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Monday, June 4, 2012

Sasquatch Review: Day One

Late Thursday night, I completed my 3,600 mile trek to and from Sasquatch Music Festival, which took place over the Friday through Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Since returning home, I've helped a friend move, entertained my parents who visited, and worked on decompressing and unwinding from such an intense trip. I think now I'm getting back into enough of a normal rhythm that I can get back to writing a few posts.

Over the course of the four days in the wonderfully named George, Washington and at the breathtakingly gorgeous Gorge Amphitheater, I managed to take in sets from almost 40 bands. In the interest of not leaving anyone out and of being able to highlight some of my favorite sets in more detail, I'm breaking my recap of the festival into four posts, one post for each day I was at the festival.

I arrived at the festival on Friday afternoon after picking up Carly, a friend from undergrad who had taken a bus into nearby Quincy, Washington. Our first exposure to the size and scale of the festival was in the form of a between two and three hour line of cars just to get into the campground. Once we made it into the camp site, we wanted to quick set up our tent before dark and then rush into the venue to catch Of Monsters and Men performing. Little did we know, the tent had other plans for us. After struggling with setting it up for 15 or 20 minutes, a couple guys from Calgary came over from a neighboring tent and offered to help us out. Another 15 to 20 minutes later and with the full help of four people, we were able to get the tent set up. We thanked them and rushed to the venue, which was about a mile walk. After exchanging our tickets for wristbands and going through a security check on the way in, we were into the festival grounds.

There were five stages throughout the weekend performing music (and some comedy). We made our way to the main stage, which resulted in our first view of what makes this venue just so great. After you walk over a hill, the main stage is situated at the bottom of the hill, with the gorge and the Columbia River behind it. We went to shows for four days, and each day when I first made that trip over the hill, I was amazed at just how beautiful the location was. I have no idea how long it would have taken for me to stop being dumbfounded by the beauty, but it's much longer than four days. Unfortunately, pictures taken by me can't do it justice, but here is one taken on my phone anyway.

We were able to make it in time to see the last 15 or 20 minutes of Of Monsters and Men's set including the song "Little Talks", which may be my favorite song of 2012. I just cannot get enough of it. The set was a great way to kick off the weekend, and I'm glad we were able to catch at least some of it.

Over the next couple hours, we went and saw Minnesota's own Polica over on another stage. I haven't spent much time listening to the band, but after watching their set I plan to fix that in the not too distant future. After that, we checked out Santigold back on the main stage. I can't say that it is my favorite music, but the performance was something else with backup dancers that never stopped throughout the whole set. I was impressed by their memory, endurance, and number of costume changes. Santigold has certainly figured out how to keep people entertained even if they aren't already into your music. After that, we stuck around to see the beginning of Girl Talk's set. I'm very intrigued by Girl Talk. It isn't really my thing, but they excitement that he can generate in his fans is really impressive, and I can see how his live shows would be a lot of fun. This was our first look at one of the massive trends of the weekend, which was people who seemed to have an infinite number of glow sticks. During several of the more dance-y artists, people would throw dozens of glow sticks at a time into the air, only to repeat the process again over and over. I would love it if there was a way to know just how many glow sticks were brought into the festival. I can get whoever is figuring it out started: it was A LOT!

We cut short our stay at the Girl Talk set to go get a spot for Explosions in the Sky on another stage. This was one of the sets I was most looking forward to before the festival. I have steadily fallen more and more in love with Explosions in the Sky over the last year or so. That combined with the fact that I heard they put on a great live show and that I had yet to see them set the bar pretty high. Throughout the first few sets we watched, Carly had remarked how it was a little weird that a lot of the time you could hear noise coming over from other stages while bands were playing. This was not even close to an issue for Explosions in the Sky because they play LOUD. With some bands, I may consider it too loud (and if I listened to them for too long, I may go deaf), but it was perfect. One of the things I love about their music is the way it can just envelope you and make it seem like everything else goes away. I don't listen to a ton of purely instrumental music, and I've wondered why I love Explosions in the Sky despite this fact. Throughout their set, I realized that I think a lot of it is the way that they can play with your expectations and ears by transitioning so quickly from ear busting noise (and seeming chaos) to a relatively quiet and lovely guitar riff that pulls you out of the noise and transfixes your attention to the next part of the song. Or maybe all of this is just an attempt to rationalize and the music should just be enjoyed and appreciated without a reason for it. Regardless, they more than lived up to the hype and expectations I had for them. You can always tell a band/set is something special when you walk away feeling like it wouldn't feel right to listen to any other music ever again. If they ever feel like just following me around and soundtracking my life, I'm up for it. Their set was the clear highlight to day one for me and is up their with some of my favorite shows I've ever experienced. I would absolutely love to get a chance to see them headline at their own show sometime.

We finished off the night by going back over to the main stage for a little bit to see Pretty Lights perform. I knew nothing about who Pretty Lights was, and I still don't really, but he/they lived up to their name. The stage was a spectacle of lights, and the glow sticks really came alive for this set. We only stayed for a few songs, but the crowd down by the stage was whipped up into a frenzy with glow sticks flying everywhere, people dancing like it would be their last chance to do so, and everyone capping off the first night of the festival with a ton of excitement.


Artist I saw: Of Monsters and Men, Polica, Santigold, Girl Talk, Explosions in the Sky, Pretty Lights

Favorite set: Explosions in the Sky

Since Explosions in the Sky was my clear favorite show of the day, here is their song "Your Hand In Mine"

I realize this was super long, so kudos to anyone who actually made it through. Hopefully I'll be back in the next day or two with Saturday's recap.

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