Girls ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
It wasn’t the early bird who got the worm when it came to Sasquatch. No, the Sasquatch early birds got 8-hour traffic back-ups, while people like me, who made our way east on Sunday morning, got to The Gorge in record time. It was one of the many counter-intuitive surprises that marked Sunday at Sasquatch: the buzz bands lived up to their hype, intimate electronic songs worked beautifully in the wide-open space and the Tallest Man on Earth turned out to be just about my height.
It came as no surprise to me that The Local Natives, who ended up being the first act on the Bigfoot Stage, played to a packed and appreciative crowd. Just over a year ago I saw the band play to 20 people or so, but even then it was easy to predict that the band would be playing to a Sasquatch sized-crowd soon. Packing every grassy nook available and well-versed in the Los Angeles’ bands songs, a crowd of thousands joined me in an early afternoon sing-along that had me beaming.
I expected the crowd to clear out for the mellower stylings of Swedish folk troubadour The Tallest Man on Earth, but the crowd crushed forward against the barrier as they strained and struggled to be closer to Kristian Matsson. If you want to know what the kids are surprisingly going crazy for these days, it is for this petite Swede. Matsson does Dylan the same way Dylan did Guthrie — with reverent fetishism. Clad in tight blue jeans and with a cigarette smoking cowboy emblazoned on his leather guitar strap, Matsson enraptured the crowd doing Dylan better than Dylan does these days and much more succinctly. The fervor of his crowd and the way he filled the festival stage with just his lyrics and his guitar, was certainly one of Sasquatch’s biggest surprises. His cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” was one of my favorite musical moments of the entire weekend.
The surprises and solid covers continued as the day went along: a new Long Winters line-up showed off a full-grilled John Roderick and they ended their set with the Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey.” Sub Pop’s Avi Buffalo offered an elastic, complex and catchy set which belied the bands youth and showed great promise. They’re definitely a band to watch as they inch towards the legal drinking age. After the rock roller-coaster Avi Buffalo treated us to, Freelance Whales seemed like nothing more than pleasant afternoon filler. Admittedly, despite their sweet stage banter, the band couldn’t keep my interest for longer than the first few songs.
Happily, fellow blog buzz band The xx fared better than the Freelance Whales when it came to impressing and living up to the hype. As out of place the black-clad British trio looked in the wide open and neu-hippie crowd of Sasquatch, the band’s dreamy and throbbing sounds translated much better than expected (or feared). Despite the almost infinite expanse of the Gorge, The xx’s songs retained the intimacy that made them so pleasing in the first place. Despite the crowd of thousands, it still felt as if the band was whispering the song in your ear. For the most part, the band was all business and no banter on stage, but their aloofness came across as endearing and shy, though on stage they clearly know what they are doing. As I have always been with this band, I was ready to be disappointed by The xx, to pass them off as a blog blip, unworthy of the hype, but the band yet again pleasantly surprised me.
My surprise took a much less pleasant turn when it came to the attendance for San Francisco’s Girls. Their set was the most disappointingly under-attended of Sasquatch, as seemingly 95% of the crowd enjoyed LCD Soundsystem at sunset on the mainstage. Those of us who stayed behind, a lucky handful of hundreds, enjoyed the coming dusk backed by the sad and sunny eccentricities of Girls’ cascading retro hooks. With a twitchy intensity Christopher Owens, clad in high-waisted pleated khakis and a Dwight Yokam tour shirt, took little notice of the crowd (whatever size it was) and performed the hell out of some of 2009′s best songs including “Lust for Life,” “Laura” and the plodding “Hellhole Ratrace.” The band may have been better suited for the smaller stage or an earlier time slot, when they wouldn’t have been challenged by the dance-thems of LCD Soundsystem, but those of us who stayed behind for Girls didn’t regret the decision.
The fastidious Dirty Projectors fared better in terms of attendance and as you’ve hopefully already read, their golden hour set made me a believer in this Brooklyn band. Unfortunately, the night peaked with the Dirty Projectors for me as the final big name acts I caught that night: Pavement and Public Enemy were plagued by technical issues beyond their control. While the false starts and sudden stops added to the sloppy charm of what one would expect from a Pavement show, the technical issues completely derailed the momentum of Public Enemy’s set. For a call and response rap to work, the audience has to be able to hear you calling … after about six moments of sudden silence during the Public Enemy set and having already screamed “Flava Flaaaave” at the top of my lungs, I called it a night on what turned out to be a surprising Sunday at Sasquatch.
The xx ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
The Tallest Man on Earth ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
The Gorge at Dusk ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
More photos after the jump…