Bigfoot – the man, the music, the legend: Jeff Guay and Erik Lopez’s totally awesome adventure

Posted July 5, 2007 in
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Mixmaster Mike
When people think or talk about festivals a few things come to mind: hippies, tents, camping, excessive drinking and/or drug use, the unbearable heat and, of course, 12 hours standing up, listening to music. The Sasquatch Music Festival is no different in its round-up of weirdoes who come from all over the country to catch a glimpse of their favorite artist, seated one mile back from the stage or cramped shoulder-to-shoulder in a sweltering tangle of sweat, bad breath and body odor.

Jeff Guay, Barbara and I pulled out of Salt Lake a little late the day before the show and drove 13 hours across Idaho, Oregon and Washington to finally arrive at the cleverly named George, WA. Along the way we stopped at your usual road trip fare: the 45th parallel, which marks the point where you are halfway between the equator and North Pole, Flying J Truck Stops and the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretative Center, complete with a PowerPoint presentation on a “quintessential American icon,” the Buffalo. When we finally arrived at “the Gorge at George” it was nightfall and we were ill-equipped to set up our tents, let alone cook a meal. Jeff had brought two steaks, while I had made four sandwiches, two of which I ate on the road. We had no ice, six warm beers and only a Coleman stove to cook the steaks with. We ended up cooking our steaks in beer in a saucepan while meeting our Chicago tentmates, Scott and James, to our right and Laura and Olivia to our left.

After failing miserably to make our living arrangements more cozy (and to be more prepared) we walked around to see what the festival camping area consisted of. In between campers and frat guys blasting bad techno and doing beer bongs, hippies were trying to sell drugs and drunks were accosting us on the small dirt road that crisscrossed each camp. Three hours after the time we set-up camp we decided we had enough of crazy Canadians and filthy toilets and decided to rest up for the day ahead. Besides, who wants to hang out with some dudes playing Dave Matthews on the acoustic guitar they brought with them?

The next day brought its own set of hilarity as we first hiked up to the press table to get our passes. While we were getting our situated, lo and behold, who should appear but Michael Showalter from MTV’s the State (the first and last funny thing he has ever done). For those not in the know, my first encounter with Showalter was at Burt’s Tiki Lounge when he came with Eugene Mirman and other to do a comedy show. Before his set, and then being a huge Showalter fan, I decided to give Michael a gift to show my appreciation – a Gary Hall Jr. collectible shaving cream can. Michael was in no mood to accept my gift and proceeded to get angry and yell at me. To make a long story short, there was some name calling, a pissed-off Michael Showalter, some bad comedy, some more name calling, an asshole showdown and finally a not-so-congenial Showalter leaving in disgust. It was funny to see Michael because a) no one knew who he was b) the press people didn’t know who he was c) he has an attitude for no reason and d) I continued to see him around the festival and he acted even more agitated and annoyed at living and being a has-been at a music festival (unlike an Erik Estrada selling real estate in upstate Oregon).

The festival was split into three stages with the two minor stages ending early so that everyone (that is 20k plus people) could attend the main stage acts. On Saturday, the first day, the acts we saw were a grab bag of surprisingly good and unjustifiably bad. Mixmaster Mike opened the festival with a blistering hot (temperature and amazingness) turntable set. He burned beat matching and dripped dance moves. Unfortunately, the next performers, a lapsidasical hip-hop funk ensemble calling themselves, ineffectually, the Saturday Knights. They sluggishly performed a ho-hum mix of call-and-response, jump-arounds that made me think back to those god-awful community block parties when I was seven and my parents were spinning “the hits.”

It wasn’t until the mid-afternoon surprise shoegaze/noisepop all-female quartet Electrelane took the stage that the day’s music took off on a steady even keel. Smothered between the holy-shit-she-can-shred guitar of Mia Clarke and the driving attitude and velocity of Verity Susman’s keyboards and vocals, Electrelane gave me a swift kick in the balls I wasn’t expecting. It was one of those shows, while waiting for another band that I didn’t end up seeing, that I stumbled upon that blew me away. Easily the best show I saw that day (because, honestly, you know the kind of performance that the likes of Arcade Fire and Bjork are going to put on), Electrelane easily made the leap in comparison to such a band as My Bloody Valentine. Another surprise wonderband was Ghostland Observatory. Ghostland Observatory is two guys who make the dopest beats while operating within rocks structured grove. The coolest thing about them is that they have all the arena rock stylings of Queen and Prince with the DIY ethic of Sonic Youth. Aaron Behrens, the energetic frontman, jumped around the stage with two long braided ponytails furiously eliciting a manic street preaching revival while beat maker Tom Turner casted a magic missile full of beats in his wizards cape. In a day and age in which anyone can make a good record, it’s nice to see that someone is bringing back their A game to the stage. It’s not often that the stage performance is equal to the music but when it is, the fucking flamethrower burns the dance the floor! The only other notable act were the Beastie Boys whose intimate stage performance mixed instrumental cuts with classic hits and some rare hardcore numbers in preparation for Sunday’s Bad Brains set (which Adam Yauch produced). As usual, the Beastie Boys put on an amazing, high-energy set combining their trademark visual style.

On the whole, the first day was an overall hit with several standout performances one after the other. The arcade fire put on a really great show (despite my general feelings towards their music) and Bjork … well she was Bjork. She came out in a yellow dress, had some really great visual props such as flags and runway and even had a laser light show. Whatever Bjork does I am not surprised but enchanted by. What can I say? It’s Bjork and Bjork is Bjork is Bjork. Watching Bjork was akin to seeing Jesus in a piece of toast – a completely surreal experience.

Sunday saw us wake up early only to participate in a drinking game with the people camping next to us. 8am rolled around, 9am flew by and by 10am we were thoroughly drunk enough to break a bottle of fine vodka in a hilarious game of use-the-bottle-as-a-hammer-for-a-no-good-reason.

Sunday was less spectacular than Saturday because there were less great bands and more downtime between good shows. Mixmaster Mike unceremoniously brought the beat back to set an early smooth rhythm to the last day of the festival. Bad Brains played in the mid-afternoon heat but unfortunately their set was not only disappointing but unforgettable. Instead of the energetic and fast hardcore of old, what those who went to see the legendary Bad Brains got was a dubbed out, slow and lethargic, lackluster show. There were instances, granted, were HR would tease the crowd with some rambunctious letting loose but overall it was a dull reunion show that would have better off never having happened than to tarnish a great reputation. From that let down we went to see Money Mark who reversed the previous shows laborious tempo with some great piano-pushing, body-twisting, jazz-hand throwing gusto! That Money Mark sure knows how to kick out the jams – literally he was kicking jam. Actually, he was giving Ben Folds a run for his money but showing that a piano can do more than just cry a sad song about abortion. Boo Ya! But if those shows typified the wayward first half of the day, shows like the Black Angels held the experience together. Heavy doesn’t even come close to describing how repitiously amazing they were. They were so deep and low that as I moved up from the crowd (as people moved back, ears clamped shut to the never-ending onslaught of the low end) my chest, up through my neck and finally to my nose and eyes were reverberating and pulsating. They were the perfect mix of sundown sound and psychedelic heat up for an otherwise lukewarm day. The Dandy Warhols played a good set, I think, if it weren’t for the fact that I got sucked into watching some hippies jump rope with a bed sheet. It wasn’t the jump rope I was interested in, so much as watching drunk people fall down as it clipped their feet. Fat people jumping is also pretty hilarious to watch. Essentially, I couldn’t watch the Dandy Warhols because seeing idiotic people do idiotic things is far more entertaining than gawking at a drugged out performance. The music was great but the novelty factor was far more appealing.

By the time the main stage acts were set to go on a few interesting things occurred. First it got really cold and windy really fast and second a drunk dude kept on propositioning women for fifteen cent moustache rides. It wouldn’t have had been that funny if it weren’t for the fact that some gay dudes totally wanted him to pony up the moustache ride and when he didn’t, they molested him. Comedic gold! It was so cold, however, that trying to really enjoy Interpol was left to forming a cuddle party with our tent crew and feebly trying to get up a dance. A few swigs of some whiskey and a swift change in dance tempo to the Beastie Boys got everyone up and dancing for the final gig of the festival. We weren’t alone in forming a soul train as a gentlemen five people away got down by dancing as if he were trained by male strippers. After four songs of manically humping an invisible pole, he stealthily maneuvered over to us, went in our soul train, bootydanced my leg and promptly sat down.

I think it would be pretty hard to put on a consistently great festival with a good amount of decent live shows but the people who organized Sasquatch did just that. It was easy to get in, easy to do my job and overall I had a great time and met some interesting people. The quality, compared other festivals, was better than average with the only drawback is knowing that has-been comedians in their mid-30s getting paid to introduce Beastie Boys. Bummer. At least the Beastie Boys themselves, for two nights in a row, consistently held their own and blew their “competition” (if they ever had any) out of the water. Besides, you know you are at a great festival when, as you are leaving from an amazing show, you see Michael Franti playing and realize that no one sticking around to see him because everyone is leaving with you to go back home. Now only if he would stop getting booked to play in Salt Lake would things come around full circle….
Mixmaster Mike Bad Brains Beastie Boys