Sasquatch! Music Festival
May 25-27, 2018
The Gorge in Gorge, Wash.
By Andy Bookwalter, Grandpa
“For he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man” – Sasquatch camping motto
The theme for Saturday was “Follow the horns,” but I didn’t know that yet. Since the Gorge campground on night one of Sasquatch is still quieter than the neighborhood where I live, I slept great. While Dagwood made breakfast kool-aid and tried to find oatmeal without ants on it (the ants are firmly in control, we should thank them for letting us live here) I made a huge pile of chorizo and eggs, because this old man lives in an RV with a stove, not a fabric hovel with anty oatmeal. Since nothing starts off a hot day like a huge pile of meat products, I ended up taking a brief post-breakfast snooze. No harm done; I wake up at 7:30 no matter what, the music doesn’t start until 12:30, and since I quit drinking many years ago there’s a whole world of time-wasting that is closed to me, so hey: sleep!
Nothing about Polyrythmics appeals to me taken piece by piece. Noodly funk sort of jazzy fusion, long jams, crowds of swaying hippy dancers (maybe “crowds” is overstatement, but I think I saw one), but for whatever reason I really like these guys. Yes, there are horns, always a shortcut to my heart, and the musicianship is awesome. The songs are good. Screw it, I was pretty sure I liked them in spite of myself when sax player Art Brown PULLED OUT A FLUTE AND PLAYED A JAZZ FLUTE SOLO. YES I’M AWARE THAT I’M SHOUTING. Seriously, how many flute solos have you heard this decade? Foreshadowing: two for me!
The tonic for flute solos is Kentucky honky tonk folk, which was served to me by Tyler Childers, a honky tonk and folk singer from Kentucky. Childers reminded me of Billy Joe Shaver, who I love, maybe with a little Bakersfield mixed in, and he looked like a truck driver. No flutes, but during his set I heard what I’m pretty sure was my first bass solo in a country song. Solos aside, it was spare and stripped down and really great. The only thing missing was a self-proclaimed “fat sassy Black woman” ordering us to take pictures of her ass. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long.
I overheard more people talking about Lizzo than anyone else in the lineup, and for good reason. You’ve heard her whether you know it or not, in a DirectTV or Cadillac ad, or “Good As Hell”, positively affirming 80% of America at any given moment. Being nice to yourself is a great message, and when the crowd in front of the stage was ordered to turn around and twerk, and proved that very few average Sasquatch ticketholders can in fact twerk, that was OK too.
My favorite line in any Sasquatch preview I’ve ever read was the description of Magic Sword as “the Daft Punk of Idaho”. Let the record show that Magic Sword is goddamn right the Daft Punk of Idaho, and everyone in Boise should treat them like heroes. Unfortunately they hide their true identities behind astronaut helmets (sound familiar?) which I’m sure light up in cool ways when they aren’t playing their Daft Punk style guitar based electronic mayhem in the middle of a bright sunny spring day. The whole set reminded me of the closing credits of a He-Man movie that never was, and never will be.
Modest Mouse, the other cool product of my hometown of Issaquah, played a brilliant and beautiful set as usual, but here’s the thing about camping: by Saturday evening you are always downwind from a portable toilet that needs service, the only question is how bad and how close. Sometimes it was even stronger than the ever present weed smell. Saturday afternoon is when the people who didn’t hydrate or pace themselves with the booze and drugs (everyone else but me) are separated from the ones who don’t partake of the booze and drugs, but drink water like maniacs (just me). I watched a guy pause in the middle of brushing his teeth to throw up, then finished brushing. People make it a third or halfway from the campground to the main gate and collapse, filling garbage cans with the beer they couldn’t finish or the beer their bodies sent back out. Frankly it’s pretty hilarious assuming nobody dies. What wasn’t hilarious, and has nothing to do with binge drinking or vomit, was when I came back to CBV to find that it was Antsquatch in my box of delicious donuts. So much for dinner, jerks.
Sunday provided me with an opportunity to confront my fear of band names that use a “Z” where there should be an “S.”
Sunday was also largely a day of following shade and checking out bands I knew nothing about while I waited for Neko Case. First up was local rapper Gifted Gab, who electrified a smallish crowd rhyming about weed, mostly. While I was enjoying the hell out of her insane talent for wordplay, I looked next to me to see a baby (not a baby like most of the young crowd looks like to me, this was an actual baby. The actual baby was even more transfixed than I was by Gifted Gab, and I pictured actual baby learning to talk right then and there, developing a fascinating vocabulary with a LOT of swears. Be careful, kid; you’re awful cute but you’re still a white baby and you can’t get away with that.
I started out listening to Jacob Banks, a Nigerian born English raised super smooth gravelly soul singer, and I could have stayed all day if it weren’t for the meddling honk of a baritone sax warming up on the Bigfoot stage. Of course I’m going to abandon suave English soul for horns, just a question of when. Sadly, the sax belonged to Too Many Zooz, a band name I’m still embarrassed to say or even think. TMZ ripped up the stage far past what a saxophone, trumpet, and drum should be able to. They went viral a while back by playing all crazy like in the NYC subway. Their first song went a full 26 minutes before baritone sax player Leo P. had to inhale, while trumpeter Matt Doe practically hid behind some speakers and delivered most of the actual melody. Leo on baritone was more like the bass player, offering up the groove and foundation, as well as lots of pelvic thrusts, not unlike the muscled oily sax guy in The Lost Boys. By the end of their 45 minute set they had played maybe three songs, and I was wore out.
Sax fatigue can be treated with root beer floats, and while I was on my way to get one I heard my second flute solo of the day, provided by Tank and the Bangas. I probably should have hung out for a bit, but the float.
I accidentally caught Charly Bliss while meandering back to the media lounge for more water. What Sasquatch usually lacks is early-90’s inspired female led crunchy power pop, so how awesome it was when Charly Bliss (no one in the band is named that, BTW) brought some right to me. The lazy comparison would be to Weezer and/or Veruca Salt. Not totally ridiculous, but also high praise. Plus their song “DQ” had the line “I’m 4 years above 16, I bounced so high I peed the trampoline”, which is still cracking me up a week later.
Soon enough it was time for Neko Case, which means almost time for my exit. Once I have a plan for leaving I tend to want to just get on with it and be home, so Neko probably didn’t get the devotion from me that she usually does, but needless to say she filled the place with songs that go perfectly with the setting sun. Red hair was blown artfully in the wind. Drunk millenials stopped vomiting and/or dry humping on the grass, and all was reasonably OK with the world. I hit the point where I don’t want to see another human being that I’m not married to or isn’t the fruit of my loins, so off I went.