Wednesday, May 30, 2007

SNAVE'S REPORT FROM THE SASQUATCH FESTIVAL AT THE GORGE AMPHITHEATER

The above photo is of yours truly, with the main Gorge Amphitheater stage in the background! The picture was not done with photoshop stuff, I was actually there!

Artists performed on three separate stages. Here are some more photos of the main stage and the area around it. These pics were taken on Saturday, when the weather was nice:







This is the main concourse area:


Here's another shot looking into the main amphitheater:


The small stage, or "Yeti Stage". This area is also home to a number of food vendors and a beer garden:


The bear carving in the main concourse area:


And now, the bands!
SATURDAY, MAY 26
This is "comedian" Aziz Ansari. He was MC for the Yeti Stage on Saturday. He told jokes about rape and rape victims. I didn't think he was funny, and I was glad a number of people were booing him. I joined them. He's supposed to be fairly well-known from some MTV program, but who cares. He sucks:
Blitzen Trapper – This Portland band was fun to watch. Their style was either Wilco-like alt-country or uptempo rough-edged rock and roll, and they were good at both. They played on the small (Yeti) stage. I picked up their “Wild Mountain Nation” CD, and it’s pretty decent:


Gabriel Teodoros – I watched a few numbers of theirs at the small stage, and they had a good sound. I don’t care much for hip-hop, but they were good performers; their turntable guy was pretty amazing. Teodros is from Seattle. Katie bought his “Loveworks” CD, and she likes it:


The Hold Steady – I picture this band playing small to mid-sized venues, but they were great on the main stage, which is more of an arena. The singer is lots of fun to watch… he jumps, twists, gyrates, and darts about in a spasmodic manner as he half-sings and half-talks the tunes. I thought they were all good musicians, particularly the guitarist, and as a whole they sounded very good! I picked up a special “live unplugged” EP CD for a friend of mine who is a very big fan of the band. Do you know who you are, Hold Steady fan? 8-)> Here are some photos:




Ozomatli – A great band from L.A. Lots of good funk, hip-hop, horns, great guitars. I had never heard them prior to this, but I was highly impressed. They were playing on the main stage, and I sat up on the hill on the grass, kicked back, and thoroughly enjoyed. A highlight moment was when one of the singers introduced a song with a plea to end poverty, and the words “Fuck George Bush” several times, to the delight of most of the crowd. Katie got their most recent CD “Don’t Mess With the Dragon”, and it’s very good:


Electrelane – They were one of the festival highlights for me. This all-female Brighton, UK band plays without pretense, completely from the gut, or maybe from the heart. Their sound is primitive, intense, visceral. Their performance was like a kind of long primal scream, very therapeutic for me. Being about 30 feet from the stage helped! After seeing them play, I have to say they’re my current musical-world heroes. Their recordings are good, but I think if you see them perform "live" you will understand their songs better and appreciate the recordings more. I have all of their CDs, and I like all of what they do. They performed on the medium-sized "Wookie Stage". My highlights were "The Bells" and "To the East", but there were lots of other moments where they just kind of "took off" and did amazing instrumentals; they would start at a slower tempo, and all of a sudden they would accelerate and everyone was jumping! The entire group is loaded with talent: the versatile Verity Sussman is the lead singer and main songwriter, and in these pictures she is shown playing keyboards and guitar. Emma Gaze is the dynamic drummer, Ros Murray is the steady bassist, and Mia Clarke plays some wild, imaginative guitar:


Ghostland Observatory – Another festival highlight! A two-man band from Austin, TX, they really know how to entertain. The singer, Aaron Behrens, had long black flying braids and loads of GREAT dance moves. He played some guitar, but often just sang and danced. The other band member, a tall, slack-jawed computer whiz in a wizard’s cape, had a big bank of equipment from which emanated all kinds of the BEST techno sounds. I bought both of their CDs, and I LOVE ‘em. Sorry, no photos of them... I thought I had taken some, but I didn't find them on the camera. I will post them later if they turn up! But do check them out if you ever get the chance.
Grizzly Bear – This rather odd band is from Brooklyn. There aren’t any grizzly bears in Brooklyn, so I don’t know what inspired the name, especially since they have a mostly gentle sound. They combine various odd instruments such as autoharp and clarinet with bass, drums, vocal effects and guitar to create a sort of tapestry of sounds. All four band members have great voices, and all the vocal and instrumental arrangements are highly creative. I recommend their CD “Yellow House”, which evokes Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, among other things:
Manu Chao & Radio Bemba Sound System – Chao is a Spanish/Basque singer and guitarist whose roots are in English Punk, Rockabilly, and European ska, Reggae and Salsa. He is multilingual, and has sung songs in as many as six languages. He is immensely popular around the world but hasn’t caught on in a big way in the U.S. His band’s performance was uptempo, and they shifted effortlessly from reggae to punk to pop. I liked their performance, but I didn’t get any of their CDs because they were sold out:


Arcade Fire – This is one of the bands I most wanted to see, and they did not disappoint! I was able to squeeze up to about 100 feet from the stage. I haven’t seen such a high-energy band in ages. They had ten members, the most prominent being singer-songwriter-guitarist Win Butler (all 6’5” of him) and his wife Regine Chassagne (vocals, drums, keyboards, accordion, hurdy-gurdy). Instrumentation included French horn, xylophone, violin, viola, and double bass as well as guitars, bass and drums. Several of the band members switched instruments frequently, and the onstage atmosphere was one of intense joy. My highlights were “Intervention” and “Keep the Car Running”. Also, in the intro to “(antichrist television blues)”, Butler said “This one is dedicated to Jerry Falwell, wherever the fuck he is.” That comment brought loads and loads of cheers. Throughout the show, even the people way up at the higher levels of the amphitheater were standing, waving their arms… If you haven’t seen Arcade Fire yet, they are a MUST. The photos are fuzzy because I was a dork and used the zoom when I shouldn't have:


Bjork – We heard about half of her performance, and we were way up on the hill so didn’t see as well. I wish we would have been closer because I am sure the stage was done in a fascinating way. She didn’t appear to have any musicians onstage other than rows of people wearing robes playing trumpets, violins, percussion, etc. She produced a very interesting, hypnotic sound.
It was getting late, the kids were tired, and it was getting cold, so we headed for the motel.
This is the view from the room where I stayed at Desert Aire, WA, taken on Sunday morning. Desert Aire is a small recreation-based community about 40 minutes south of The Gorge Amphitheater. The motel was quite adequate, and I plan on booking a room or rooms there again next year for Sasquatch '08:

SUNDAY, MAY 27
The Blakes – I saw a few songs of theirs, they were a good rock band from Seattle. Nice, melodic, pleasant stuff. Nothing outstanding, but not bad either. If I lived in Seattle and knew there were playing somewhere, I would probably go see them:
St. Vincent – I found this Texas band to be pretentious, but I liked them anyway. The singer/guitarist had a strong voice, and she was incredibly good on her guitar. About half of the time her guitar was synthesized to sound like various horns and other instruments, and she was able to play extremely complex figures while she sang. No pictures decent enough to post.
Stars of Track and Field – I liked this Portland band very much. If you have heard the Radar Bros., they sound a bit like that band. They use great melodies and vocal harmonies, and their music is dreamy, almost pre-Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd-ish (reminiscent, at least in spirit, of side one of “Meddle”, or maybe parts of “Atom Heart Mother”) at times. It was great for laying back and staring at clouds to. I got their CD, "Centuries Before Love and War", which I think is very good. I don't know where the pictures went for this band, but I will put some up later when I find them. I also took pictures of the clouds I was watching, which I also will post. VERY relaxing music.
Minus the Bear – I wasn’t as impressed by this band, which I believe is a collection of people from various disbanded Seattle groups. They have an amazing guitarist, who played much of his rhythms and solos on the frets. The singer is good, the drummer is also good, but I just didn’t enjoy their stuff as much as most of the other bands I saw:

The Helio Sequence – This was a festival highlight of mine, for sure. I found their music to be transcendent. They are a two-man group from Portland, with a live drummer and a singer/guitarist who controls some other sounds (mostly keyboards, bass, percussion) with computer technology… but even if you’re a rock purist, that shouldn’t put you off because they are just so damned good. The drummer was in a state of ecstasy for the whole 45 minutes, and I swear he must have seen God about a thousand times during their show. His tongue lolled about, he looked like he was talking and laughing while he played, his face was tic-ing a mile a minute… and he was fantastically good. The singer had a great voice, dreamy at times and forceful at others, and his eyes rolled back in his head a few times during his guitar solos. Lots of heavy reverb, soaring guitars, heavy drums that were close to Zeppelin-esque. Their CD “Love and Distance” (SubPop) is good too, and I picked up a copy of that one despite already having a burned copy from a while back. On CD they are good, but live they are almost indescribable. They’re a band I highly recommend seeing… very mind-expanding stuff. The crowd, skeptical at first, was shouting loud words of encouragement by about halfway through the set, and most of the people I observed were all smiles. They closed their set with a mind-blowing cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows". This picture was taken during their performance of "The Harmonica Song":
Patrick Wolf – He is an impish English popster with a good sense of humor to go with his pleasant music. He was playing a violin or viola as he sang on some numbers. He and his band performed at the Wookie stage, and I was way at the back, having just arrived from Minus the Bear. Katie bought Wolf’s CD (the cover art is hilarious!), and we listened to a few tracks on the long drive home after the show. I am impressed. No pictures, too far away from the stage.
Polyphonic Spree – Somewhat overblown and pompous but still enjoyable, the Spree had 20 members onstage playing all kinds of instruments. They usually wear robes, but this time they were in clothing that resembled uniforms: black combat kits with hearts, red crosses… They are from Dallas, TX, and they play what has been referred to as “choral symphonic rock. They aren’t a cult like some people imagine, but they are definitely into peace, love, hope, happiness and positive thinking. Leader Tim DeLaughter is kind of a goofball on stage, and he reminded me of a motivational speaker in rock and roll form, which left me shaking my head a bit. (If you have seen "Donnie Darko", his lyrics made me think of Patrick Swayze's character... !) Anyway, they were fun to watch. Sadly, they were able to play only about five or six numbers before high winds forced them offstage due to the danger of swaying (and possibly falling) light fixtures. I would guess the winds were a steady 25-30 mph with higher gusts:


The windy weather forced Spoon to play at the small stage later, at the same time as the Dandy Warhols… so I missed Spoon. Sigh… thanks, Mother Nature! Heh! The main stage was empty until about 8:00 when Interpol played.
Tokyo Police Club – I didn’t watch this band, I just listened. I was at the back of the Wookie Stage area, relaxing, talking with people, watching people, and lying down to rest my aching back. The Wookie area had been suddenly flooded with a mass exodus of Polyphonic Spree watchers from the main stage area, so there was quite a crowd. The Tokyo Police Club singer apparently didn’t know about the Spree’s cancellation, and thought the crowd was all there to see him and his band… I found it amusing, anyway, considering that I didn’t care for his band’s sound all that much. I don't think this guy thought much of them, or maybe had ANY thoughts, for that matter. I asked some other people relaxing near me "Do you think he'll wake up if I take a picture?" Their responses were "That guy may not be waking up for anything!" and "Yeah, why not. We took his picture and he didn't wake up!":
While it was a bit humorous, I got concerned and I did actually check to see if he was breathing... he was, barely.
Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter – She kind of sounded like Janis Ian when she sang, sort of breathy and dramatic. Her guitarist sounded like Neil Young at times. All in all her band was not bad, but not really my cup of tea. If you are hugely into folk-rock, you might like her:
Black Angels – This band kicked butt big-time. I'm not sure where they are from, but their record label is based in Seattle. Their forte is long, dark, droning dirges. They are wholly intense, and their name fits their style. Their songs are excursions into the night, like long journeys. Even though most songs are done on just one or two chords, maybe three chords, I was fascinated by them. Their CD “Passover” was great for night-driving on the trip home. If you love the night, check out this group:
Dandy Warhols – As soon as the Black Angels were done playing, I squeezed way up into the front of the Wookie Stage venue for the Warhols, and it was great. While the stage crew was setting things up, people were throwing tortillas, to hilarious effect. (I forgot to include the photo of the flying tortillas, but I will post it later.) The Warhols' bandleader and highly-affected singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor was the epitome of what I call “silly cool” in all ways. If you click on the photo, you might get a better look at what he is wearing... heh... Keyboardist Zia McCabe was mostly smiles despite the gathering winds and cold, while guitarist Peter Holmtrom mostly just kept his head down, trying to stay warm, sweatshirt hood in the "up" positiion. Drummer Brent DeBoer was a human metronome, and I swear he was playing drums in his mouth with his teeth at the same time he played the drum set… Highlights were “Not If You Were the Last Junkie On Earth”, “Bohemian Like You”, "Godless" and “Holding Me Up”. (In case you were wondering, on "Godless" the band members sang the trumpet line, with lots of help from the crowd!) The crowd action got intense, and I found myself getting shoved and swirled around. It was great fun, and I managed to stay on my feet! Several of the photos below are highly illustrative of the joy this band provides:




Interpol – The winds finally died down at the main stage enough for Interpol to play. They had started well before the Warhols were finished at 9:00, so we caught the last half of their set from around 9:15 to 10:00 p.m. They were playing tunes from their next CD (out on 7/10) and some from “Antics”… we heard “Evil”and “Not Even Jail” among others, and the new songs sounded good. To my ears, they sound better on CD than they did live, although I’m sure that strong winds and 48-degree weather had something to do with how they played. I could see them sounding good if they were playing in a small venue; I don’t think their style and material translated well to the arena-sized main stage venue. They didn’t move around much while they played; they mostly just looked cool, or maybe frozen:
Katie and Kirsten were frozen, anyway...
It was windy, it was cold, we were exhausted. Because of that we missed the Beastie Boys, who were to follow Interpol on the main stage, and Michael Franti and Spearhead at the Wookie Stage. The Polyphonic Spree was supposedly going to play for a couple of hours after everyone else was done, but we weren’t sticking around. The trip home took us four hours and we didn’t get home until almost 3:00 a.m., but I stayed awake behind the wheel listening to Ghostland Observatory, Grizzly Bear, Patrick Wolf, Helio Sequence, and the Black Angels.

The Sasquatch Festival was, in a word, fantastic!
I met Sasquatch and I survived the encounter. I got some angry sunburn on my face, my back got sore from too much standing (but a vicadin every four hours took care of that). I felt pain-free enough to even mosh a bit during the Warhols’ show, and I suffered no ill-effects. In fact, I had so much fun I decided that the Sasquatch Festival will be an annual concert event for me from now on. How about if some of us meet there next year and check out some more of this great new music? I love the older bands, but these younger people just have so much fresh energy; I came back from the festival exhuasted, but with all my batteries recharged.
See you there next year!

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3 Comments:

Blogger J. Marquis said...

Wow, excellent reportage, buddy. I may have to join you next year.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I'll set it up if ya wanna come along!

10:30 PM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

Thanks for sharing! That really looks like it was a ton of fun. I will deffinately consider going next year. A year is plenty of time to plan for something like that.

4:42 PM  

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