For me, large music festivals are great for two reasons: I see local favorites on gigantic stages and I get to discover new non-local bands I probably wouldn’t ever see outside of a festival setting. And as thrilling as it was to see The Head and The Heart on the main stage or watch Macklemore control a crowd of thousands, my favorite sets of Sasquatch this year came from three bands I’d never seen or heard before and whose records I came home and purchased immediately: Black Mountain, Cotton Jones and Other Lives.
BLACK MOUNTAIN – Vancouver, BC
Black Mountain ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
The Sasquatch band that had me asking, “where have you been my whole life?” answered politely, in Canadian clip. “Good afternoon Sasquatch,” they formally greeted the crowd, “we’re Black Mountain. We’re from Vancouver, that’s in B.C.” But lest you think this is another twang-tinged folk band (those come later), you’re wrong. Black Mountain is a classic stoner rock band, marrying powerful female vocals like Jefferson Airplane with Deep Purple through-a-Led-Zeppelin-lens groove. Though she stood meekly as her band-mates shredded on riffs as sharp and stoney as a knife hit, there’s nothing delicate or soft-spoken about Amber Webber’s singing and her powerhouse vocal performance left me mouth agape on the Sasquatch lawn. Had I been imbibing on fungus, as Black Mountain’s grooves all but beg your brain to do, you would not have been able to convince me we weren’t watching Grace Slick’s reincarnation wailing on 2011′s version of “White Rabbit.”
Powerful, but polite. Psychedelic without getting weird. Retro without sounding tired. Black Mountain’s sexy stoner grooves took me on a trip I’m not wholly certain was legal. Unlike the bad shit you picked up in the parking lot that one time, this is a trip you want to relive and thanks to NPR’s recording of their Sasquatch set, you can.
COTTON JONES – Cumberland, Maryland
Cotton Jones ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
Cotton Jones was paired against Typhoon on a Sunday morning in a battle of bands I’ve been told I will adore, but that had never grabbed me. And Cotton Jones, playing to a small but appreciative crowd not much larger than the band Typhoon itself, won that fight so handily it felt like it might have been fixed. Cotton Jones might have had a small crowd, but they were fervent in their love, calling out requests and seeming to know every word. I sat on the hilly sidelines, watching as couples two-stepped and hippie slow-danced together to the band’s slow-burning, country soul. The crowd, much like the band’s sound itself, was an even mix of tie-dye and cowboy boots.
Cotton Jones writes songs for road trips with the windows down, rolling on dusty back roads. Hazy summer songs, new country soul classics and tie-dyed twang with a trombone. It should come as no surprise, Tall Hours In The Glowstream was the first record I picked up after I crossed the mountains.
Here’s the song I’ve had stuck in my head since their Sasquatch set:
Cotton Jones ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
Cotton Jones ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
OTHER LIVES – Stillwater, Oklahoma
Other Lives ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
Other Lives is a band made of talented multi-instrumentalists. Five musicians held down at least 10 instruments from cello to trumpet in a soft set that featured moody ballads reminiscent of both Radiohead’s ghostly strings and the hymnal harmonies of the Fleet Foxes with a touch of Damien Jurado’s lyrical sinisterness. Their song “For 12′s” string introduction is so spot-on “How to Disappear Completely,” I thought for the first few moments it had to be a cover. But then the quiet gallop of hand drumming starts and the guitar riff takes a turn towards the cinematic American West. Other Lives paint wistful Western landscapes with their music, but despite sounding and looking like Seattle archetypes, they hail from Stillwater, Oklahoma. While a festival setting was a less than ideal introduction to Other Lives, this is music to be listened to in enclosed spaces like your headphones or in a small club in the shadows of dim stage lights, their brooding and beautiful songs managed in their quietness to rise above the antics of countless other Sasquatch acts and tamely steal my heart.
You can stream the band’s brand new album Tamer Animals below and after a listen I predict many of you, like me, will be running out to buy it.
It appears that we have collectively left our brains somewhere East of the mountains and while we’re awaiting their return from Ellensburg, we thought it was time we shared some daily photos from Sasquatch.
Like an athlete about to compete in a world class event, I’ve spent a lot of time leading up to Sasquatch thinking about what a successful festival looks like. These are the 10 things that have to happen for Sasquatch 2011 to be a personal festival success.
1. Attend a Set at the Banana Shack
Despite attending almost all ten of the Sasquatch Music Festivals, I’ve never seen a non-musical event. I know. I’m a little ashamed to admit it myself. But newly signed Secretly Canadian comedienne Tig Notaro, will be the perfect excuse to right this wrong.
Tig Naturo plays the Banana Shack Saturday at 2:30pm
2. Marvel at What a Badass Scott Teske Is / Regret Not Practicing Clarinet Like My Mom Told Me To
Scott Teske is not yet 30, but he is the leader of an orchestra of talented musicians. Really. A full-on orchestra. The Music Director of the celebrated Seattle Rock Orchestra, Teske is the brains and brawn behind SRO’s almost fully sold-out season of shows at The Moore and Triple Door featuring performances of Pet Sounds, Queen, Radiohead, Arcade Fire and local musicians Shenandoah Davis and Kaylee Cole. As if organizing such massive and successful under-takings wasn’t impressive enough, Teske, with the help of some of the talented Orchestra has written many of the orchestral pieces he and SRO perform, because symphonic renditions simply do not exist yet.
Seattle Rock Orchestra’s performance of Arcade Fire’s Funeral last year had attendees running to the Bigfoot Stage screaming “HOLY SHIT IS ARCADE FIRE PLAYING?” And SRO’s rendition was so solid, no one seemed bummed out it wasn’t the real thing. This year they’ll be reprising their sold-out Tribute to Radiohead and as strange as it may sound, this symphony is absolutely one of the unmissable sets of Sasquatch.
Seattle Rock Orchestra plays the Bigfoot Stage at 12pm on Saturday
3. Give Modest Mouse Another Chance
Sad but true (and saddest for me) I have never seen anything even resembling a decent Modest Mouse concert. And I’ve probably seen the band 10 times. The final straw came back in 2007 at The Paramount, after which I swore I would never see Modest Mouse again. I’ve kept that promise for four years.
But the band is headlining Sasquatch on Sunday, Isaac Brock’s punk warble still breaks my heart and Modest Mouse is responsible for some of the most iconic Northwest albums ever released. Few albums are more evocative of my Seattle than The Lonesome Crowded West and despite being let down time after time, the potential awesomeness of a good set from Modest Mouse is enough for me to risk another train wreck.
Modest Mouse plays the Mainstage Sunday at 10pm
4. Give Flaming Lips and Wilco a Chance. Period.
I’ve never seen Flaming Lips or Wilco live and truth be told, I’ve never been that crazy about either band’s celebrated recorded output either. This Sasquatch, I’m determined to find out what it is that everyone else loves so much about these bands. Or at the very least, figure out what it is that doesn’t do it for me.
Flaming Lips plays the Mainstage Sunday at 8pm.
Wilco plays the Mainstage Monday at 9:30pm.
5. Dance with Wheedle’s Groove
Think Pickwick are the progenitors of Seattle soul? You are sorely mistaken. Before grunge, before Ballard Avenue Americana, Seattle had a vibrant jazz and soul scene documented in the film Wheedle’s Groove and a couple amazing compilations from Light in the Attic. A super-group of some of the key players in the Seattle soul scene have come together to perform booty-shaking sets and lucky for us, Sasquatch have them playing the Bigfoot Stage on Sunday at 1pm. I’m staying the whole set and I’m dancing. You’ve been warned.
Wheedle’s Groove play the Bigfoot Stage at 1pm on Sunday