Sasquatch! Music Festival
May 25-27, 2018
The Gorge in Gorge, Wash.
By Andy Bookwalter
Photos by Maurice Harnsberry
When I asked the person who guides people to their spots in Sasquatch Hooverville for a nice peaceful corner she offered me a spot in the ADA section. I can’t deny that I thought about it for a second, but what if there’s only one spot and a war hero shows up right after I get there?
Karma intact, I found my spot. The campground at the Gorge is shaped like a vast pie, and as far as I can tell they fill the pie one slice at a time, so if you luck out you can be in a close spot even if you’re in a distant slice. This is important because it’s about a mile from the couch in the media lounge to the campground entrance, more like a mile and a half if you choose to dodge the vomit. Anything to ease the distance makes a difference. Switching from the tortured pie metaphor to a clock, I was pretty close to 7 p.m. Not bad for getting there on Friday afternoon.
Some of the best moments at big festivals happen when a band comes from out of town to perform on one of the smaller stages. They start playing to 20 people, play the shit out of their songs, and by the end of the set there are thousands of joyful idiots and one stunned band. This was Gang Of Youths at the Yeti stage on Friday afternoon. I just caught the tail end of their set, but this was clearly a bunch of guys who far surpassed their own expectations and we in the crowd knew it. Dusty Henry from KEXP tweeted “The best festival moments are when you can see a crowd being converted to fans in real time. That’s happening with Gang of Youths right now at the Yeti stage.”
Another beautiful moment is when a band knows that they’re going to kill it, then proceeds to kill it. This was The Suffers, a Gulf Coast Soul band from that soul mecca, Houston Texas. I didn’t know there was such a thing as Gulf Coast Soul, but I damn well do now. Houston is closer to Havana than it is to Detroit, and you can hear that in The Suffers. The horn section, required by soul music law, share musical space with congas and reggae bass lines. Also, they just plain kicked ass and they knew it.
Last time I saw Thunderpussy (pictured above), at an earlier Sasquatch, I wrote that they were more bombast and schtick, less actual substance. I later found out that I had seen one of their first ever shows, and ever since then I’ve felt kind of bad about it. (It’s not crippling guilt; I doubt that anyone else noticed!) Since when do I have a problem with schtick and bombast? Without bombast propping up the music there would be no New York Dolls, no Sigue Sigue Sputnik, no Kiss. Not a world I want to live in. So let the record show that Thunderpussy does big rock really well, and even if it’s not your thing… they play a heck of a show.
Holy shit, David Byrne! I never got to see Talking Heads before they broke up, and I hear they don’t like each other very much any more, so this might be as close as I’m going to get. I went to college in the late 80’s, and a roommate with better musical taste than mine had Remain In Light on cassette, and we wore that tape comletely out by the end of the year. Also, as an awkward nerd David Byrne has always been kind of a role model and guru for how to do it right.
WARNING: TERRIBLE PLAY ON WORDS AHEAD!
David’s singing voice is the Same As It Ever Was. (you were warned) Seriously, no change. His hair is gray, and he takes up a wee bit more space in the suit (don’t we all), but he sounds the same as he did in 1979. He moves like an old school tent revival preacher, but an awkward one. Like he knows what being filled with the spirit should look like so every move is carefully choreographed. For a fairly stripped down show there was a TON of taped out markings on the stage showing the entire band where to go. Besides the solo stuff, which I know less about, he did several Talking Heads songs, including “This Must Be The Place,” “Once In A Lifetime,” and “Burning Down the House,”so I was a happy guy. From the first song, sung to a big rubber brain, to the very end, it was a riveting and fantastic show.
A recurring theme in my time as a “journalist” we can call “Andy mixes up bands.” Like all the time. I thought First Aid Kit was a garage punk band. I thought Of Monsters and Men were actually Mumford and Sons AND vice versa. I also sometimes get the names of my kids mixed up, and there’s only two of them. All caused by some long forgotten hilarious blow to the head, I’m sure.
The point, and or course there’s a point, is that the band I thought Bon Iver was may have been based on an SNL skit, maybe starring Justin Timberlake. I pictured bearded folkies playing so mellow that they put themselves to sleep, right there on the stage. There must be one of those bands out there for me to mix up, but it’s not Bon Iver. One description I heard for them is “folktronica.” Isn’t that the most annoying word you’ve ever heard? Unfortunately it’s pretty spot on too. The dissonance between what I expected and what I heard, plus a big box of donuts that I literally heard calling me, sent me fleeing back to Camper Van Bookwalter, the Nadamucho Mobile Command Center. My camping neighbors, whose names were not Hershey and Dagwood but close enough to that that I can’t remember their real names, were nice people who seemed to not assume that I was a creepy meth cooker or a terrible undercover cop.