June 3, 2011

My Introduction to Sasquatch: Part 1

by

Sleigh Bells ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

I never want to see another 8.4oz can of sugar-free Red Bull again.

Entering through the media gates on Friday evening, I felt the duality of relief and anticipation upon my fist steps upon the festival grounds. Being exposed to musical festivals for the first time is usually something I take extreme delight in. I get sensations similar to being lost. Personally, I think being lost can be fun and educational at times. The unknown will test your resolve, your attention to detail and how well you can pretend you are in control of a situation. There never came a moment at Sasquatch where I was physically lost, (unless you’re talking about when I went running in Ellensburg on Saturday morning) but there were certainly moments where I found myself entrapped in vagaries, completely engulfed by festival-goers wearing neon hats, feathers, flamboyant warpaint, expressing their “individualism” en phenotypical masse and synchromatic celebratory actions. Take me to the chief of all these “fake natives.” (Best possible guesses, Canucks legends Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden or that guy from Foster the People. That’s judging by the sheer number of Vancouver Canucks fans or the ceremonial tomfoolery that was led by the venerable front-man of Passion Pit — Western Division.) I demand to know when he will erect John Henry Music Festival, where everyone is in black-face surrounding the Al Jolson Main Stage.

“Ouch, did you forget your Pacific Northwest political correctness at home dear friend?” No, I take these cheap-shots because Sasquatch and I did not get off on the right foot. Paranoid-about-getting-old feelings aside, the more steps I took closer to my final destination, the older I felt. There was just something weird and unexpected about what was going on around me. I’m not one to dwell on “vibes” or anything of the sort. If you’re that person, you should know that when I tell you something was in the air that night, I’m not talking about a love song.  As soon as I arrived at the Sasquatch Main Stage on Friday evening with Josh and Abbey, I told Abbey that, “This feels weird.” A matter of seconds later, some drunk, shirtless, middle-aged man sits down next to me and says, “I’m feeling racial.” I was polite in my retort but you could see it in my eyes, I was looking for a reason to hurt this drunk bastard.

Welcome to Sasquatch.

Death From Above 1979 ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

Friday was an abbreviated experience for the Sound on the Sound crew. In terms of musical performances on the main stage, it was a night of role-reversal. I expected to be wow’ed by my collegiate favorites Death From Above 1979 and unleash a series of mocking, ageist tweets (@eyesoredown) aimed at the Foo Fighters. Death From Above was mostly underwhelming, I felt bad for them. Their music is not fit for the main stage of a large outdoor festival. Those crass bass sounds and nonsensical vocals were being cast in every direction thanks to some angry evening winds. Maybe the festival promoters were too cautious smart to realize that Death From Above in the Banana Shack (think dance tent) would have been the craziest experience of the entire weekend. I’ll also admit that when DFA first started playing, I thought the band members were Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins pretending to be Death From Above. D’oh.

Foo Fighters ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

Your dad’s favorite band The Foo Fighters were pretty remarkable. I don’t know how many amps the band had, but it sounded like there at least 60 full cabinets behind every guitarist (there were three, four if you count Bob Mould on “My Rosalita”). I’m not even counting the wattage that bassist Nate Mendel may have had. I wanted so badly to dislike Foo Fighters that night. I have held them in relatively low regard for the past decade. What can I say? I enjoy stepping on the backs of those who are face down in mud who fail to live up to the high standards they created. On Friday night, they rose to the occasion and owned the moment. They played a slightly predictable set (what, no “Winnebago” or “AC320″?) complete with a never-ending version of “My Hero” that I didn’t completely hate. As I watched them play, I fell into a state of disbelief. I never planned on seeing Foo Fighters play live music this late in my life. When I was younger, I vehemently demanded to the powers-that-be that rock and roll have an age limit (30 years old). Now that I’m creeping closer to that age myself, I’m having trouble watching bands I liked during my pre-adolescence play huge festivals with Cryptozoological names.

Read about the Rest of Phil’s Sasquatch Experience

But enough about Friday, that was merely a teaser for the rest of the weekend’s carousal. Saturday was easily my favorite day at Sasquatch. I started things off in “chill mode” with Pepper Rabbit and The Radio Dept. before things really picked up in the early to mid-afternoon. Despite all their nerves, Pepper Rabbit was quite good. They are currently on tour with Givers (I missed their set at Sasquatch but I heard it was great). If and when Pepper Rabbit makes their way into Seattle, I urge you to check them out. Perhaps they’ll be seasoned vets by the time that happens. K-OS was the soundtrack for liquor confiscation for some and the continuation of a good time for others. I’m not sure if he’s the kind of MC I’d go home and listen to, but he put on a good show. Superb crowd interaction, he’d often segway between his own songs using popular hip-hop samples (which he would mockingly freestyle over). He did use a “Stairway to Heaven” sample which I will forgive him for. I think of that music store scene from Wayne’s World every time I hear someone besides Jimmy Page (riff thief in this case) play that song. NO STAIRWAY.

Aloe Blacc ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

After K-OS came the most difficult decision making of the festival, Aloe Blacc, Dan Mangan and Local Natives on three stages at the same time, who am I going to see? I started off with Aloe Blacc and good lord was this man amazing. A friend and I were standing up front for the first couple of songs. Every time Blacc launched into his falsetto I swear she’d start blushing and giggling. This man might not have the voice that would inspire ten thousand ships to the sea, but it’s obvious he knows how to find his way into a women’s heart. If you’re not careful, that falsetto might get you ousted, buddy. You better stay on your game. Aloe will pull your girl on-stage and you’ll never see her again. One word can describe the sound and visual that is Aloe Blacc, sauve.

Dan Mangan ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

With that being said, Dan Mangan is another charming man that puts on a great live show. Going from Aloe Blacc to Dan Mangan wasn’t as much of a leap as you’d imagine. Music styles be damned, these are two men that are on the top of their craft. While Aloe was being smooth and telling you to shoutout the name of your love to the highest mountain, Mr. Mangan was convincing you that robots need love too. Never have I seen so many North Americans (plenty of Canadians) so jubiliant and concerned about the state of android compatibility. One of my favorite things about Dan Mangan is that you only have to hear a song of his once or twice and the melody will remain in the back of your mind until you hear it again. To me, that’s the truest definition of “pop music.” Those three letters when strung together don’t have to be uttered with shame or contempt. There’s plenty of great pop music.

Local Natives ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

I managed to catch a song or two of the Local Natives during my time spent watching what appeared to be hundreds of people fawning over Dan Mangan. Prior to Sasquatch, I had not listened to the Local Natives since around this time last year. I feared that the wind and size of the Sasquatch Main Stage might swallow up their songs, but their sound was full and they performed well. Kids were losing their minds to “Sun Hands,” doing the Official Sasquatch 2011 Dance. The best thing about the Local Natives set? My introduction to the “magical bracelet.”

I randomly ran into a friend of mine that offered Tyler Kalberg and I these secretive, cloth trinkets that gave us unimaginable power and fame slightly more access than the average concert-goer. Upon receiving these accessories, in all our excitement, Tyler and I failed to properly wrap the bracelets around our wrists (much more complicated than it sounds dear friends) before they were confiscated by an overzealous security guard (It was a power-trip orgy at Sasquatch. The delight in squashing the rebellious acts of fake natives has no match in the eyes of those that don a rented blue t-shirt. For a brief moment, the fake natives and I were one).  Ashamed of our cerebral negligence, I was thankfully afforded another opportunity to suck up to musicians backstage guess which one of these assholes is famous for what reason get backstage and indulge in free beverages and food, take pictures of the Gorge and attempt to engage in witty banter with friendly strangers from the music world.  It was well worth the embarrassment at the hands of the rent-a-guard. I got to gawk at the official Sasquatch birthday cake. It was such an elaborate piece of art that someone had to tell me it was a cake. When Wayne Cohen destroyed the cake the next day during the Flaming Lips set, I swear to god I spent a couple of songs mourning the loss of the cake and trying to forgive Wayne Cohen for the Lips mediocre set for what he had just done.

Wolf Parade played the best set that I’ve seen from them in at least five or six years. It’s a shame that Sasquatch 2011 will probably be their last concert in the United States. To my approval their set consisted of a lot of older stuff. I’m still trying to adjust my headphones enough to form a favorable opinion of Expo 86, I haven’t warmed up to that album like I have their previous efforts.  Wolf Parade, don’t take too much time off. I don’t want my unborn children to see you on the Sasquatch Main Stage in the year 2034. I know “Fancy Claps” will still sound good but I beg you, please don’t do it.

After Wolf Parade I spent way too much time wandering around the camping area and as a result I committed a venial sin, I missed Wye Oak. Sigh. I was still flogging myself on a nightly basis because I missed their set at the Showbox Market during City Arts Music Festival. My brutal unseen ritual will continue, when will I learn the error of my ways? Instead of Wye Oak, I got to see a song or two from Yo Gabba Gabba Matt and Kim. Shoot me. I know this pop duo is “so much fun.” You don’t have to tell me listening to them is like “having a BBQ with all your good friends on a summer day at Gasworks.” My rebuttal? What if you hate all of your friends and the only way you’d have a BBQ with them is if you inserted the word “arsenic” in front of those capitalized letters? I know I’m a jerk-off that happens to write for this website kind of a grouch every now and again. In terms of spindly fingers, that’s my role here at Sound on the Sound. I know how to have fun, OK? Ask about me. I just don’t know how to have fun with Matt and Kim. Every time I see them I want to push Kim off her drum stool and teach her how to play drums. I hate graduates of the Meg White: School of Sub-par Percussion and Amateur Cinema.

I managed to escape the world’s largest outdoor glue sniffing exhibition the clutches of Matt and Kim’s set and their playful use of Ludacris’ “Move,” in order to find refuge in the sonic crime spree known as The Glitch Mob. As soon as I got to the Banana Shack, I experienced an American’s favorite feeling, instant gratification. The Glitch Mob weren’t good, they were great. Three DJ’s staging a dance party turned exorcism. All the negative feelings I harbored previously and possibly five percent of the taurine in my bloodstream, left my body. I’m not a fan of dance music in my bedroom, (unless you’re there with me) but I love seeing dance music live. Hell, I love dancing! Perhaps I’m just trying to do my part to live up to stereotypes, but how can you not feel inspired to move when so many other people can’t stop moving? I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t like to dance. I’m serious, I don’t think you should either. If you ever meet anyone that says “I don’t like dancing,” stab them immediately. I don’t care what you use (blunt objects make for a fun challenge), just make sure you strike a mortal blow. Sooner or later that non-dancer is bound to ruin someone’s life.

I left Glitch Mob to continue my stalking appreciation of Robyn, which I will expound on later. It pains me to say it, but I was unsuccessful in my attempts to get her to wish my friend happy birthday. Sigh.

Because I could not fulfill storyline number two from my Sasquatch preview, I thought about throwing myself off a cliff and into the Gorge below. Instead I decided against it and ventured over to the Sasquatch Main Stage to see Death Cab For Cutie. As it turns out, literally killing myself and seeing Death Cab after dancing for two hours elsewhere, feels like the same thing. To say that I was bored would be an understatement. The only good thing about seeing Death Cab was looking at Chris Walla’s Rickenbacker and wanting desperately to touch it in the most inappropriate manner. Seeing one of those guitars is kind of like seeing Cindy Crawford drink a Pepsi circa 1993, you just want it so badly (Ah, but which one? The powers of advertising). If you ever want to buy me something for my birthday, write think about Chris Walla and his gorgeous Rickenbacker. Gentle reader, you probably think I am being hard on Death Cab, don’t you? Maybe you’re right. I mean, the band did sound good, and maybe they looked good doing it. Admittedly, I have a minimal emotional connection to those songs. I don’t find them interesting. The stories within the songs can be intriguing, but the music itself fails to engage me more often than not. It also didn’t help that I was watching Death Cab’s VH1 Storytellers the night before and Mr. Gibbard was being “Mr. Artist.” Snicker. Muscians, don’t let them fool you. They pretend this is so deep, that writing this song was like discovering gravity — “When I finally decided that the bridge should go from A to C to D7, I felt like I saved a village inhabited by starving orphans from the jaws of a tsunami.” Please, if anything playing music is like coloring by numbers. Everything is already laid out before you, it just depends on what colors you choose and where you choose to place them.

Sleigh Bells ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

In order to regain my pulse I went over to Sleigh Bells at the Banana Shack. It was a wise decision. They were introduced by a remixed version of “Iron Man” that sounded even better than the original. Lord have mercy, they killed. The fake natives were losing their minds to what sounded like a thousand guitars complimented by beats that would electrocute you. In the middle of all the fanny-pack, neon hat, don’t-tell-my-parents mayhem, I happened to eavesdrop on a pretty awesome conversation about the Vancouver Grizzlies. This dude was wearing a “Big Country” Bryant Reeves jersey, so I knew he was a true fan. He was naming people from their 1995-96 roster and I was cracking up and dancing throughout. I figured I’d share this nugget of information with you, since many of you will probably be waxing poetic about your Seattle Supersonics for years to come. Sorry.

This is only half my Sasquatch experience. I didn’t want to bore you to death with my words. Here are some final thoughts:

1 ) Friends don’t let friends choke on their own vomit (A story for another day). 2 ) Don’t ever put exclusive all-access materials on in front of a pudgy guy that is basically a rent-a-cop. 3 ) Death Cab For Cutie can kill a party. Death Cab can’t resuscitate a party it has already killed. Death Cab does not start a party. If you play Death Cab at your parties, your parties are terrible. I already know. 4 ) Dan Mangan is Mr. Universe. 5 ) Aloe Blacc, get your hands off my woman! 6 ) Local Natives really have a thing for Paseo. Ask them. 7 ) Fake natives love dead fashion. 8 ) Seattle will get an NBA team when…. [insert smarmy remark here] 9 ) Sleigh Bells and The Glitch Mob are things that you should enjoy.

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