Sunday, May 30 2010
“Whoomp! (There It Is)? Really?”
Someone was blasting the strip club anthem as we pulled in to the Gorge parking lot. I turned to my festival partner, The Admiral, and said, "apparently this is the official song for Sasquatch! tail gate parties."
Unlike Saturday’s Nada correspondent, I had my special bracelet and was through the security in seconds. We walked to the top of the amphitheater and set up shop at a comfortable little grassy spot as The Long Winters were about half way through their main stage set. Their performance was solid, but unremarkable, so I sprawled out in the grass, closed my eyes and did a little "festival meditating” while The Admiral headed over to the Bigfoot stage for Cymbals Eat Guitars.
He later described the Staten Island band as having a very dynamic, innovative sound. "There were elements of shoe gaze, post-rock and indie stuff in there.” "Sometimes I felt like I was hearing My Bloody Valentine, other times it was Cursive." In other words, I’m sorry I missed it.
We sat through four or five bland Indie-pop songs from Tegan & Sara — just long enough to hear their big hit “Walking With a Ghost” — then I headed towards the Yeti Stage to catch Sup Pop Wunderkid’s Avi Buffalo. For a band all under 21, they sure have a mature, sophisticated sound. Singer/guitarist Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (no wonder he goes by Avi) moved like he was a snake being charmed by an enchanted flute. His spastic, awkward dancing style was a slight distraction from what was a very solid set of Shins-influenced Indie-pop.
On the way back to the grassy knoll I encountered a guy in a pink, furry full body suit, a group of Power Rangers, Wonder Woman and even the legendary Sasquatch himself. There seemed to be an increase of costumes and people getting "weird" and expressing themselves this year. There were plenty of scantily clad women, lots of terrible drunks and a few confirmed sightings of folks on psychedelic drugs. Conversely, incidences of ironic hipster mustaches were down 28 percent.
Next the Admiral and I made our way over to the Bigfoot Stage where a surprisingly enormous and enthusiastic crowd had assembled for London "it" band The xx. It was like being at a Def Leppard arena show circa 1986; girls on shoulders, fist pumping, crowd surfing and lots of inappropriate yelling. Later in the set the mood shifted from arena rock to rave, and I was impressed that The xx’s quiet, intimate sound was able to translate so well in a festival setting. The band is popular as hell with critics and fans, and now I see why. They’re accessible without being cheese pop. They’re electro without being a rave DJ group. They’re ultra hip without coming off as pretentious. They’ve got a good thing going on and will be International Superstars in less than two years.
Immediately following The xx’s set, about 90 percent of the crowd left and headed to the Main Stage where LCD Soundsystem was setting up. San Francisco’s Girls were playing the Bigfoot Stage, so I stuck around. I’m a big fan, so it was nice to have easy access to the front of the stage. (Although I heard later that LCD Soundsystem’s performance was the highlight of many festivalgoers’ day.
The Fruit Bats played the Yeti Stage as we ate a $26 dinner and drank $14 margaritas. Honestly, I was more focused on eating than paying attention to the band. They seemed to have some enthusiastic fans though, as they were all doing the "pogo" and singing along.
The Admiral and I made our way to the front of the amphitheater as 90’s indie rock heroes Pavement played the opening notes of "Cut Your Hair." I was so excited I pushed my way in even further, but there was a problem. I’m not sure if it was Stephen Malkmus’ guitar or Mark Ibold’s bass, or a combination of both, but they were experiencing some major technical difficulties. After two aborted attempts, Malkmus said, "this is fucking pathetic, maybe we should just skip that one." The sound guy eventually got his shit together and everything was rolling again.
The proceeded through a “greatest hits” set in their patented slacker style from 1995…loose and sloppy but highly inspired. Cuts like Brighten The Corners’s “Stereo,” and “Range Life” made it seem like the set was tailored mostly for causual fans, but some of the more subtle moments like Wowee Zowee’s “We Dance” stood out as highlights for superfans like me. One of the great things about Pavement has always been their casual attitude, both in their songwriting and in their live performance. Along with Beck, J Mascis and a few others, Stephen Malkmus and company pretty much invented that whole early 90’s slacker/loser vibe that still lingers in indie music today.
Next up we stopped by the Bigfoot Stage where Public Enemy was smack dab in the middle of a killer rendition of “Bring the Noise.” Flava Flav paced back and forth on the stage, still as energetic and crazy as ever.
As we walked pass the “Rumpus Room” tent something caught my attention, and we suddenly came to a stop. “Holy shit,” I said, “look at that.” In the tent were probably 500 people going absolutely crazy, dancing, shaking and waving hands in the air. On stage, Simian Mobile Disco was playing a DJ set of electronic music that had the crowd going absolutely ballistic. We stood outside, casual observers to a maddening scene.
Later that evening in a divey little Ellensburg bar called “The Tav,” I came across Pavement/Sonic Youth bass player Mark Ibold. After consuming a little liquid courage, I approached him and completely went fan-boy style on him. “I’ve been waiting for ten years to see you guys live, and tonight’s set was truly amazing. I’m a huge fan of your bass playing, and I think your addition into the Sonic Youth line-up has made them a better band, blah, blah, blah." After a few minutes of my rants, Ibold smiled and said, “well thanks a lot man, I appreciate that.”
A perfect end to a great day of music for this super fan.