Sasquatch! Music Festival
May 25-27, 2018
The Gorge in Gorge, Wash.
By AJ Dent
Sasquatch! on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. Nothing better. I drank my weight in water, ate an apple, tied my boots back up, and began the dusty trek from campground to concerts.
Little did I know it would be my very last day at Sasquatch! ever. For some, it was their first and last times ever experiencing the fest.
On June 29, the sad news sent a wave of mourning throughout the Pacific Northwest music community. Performers, bookers, friends, and fans hit each other up to recall good times at the Gorge, and wonder together what, if anything, might take its place on Memorial Day weekends to come.
Despite rumors among us media people (the dwindling attendance numbers and fewer corporate sponsors were evident), most of us hadn’t heard any official word on the fest’s fate yet. So we hefted ourselves into that lovely last day ready to capture all we could.
Tank And The Bangas
My first act of the day could be none other than this NPR Tiny Desk-winning collaboration. Superhumans, all of ‘em. (Watch that video and have your life changed.) Even the sleepiest, most hungover of the Sunday stragglers was shimmying in the sun in front of the main stage. You can feel in your bones this group’ll be headlining such fests sooner than later. Funk, soul, R&B, blues, spoken word; need I go on? Playful AF and confidence-boosting. What’s not to love.
Ooh, I appreciated this group’s energy. Hops, mini-shrieks, looks between bandmates like they’re BFFs. Their power pop could soundtrack a thousand early-2000s high school rom-coms. They gave one of those sets where like twenty people are sniffing around at the beginning, and by the end, there are five times as many, all vibing along.
I’m extra excited to see what this woman will continue to do. An acclaimed rapper and slam poet, she completely commands through songs about abortion, church, and summertime in Chicago. On one hand, she’s blowing minds via rhymes with Chance the Rapper on SNL—but um, on a Christian song?! On the other hand…. she’s flicking you off. I don’t know what to expect from her in one, five, ten years. But I bet I’ll be watching, especially seeing how she took a sloggy, sun-heavy audience on a dry afternoon, and shook them tf awake.
I was kinda killed during this performance. I mean, the man is a legend in his own rite. At one point during his progressive, rockscape set, he said, “Ay, thanks for clapping for the weird shit,” with a quick smile, and then proceeded to pounce on listeners’ ears with an electric ukulele. Layered yet caffeinated like Mello Yello. You don’t know when Harrison’s tunes will massage your soul, or grip your spine. At the end of his set he repeatedly mentioned how beautiful he found all of us and the Gorge, wishing us a grand time. Whether you knew one hundred or zero percent of his songs, you could feel the musical history flowing out at this show, beckoning you to be your best self.
Seattle’s Sweetheart! If you don’t love this human, are you, like, OK? He brought us the line, “No family is safe / when I sashay”, for Pete’s sake. “Wreath” leaves people lying on the ground, panting for more. He is grace and fervor and confidence embodied. I walked the circumference of the crowd during the last couple songs of his set, feeling the pulse of every person’s individual experience. It was one of those moments where it really hits you how each of our stories are rich and deep and worthy of being told—so long as you’re turning your history into art, and not using it to hurt others, that is.
All the sparkles and steam and shoegaze you could shake a stick at. The entrancing English band settled a score on many audience members’ concert bucket lists. I personally didn’t know their stuff well, but now my Spotify will be ready the next time I’m breathing in a twilight stoned and alone.
Unfortunately, due to some security issues, I learned that press pass holders weren’t allowed to photograph Anderson .Paak. So the set I’d planned to capture last fell through my fingertips, and sadly I know many others were also disappointed. I still got to catch his summer-starting show from the midst of a manic crowd, though, and opted to dance rather than attempt to get all the glory via my old iphone.
Now knowing that .Paak was the final performer of Sasquatch! ever, I wish we had been allowed to take pictures from the pit—but at the same time, can I really complain about being there for such an astounding last act?
Looking back, the smaller feel of the fest was a sure sign of the end. But in the moment, it made it much more intimate and easier to navigate than the past three years I’d been there.
Unparalleled sunsets, new friendships, drug-happy dances, rising stars, mind-blowing performances, inside jokes, and much more. With all the magical memories Sasquatch! gave us, I have no doubt the ripples of this music fest will be both felt for decades to come.
Thank you forever, Sasquatch!