As we drove away from our loyal campsite and back onto the cross-state highway, my last glimpse of the Gorge reminded me of Sasquatch’s isolation. Surrounded by the Columbia River, amongst wine fields and thousands of untapped acres, exists an annual festival bringing together music fans of all walks of life.
From the endless Canadians taking the weekend off to head south, to the Midwesterners travelling multiple states only to reach the nearest major summer festival, to the local Washingtonians road tripping to the other side of the mountains in their Subaru Outbacks, the long journey creates an atmosphere of collective celebration.
Since 2011 represents my first (and hopefully not last) year as a member of the press for Sasquatch, my experience naturally differed from years in the past. Re-entry, free snacks and Red Bull, no lines, and the opportunity to mull around in the photo pit for the first three songs of most acts, all culminated in a strong feeling of gratitude for such an amazing privilege.
Most of the journalists and photographers seemed to have business on their minds, thinking only about how to capture every little incident just right, so that maybe they could have something to attach to their portfolio to help snag the next gig on the ladder to Rolling Stone. But Matt (friend, photographer) and I saw things differently; we approached Sasquatch the way it deserved: as fans.
Not much could have been altered to make me more content with my Sasquatch adventure ” and that’s the sign of a festival that is doing something right. The lineup is not composed of aging rock stars and Teen Choice Awards winners. Instead, Sasquatch boasts local artists, cult legends from the 90’s, and groups worth a listen because of their music, not their publicists.
When I break down my favourite acts of the weekend, they all fit within the latter category, probably the highlight of the entire festival, put on a performance I won’t forget next time they swing through town. Washed Out, Gold Panda, and Flying Lotus all put on inspiring shows in the dance tent, formally known as the Banana Shack. And Aloe Blacc, along with Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, whipped out high energy, attention-commanding old-school soul revues. If any of those names are new to you, I highly recommend you give them a listen” or better yet, attend one of their shows.
Oddest of all, the three groups that I felt left the most to be desired had the fest’s most fervent fans. Hundreds of cars made the trek to the Gorge only to witness Sasquatch’s closing-night headliner, Wilco, and when Jeff Tweedy took the stage, all the fans looked like the kids from Jesus Camp. Same with Trailer Park Boys ” the crowd was yelling in adoration so loudly that all the members’ banter was nearly inaudible. And Guided by Voices came off poorly from up on the nearly empty hill overlooking the main stage, but apparently were amazing when wedged between the diehards in the pit.
But those three just go to show the inherent subjectivity of music. And really, three unexceptional performances out of the roughly one hundred or so that I could choose between are not bad odds.
Sasquatch offers such a diverse selection of talent in the unrivaled king of festival venues, that I cannot imagine any attendees walking away unsatisfied. I caught more than a handful of memorable shows, spent solid time with good company, and got a tank-top sunburn in the process; all of which are must-haves at any festival worth its salt” and I fully expect all the same next year.
See more photos by Matt Shanafelt from Sasquatch! 2011 via facebook.