So it begins. Photo: Mackie Ballard
The short version:
I did the “Harlem Shake” with Baauer under a full moon, discovered Reignwolf and Radical Face, drank a margarita in a can, twice, watched Grimes perform from the top of a double-decker bus while eating fish n’ chips, was less than five feet away from Danny Brown, before I realized it was Danny Brown, I rediscovered my love for camping and my hate for porta potties, almost cried while watching Sigur Ros and watched Primus in 3D….
The long version:
I have never been to a music festival (Warped Tour doesn’t count), so I had no idea what I was in for. In the days leading up to Sasquatch, I did a bit of research about it, but figured I’d leave it up to fate and just experience it for myself.
I slowly started packing my bags a few days before I was set to leave, which actually did me no good because I was still packing things 10 minutes before I got in the car. In lieu of flying, I decided to drive. I am almost 27-years-old and I don’t think I have ever been on a proper road trip. “Proper” in the sense of driving yourself a really long distance, singing along to whatever CD you pull out of the car door first just to keep yourself awake, getting lost in the white lines that disappear under the front of your car, eating shit from random gas stations in towns you’ve never heard of, and you’re only stopping because you have to pee and you aren’t a boy so you actually have to pull over … type of road trip. Yeah, I’ve never been on one of those. So, I called up my friend Mackie, asked/told her she was coming with me to Sasquatch, rented a car, packed my bags and got the hell outta dodge.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is my slightly blurred account of what happened at the 2013 Sasquatch Music Festival. Call it what you will, a recap, a guide, a ramble, whatever this might be to you, it is my journal and the only way I will ever be able to remember what I just experienced.
Thursday, May 23 – The Drive
After going back to my apartment three times, Mackie’s house once, the SLUG office once, the coffee shop, the gas station and the liquor store, we were finally ready to hit the road.
Things I learned today: 1- Even when you think you have everything, you have forgotten something … but by the time you remember, you are an hour out of town and it’s too late to turn back. 2- I forgot the AUX cord. 3- I like to drive, a lot. I drove for twelve hours, straight. So there’s that. 4- Only the gas stations that are in the middle of nowhere sell those really horrible but delicious, deep fried foods that you are only allowed to eat because you are on a road trip. 5- Somewhere between Oregon and Washington is the middle point between the Equator and the North Pole.
Friday, May 24 – Sasquatch Day 1
We rolled into Quincy, WA around 2 or 3 a.m. Friday morning and checked ourselves into one of the last available rooms in the entire town. I was determined to be up and out of there by 7 a.m., but rolled over and found my phone on the floor closer to 9:30. After indulging in the motel amenities and laying on the fancy cardboard bed, we wandered out to the car at 11. I had lost all motivation for life and fought the urge to just lay the car seat back and take an early morning nap. As we headed towards the infamous Gorge, I anticipated the longest line of cars. During my research, I came across an endless stream of photos that people had taken from the back of the car line just to enter the festival camping grounds. All I could picture was a sea of cars filled with a sea of even more people.
As we got closer and closer, my heart started racing (that was probably also due to the fact that I found the one coffee shop in Quincy and ordered a double shot in the dark). I followed the arrows that were pointing to the Gorge and prepared to turn down the road into a massive line. As we rolled through the stop sign (it specifically said “No Stop, keep turning”…) I stared down an empty road. No cars in front of us, or behind us. Either we had taken a wrong turn or the Sasquatch Gods were on our side.
As we slowly turned into the campground, the “we’re not in Kansas anymore” feeling immediately washed over me. We had found ourselves smack dab in the middle of tent city. The campgrounds had opened up the day before and it was as if people had already been living there for weeks. Flag poles stuck out high above the ground next to tents, an extremely smart way to find your way back at night. Vendors had set up food stands and kids stood in line looking just as exhausted as I was, waiting for their half-assed cup of black.
One thing led to another, and we landed a spot next to three of our new favorite Seattleites: Jamie, Jackie and Barrett. We quickly became friends and later declared ourselves a family commune, the Sasquatch Gods proving once again to be on our side.
After waiting for almost two hours to get our actual media passes for the evening, Mackie and I pulled on our boots, stuffed our jackets in our backpacks, had a celebratory drink with our new friends and made our way to the festival gates.
Luckily there is a separate media entrance, which makes getting in and out of the festival a breeze. Upon walking up to the gates, the herd (literally) of people attempting to make it through the gates all at once was unreal. I kissed my media wristband and quickly walked away.
As we walked through the yellow gates, the kids rushed passed us, yelling, woohoo-ing, shouting and prancing about, I couldn’t tell if they were already on drugs or if they were just high on the first day of Sasquatch vibes (probably drugs…).
After stopping for a few photos, of the excited kids, of course, we were pulled toward the sounds of Red Fang coming from the Big Foot stage. Mackie and I stood in awe at the back of the crowd, attempting to take it all in. Red Fang, an SLC favorite, pumped up the crowd and I started to get anxiety. I realized that I wasn’t even listening to the music as much as I was trying to just take it all in, so we continued our venture into the land of the ‘Squatch.
We headed towards the Main Stage, slowly moving through the crowd. It was as if mobs of wild 21-year olds who had been locked up for months had been unleashed all at the same time, and they were all sent to the Gorge. From giraffes to space aliens, “hippie flower children” to bros and beyond, I tried to wrap my head around exactly what we were getting ourselves into.
Mackie snapped a few shots of the madness, which we later realized was nothing close to madness… that was still yet to come. We made our way to the top of the path that leads to the main stage and immediately stopped in our tracks.
If there is any reason to ever go to Sasquatch, it is to experience music with the Gorge as a backdrop. There are no words to describe just how beautiful experiencing that for the first time is.
After staring out past the main stage for a good minute, I finally came to and realized that Reignwolf was well into his set. I turned around to find Mackie buying us lunch (a foot long hot dog), and we ventured to an empty spot in the grass.
A few bites later, I felt (gross), but ready to take on everything Sasquatch was about to throw at me.
Reignwolf kicks ass, quite possibly my new favorite brothers. Paired with the breathtaking backdrop, Jordan Cook ended their set by climbing off the stage and up onto an Easy Street Records van where a drum awaited him and he played a final solo as the van carried him out of the crowd.
We continued wandering through the festival making the rounds to the other stages, catching Brothers From Another on the Cthulhu, local Seattle heavy weights on the rise in the Seattle rap scene, and discovered Strand of Oaks on the Yeti. We stuck around to hear a few songs from Seattle favorites Telekinesis, who had just played SLC two nights before and had quite the dance party going as we moved on.
After refueling on both food and drink at the camp commune, we headed back just in time to hear the final song from Arctic Monkeys, a favorite of mine whom I first heard back in 2005. After a few years, I stopped following and listening to them and unfortunately, was not impressed to dance around with the others. Youth Lagoon started 40-minutes late on the Yeti, giving us time to order a Margarita in a can and soak in the whirring basslines and heavy psyche sounds coming from the stage. Their set was enough to make me reevaluate how often I actually listen to YL, and will be making an attempt to turn it on, and up, more often.
The few final sets I was most looking forward to were happening in the tent we would later dub as the “raver tent,” aka, El Chupacabra, whatever the hell that means. We shoved our way through the massive crowd that was collectively bouncing to the sounds of Vampire Weekend on the Big Foot, fighting our way through shrieking 18-year-old girls and fist-pumping jocks. Vampire Weekend just isn’t my thing, and we’ll leave it at that.
The El Chupacabra proved to be our saving grace. We made our way to the front of the tent as Matthew Dear started into his third song. It is safe to say that Matthew Dear was by far the most attractive, sexually charged act at Sasquatch. Too bad he is married. He is on the Ghostly International label, which is one of my favorites, so I was stoked to see him on the line up. His set was dialed down, and his voice is much more overpowering live than anything I have ever heard through my headphones.
While we anxiously waited to dance out the sexual frustrations caused by Matthew to the beats of Baauer, we headed to the Main Stage, along with everyone else at Sasquatch, to watch Seattle’s hometown heroes, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, welcome everyone to Sasquatch. As Macklemore rose 20 feet above the stage, I racked my brain to try and think of any other songs I knew of theirs besides the thrift store song. Alas, MRL, as I am calling them, are entertainers. From Macklemore’s leopard-print robe (something my grandma might wear…), to him representing WA with his Sonic Jersey, to their trumpet player running around the stage in a kilt, I was dancing and cheering them on just as much as the people singing next to me.
We headed back to the raver tent after a few songs, just as Baauer was starting his set. He ruled all. Baauer’s claim to fame came when someone made a super awesome, 30-second video to the “Harlem Shake,” and overnight he was YouTube famous. However, he has been in the game since long before, producing and remixing since he was 13. I have been waiting for a chance to catch him and his digital magic live, and was stoked to be shaking my ass to his beats. Not many can say they did the “Harlem Shake” with Baauer underneath a full moon at the Gorge, but I can.
I danced everything out of me and barely remember zipping up my tent and crawling into my sleeping bag.
Saturday, May 25 – Day 2
Between the mix of the sun heating up my temporary bedroom and the sounds of sound check getting louder with each kick of the drum, it was impossible to sleep past 8 a.m. I rolled out of my tent and onto the cool grass to take a few deep breaths before I realized, by some magical powers, that I wasn’t hungover. We killed time by cooking up breakfast in our trusty propane stove topper (a camping must-have), and made an attempt to charge up all of our dead phones.
Luckily, our friends at Goal Zero hooked us up before we took off, and our family commune took advantage of the Sherpa 50 Solar Recharger, taking turns plugging in each phone and eventually even my laptop.
Once we were juiced up, both electronically and physically, I packed up my laptop and headed into the media area to make an attempt at getting some work done. You never realize just how important outlets are until you are fighting with 20 other media reps to try and plug in your laptop, camera charger, phone, … and whatever the hell else calls for a plug. As I watched a few press peeps wait in line, I patted my trusty backpack, knowing that all I had to do was walk out into the sun, pop open the ultra light Nomad 7 Solar Panel, plug in my phone and I’d be good to go. The Goal Zero Switch 8s proved to be the biggest hit of the trip, making it easy to plug our phones in and continue shooting everything around us while it charged. One kid caught me using it during one of the sets and asked if he could borrow it. I’m pretty sure I became some sort of solar sun goddess in his eyes after that, which I am totally OK with.
The first few acts on Saturday set the tone for the rest of the day. Robert DeLong, the one-man electronica band, mixing, drumming, singing, dancing—killed it. Anyone hungover, watching his set was either able to dance and sweat the hangover right out…or bounced so much they eventually threw up, also known to cure a hangover. Robert is full of so much energy, my brain could hardly keep up. I anxiously tapped my foot to a few songs then took off to find a cold beverage.
Atlas Genius took over the Big Foot stage right after Robert. The Australian natives were set to play Kilby Court a few days after their Sasquatch appearance, and as I looked through the sea of kids impatiently waiting for them to walk on stage, I wondered how in the hell a band that could wrangle this big of a crowd was going to fit into Kilby Court (side note: the show sold out…). As they started playing, the girls in the front row let out that typical fan-girl shriek, and for the first time in my life, ever, I just couldn’t be annoyed. Handsome, talented musicians with Australian accents? … Go head and shriek, girl, just go ahead.
After Atlas Genius, we headed back to the media area to prep for an interview with Porcelain Raft, also known as Mauro Remiddi. He recently released the Silent Speech EP, a mix of instrumental jams he would make late at night while recording his new album, due out this fall.
Mauro is one of the most interesting musicians I have ever met. He is not afraid to speak his mind, change his style or try something new. In an effort to make his forthcoming album sound completely different than Strange Weekend, Mauro sold off almost all of his equipment and got a few new things, including a Modular Synth. His new EP, Silent Speech, was made up entirely of songs that he made late at night on the synth while recording his new album during the day. It was released at the beginning of May and has been one of my favorite EPs to chill out to.
One major change Mauro made for his upcoming album was bringing on Johnny Rogoff of the noise-rock, London-based band, Yuck, to play drums for him, bringing a new style to the sounds of Porcelain Raft. Mauro had met Johnny in London, attending each other’s shows, even releasing a super-limited 7” together, covering each other’s songs back in 2010. Johnny had moved back to New Jersey, where he is originally from, and when Mauro moved to New York a year ago, he knew he wanted to find a way to work together. They teamed up to record the new Porcelain Raft album and the two flew to Sasquatch to perform, something new for Porcelain Raft fans, as Mauro normally performs as a solo artist.
Before we ended our conversation, I asked Mauro what he thought of the current movement of the “laptop music scene.” With easy access to programs like Garage Band and Serato, it’s much easier for anyone to make music. Mauro’s response was not what I was expecting. He said, “If all of those musicians had thousands of dollars, and could afford the high-end recording studios, and their own orchestra to record with, they would do it. But, we’re all broke. That’s the way it is.”
Feeling recharged and even a little sense of security in knowing that there are folks like Mauro out their making music, I said goodbye and headed back out into the festival, ready to look at the music and the people making it in a whole new light.
Mackie and I made our way back to the Big Foot stage to catch a glimpse of Devendra himself. In all honesty, I have never followed Devendra that closely, but my image of him was completely different than what I saw on stage. I’m not sure at what point he went from long-haired, bejeweled hippy, to clean cut, wearing button-up shirts and loafers, but he’s the type of musician whose look doesn’t change anything. The crowd was packed full of girls wearing fake flower crowns and boys who had probably just taken there second hit of acid for the day.
By this point, I was so exhausted, we made our way back to camp to take a nap and get away from the crowds. Unfortunately, during naptime, Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec took the El Chupacabra stage, and I completely missed it. We made up some pb&j and stared at the sky for a few hours while the mashed-up sounds from inside the festival gates trailed into the campground. I finally gave into the fact that I was not going to get any sleep, and threw my boots back on and headed in.
I made my way to the top of the Main Stage hill with fellow SLC-ers, Lance Saunders and Will Sartain—it was the only place where we could get decent cell service, and Will had some Urban Lounge business to attend to. While we were standing there, handling important issues, Lance and I watched the crowd grow as Bloc Party took the stage. I remember listening to Bloc Party when their first release, Silent Alarm, came out back in 2005. I used to jam out to it all the time. And that was it. I stopped following them after that, as their next releases just didn’t live up to the first. I’m not exactly sure why they were playing the Main Stage, because the only time the fans sang along or got excited was when they played anything from that album. Unimpressed, we finished our texting business and moved on.
Feeling overwhelmed, I grabbed a beer and wandered around with Lance and Will, forcing myself to stay involved and excited. The day’s events, mixed with the sun and the drinking, had taken its toll and I was beat. But I knew I had to stay. Tame Impala and Sigur Ros had yet to go on and I wasn’t about to miss either of them.
Unfortunately, when we showed up at the Big Foot Stage to catch Tame Impala, we were being redirected to the Yeti, where their set had been moved to. So we trudged along with the rest of the frustrated crowd to secure our spot. Tame Impala ran into some gear issues (or something like that), which caused the delay. But after realizing I was going to miss Sigur Ros, I gave up. Even though I have seen Sigur Ros once before, and never Tame Impala, I was not going to miss my chance to experience them at a place like the Gorge.
I could hear the beginning of the Sigur Ros set as I headed to the Main Stage, and my pace quickened. Luckily I had brought in my trusty Goal Zero flashlight and clicked it on just as I hit the hill.
One major downside to festivals is all of the trash. Kids are fucking idiots and don’t know how to throw their shit away, so at the end of each day, the giant, beautiful hill that overlooks the Gorge was a massive blanket of empty fry holders and plates, plastic cups, and whatever the hell else. I lit up a path for us to walk and made sure no one was sitting in ketchup as we sat down to enjoy the show.
I’m not sure how many songs had gone by before I turned around to look at the group. “It’s like you’re ascending into heaven with every song,” said Will, who had never seen them before. Exactly. That is exactly what it is like. Sigur Ros has been in my Top 5 favorite bands of all time for years. I had the chance to see them live a few years ago when they played the Saltair, but the Saltair, compared to The Gorge—it’s unreal. Although, I did cry that first time I saw them. There were no tears this time, but there was complete euphoria. Everything about their performance was perfect.
After watching them for 30 minutes or so, I was starting to feel a little too emotional and overwhelmed for my own good, so I decided to end the night on my own and ventured back to see if Tame Impala had decided to pull their shit together and start the show. Luckily, they had, and I was able to end the night on a high note, catching the end of their set, then making my way back to the Big Foot to watch Empire of the Sun’s theatrical opening performance. They’ll be playing the Twilight Concert Series on August 29, and you definitely do not want to miss it.
Sometime close to 1 a.m., I trekked back to camp. Surprisingly, wandering around Sasquatch alone, at night, isn’t really all that creepy. There is a strange sense of community there, and walking down the rows of tents is like walking through your own neighborhood … a muddy, dirty, wet neighborhood. Granted, there are your typical shitty folks who tend to “holler” and whatever, but only after they are so inebriated they can hardly stand. Luckily, I didn’t run into any of them.
I practically jumped into my tent, replaying the sounds of Sigur Ros to help drown out the late-night parties going on all around me. I never actually attempted to stay up and party the night away with everyone else. I’m old and boring, you guys.
Sunday, May 26 – Day 3
There is nothing worse than waking up feeling like you are on fire and are about to pass out before you can even open your eyes. The Gorge is freezing at night, so you layer up to go to bed, but as soon as the sun comes up and is beating down on your tent, things heat up quickly. And if you are wearing wool socks, thermals, and wrapped in a mummy sleeping bag, you are doomed. After fighting with my sleeping bag and then my clothes, I finally managed to unzip my tent and let the fresh air in. Note to self, always bring water into the tent at night.
Sunday’s music in a nutshell … kind of:
After an hour of rolling around in my tent and failing to do any actual work (sorry Esther), I sleepily wandered into the festival (at 2 p.m.) and woke up with Torche. I missed their set when they came through SLC with Converge, so I was excited to catch the band we highlighted on the June 2012 cover of SLUG. After a few songs, I finally felt revived and ready to start the day. We headed over to the Main Stage and soaked in the sun during Young Blood Hawke, an LA-based band that reminded me of a weird mix between Arcade Fire and Matt & Kim. I walked past Danny Brown eating at one of the picnic tables, so, that was cool.
We caught the first few songs of the brother/sister duo that is Wild Belle. We grooved along with their reggae beats, and Mackie and I swooned over the style and talent of Natalie. Elliot is handsome and talented too, but there’s just something about a girl with badass stage presence, who can actually capture you with her voice. Later on in the day, Natalie joined Elvis Costello on the Main Stage for a song, so I heard.
I finally made it down into the Main Stage “pit” for The Tallest Man on Earth. It seemed like the safest time to be down there, as his music isn’t exactly something you can get run over to. How one man can command a stage the way he does is pretty incredible. He looked like the smallest man on that stage alone, playing to the biggest crowd. His set was flawless and put everyone in the most happy-go-lucky mood … Except for one girl, who passed out in the middle of “Where Do My Bluebird Fly.” She was OK, just needed a little bit of water. Luckily, the first aid folks are on point at Sasquatch and had her taken care of in no time.
One of my favorite discoveries at Sasquatch was Radical Face. Both Mackie and Lance had talked about him in the days leading up to Sunday, so I figured he had to be worth seeing. In all honesty, and jumping to conclusions without doing my research, I half expected Radical Face to be an underground white Southern rapper. … I was wrong, thank god. After watching a few songs, I realized that I had actually heard a lot of them, I just didn’t put two and two together. Of course, the final song, “Welcome Home,” solidified that I knew exactly who he was. In between songs, Cooper would laugh at the crowd. He seemed completely taken aback that we were all there watching him.
After Radical Face, we decided it was pb&j/nap time and headed back to camp. If you ever go to Sasquatch, don’t ever forget the pb&j and a loaf of bread. If that’s all you have the entire weekend, you’ll survive. Seriously.
We refueled and headed back in, catching the middle of Earl Sweatshirts set, and getting stuck in the massive crowd that had surrounded the Big Foot stage to see him. But my excitement to see Baths was kicking in, and we quickly moved away from the masses.
Baths was set to play in the El Chupacabra tent, and I readied myself up front to snap a few photos. I had the chance to interview him the Wednesday before Sasquatch and was ready to finally see him live. He was joined on stage with Morgan Greenwood, and the two of them kicked things off, playing a few songs from Cerulean, Baths’ first album, before Will stopped and explained that the rest of the songs were from his new album, Obsidian, released May 28. Their performance was full of energy, as the two of them switched off on the synths, and bobbed their heads as they created beats together while the crowd grooved along.
We skipped out a few songs early and fought our way through the crowd that was already gathering at the Big Foot Stage. The lady of the night, aka, Grimes, was still a good half hour away from playing, but she was one of the main acts that even I had come to see.
Luckily, I used my trusty media pass to get into the photo pit, and was able to experience the first few songs up close. When the lights finally dimmed, she was welcomed onto the stage to loud cheers. She excitedly waved to the crowd, looking almost like a little Harijuku girl. Up front she sounded great, but as soon as I left the photo pit and Mackie and I pushed our way to the back of the crowd, I realized how horrible the sound actually was. Unfortunately, her normally airy vocals were drowned out by the crowd that outnumbered her by the thousands.
Nonetheless, we stuck around to watch a few more songs, making our way to the totally out of the ordinary double-decker bus that had been serving fish n’chips all weekend. It was Mackie’s goal to eat there, and we were finally able to sweet talk the security guard into letting us up on top, bypassing the line and landing ourselves two greasy plates of half-assed dinner. Luckily, we didn’t wait in the line, which was always over an hour long all weekend, because it probably would not have been worth it.
After filling up on the first actual meal I had eaten all weekend, we followed the crowd to the Main Stage to check out Mumford and Sons. I can’t say that I have ever been the biggest Mumford fan. Their music just doesn’t resonate with me. However, my ex used to listen to them all the time, so I luckily knew enough of the songs to sing along and appear to fit in. A few songs into their set, we moved further down the hill and into the crowd because they sounded hollow. With a band as big as Mumford and Sons, I expected to feel overpowered by their sound, but it just wasn’t there. Moving closer helped a bit, but for how massive the sound system is on the Main Stage, it didn’t capture them in the way I had expected.
I eventually shrugged my shoulders and set out to finish my night watching Primus—in 3D. Seriously. Now, I have never actually listened to Primus before, but I had to see what the “3D” thing was all about. When we showed up to the stage, there was a note on the screen that said “Pick Up 3D glasses at Yellow Flag”… so we followed the instructions and found boxes full of 3D glasses at every yellow flag that surrounded the Big Foot Stage. I may not know a single Primus song, but watching them perform live with the 3D going on behind them was pretty cool. Had I been on drugs, it probably would’ve been a lot cooler. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I wasn’t. The fish n’ chips from earlier had slowly been soaking up what drinks I had consumed, and I was starting to sober up. However, between the heavy bass lines played by Les and the bouncing 3D elephant coming at me from the stage, I was hooked. I seriously want to know what it was like for someone who may have been in a different mindset. I didn’t necessarily come home a Primus fan, nor have I even listened to any of their music since, but I have to hand it to them, that was a brilliant idea.
Getting out of Sasquatch Sunday night was an absolute nightmare. Luckily, I had located Lance at Primus and didn’t have to make the trek out alone. It was as if the Walking Dead had ascended on the festival. No, people were not eating each other, but the zombie-like movement was all to similar. I moved from visions of zombies to cattle and back. The one downside to the fancy digital wristbands at Sasquatch is that they have to be swiped in and out, and after three long days of music, drinks, sun and whatever else all the kids were on, getting them to wave their wrist at an invisible scanner is near impossible.
As soon as we were through the gates, I practically ran back to camp, almost as if being chased by the zombies. I tried my hardest to stay up and participate in the late-night parties, but I just couldn’t do it. I think I was asleep before I even zipped my tent closed.
Monday, May 27 – Day 4
I woke up feeling totally and completely beat. Everyone else in the commune looked and felt the same, and we made a collective decision to just pack up and go. The rain clouds looked as if they were there to stay, so it seemed like the best idea at the time.
There were quite a few bands I wanted to catch later on in the day, but my real bed and a shower were calling my name. Not to mention, the fact that we had 12 hours of driving ahead of us. An hour later we were saying our goodbyes to the security guards and heading toward the freeway.
There is so much more to be said about Sasquatch. And if you ever catch me out and about, I’ll tell you the parts I can remember—like the Sasquatch that we followed us around the entire festival…. Until next year, Sasquatch.