The view at Sasquatch - both on to the stage and of the surrounding Columbia River gorge - is best when it's shared. Photo by Doug Bonham
The one thing you must remember before going to any concert is your ticket. This is a rather simple rule to follow, and a vital part of the experience. As the night of Friday, May 25 inched toward the witching hour and my car hurtled down Interstate 90, cutting down the highway through the
After driving into the campgrounds of the Gorge Amphitheatre in
Welcome to the Sasquatch Festival: The running of the concert-goers after the gates open Saturday morning. Photo by Doug Bonham
This is fitting because the ample crowd – making the 20,000-spectator capacity amphitheater seem rather cozy all weekend long – isn’t just at the Sasqutach Festival to enjoy live music, they’ve come from all around to enjoy a spectacle: surviving a weekend without showering, imbibing in the campground, seeing a plethora of tattoos under the Northwest sun, and overpaying for amphitheater food is included along with the music.
The first Sasquatch Festival was in 2002, and since then it has grown into a large, multiple-day and multiple-stage concert festival. In 2006, the festival added a six-band set on the main stage Friday evening onto the full three stages worth of bands on Saturday and Sunday. The festival always features an eclectic lineup slant toward indie and alternative rock, singer-songwriter groups and alternative or underground hip-hop acts; the 2006 lineup reflected this, including such diverse headliners as Nine Inch Nails, the Flaming Lips, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, and Beck, to name but a few who graced the main stage. Though the scope drew back in for the 2007 festival, held over the Memorial Day weekend of May 26 and 27, the headlining acts – Bjork, the Arcade Fire, Interpol and the Beastie Boys – had just as much star power, and the side stage lineups held many quality smaller artists and local favorites.
Representative of the local music scene in the Northwest, many of the best local artists from
Viva Voce: Portland-based duo played a powerful set in the Saturday afternoon sun. Photo from vivavoce.com
Though Viva Voce – which includes Anita and her drummer, co-vocalist and husband Kevin Robinson – have recorded four albums since forming in 1998 and toured extensively, including to Europe, Robinson still represents her adopted hometown, which sparked interest in the festival. “I just know I wanted to be a part of it because it’s a northwest festival and we’re a northwest band, this is our home and we want to be a part of what’s happening,” Robinson says. “I think it’s cool the way it worked out, whoever put the lineup together has a real sense of what
Work together they certainly do. Fans gather at the gate to enter the amphitheater early Saturday morning, with many people leaving the campgrounds by 10:30 a.m. to make the trek to the entrance, where security guards search bags for contraband, including full and opened water bottles or soda can or my friend Tyler’s cigarette pack. Though side diversions exist on the outskirts of the stages, including booths presented by Major League Baseball, local
Blackalicious rocked the house early on Sunday afternoon with their live set. Photo by Doug Bonham
With the most well known artists taking the stage throughout the day, a Sasquatch-goer could hypothetically get a great show solely by parking themselves on a blanket on the grassy bowl of the main stage, breaking only for brave trips to the portable toilets. Saturday main stage highlights include the party atmosphere of Ozomatli and Manu Chao, the folky indie rock of Citizen Cope and Neko Case, the rampant energy of The Arcade Fire, and the eclecticism of singer Bjork, whose trademark piercing voice struck like lighting around the amphitheatre. On Sunday, hip-hop group Blackalicious wowed the main stage crowd, early ‘80s hardcore pioneers Bad Brains followed them and alternated between lead singer H.R.’s solo-recording reggae tunes and the band’s trademark whirlwind punk rock. After Bad Brains, the Polyphonic Spree had their set cut short due to high winds.
The Sasquatch Festival is no stranger to bizarre weather – in 2006, Neko Case ended her set when a hailstorm of significant magnitude poured down for half an hour. That also delayed the day’s show for nearly two hours, and left many a concertgoer soaked to the bone; some returned to the campground to change, some bought merchandise to add a dry layer, while others reveled, including a group who sledded down the grassy bowl. The 2007 festival’s high winds did not leave anyone soaked to the bone, though it did cause Sabzi, the DJ for hip-hop duo Common Market who performed on the Yeti side stage at that time, to use abort using his turntables.
The Beastie Boys' Sunday night set divided opinions. Photo by Doug Bonham
Common Market was not the only good act to see on the side stages this year. The Beastie Boys, who closed the show from the main stage Sunday night, played an instrumental-heavy set on Saturday at the Wookie side stage to a packed audience. Dressed in sharp three-piece suits, sunglasses, and the wisdom that comes from their years of performing, they did not disappoint in either show – though some fans, including
The Slip performing on Saturday at Sasquatch. Photo by Doug Bonham
Shows like the Sasquatch Festival offer an experience for everyone – musicians and fans alike, through the good, bad and the ugly. Despite the high winds (as host and comedian Aziz Ansari implied the crowd to yell, “Fuck the wind!”), high food prices ($10 for a 24-ounce beer!), strange campground neighbors (Tyler remembers the drug-dealing ones next to us shouting one morning, “DO YOU REALIZE THERE ARE PEOPLE IN ALL THOSE TENTS?”), it all seems to be worthwhile on the long drive back from central Washington. Even if the heat burns you to a crisp, the bands kind of let you down, and you have work Tuesday morning, at least driving back home on Memorial Day, it is impossible to forget your tickets.