One of the best things about driving from Seattle over the Cascades is the gradual lightening of the sky as you go east. From spattering raindrops on the climb into the foothills to the subtle gradations of gray, turning blue-gray, turning blue—the drive to the Gorge becomes an ascension into some kind of heaven.
Especially when, upon arrival, you hear the celestial beats and guttural exhortations of Wheedle’s Groove from outside the gates. As I approached, happily gliding through the Media entrance and bypassing a line of what looked to be close to 500 people, the beats got chunkier and the crowd noise got louder. Until, there it was, an afternoon dance party under the clearing skies. I sat down right there on the grass and listened. For about five minute until the set ended.
Then it was on to the comedy tent to hear a smattering of Hari Kondabolu jokes about white chocolate, white Jesus and a fucking Swedish tennis star. Good stuff, but I wanted more music.
Strolled over to the smallest stage at Sasquatch, the Yeti, to see Basia Bulat, whom I’d heard of, but never seen. Basia’s Polish, from Toronto, and she sang one hell of a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End.” And near the end of her set, she broke out the too-often-derided autoharp to stunning effect for a few songs—and then concluded with a haunting gospel number that left the crowd silent.
Hit a bit of rough patch after that. Not sure if it was the lack of sustenance or the lack of sleep the night before or just the fact that I’m getting old, but I was left unmoved Tokyo Police Club’s propulsive but, to my mind, too choreographed beats and the atmospheric, but enervating stylings of S. (Sean) Carey, best known as the drummer for Bon Iver. I was in a festival lull. Happens to the best of us, though, and I found the remedy soon enough.
He was named Reggie Watts. The former Seattle resident (now of New York) twirled and twisted the audience around his finger. Now singing in a quavering falsetto, now laying down some heavy beats, now announcing “Here’s some hardass ballads for you motherfuckers.” Brilliant, funny, heady stuff.
Speaking of heady, it was time for Beach House. I staked out a place in the sun and closed my eyes as the sound washed over me. The sun, still high in the sky, had sunk just a little to bathe the Columbia in a silvery sheen. There was a sense of peace on the land. And while it was true the duo didn’t veer far from their recorded sound, it felt just right. When Victoria Legrand asked, “Do you love each other?” there was a wave of assent that flowed through the crowd. “That’s right,” she said. “Humans are meant to cooperate. Good job!”
What I’d been looking most forward to was a show by one of my favorite bands of the early ’90s, the Eric Bachmann-led Archers of Loaf. So I got there early, ready to head-bob with the best of them to the rhythmic guitars and anthems of discontent that sounded so right to my early-20s ears. And I don’t want to say they weren’t good, because they were, firing through a set full of classics (“Wrong,” “Low,” “Harnessed in Slums,” “Lowest Part Is Free!,” “Freezing Point,” and “Web in Front” to name a few) and visible enthusiasm. And yet. There was something missing. I think it was my younger self. The person who was there on Sunday could appreciate these songs, but didn’t feel them in the way he used to. Something sad about that, certainly, but, it’s best not to wallow too long the maudlin sorrows of lost youth. Besides, a giant hot dog was calling my name.
That hot dog (along with a tall can of Kokanee) did its job and I was fortified and ready to catch Das Racist. As they strolled casually onstage about 30 minutes late (flight delays), Heems shouted out, “Hi, we’re Yeasayer and we’ve got some smooth jazz numbers to throw at you.” In moments, everyone seemed to be having fun, including the 3 MCs who strutted and jumped and climbed all over the stage. Highlights included the ebullient “All Brown Everything” and, to universal delirium among the pulsating crowd, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.”
From the energy of Das Racist, it was tough to come down to the sunset love fest that was the Flaming Lips. I know, I know. They put on a show. Wayne Coyne in a bubble, Wayne Coyne babbling away about spider bites, Wayne Coyne singing “Happy Birthday” to Sasquatch and throwing cake into the audience, Wayne Coyne spouting anodyne sermons to an adoring crowd. People loved it. I wasn’t feeling it.
Meanwhile, it was getting cold. And dark. Perfect weather for Modest Mouse. A hoodied Isaac Brock came out and started with a scream: “This plane is definitely crashing!” It felt like he meant it. They played a strong set, but what with the shivering kids in their headdresses and body paint, the blue man (overheard: “Hey, man. Woulda been better to be green man, but, it’s still cool.”), and the passed out bodies lying like stones on the ground, it felt like it was time to go.
As I walked back up the hill and out, I heard the last anguished moments of “Spitting Venom,” and surveyed the empty bottles, trash and revelers stumbling around in the dark. I heard a young girl say, “Seriously. This has been the best three days of my life. I’m on drugs, though.”
Back through the night, over the mountains, listening to Titus Andronicus. One day at Sasquatch is just about perfect, and this Sunday was good, although I didn’t hear anything that changed my life. Until “No Future Part Three: Escape from No Future” came on the stereo and I found myself hurtling over Snoqualmie Pass in what felt like a blaze of light. So, how about Titus Andronicus for next year, Sasquatch?