Sasquatch 2009 looked to be a very exciting time! I got inside the venue about 12:30. It was a great day already, very good weather, and lots and lots of people!
I have posted lots pictures here, click on them to enlarge them for a closer look.
Some major changes have been made to the lay-out of the festival. The medium-sized stage (Wookie Stage) had been moved, as had the small stage (Yeti Stage) to make room for the new Comedy/Dance Tent. It didn’t take long to get used to that, though.
First band I saw was Owl City which played delicate Death Cab-style pop music. In fact, I thought they sounded an awful lot like Death Cab For Cutie. That can be a good or a bad thing depending on what you think of Death Cab.
After a couple of Owl City songs, I went from the Wookie to the Main Stage, where Vince Mira was performing. Mira sounds eerily like Johnny Cash, and actually did a Cash cover (“Ring of Fire”) in which he sang a verse or two en Espanol. Mira’s style of country music is of a more traditional variety, with some Southwest flavor thrown in. For those of us who long for the day when American country music was more pure, Vince Mira is a refreshing and delightful artist:
Here is a view of the Main Stage from above, with Vince Mira playing:
As you can see, Saturday was a beautiful day at The Gorge! It ended about 80 degrees with a light breeze.
This is AA Bondy playing at the small Yeti Stage.
I went back up the hill to watch a bit of Blind Pilot at Wookie before heading back down to the Main for Doves. Blind Pilot’s music wasn’t bland, but I didn’t find it memorable either. In fact, I can't seem to even recall what they sounded like! Heh!
Next was Doves at the Main Stage.
Doves are great. They make some of the best music around these days, in my opinion. I was anxious to hear some songs from their new CD “Kingdom of Rust” (reviewed here recently), and they did not disappoint. Their set began with the CD’s leadoff track “Jetstream”, and they also did “Kingdom Hill”, “10:15” and several others from the new disc. I also heard “Black and White Town” and “Snowden” from their “Some Cities” disc, and I was happy when they dug out an oldie (“Caught By The River”).
That's Jez Williams singing and playing guitar.
Too bad their time slot was only 45 minutes, I could have listened to them for a couple of hours with no problem. Their lead singer and bassist Jimi Goodwin joked with the crowd between songs, and his brother (guitarist Jez) contributed vocals and some excellent guitar work. Andy the drummer was outstanding, as was their touring keyboardist.
There is main singer and bassist Jimi Williams.
They were one of the highlights of my Sasquatch weekend!
I didn’t stay at the Main Stage for M. Ward, but headed back up the hill to Wookie to see King Khan and the Shrines. On the way there I stopped for a few songs by Dent May and His Magnificent Ukelele… that’s a fun group! Dent May looks like a total nerd, and he writes witty, humorous nerd lyrics. He sings well, and the band is good! Highly entertaining, and he is a GOOD uke player!!
King Khan has a big band, including a trumpet player, a sax player and a real honest-to-god dancing girl! He made his entrance, well… like a king (!) wearing a feathered headress and a robe, carrying some kind of Polynesian-looking staff.
The music was upbeat, intense and funky, kind of a cross between James Brown and who knows what.
During the song "I Wanna Be a Girl" the sax player became a... well... "girl" for a minute or so (see above)! Nobody got busted for obscenity, and all in all the set was lots of fun.
Here are three very attractive young concertgoers!
Shearwater was next, and I was able to get right up in the very front to see them as well as Sun Kil Moon, which followed.
Shearwater plays an interesting style of music. Much of it is mid-tempo or slower, but it is all powerful. Jonathan Meiburg has an amazingly wide vocal range, from a beautiful baritone to a high falsetto. When Meiburg sang his high notes and turned up the intensity, the effect was electrifying.
Here, he electrifies both the crowd and his bass player!
Band members all played various instruments. At one point the drummer, introduced as Thor, left his drum set to play what looked like a homemade hammered dulcimer and also played clarinet (pictured below).
The bassist and drummer both played xylophones at times. The bassist also did a lot of smiling, and looked like she totally enjoyed being a part of such a cool band. I know I would feel the same way.
While their two most recent CDs (“Rooks” and “Palo Santo”) are probably an acquired taste for a lot of people, they are a band that will astound most listeners in the live setting.
I love the two most recent Sun Kil Moon CDs, “Ghosts of the Great Highway” and “April” and had great anticipation for the band’s 6 p.m. Wookie Stage performance. When they were together and things were clicking, they were incredible.
It quickly became apparent that something wasn’t quite right with their playing. Singer and songwriter Mark Kozelek (formerly of Red House Painters, shown above) appeared a bit nervous; he didn’t smile much, his mannerisms seemed a bit curt at times, and the other band members seemed to have a difficult time following him.
I got the impression Mark is some kind of gifted songwriting savant, and the other guys in the group have to keep a close eye on him in order to stay with him in case he takes an unexpected musical twist or turn. A couple of times Phil, the second guitarist (on the right in the above photo), became visibly frustrated and once gestured with his hands as if to say “Huh?” Anyway, I have never seen a fairly high-profile band have these kinds of problems on stage.
During my three years of going to Sasquatch, I have learned that the Wookie Stage is notorious for having problems with its sound, and this performance was no different from what (sadly) seems to be the norm. Phil had some problems getting a cord or something to stop humming, and Kozelek impatiently said “Are you ready yet, Phil?” as he paced around waiting.
The bassist and drummer were rock-steady.
During the tense, awkward moments I found it incredible Mark and Phil weren’t killing each other. But with their two electrics going, they come as close to Neil Young’s Crazy Horse sound than anyone currently out there. By all means they are worth seeing, whether or not they have communication problems.
After Sun Kil Moon I had some dinner (an eight dollar foot long... hot dog... ugh!), heard a little of the end of the Decemberists' show (didn’t take pictures) and the beginning of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' set (also didn’t take pictures). Both bands are o.k. with me, I didn’t feel like going out of my to try and get up close for either. I have harbored a visceral loathing for the Decemberists until their recent CD, which I actually rather enjoy. I had not heard much by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and found them to be energetic and fun.
It was a pretty evening at The Gorge. The next photo is looking north at the Wookie Stage. I met some fun, polite, friendly and beautiful young people there from Vancouver, B.C. who had come to see Bon Iver and were also excited about going to see Kings of Leon later. Thanks for chatting with me, and if you have come to visit the blog to see the pictures, thanks for that as well!
I decided to see Bon Iver’s performance out of curiosity more than anything. I was blown away by his singing. I expected him to do solo acoustic stuff, which I wasn’t in the mood for at all, and so it was to my relief and delight that he had a full band for this show!
My highlight was “Blood Bank”, which built to a loud fever pitch only imaginable from the way the song is presented more quietly on his “Blood Bank” EP. All in all, I have to say I would go see one of Bon Iver’s shows whether or not he was with a full band.
His “Emma” CD is mostly quiet stuff, but with the full band backing him the songs were given added power. That is saying something, as I consider him as someone who writes powerful songs to begin with.
There is certainly something ghostly and timeless about his music.
I finished the day by seeing about a half hour of the Kings of Leon show from way up above, in the back of the amphitheater. I was tired, I had been standing for hours at the Wookie Stage, so this was a nice way to relax a bit.
I am still not quite sure what the major fuss is about with KOL, but I will say they are a very good band. Caleb Followill is an excellent singer, and their overall sound isn’t thick and muddy. They allow for space to be created within their arrangements, and this allows for a nice, straightforward presentation of their songs. I had to stay long enough to hear my favorite of theirs, “Molly’s Chambers”, and they did a great job with it. (Our band does a pretty good version of that song!) And now I may have to check into some of their CDs.
I stopped by the Dance Tent on the way out of the venue to see what was going on before I headed to the motel to collapse.
I stay at the Desert Aire Motel each year, and it is about a 45-minute drive from the venue. A nice, quiet little place. Nothing fancy, just functional, and the shower and AC work great. I slept without waking for a full nine hours! Sasquatch can be exhausting if you go for all day every day.
I got to the Main Stage early to see Mike Watt and the Missingmen. As you can see from the pictures, it was a beautiful day at The Gorge!
These views look north along the gorge of the Columbia River. Lots of artists I saw made comments about the scenery. It truly is a great place to see a show!
Watt and his band cooked. I got there in time to see all of their set. Watt is a punk legend, and the bassist has a kick-ass band.
Playing as a power trio, these guys were great. All three are incredibly good musicians, and they played hard for their 45 minutes. On stage they perform in a very tight group, usually all within a few feet of each other. It's almost like they are used to playing in small venues! 8-)
Watt is in pretty good shape for someone my age, and his musical skills are amazing.
I was totally into what these guys are doing. It isn’t necessarily the kind of music I would choose to listen to all the time, but I have always thought it’s some of the best kind of stuff to see live.
I would recommend you see Watt and whatever band he is with, whenever you get the chance!
After Watt and on my way to meet my daughters, the band at the Yeti Stage caught my ear. They were Point Juncture, WA and their music is interesting to say the least. Lots of guys seem to have problems with the concept of a female drummer, but PJW’s drummer should dispel such myths. She was one of the best drummers I saw the entire weekend.
The music had a basic rock feel to it, but I noticed some slight elements of prog and jazz thrown in. Not only did she play drums well, she sang well. The rest of the band was good too! 8-)
We went to the Wookie to see a Portland band called Hockey. When I hear of a band name like that, I tend to roll my eyes. I was a bit skeptical. And when they came on stage and started playing 80’s-style guitar rock with a dance beat, with several of them wearing headbands, my “Loverboy alert” went into full swing. But hey, they are VERY good.
The music is what I would call “close to disco” but it was hard-sounding enough that it reminded me of INXS at times. As a fan of INXS, I found that to be a good and satisfying thing. The singer has all the dancing and microphone moves down pat, and their show was reasonably exciting. I would guess this band is lots more fun to see in person than to listen to on CD.
Back down at the Main Stage, the Walkmen were next.
I stayed for 3-4 Walkmen songs. I have never quite "gotten" these guys, but I do have to say the singer has a great voice. And they did the song I wanted to hear them do ("The Rat").
Next it was back to the small stage for some songs by The Henry Clay People. The original festival lineup included a band called Japandroids in this time slot, but when that band canceled the HCP were added.
HCP mostly talked or shouted as opposed to singing, and their songs seemed to be about partying, roadtrips, and gettin’ drunk ‘n stuff. They were pretty good on their electrics, and they gave off an amiable country-rock/partyin' stage presence. My daughters and I were there at the end of HCP's show, and the band goofed off for a minute or so going back and forth from a D chord to a G chord, throwing in lines from various famous rock songs that use those same two chords. They got up to about six or seven lines from different songs, and included David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side”. This band would be good to see in a club where alcohol is served and consumed freely. They were quite fun!
I sampled a few tunes by John Vanderslice at Wookie. He is something of an oddity… very strange and creative lyrics, which seem to be the focus of his music. He didn’t wow me too much, but he was fun. I would say his stuff translates better to the studio than to the live setting.
Here is a view of the area near the small Yeti Stage, which would be to the right from here. This view is looking north into the food court area.
Down at the main stage, one of my daughters and I saw some of Calexico’s performance. I was unfamiliar with their material and had only read about them a little, so this was fun:
Because they had been a backup band for Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) I figured they would play slow, dreamy, semi-somnambulistic songs suitable as sound tracks for watching dust particles in the sun, but instead they were very energetic.
They used some mariachi-style trumpets a few times, and played what I would call Southwestern-flavored rock and roll. If you get a chance to see them, they are worth a look/listen!
We headed back up the hill (all this up and down the steep hill crap got to be taxing on my calf muscles after a while!) to see some of the St. Vincent show at Wookie (shown above). I find her music to be at once fascinating, pretentious, exhilarating, dull, obtuse, mysterious and amazing. In other words, I’m pretty conflicted about her stuff. She would do one song I hate, another I love, and back and forth that way.
She is a very good guitarist. The songwriting is kind of out there in left field, in my opinion. Very little is straightforward, and if you aren’t in the mood to devote your full intellectual capacities to what she is doing, it’s kind of like what being hit with hammers might feel like. She is smarter than all the rest of us, it seems. Does she have to show us this so much? I got tired of it pretty quickly and went to take a shade break by the comedy tent before heading back to Wookie for The Wrens.
I met some great folks, Mark and Brad from Seattle and Chad from Spokane at The Wrens show and hung around with them for the next couple of Wookie Stage acts. All were great music fans, very knowledgeable, and generally great to b.s. with!
I have enjoyed The Wrens’ “Meadowlands” CD since it was released early this decade. They are a band that has been around a long time but has little to show re. the number of CDs they have released (three albums in 14 years...). I’m not sure they play live very much either, so I believe seeing them is a real treat.
They did most of the songs from “Meadowlands”, their bassist/keyboardist Kevin Wheelan exhorted the crowd multiple times and climbed atop his amplifiers, and the guys played like their lives depended on doing the best they have ever done. Their approach to the music is, in a word, fierce.
Why... correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that is Kevin Wheelan up on the amps!
One of the guitarists, near the end of their set, apologized for the band being a bit rough and having only practiced once for the gig (part of their only tour this year), for the bass not working and for his guitar humming (more Wookie Stage sound problems, I think). But nobody cared how rough or ratty their show was... and I didn't think it was ratty or rough! It was simply pure. If you love The Wrens, as I do, nothing mattered except that I was there, mere feet away from them as they played their songs.
If you want to know what songs like “Everyone Choose Sides” sound like without the vocals sounding like they were recorded over a telephone... I can tell you it sounded GREAT! That song, along with “This Boy Is Exhausted”, “Faster Gun” and “Hopeless” were all nirvanic for me. Their show was the highlight of the entire weekend for me!
I hope The Wrens will do some more recording, do some more touring. They seemed to get along well together on stage, they played beautifully, primitively, and from the heart.
After a brief dinner break of a bad $8.00 burger (no fries, those were an extra $6.00, and no soda, that was another $6.00) I went back to digest the junk while watching The Airborne Toxic Effect. This band has a self-produced disc with a song that a lot of people have latched onto (“Somewhere Around Midnight”), and the lead singer joked about it and said with all that has been happening “we don’t even know what’s going on”. Seems like ATE is on a roller-coaster ride now… but they deserve it.
The popularity of the one song has given them a lot of opportunity to prove they have more than that song in their repertoire, and they showed me they are really quite a good band! Bully for them!
They use a lot of “wall of sound” guitars, they have a violinist who is great to watch and hear, the singer puts out a lot of emotion lyrically and stylistically, and their music has a powerful, propulsive quality.
I kept thinking “scaled-down Arcade Fire” while I listened to them, but I love Arcade Fire… so that was a good thing. A very satisfying set!
M83 was next. I was a bit skeptical when all they brought out were two sets of banks of keyboards and computerish stuff, to go with a drum set. But you know, electronic music (whether some of it is pre-recorded or not) with live drums can be fantastic, and it sure was in this case.
This talented and attractive keyboardist (I am not sure if this is Morgan Kibby or not) did the bulk of the singing, and she was excellent.
When they would get going in what seemed like electronic jamming, I swear my hair stood on end a few times. “Kim and Jesse” was a crowd pleaser, and it wouldn’t have bothered me at all if they would have played just that one song for 45 minutes.
Anthony Rodriguez played some guitar during their set, and that added to the texture of the sound. The drummer was precise but without being a metronome.
This show was definitely a Sasquatch highlight for me.
The beautiful day turned into a beautiful evening!
A nice setting for Of Montreal, which was next. Their set was “introduced” by someone coming out on stage wearing a tiger head...
I'm not sure what that was all about, but as I understand it, concert-goers might often have that feeling at Of Montreal's shows.
I stayed up near the front at Wookie for the first third of this band's performance. I have heard some of their music on CDs, and have been mildly impressed and amused by it. One of my daughters has seen them before and told me their show is a must-see, that you’ll usually see people doing skits, in costumes, lots of general weirdness and psychedelic silliness.
During the first song or two there was a skit about someone opening a present and getting gassed, with other participants on stage wearing things that looked like half-alien-half-gasmask. Not long after that, things started getting “pushy” up front, and it wasn’t long before I was on the ground in a pile of toppled domino people.
Actual photo taken while getting toppled.
Not long after that it was time to panic and get out of there to a safer vantage point.
I saw a bit more of their show, which was good and wild and all, but not really as much to my musical tastes as some other things.
Heading down to the CD store near the main stage, I caught the last number by Nine Inch Nails (which was good) and then the encore, which was “Hurt”. Sorry Trent Reznor, I still think Johnny Cash does the definitive version of that song! 8-)
Jane’s Addiction was pretty good, but again I found myself tired from all the day’s standing in the sun. The photo below is an indication of how far away I was from the stage.
I caught their first four or five songs, then as I was heading back to search for my car in the parking lot (a daily travail), I found one of my daughters at the dance tent.
The performer was a guy who bills himself as Deadmau5, and I ended up staying there for about a half hour and grooving. Techno is something I can’t listen to a steady diet of, but this guy was fun. He had a good light show, good beats, and lots of little brain-tickler synth licks and other subliminal beat things percolating around.
The bed at the motel felt awfully good that night. Again, I slept like a log for nine hours!
For Monday, the last day of Sasquatch, my energy was beginning to wane a bit. I got inside the venue late due to helping my daughters move some things from one campground to another as they were attempting to consolidate things for their trip back to school after the weekend.
I wasn’t too late to see Grizzly Bear at the Main Stage, though. On Saturday I had purchased their new CD “Vickatimest” (whatever that title means) and had been listening to in the car on the drive to and from the Amphitheater. Compared to their last CD “Yellow House”, the new one is a bit more accessible. Their performance was, in a word, glorious.
For those who love this band for its quirkiness, don’t worry, it is still plenty quirky. And the vocals are still GORGEOUS as ever. Their music is surely an acquired taste, but once you acquire the taste you get hooked. MANY thanks to Easy Street Records for having the CD for sale at their Sasquatch booth several days prior to the release date of 5/26.
I saw them at Sasquatch two years ago, and they have come a long way since then. They are the kind of band that will be critical darlings, but may not get heard by a lot of people. I highly recommend that you hear this band!
(After their set and later in the afternoon, Grizzly Bear did a signing session at Easy Street Records.)
After Grizzly Bear my daughters and I stayed for some of Santogold’s show. She is amazingly good. Lots of high energy, and her band is wonderfully talented:
Santogold sings "L.E.S. Artistes"
Santogold sings "Say Aha"
I only stayed for 3-4 Santogold songs because I wanted to see all of School of Seven Bells’ show at the small Yeti Stage.
School of Seven Bells’ recent CD “Alpinisms” sounds like some kind of trance-inducing psychedelic electronic music, which is all to the good in my opinion. But live? I think they may be the closest thing out there for channeling the spirit of My Bloody Valentine. Imagine MBV with totally danceable beats, and this is what SVIIB is doing. I hope their music is able to reach a good-sized audience, it deserves to be heard.
The two DeHaza sisters Alejandra and Claudia did the singing. One played a keyboard and handled some pre-recorded things, one played guitar and sand, and Benjamin Curtis (formerly of Secret Machines) played lead guitar. His guitar playing caused me to think “God bless Kevin Shields”. The two guitars created a dense, swirling sound full of overtones, harmonics, and good times not unlike MBV... yet SVIIB is in its own world.
Normally I don’t care for drum machines in live performances, but I was more than willing to let that slide this time. I do think they might sound better with a live bass player and a live drummer, but seeing how well they worked together as a threesome, and hearing how damned good they sounded today, it’s quite possible they don’t feel they need additional musicians in their mix right now. Whatever.
Whatever they do is fine with me. Watching SVIIB was the other time my hair stood on end during the weekend. If you get a chance to see them, don’t miss them.
I went back down the hill to catch a few numbers by Gogol Bordello, a band I find greatly amusing but can only take in small amounts. I don’t know what you would call their stuff, maybe “gypsy punk”? Anyway, they use accordion, violin, electric guitar, drums that sometimes have a punk/polka rhythm… Their music quickly drives me nuts, but they were fun for a few numbers.
After a few minutes of Gogol Bordello I headed back up the hill. I skipped Blitzen Trapper as I am not really a fan of their stuff. It was time for a shade break by the Comedy/Dance Tent, and then...
(drum roll... )
I had never heard their music, but had read that their live shows are lots of manic fun. They didn’t disappoint at all. They are an Israeli three-piece that reputedly set fire to one club in which they played… and I guess they have been banned from numerous places? Heh! If true, I can see why.
First of all, the guitarist and drummer set up on the ground, in the dirt, in front of the stage. The singer did a lot of crowd-surfing, the drum kit was taken apart in various stages and passed around the crowd, the singer mooned everyone a time or two, he climbed up a ways above us all… It was truly a splendid time! I left their set convinced they are genuine nutcases, and genuine rock and roll deconstructionists. No captions are needed for the following pictures, as they speak volumes in themselves.
(The annual throwing of the tortillas!)
It was a beautiful day for a climb!
The comedy/dance tent provided a great place to get a shade break when there was nothing going on in there.
Looking toward the main stage from the comedy/dance tent.
I went to the Main Stage to see Silversun Pickups, one of the bands I had been highly anticipating. Getting to see Fleet Foxes do a few songs while I waited was an added bonus. I saw them last year and loved 'em. They do a good job of living up to all the hype! Here are Fleet Foxes finishing their set:
Lots of obstacles on the ground near the Main Stage... !
Next, I wouldn't say Silversun Pickups are one of the best bands I have ever heard, but they are very, very good. They are another band for whom I would say see them if you have the chance. Here are some shots of them in action:
"The Royal We"
"It's Nice to Know You Work Alone"
I was called away from their show when I got a text from one of my daughters, who was having a health problem and needed assistance. That was fine because I was getting tired and needed to start the drive home (3 ½ hours) in order to get some sleep for work the next morning. I think she will be o.k., but she was not feeling well at all. We sat for a while, she had a bite to eat and then got to feeling better while we waited for her sister to finish seeing Girl Talk.
Leaving early caused me to miss Explosions in the Sky, but maybe there will be another chance to see them later.
Other bands I missed included Ben Harper, Erykah Badu, Animal Collective, Mos Def, TV On The Radio, Avett Brothers, Murder City Devils, Street Sweeper Social Club, Beach House, and The Dodos. Well, there is always the future. All in all, it was a rewarding weekend.
My favorite acts? Here they are, in order:
1. The Wrens
3. School of Seven Bells
5. Grizzly Bear
7. King Khan and the Shrines
8. Bon Iver
9. Mike Watt and the Missingmen
10. Silversun Pickups
Sorry Sun Kil Moon, you would have made my top ten (plus one) for this year had your act been more together. You sounded glorious at times, just not often enough. I still love your CDs and will recommend you to anyone who will listen.
Will I go back to Sasquatch again next year? Probably. I am thinking of scaling it down to a two-day trip instead of all three days, but it will depend on next year's lineup!
Here are write-ups with photos from 2007 and 2008: