As I pitched my tent at the Sasquatch Music Festival for the fifth straight year, I realized that sights that would once have astonished me— Canadians waving wizard staffs made from beer cans, impromptu dance parties on the roofs of elaborately painted buses, and the breathtaking view of a sunset in the Gorge, to name a few- now give me a nostalgic sense of comfort. But there was little time to enjoy my feelings of homecoming; I had places to be and bands to see!
4:00 PM: Forced to choose between Sea Wolf and ZZ Ward. I opted for a bit of both, but the youthful energy and soulful wails of ZZ Ward ultimately won me over.
5:30 PM: Jherek Bischoff spent two-thirds of his set sound-checking with his extensive band, which included five string players and three percussionists. Bischoff’s ukulele playing and whistling was reminiscent of Andrew Bird, who had his own set scheduled for Saturday. Bischoff debuted several new songs, including one with lyrics that were “too fresh – not fresh like good, fresh like I don’t know them yet.”
7:30 PM: After a fantastic and wildly energetic set from Vancouver’s Japandroids, I stuck around the Bigfoot stage for a phenomenal performance by Father John Misty. The folk singer and former Fleet Foxes drummer immediately won over the crowd with his opening remarks: “Have you ever thought that it’s the sasquatch who doesn’t think you’re real?” His flamboyant hip sways and dramatic poses fascinated the crowd as much as his musicianship did.
7:55 PM: I sprinted back to the Yeti stage to catch the end of Telekinesis’ set. The Seattle rocker sang lead vocals while simultaneously playing drum set and maracas – a feat that was later matched by everyone from Mumford & Sons to Shovels & Rope.
9:00 PM: After waiting through Youth Lagoon’s absurdly long sound check, I had time to catch only one song before dashing off to the main stage for Arctic Monkeys. Frontmonkey Alex Turner is now a suave, suit-clad veteran of the stage, a far cry from the pockmarked teenager who debuted “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” in 2005.
10:15 PM: Without the support of their faux-marble columns, Vampire Weekend may well have brought down the house with rockilling renditions of their indie rock smash hits. I found myself screaming lyrics from “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” with another photographer in the front row of the photo pit, and enjoyed hearing live versions of several tracks from the band’s outstanding new album, Modern Vampires of the City. Most festivalgoers eventually drifted to Macklemore’s main stage set, leaving diehard VW fans plenty of space to dance to old favorites like “Blake’s Got A New Face” and “Walcott.”
11:15 PM: With a crowd equivalent to the population of Ashland, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis shook the amphitheater with their trademark exuberance. Although I enjoyed the guest appearances by Mary Lambert, Ray Dalton, Hollis, and more, I couldn’t help miss the day only two years ago, when I was able to squeeze my way to the front row of Macklemore’s midday Bigfoot stage set without difficulty.
3:45 PM: Day two of Sasquatch 2013 started with three difficult schedule decisions in a row: Bear Mountain v. Rose Windows, Robert DeLong v. Suuns, and Atlas Genius v. Indians. I decided to compromise by drifting halfway between the Bigfoot and Yeti stages for several hours, which not only allowed me to catch a bit of every set, but also created some interesting auditory mash-ups. As it turned out, I should have stuck to the Bigfoot stage: Atlas Genius impressed me with their Australian accents and polished indie rock sound, Robert DeLong started an enormous dance party with energy levels unheard of for 2 pm, and Bear Mountain is now one of my top up-and-coming picks of the festival.
6:15 PM: Extensive sound checks meant that everyone was running late once again, so I was only able to catch one song by Caveman and two by the beautiful Devendra Banhart before running down the hill for Andrew Bird’s main stage set. This is the third Devendra concert that I’ve missed in under a month; I’ve been trying to comfort myself by staring at the photos I took, but it’s only making it worse. The tragedies of music festivals!
6:45 PM: I was praying that Nick Offerman would run late, and my wish came true: I made it to the comedy tent in time to hear him announce a piece of “dessert,” which turned out to be a rap about marijuana over the crooning vocals of his wife, Megan Mullally. Offerman then launched into “5000 Candles in the Wind” from NBC’s Parks and Recreation, on which Offerman plays Ron Swanson. As a die-hard Parks & Rec fan, the surprise of hearing this song live was one of the highlights of my festival experience. (Sorry, real bands!)
815 PM: Few festival-goers seemed to realize that Divine Fits features Britt Daniel, the frontman of Spoon, and Dan Boeckner, formerly of Wolf Parade. As such, many people were confused by Boeckner’s anecdote about tripping on mushrooms during his 2011 set and trying to walk to the Columbia River. I thoroughly enjoyed the story however, just as I thoroughly enjoyed the rare treat of watching two of my favorite indie rockers perform together.
9:30 PM: Surfer Blood has certainly grown up since playing at Sasquatch two years ago, showing maturity in everything from vocal timbre to lighting set-up. Unfortunately, I only caught two songs before running to the main stage for the second half of the xx’s set. I had heard that the xx was colorless and unemotional live, but while the colorless part was certainly true- there was literally not a speck of color on stage- the emotionless part certainly wasn’t. Romy Croft blew me away, her breathy vocals saturated with longing as she drifted through “Angels” and other tracks off Coexist.
1:45 PM: Day three began with a burst of sunshine and a high-energy set by Deep Sea Diver. The ever-beautiful Jessica Dobson gleefully covered Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” to close the set. On the Yeti stage nearby, Wake Owl started out the afternoon with gentle violin playing before ramping up the intensity with a series of guitar jams.
2:30 PM: I enjoy so much about Sean Nelson. I enjoy his curly gray afro, his enthusiastic tambourine playing, and his dramatic hand gestures; I enjoy his fiery-haired back-up singer and his electric violin player; I enjoy his self-deprecating crowd banter, his clever wordplay, and the refreshing themes of his songs, like “Saratoga Springs,” which chronicles a frustrating road trip. Whether I enjoy Sean Nelson’s music hardly factors into the equation – this is definitely a band to see live.
4:30 PM: Most of my Sunday was a stage-hopping extravaganza. Along the way, I was introduced to the beautiful harmonies of Hundred Waters, energized by a main stage dance party (bounce party?) led by Youngblood Hawke, slightly concerned over a heavily intoxicated Danny Brown, and blown away by the rock-star vocals and stage presence of Wild Belle.
5:15 PM: The Tallest Man On Earth is also the most beautiful man on earth. He spent his set stumbling around the enormous main stage, plucking beautiful arpeggios from his many guitars and staring at the crowd with wide eyes. “I’m not high nor stoned,” he said once by way of explanation, “I am not weird. You just look really beautiful and happy, and I’m just really glad to have this kind of job.” We later met up after his acoustic set, and I asked him the most important question – where does he get those amazing sweaters?
6:30 PM: Radical Face spent a good portion of the set explaining the underlying themes of each song, which delighted some fans and annoyed others. The band closed with the hit single “Welcome Home,” and the crowd joined in a chorus of passionate, melodic yells, singing so loudly that they momentarily drowned out the Dropkick Murphys over on the main stage.
8:00 PM: I arrived at Edward Sharpe just in time to join the jubilant square-dancing extravaganza taking place all over the main stage amphitheater. Mike Birbiglia later joked that Edward Sharpe performed “for 30,000 people who look like Edward Sharpe,” and it was hard to disagree as thousands of eclectically-dressed hipsters belted out the chorus to “Home.”
8:30 PM: I made a point to catch a few songs by folk duo Shovels & Rope so that when the group makes it big in a couple of years, I can say that I saw them on the Yeti stage in 2013.
10:00 PM: Grimes’ set was plagued by an audio issue that left most of the crowd unable to hear much of anything. The Canadian electronic artist nonetheless managed to wow the crowd with her eclectic, genre-transcending sound, and robotic dance moves.
11:00 PM: Flanked by three string players and three brass players, Mumford & Sons wowed the crowd with their insane energy and world-class folk rock music. Between the band’s incredible stage presence and the overwhelming support of the crowd – which seemed to sing along to every word of every song – Mumford & Sons were arguably the festival’s biggest celebrities.
12:30 PM: Despite the relentless rain that plagued the final day of Sasquatch 2013, and despite having the earliest set time of the entire festival, the Wild Feathers’ early afternoon set rocked the Gorge with rich Nashville sound.
1:30 PM: As I dashed between Scottish electropop band Chvrches and London singer-songwriter Luke Sital-Singh, I heard both artists remark that the grey skies and green hills reminded them of home. I hope they meant that in a positive way, because the two acts stood out amidst my favorite Monday sets.
3:00 PM: Tig Notaro and Mike Birbiglia performed back-to-back comedy routines, drawing much of their material from the eccentricities of Sasquatch. After drying out in the comedy tent for a few hours, I ventured back into the rain for damp but lively sets from Dirty Projectors and the Barr Brothers, the latter featuring a lovely harp player.
5:00 PM: Imagine Dragons took advantage of Azealia Banks’ late cancellation by playing an extended set featuring a dozen Taiko drums. Meanwhile, Toro y Moi drew a large crowd in Sasquatch’s only covered tent, and Menomena rocked out in the rain on the Yeti stage.
8:30 PM: The Lumineers thoroughly charmed the audience with unassuming attitudes and spirited folk hits. The group even wandered into the terrace seating of the amphitheater for a few songs, seemingly unaware of the frenzy that this would create in the crowd. After performing a beautiful, as-yet-unnamed duet with bandmate Neyla Pekarek, frontman Wesley Schultz told the crowd that “sometimes we get tired, sometimes we get sad, but you make it all worthwhile.” Needless to say, the crowd seemed universally devastated by the thought that the Lumineers might ever be sad.
10:00 PM: “We’re the Postal Service and we’re back from the dead,” Ben Gibbard announced during the last set of the festival. Looking ten years older but none the worse for wear, Gibbard and bandmate Jenny Lewis, previously of Rilo Kiley, seemed to delight in returning to the stage. As the band’s discography consists entirely of 2003’s Give Up, the Postal Service played every one of their tracks and then some, ending the set, and the festival, with “Brand New Colony.” “Everything will change,” they sang with the crowd, but when it comes to Sasquatch, some things never do.
See our full Sasquatch 2013 photo set HERE