Day 3: Sasquatch Monday


photo by Drake LeLane

Full Sasquatch coverage by Royal Stuart

After two days of some fantastic music listening at the most beautiful place on Earth, one begins to fear that Day 3 will be the most difficult, as your body starts to realize the repercussions of your actions so far. And with a forecast calling for rain, those worries get compounded as you make the drive in to the venue. But, much like some of the most surprisingly good sets over the previous two days, low expectations beget good experiences when those types of concerns don’t pan out.

Arriving at the venue 15 minutes later than usual meant waiting in a line three times as long as the previous two days. Consequently, I missed the first couple hours of the day, finding a seat on the lawn right before Australia’s Temper Trap came out on the Main stage. With their anthemic, inspirational melodies, they are simply perfect for Sasquatch. Following in the footsteps of the U2 and Coldplay model, Temper Trap have the quiet-start-building-to-over-the-top-crescendo song structure down pat. But when picking apart the various elements that make up the songs, it seems like it couldn’t possibly work as well as it does: lead singer Dougy Mandagi tends to sing in a Prince-like falsetto; the lead guitar leans on the long-established sound of The Edge, and the bass and drums bring to mind Tool of all things. But add all those bits together and you get one perfect stadium set.

The rain that was forecasted reared its head a bit during their set, but nothing that would remind me of the terrible weather of past Sasquatches (Sasquatchii?). By the time Quasi came out on the Bigfoot Solar Stage, the sun was out again, shining strong. This band has been around a long time, and they know how to produce good old school 3-piece rock n’ roll. Sam Coomes plays the rock star role well — he even stood on the kick drum during one of the more rocking moments. As always, Janet Weiss’s drumming was top notch, and Joanna Bolme’s bass rounded out the trio nicely. The most interesting part of the set was when Coomes played a totally fuzzed-out keyboard, making for some interesting sounds.

There are a lot of things that went very well during the three days at Sasquatch, but crowd management was not one of them. After Quasi I found myself on the floor of the main stage trying to get into the more-exclusive inner circle right in front of the stage. Me and 2,000 of my best friends all had the same idea apparently, because as soon as The Drive-by Truckers left the stage, we all surged the gate in the hopes of being let in. But of course anybody who was in the inner circle for the Drive-bys were going to stick it out to see the potential highlight of Monday’s lineup: Passion Pit. As we all surged without the gate actually opening, there were some immediate, rather frightening potential for trampling or being crushed by the masses. We were literally packed in like sardines, without any news as to whether we’d make it in or not. It was absolutely ridiculous. After 15 minutes of standing in a position where I could have lifted my legs and not fallen over, a handful of us decided we simply had to get out of the mess, no matter what. Without being able to crowd surf our way out, we just had to push. Thankfully, the seas parted and we escaped with our limbs intact.

SO. Now I find myself a little bit farther back than I expected for Boston’s Passion Pit. A big fan of the band, I’ve seen them a few times already, and if I’m completely honest with myself I’d say this performance at the Gorge was their worst. Don’t get me wrong: they weren’t bad. They were a little on the “OK” side of good. Lead singer and principle songwriter Michael Angelakos just hasn’t sounded the same since he pushed his voice to the point of breaking in 2009, which caused the band to have to cancel a series of shows and take a small break. When they got back to work shortly thereafter, Angelakos had learned to not push his voice so much, favoring it as he would a sprained ankle. The result is an anemic falsetto that does a poor job of matching up with their recorded material. Overall, I think they did a fine job of playing to the crowd and keeping things amped up, but for a big fan such as myself, we were left a little wanting.

An aside concerning Passion Pit’s material: these guys need some new stuff. It’s been over a year since the release of Manners, and the live set has not grown at all in that time. Not even a single new song to try out. I’m a bit concerned they won’t be able to follow through on a new album, should they make one, as they’ve set the bar a bit high with their first LP and EP.

Next up on the Main stage was the Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward project She & Him. Deschanel was the obvious draw for this one, but M. Ward has a solid fan base in his own right. For my taste, though, M. Ward does a much better job when he’s playing material not solely written by him. Neither one disappointed on the large stage. With a couple back-up singers and a full backing band, they played the hits as well as a couple slower numbers from both of their full-length albums. They weren’t too lively, the crowd didn’t get all bouncy and super excited, but it was the perfect music for that time at that place. It was the right moment to get yourself some bad festival food, find a clear spot on the grass, lean back and enjoy.

Once again I found myself in a position of not really looking forward to the act I was about to hear, but I was willing to give it a shot. I had lost my love for Band of Horses through their disappointing second and third albums. Their first full-length was just too good, and they weren’t able to match that power on the subsequent albums. Low expectations notwithstanding, the band played a great set on the Main Stage. Capturing all the hits with the right amount of new stuff, they inspired all the reclining hippies to get up and dance. It turns out that Band of Horses is a great stadium band. Who knew?

It was at this point, with evening settling in on the final day of Sasquatch that I started to realize that it was all about to end. Not only that, but the final day hadn’t turned out nearly as bad as expectations had led me to believe. I think my friend Pete summed it up nicely when he said, “You don’t get exhausted by Day 3, you just get better at it.” And he’s right. You learn what’s good and bad over the first two days, and find yourself in the best of all worlds by the third. That spot on the lawn, where I got to sit back and enjoy She & Him, followed by Band of Horses, was the absolute best.

The last act for me to see at Sasquatch proved to be a tough choice: MGMT or The New Pornographers? With the acts on the Main Stage running about 25-30 minutes late, it meant that MGMT would go on after The New Pornographers had started their set. And since I am a long-time fan of the latter, I erred on the side of familiarity. I couldn’t have made a better choice. With the sun setting on the Gorge behind us, we all watched as Neko Case, Dan Bejar, A.C. Newman and company played a rousing set on the Bigfoot Solar Stage. They were in prime form, playing a number of new songs as well as older stuff to a very happy crowd. The band even knew it was in a tough spot against MGMT, thanking us a couple times for not leaving them for the Main Stage. They played a great capper for the entire festival, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way.

And that was that. Three days, tens of thousands of people, and more than enough festival food to last a lifetime, all adding up to one amazing musical experience. As I was walking out to meet my ride, I thought to myself how nice it would be to be able to sit out there all the time and have great musicians play the music I like to hear. But now, here, at my desk back in Seattle, I don’t think that would be a good thing. I’d grow to take it for granted, and it would lose its luster. As it stands right now, I get to have this wonderful experience just once a year, and that’s how it should be. There‘s only 362 days until we get to do it all over again.

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~ by royalbacon on June 1, 2010.

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