The beaming audience sang everything and jumped in unison. The cymbals vibrated so they looked like they were going in slow motion. A/F made everyone crush in closer, like they were going to tell secrets, then blasted us in the face with sound. They asked everyone to sing their ooooohs with them, and you felt like a dick if you just stood there. We ooooohed together.
They closed with a song called "Samurai" about death being your friend, and they played it so low it was almost elephant music. Did you ever see that zoo exhibit where it teaches you that elephants make special non-trumpety sounds that are so low, human ears can't hear them? This was just a smidge above that, and it made my tailbone vibrate.
But the best part might have been junior crowdsurfer here, having the terrified/excited time of his life:
Confidential to Akron-Slash-Family: I love you, bros, but YOUR SLASH IS RIDICULOUS.
A fully-bearded Nick Offerman ( a.k.a. Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation) filled up the comedy tent this afternoon with a rant against cell phones, "instead of playing Draw Something...why don't you just draw something? Or instead of putting your time into a game of Words With Friends, why don't you put that energy into a making a batch of kick ass cornbread. That's a game where everybody wins."
Festivals are the amazing fast food of live music, squished together, hot, trashy and full of instant gratification. I rolled up to festival at 4pm, I was stoked to catch most of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's set on the main stage, a band used to sneak into bars in California to see but hadn't thought of in years. B.M.R.C make cool, straight-forward rock n' roll, always wearing black leather jackets no matter how hot it was and singing about the devil and rock and roll and red eyes and tears and whatnot. I read on the Sasquatch schedule they've, and they gone through a lineup change, and were currently stripped down to a three-piece and with a new drummer named Leah Shapiro. Playing at least a handful of songs I was most familiar with from 2001, I noticed the guitarist kept a black hood on while he played . I leaned over and asked my friend if it annoyed her in regards to showmanship, and she shout whispered back that, "no way...it's like, his body language is saying... I'm so sexy I can wear a hood."
The high school kids around me were sloppily bopping around to it, and I had a sneaking suspicion that they would be having the greatest time no matter what show at this festival they were at. The ones in front of me were passing around Crystal Geiser bottle filled with vodka they had smuggled in amongst each other and had glued strategically glued plastic gemstones all over their sunburned bodies. A particularly intoxicated girl has a shirt that says "SOBER" on the front, and "SO BORED" on the back. I made my way further up the hill to catch a better view with the evenly sprawled loadies out on the grassy knoll, but I catch the noise pollution from the nearby Yeti Stage in between songs, so I left as B.M.R.C. were gracefully wrapping up their set. Sasquatch!
Popular Sasquatch Fashion Accessories Spotted So Far: Flower headbands Wizard hats Countless soiled furry Halloween animal suits
This year, I made a batch of images that were printed onto giant banners and hung up on the grounds of Sasquatch. Last night I walked by one of them and saw two girls furiously typing away at their phones.
Me: You're not actually trying to access the internet with that password, are you?
Girls: Yes, we've been trying for 20 minutes now!
Me: It's not real, read the password!
They took a second as their eyes scanned the text. Then they exclaimed in unison, "OH MY GOD, WE'RE SO DUMB."
They were also nice, they let me take their picture.
It was excellent to hear the Rose Windows soundcheck as early entries trickled onto the festival grounds. Th' Windows (can I call them that?) weren't due to play for another hour, but their ability and energy seemed just as great as if they were playing to a full crowed. A group a teens in sarongs hurried by, audibly worried that they were missing the actual set. They spun-danced alone at the front of the stage as the soundcheck ended, their bindle-like purses strewn haphazardly on the grass.
Everything about the music of Rose Windows exudes talent. Every player has full command of their instrument and singer Rabia Shaheen Qazi is what industry types would call the real deal. The song arrangements are mesmerizing and interesting, I imagine it's something like seeing Neil Young–era Crazy Horse in their prime. Songwriter Chris Cheveyo has what industry types would call the goods.
The biggest highlight for me was a blazing version of Frank Zappa's "Cosmik Debris," that concluded the set. It was a slightly loose and dirty version that perfectly translated Zappa's complicated lines. It gave a clear glimpse of where Rose Windows is coming from and where they're capable of going.
I saw RA Scion in Barboza's basement last summer at Block Party, and it was a big part of my learning how to lose myself at a show. Everyone was so raucous and sweaty and into it, and he gave a lot of love back to the audience, and I found myself caught up in the wave of humans lurching forward to touch his hands as he waved them over the mob.
Here, people congregated in a muddy field at the local hiphop stage, Cthulhu. RA Scion thanked festival organizers for making such a stage, while admitting, "I don't know how to pronounce it, but..." And sure enough, he got hands in the air, and people doing that dance where they almost fold their whole body in half with each beat, like wacky staplers or something; I love that one. He's just so warm, and nice, and says thank you so much. What a sweetie!
He also called a dude onstage to show off his T-shirt:
And the audience agrees: "FUCK DAVID STERN"
(Couldn't snap a good one, but that says "Fuck David Stern" and has a Space Needle/middle finger thing on it.)
Sweet shirt bro, but I always prefer to dress Erdman, if possible. Also, no one should fuck David Stern, ever again.
Unfortunately, leaving Seattle around 1pm on the Friday that kicks off Memorial Day weekend gets you into Sasquatch just as all your local favorites are wrapping up. Erik Blood, Jherek Bischoff, and Reignwolf all played before we got in/as we were pitching our tents (and by "we," I mean KELLY FUCKING O CAN PITCH THREE TENTS IN LIKE 10 MINUTES).
Word in the press hut was that the sound was a bit crappy for Erik, and that Jherek's set sounded great, except for one buzzing microphone somewhere amongst his large band of mega musicians. OH! And one more gossip for you: someone said the Red Fang drummer was so wasted he puked on stage. At like, 5pm.
When we rolled in, there was smoke pouring off the Yeti stage and the overpowering smell of chicken caused us to think that some enterprising young band had added an elaborate barbecue to their set. It turned out it was Telekinesis' high-powered smoke machine, and that the entire grounds of Sasquatch just smells like meat wherever you go! Anyway, Telekinesis was one of my favorites from Friday—I hadn't seen Michael Benjamin Lerner with a full band, let alone behind the drum kit. Singing drummers are a curious kind of special mutant talent, like watching someone write in perfect cursive with both hands. And those songs are so catchy—they've been growing on me for a minute.
After a few beer-tent adventures, it was time for Vampire Weekend, a band that's just never been my thing. Too... something. Fancy-boy, jingle-tingle boat-shoe rock? Anna Minard was convinced they were a Paul Simon cover band, playing Graceland in it's entirety. Bingo!
Macklemore's balloons. This is as close as you could get to him backstage!
We wandered over to see Macklemore, who is so big now, he doesn't allow a photo pit in front of the stage. The folks in the crowd at the main stage were representing every shade of wasted gradient: slumped over against a fence? Yes! More than one! Trying to convince the security that you're Macklemore's sister? Just keep telling them! Dancing with one shoe on in the freezing cold? Obviously!
The best quote of the night actually came from the single-shoe field dancer. When I asked her if she was excited for Macklemore, and she looked over at the stage, put her hands up, and said, "WHAT DO I HAVE TO LOSE?"
That's our new motto and future interview question from here on out, "Sasquatch 2013, what do you have to lose?"
by Josh Bis
on Sat, May 25, 2013 at 1:45 PM
By some miracle of traffic and unexpected preparedness, I made it to the Gorge a few hours before the rest of "Sasquatch Team of Excellence Oh Thirteen", crossing through the gates and strolling past all of the ready-made photo op stations to catch the middle of Erik Blood's set along with the twenty-four other smartest people on the festival grounds (only half of whom were music critics). They sounded predictably great: lushly layered and slightly raucous, pulling in other late arrivals and refugees from the always-massive Gap Fashion Consultation Queue across the field.
I caught a little bit of honorary Seattleite, Jordan "Reignwolf" Cook heating up the mainstage with that straightforward, yet virtuosic, blues that the kids love to love before making the first of many uphill climbs to see how Jherek Bischoff was faring on the Yeti stage. Though he looked among the least likely festival performer—a tuxedoed ukulele bandleader and his chamber pop orchestra—by the time the complicated sound checks were completed, the grassy lawn around the stage felt like a magical meadow, transformed by delicate songs inspired by things like being lost at sea and saved by the beacon of Seinfeld being watched on the shore, a minor festival miracle.
Elsewhere Nacho Picasso sounded like just the right titration of NyQuil and Red Bull; and accounts are fuzzy about whether it was Strand of Oaks or the mighty wind that proved too challenging to the structural integrity of the Yeti Stage. In either case, by the time the stage had been certified for performances again, the schedule was in delayed disarray for the rest of the evening. This actually turned out to be an improvement, alleviating some scheduling conflicts (with some combination of Built to Spill and/or Arctic Monkeys) that otherwise would've caused me to miss Telekinesis's latest triumphant pop incarnation.
I have to thank Grant Brissey for inventing the FASHION TUNNEL™ tag last year, because 2013 Sasquatch is HOT FASHION CENTRAL! We're keeping a flower-headband tally (Josh Bis reported the premiere of the flower headband at Coachella, which seems to have replaced the bad-taste headdresses in festival fashion wear), but to tide you over, here are two of the best things we saw:
Where can I get one of these??
Plastronaut (disclaimer: do NOT wrap yourself in plastic in the blazing sun)
It's not commonly known that there's a discerning group of foodies that travel from music festival to music festival to taste what America's top trailer chefs are serving to the masses. Luckily, I stumbled onto an extra friendly Canadian as soon as I arrived who was happy to give me a rundown on the mound of fried chunks that he was holding.
Hey man, what's your name?
What are you eating, Chris?
Boneless chicken wings and curly fries.
What do you think happened to the bones?
I don't know.
How is the food at Sasquatch?
It's really tasty, actually! Very tasty!
How is the price of the food at Sasquatch?
Uh, it's a little pricey. But that's expected at a festival.
Where are you from?
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Can you get this caliber of food in Edmonton?
What's better, America or Canada?
Oh, you're going to put me in the spotlight. Right. I'd have to say Canada.
What's the main reason that Canada is better than America?
Alright! We are HERE! Your "Sasquatch Team of Excellence Oh Thirteen" will be yours truly, Derek Erdman, Anna Minard, Kelly O, Josh Bis, and Bree McKenna, with an assists from Jon Essinger (he brought a whole keg!).
So far, it's really windy with a little rain/sun combo, and everyone we have encountered is insanely wasted! And colorful! But mostly wasted.
Kelly O stepped outside the press hut for three minutes and already found these wonderful revelers:
What in THE F*CK! I was just looking for a newish Danny Brown music nugget, to say something about how all the acts I'm most excited to see at Sasquatch this weekend (Danny Brown + Nacho Picasso + Earl Sweatshirt + P.O.S + Macklemore & Ryan Lewis + Brothers From Another) were all rap... And then I was even gonna say something about the new article out, just today in XXL Magazine: "The New New: 15 Seattle Rappers You Should Know"
But can I talk about either of these? NO! NOT ANYMORE! I just watched a video of Danny Brown getting a freaking BLOW JOB, knob-bob, and/or a "STAGE DOME" at a show in Minneapolis.
If you didn't already get your Sasquatch tickets (which sold out in a record 90 minutes time) then you are shit out of luck. If you did buy tickets, however, you are probably quite stoked right now because the festival just added Elvis Costello and the Imposters to the line-up.
To throw in a game-changer like Elvis Costello weeks after tickets already sold out? Now that's just mean.