The Inlander brought you the Inland Northwest's biggest Sasquatch! preview. Now, behold the region's most long-winded festival wrap-up.
We didn't go to Friday's shows, but a Nine Inch Nails junkie friend of ours said that NIN was mind-blowing and that the Trucks were "cute." Go fig.
LUKE | There are two entrances to the Gorge. I'd never realized this until I got antsy standing in line to get in Saturday morning. The line of humanity was already ridiculous, and I could hear the Bavarian lament of horns tuning up off by the Wookie stage. This meant Architecture in Helsinki were warming up. They were in there and my girlfriend Adrienne and I were out here, with all these plebeians, packed into a narrow chute like so many cows in cattle cars. In our hyper-vigilant state of AiH desire, we noticed another chute we'd never seen before. Closer to the day parking lot and almost completely empty of people, it looked like it might wind around to another set of ticket takers. It did, and within five minutes we were inside, leaving those poor suckers in the super full line to their forty-five minute wait. Boo. Yah.
As we hustled along the entrance section to the Wookie stage, everyone, literally everyone who was walking along with us was breathlessly talking about how stoked they were to see AiH. Everyone. Seems like the buzz got around.
JOEL | Yeah, well, I wouldn't know. I took too blessed long getting out of Spokane on Saturday morning and as a result missed out on the two acts -- Architecture and Sufjan Stevens -- I wanted to see most.
LUKE | We missed about a song of Architecture in Helsinki, which was sad, but we seemed to have beaten all the rest of the peeps we'd overheard gushing about them, so we got a dope spot stage center, about ten rows back. Perfect distance for viewing an eight-person collective. Their show was fun, tight, inventive, enthusiastic and informative. Did you know that what we call sweaters are called jumpers in Britain and her protectorates? AiH -- Aussies by birth -- let us in on that little tidbit.
They set a standard for performance that was largely untouched by any other band.
JOEL | Damn it.
LUKE | We then kicked over to Sufjan Stevens on the main stage and weren't nearly as impressed. Although actually containing more members than AiH, and possessed of inflatable things to woo the crowd into hysterics, Sufjan's "Patriotic 50 States Band" had none of the magnetism we'd just seen. The guy himself wasn't even anything special. Sure he sounded great. GREAT. Great like his albums are great, but the performance had no pop, no zazz.
Though we were probably biased by the show we'd just seen, it's pretty clear watching him that Sufjan is more a composer than a performer. His works, such as they are, are some of the most brilliant pop compositions since, I don't know, Cole Porter, but brilliance in composition doesn't make the asses shake. Hind sight is 20/20, but we probably should have stuck around the Wookie stage for Steven Malkmus.
JOEL | Well that's just, like, your opinion, man. I ran into Spokane chanteuse Karli Fairbanks the next day and she said Sufjan far exceeded her expectations. Though she agreed about his stage presence, saying he seemed like more of a "bedroom musician" than a tried and true performer.
LUKE | Get out your bullshit detectors kids, because I'm about to totally double back on myself. Did I just criticize Sufjan for sounding just like his CDs? Kinda, I guess, but that's exactly what I'm going to praise Iron & Wine's Sam Beam for. All of his cuts were CD-quality, expertly and precisely reproduced live, and though it was mostly just him, his guitar and his sister on backing vocals, his sound was deeper and richer than Sufjan's. I don't know if it was a mixing thing or what, but Beam alone sounded huger than the whole 50 States Band. A nicely reworked version of "Jezebel" was the kicker.
JOEL | It's true. I rolled in just in time to catch the end of Iron & Wine's set, and if I didn't hate the word so much I'd almost call it "magical." I was leaning against the outer barricade down in the pit watching the show. On his last song, the sun was shining and a few small raindrops began to fall. People were looking up at the sky with open arms, embracing the rain like this was some kind of pagan ceremony. Particularly enthusiastic was this (possibly mentally disturbed) middle-aged guy who wore what appeared to be a pair of white tights on his head, and who kept blurting out, in a high falsetto, something that sounded like, "Wa ba ba ba ba ba!" I don't know if he was a big I & amp;W fan, or if he was just getting caught up in the moment. Either way, the people around him seemed to enjoy/fear his presence.
LUKE | Adrienne and I decided that, rather than kicking it over to Band of Horses (who neither of us are that stoked on), and staying for the the Constantines (who are great, but falter live) we'd make it a main stage day, sticking around for Neko Case and enduring the Tragically Hip so that we could get up-front positions for the Shins and the Flaming Lips. This proved to be a fateful decision.
JOEL | I was hanging around the stage-right photographers gallery with the shutterbugs, chatting up the moustachioed security guard (who made a habit of pointing out cute girls to one of his colleagues) when we heard the first little rumble of thunder. "Uh oh," the guy says. Big grey clouds started to make their moves. The photographers started wrapping their cameras in plastic, waiting to be let inside the front barricade to shoot (I, meanwhile, got shooed away for not having the right colored wristband).
LUKE | Two songs into Neko Case's set on the main stage, Adrienne started feeling rain. "Did you feel that?" I didn't and, looking around, no one else seemed to, either. Gradually it came. I first felt one rain drop, then another. Around us people began to look up into the mostly clear sky, recoil from getting hit in the face with something wet (insert joke here) and make mad grabs for their rain gear. Then came a splat on my shoulder. It was water still, but slushy. Then, a full-formed ball ricocheted off Adrienne's head. Hail. Dope. This'll clear people out. Adrienne opened up the mod-looking, polka-dotted umbrella (Target for like $6, cop it!) she'd brought just as the bombardment began. The hardest hail storm I've ever been caught in pummeled us with marble-sized ice hunks for about an hour. Neko and her crew stuck it out like so many Canadian Mounties. From our vantage point under the umbrella, we saw a roadie bring a coat out to her and cover her head with it. She conceded for a moment, then ripped it off triumphantly, "I am rock star, hear me roar"-style, only to be battered about the head and neck by the strongest push of hail yet. Her set more or less ended at that point.
JOEL | It took me -- and everybody around me -- a few moments to realize just what the hell was going on when that hail really started to beat down. When it finally became clear that this wasn't just a freak passing shower, that this thing was sticking around, the masses reacted like antelopes in the presence of a lion -- panicking, running around aimlessly, looking for safe haven. I smashed up against a fence by the concessions hut to the left of the stage, hoping it would guard against the slanting hail, but then water started pooling around my sneakers. I dashed under the foot-wide eave overhanging the concessions building. People were cramming together like sardines. One vastly under-dressed hipster girl barged into a huddle of strangers and said, "Hi, can we pretend we're best friends for about five minutes?" The workers inside the stand handed out black plastic bags to tank-topped women and offered one to a tall guy whose soaked green t-shirt was like a second skin, but he refused it, preferring to "own" the storm, as he said.
LUKE | We were left, smashed into the front section, to die until roadies, having covered the stage equipment that had been judged far more valuable than our young lives, tossed out leftover tarps. Our section didn't receive one until the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, looking like an eccentrically dressed version of former FEMA director Michael Brown, surveyed the scene, flashed his jovial smile, and with a gravitas befitting his Deus Ex Machina appearance, tossed the tarp he'd been holding directly to us. Thus ended the pestilence of hail.
The Second Pestilence
LUKE | The gorge is a big, semi-circular bowl. The area directly in front of the main stage is pretty much the lowest point in the amphitheatre. If you recall, from Earth Science, liquid water naturally seeks out the lowest point it can reach. This is how lakes are formed; this is how rivers work. Once we'd gotten the tarp Wayne Coyne tossed to us all spread out over our heads, we noticed that we were standing in a kind of miniature lake, at the mouth of a concrete-banked river. We realized this just as the lightning began. Standing water and lightning. "Oh shit," several thousand of us thought, at the same time, totally blind under those tarps, as the thunder sounded. Adrienne began doing the brilliant work of collecting all the most structurally sound garbage that floated by -- beer cans and soda bottles, mostly -- and building them into a crude personal island for the two of us. (*In case you should get stuck in a similar situation, search out the Heineken cans that look like mini kegs, they're incredibly stout creations. They can hold my weight without crushing.) We rode out the remainder of the storm, some two odd hours on that garbage flotilla, wet but in good spirits. Thus ended, somewhat, the pestilence of the flood. What we didn't realize was that on the heels of these natural disasters was about to rise something most unnatural indeed.
JOEL | The thing that most impressed me about the storm was the way that people didn't really seem bothered by it. I mean, when the hail first hit everybody scrambled for shelter. And there were certainly some complaints to be heard as fans lamented their soggy clothes. But by and large, people seemed almost happy about the whole thing. The guy in the clinging green shirt wanted to "own" the storm. When the hail and rain stopped, people looked at and spoke to each other as if they'd just been through a tornado, but they were laughing. "Can you believe that?" people asked each other as they waited in line at the Honey Buckets, shivering, smiling, shaking their heads.
The most heartening example of this was the mass of people -- including Luke and Adrienne -- who stayed inside the barricade at the front of the stage. They were determined to prove that a little hail didn't bother them. As the stage hands came out with snow shovels and scooped the hail from the stage, then mopped it off with towels and push brooms, the crowd broke into intermittent roars. It was electric. The excitement was building, and you just knew that when the next band came out and struck that first chord, there was going to be this massive catharsis, this "we don't care if we're wet, we wanna rock" swell of Northwest pride. When somebody handed Neko Case a microphone and she thanked the crowd for not letting the storm get them down, for being "fucking Washingtonians" (Case is one herself), the place lit up.
Of course, she went on to note that nobody wanted to get electrocuted and that they were going to need some time to get the stage dry and in order before the next act came out, so everybody should go get a burger and chill out for a while. And the dome of energy that had been building like magma inside Mt. St. Helens just collapsed on itself with a wet fizzle.
The Final, and Worst, Pestilence
LUKE | Until last Saturday, I hadn't paid the Tragically Hip much mind. I'm all for sarcasm and pointing out the hypocrisy of the elite, and for old bald men gyrating around stage and whatnot, but their music has never grabbed me. No one else I know seems to particularly like them either, so I figured they were one of those old indie bands that have tons of cred and respect, but no real fans. I was really wrong.
The hail and flood had brought movement into and out of the main section to a stand-still for like two hours, and when movement resumed, around 7:00, the Tragically Hip were set to go on. Immediately there was a push from the back. Then another. The entire crowd behind us looked like a series of cresting waves. Soon the pushing seemed to be coming only from the middle, then from only closer to the front. Then from immediately behind us. A legion of Tragically Hip fans, drunk as shit, high as hell, flashing peace signs to and fro, had been violently working their way to the front, crushing young kids, weasling into people's armpits and around, causing a general nuisance and, at one point, really hurting people.
Worst part was, the Hip themselves had been winning me over pretty well until their acolytes stormed through and forced us to break concentration on the concert to protect our kidneys and temples. Assholes. It didn't end with the Hip set, either. Next came a different wave. Instead of North-Face-fleeced, knit-capped, rosy cheeked Canadian douchebags, we were assaulted by North-Face-fleeced, pointy-banged frat savages. Ben Harper fans. Without going into too much detail, Adrienne thought one such fan was trying to feel her up through most of the Shins' set. Turns out the guy, not an inch over 5'3" had passed out -- actually passed out -- on someone's shoulder next to her, and his hand had just happened to come to rest near her ass. This final, and worst, pestilence, disgracefully, had no end.
JOEL | Dude, seriously. Those Canadians were everywhere. And they loved loved loved them some Tragically Hip. I saw a guy near the stage wearing a hockey jersey with a maple leaf on it that bore the band's name. Canadians, man.
LUKE | We just had to stick it out long enough to see the Shins and the Lips, we thought. We were wrong. The Shins were up next, but for some unbelievably stupid reason, they'd changed the schedule at the last minute so that Ben Harper would play before the Shins, not after. He would still be given, as is required in all jam band contracts, two full hours to play. So just the Shins then, maybe some dry off time, then back for the Lips? Maybe. We'd cross that Heineken-can bridge when we came to it.
With that infamously terrible Austin City Limits performance (which you can see on PBS just about every week) in the back of our minds, we approached the Shins' set with cautious optimism. They're a good live band. We know that. They'd just had an off night or something.
This night, however, they were way on. James Mercer actually moved, which was nice, and his voice was inflected and evocative. Keyboardist/jack-of-some-trades and Chris Parnell-look-a-like Marty Crandall was funny and disgusting in a way that wonderfully contrasted the Shins' fractured Walden-esque pseudo-philosophical lyrics. In a word -- or three words -- they brought it.
The only rough patch was a new song they played, whose name they didn't give. In place of the "New Slang"y oooh oooh ooohs it had something more like surf rock whoa whoas, more Weezer than Shins, with lyrics that were more Rivers Cuomo-on-a-really-bad-day than James Mercer at his best.
JOEL | Unlike Luke, I didn't get the memo that Ben Harper and the Flaming Lips had switched. So after the Shins set I was pressed up against the outer barricade for half an hour trying to get inside for a good, close view of a Lips show that I knew was going to be spectacular. Then halfway through the set-up somebody came out and placed at centerstage a high-backed chair with a quilt draped over it, and I knew I'd been snookered. No way that was for the Lips.
I've never been a Ben Harper. In fact, I hated him in college -- mostly because girls seemed to swoon for him. When I realized I was going to have to stand through an hour of his music just to see the Lips afterward, I considered calling it a night. But I knew I'd regret it.
So I stood packed down front for the entire damn set. Not only for the entire damn set, but for the encore, too, which lasted for eight songs! It just kept going. I liked the music. Harper's a great lap steel player, and his loud, boisterous, soul-tinged music was actually a nice counterpoint to the indie rock I'd been hearing all day. But an eight-song encore, surrounded by a rabid pack of Harper fans who screamed the whole time for him to play "Burn One Down" and then just talked through it when he did? The only relief I got was the contact high from being packed in with all of them.
Of course, then it took the Lips nearly an hour to set the stage for their performance, erecting a giant screen in the rear. Watching Wayne Coyne pace around and direct people over their shoulders was a pleasure, though. And he threw the audience a bone by blasting off the occasional confetti-and-streamers cannon.
LUKE | We had to crowd surf out of the pit because the Ben Harper fans had packed themselves so tight by the end of the Shins set that no one could move back. Whatevs. I don't mind crowd surfing to maintain my sanity. We hit the press booth and were told that the Gorge staff had decided to allow re-entry so that people could go to their cars. So we hit the campsite, dried out, ate some cold turkey dogs, drank a little gin (in my case; Adrienne had vodka) and tried to unwind. We unwound too far though, into a near comatose state. Bed awaited and we missed what our other companions would call the concert of the weekend.
JOEL | You got that right, bub. The Flaming Lips put on one of the best shows in music today, and this was no exception. Coyne climbed into his trademark plastic bubble and rolled himself out across the crowd. Then they lit into "Race for the Prize," just listening to which on your headphones at home is a dizzying, surreal experience. Add to that the giant screen in the background playing pseudo-psychedelic videos, a couple guys dressed as Captain America, Superman and Thor roaming around the stage, ten people dancing in alien costumes at stage right, ten people dancing in Santa Claus costumes at stage left, and Coyne blasting the confetti gun and twirling some kind of light on a rope over his head, and you've got yourself an intoxicating, almost breathless masterpiece of live performance. If I'd been on drugs, I'd have lost my shit.
And it just kept going. Coyne, concerned that everybody out in the audience was still wet and shivering, said that everybody should just "dance and freak out and stuff." The band got asses moving with "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" and a rousing, almost deafening singalong to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Coyne also explained that when the hail derailed the performance schedule, the Lips got together with Ben Harper's camp and decided on a switcharoo because Harper was on a tighter schedule and needed to get out of town. He said the Lips, on the other hand, were ready and willing to stick around and play for as long as the local noise ordinance would allow. I liked the idea, but I was so beat from standing down in the pit for so long, that I sidled my way out. As I was trekking along the path on the way out, he was setting up the next song, about life on other planets. He wondered aloud what it would be like if, years from now, scientists finally determined that there were no aliens, that there was no God, that it was just us. "Well," he said. "That'd be fuckin' alright with me, motherfuckers." I found that touching, in a crude kind of way, as I looked down at the cold, damp throngs. They couldn't care less that they were cold and damp. The stars were out, the skies had cleared -- as long as the music continued, they were perfectly happy.
LUKE | Seeing the Lips might have changed things, but as it was Architecture in Helsinki who played, by far, the best set of the day, followed by the Shins, Iron & amp; Wine, Neko Case, Sufjan and the Hip, in that order.
JOEL | Seeing Architecture in Helsinki might have changed things, but as it was the fans were the best part about my day, followed by the sun, the end of the hail, the constant music, the "wa ba ba" guy, the hail, Wayne Coyne, and my cold feet, in that order.
A New Hope
LUKE | Sunday brought an earlier start and a different approach. Rather than stick to the front of the main stage, Adrienne and I decided to buzz around to as many sets as possible on all of the stages, getting as close as we could, but not stressing bad views.
In preparation, we fortified ourselves with sausage patties on English muffins cooked over a dope little Coleman stove and headed over to the press tent around 10:00, an hour before doors opened. The early hour was due to the fact that the merch venders had scandalously few t-shirts at their stands and Adrienne would have gone straight crazy if -- having been thwarted in her attempts to buy a Shins shirt on Saturday -- she failed on Sunday to nab a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah shirt.
It was a little tight. We weren't sure if it was going to happen, even getting in as one of the first waves. Good news everybody, I'm happy to report that she got one. And it's a ladies small, so it fits her fabulously. We're ecstatic about that.
JOEL | I was paddling an inflatable raft around the Quincy lakes and working on a decent little Pabst buzz right around this time.
LUKE | Even at 11:45 in the AM, the floor of the main stage was pretty full for the Blue Scholars. Like Architecture in Helsinki, the Scholars' early set would set the bar almost impossibly high for bands that would follow. Sabzi's beats echoed voluminously off the bowl, totally filling the amphitheatre with his signature sound.
Geologic, a brainy MC often criticized for a lack of stage presence, showed none of that reticence, giving shout-outs, hyping the crowd, talking, cracking jokes, popping his philosophies and engaging us in some old school call-and-response. These two are thoughtful populist superstars, with the social consciousness and soul vibe flava of people like Common (without the pseudo-Langston-Hughes-y poetic wankery) and Kanye (without the ego trippin'). Landing a spot on the main stage (they played the third stage last year) is proof of their clout.
A Startling Shortage
LUKE | From our vantage point near the Honey Buckets that stand sentinel to the Wookie Stage, looking back out over the main area, we could see three things clear as day. 1) Pretty Girls Make Graves put on a hell of a live show, 2) people noticed, and 3) the world needs more sexy-voiced female singers. Strong yet coquettish, Andrea Zollo impressed the hell out of me. Us, I mean, us.
9-12 Year Olds, Dude
LUKE | Tweens! Tweens as far as the eye can see! Who is Big Japan and what is the strange pull they have over our nation's 9-12 year old girls (and select high schoolers)? Look no further than the drum kit, my friends, where you'll find Adam Brody, The O.C.'s star and resident teddy bear, looking delightfully disheveled and cutely (not creepily) unshaven. This might have been the most packed Yeti Stage show of the weekend. Shame, because it certainly wasn't the best.
Lunch and Later
LUKE | Chad VanGaalen wasn't clicking with us, so we decided to skip his set and sacrifice Nada Surf as well in the name of more cold turkey dogs. Once back we caught a bit of the Heavenly States, were thoroughly underwhelmed, and moved quickly to catch the Arctic Monkeys, who are among those bands -- like Nine Inch Nails and the gat-damned Rolling Stones -- who are so strict about photography that they'll actually take your camera from you (like YOU, the fans not just journalists) and confiscate your film/memory card. Arseholes. They sounded like a punkier version of themselves live, which is to say they were still overly ironic, snotty and Brit-poppy, just a little sloppier. There's no question they're good at being rock stars (though not as good as the Libertines) and Adrienne was way into them, but they didn't do much for me.
JOEL | I agree about the Heavenly States. They might be off the hook at a venue like, say, Mootsy's, but they were definitely underwhelming on the unfortunate Wookie stage.
Same goes, actually, for the Village Green, the latter part of whose set I caught at the Yeti stage on the way in. Though it was nice to see Norfolk & amp; Western bass player Dave Depper plunking the strings for them, the music didn't exactly stand out on the Yeti stage. The band that followed them -- Mercir -- drew a pretty sizeable crowd, though. Their brand of electronica was a little melodramatic for my tastes, but, like Ben Harper's set the night before, this was a nice change of pace in a sea of indie rock.
LUKE | Ben Lee's a funny guy, but his work lately has gone from clever and earnest to -- in what is becoming my word of the mid-day -- over-ironic. And kind of yucksterish. His set succeeded and failed by the amount of new material he played. While he was talking, we were laughing, while he was playing his older stuff, we were properly riveted, but when he played his latest stuff, we were, like, "meh."
To the Yeti Stage and Laura Veirs we went, hoping for a better show and a more earnest one. We got both. I'll sacrifice between-song antics for a solid set any day. She and her backing band, the Tortured Souls (which includes Karl Blau) were tighter than the knit on an Englishman's jumper (that means sweater, remember).
JOEL | I couldn't agree more. I've been a fan of Laura Veirs for years, and this was one of the shows I was most anticipating, having never seen her with the Souls. I ditched out on Ben Lee early (he was good, but yeah, yucksterish) and made it to the front row for her, and she blasted my face off. Almost everything she did came off Year of Meteors, my favorite record of 2005, and it never sounded so rocky. Veirs, in a beige skirt, a librarian-looking jacket and pigtails, tore her Epiphone a new one, at one point scrunching down by her amp to make the thing wail and screech and feedback (afterwards admitting sheepishly, "I enjoy that type of activity.") Blau played some kind of pitch modulator thing with his mouth, drummer and producer Tucker Martine smiled through almost the entire set, and Veirs seemed genuinely appreciative that the hungry fans in the front knew her material. My only resentment is that she didn't play any banjo.
The More Things Change...
LUKE | We might've stayed at the Yeti, content to let Veirs' spacefolk rock us to slumber, but we could hear the beginning of a rumbling on the main stage. The Decemberists were beginning, a little late, but no more worse for the wear. We resisted for a song or two until they launched into "July, July" and I was, like, "Oh shit, that's my JAM," and we went scampering off. Their set at Sasquatch was much like their set in Spokane last fall, minus the 18-minute epic, "The Tain."
The set in Spokane, it should be said, was much like the three other times I'd seen them when I still lived in Seattle, minus all their new cuts off Picaresque. Though their set lists have been pretty static, their stage presence has evolved considerably. Even since the Big Easy show, Colin Meloy has become more confident and comfortable in his skin, and his bandmates -- especially Jenny Conlee and Chris Funk -- have begun to step more from behind Meloy's considerable shadow. If there's ever going to be a troupe of super popular rock star balladeers and chanteyists, I can't think of who it would be but the Decemberists.
JOEL | I didn't see any measurable difference between their performance here and the one in Spokane in October. Meloy seemed as cocksure as ever, and they were up to a lot of their usual entertaining schtick. This time around, they did a little number during "The Chimbley Sweep" in which Meloy went around zapping his bandmates, causing them to fall to the stage in a deep slumber (not so deep for Conlee, who continued to pull at her accordion while she dozed). Then, as he did in Spokane, Meloy got the entire audience to sit down during the lull in the song, then roar to their feet as the band awoke and the song swung back into motion. I've seen them do that three times now, and it never ceases to give me the shivers.
My Naughty Little Secret
LUKE | Here's the problem. It's my dirty little secret. It's why I don't really like the Arctic Monkeys or The Standard or Ashlee Simpson and it's why, despite a wonderful, unique sound, some kick-ass musicianship and tremendous stage presence, I really, really don't like We Are Scientists.
I'm a lyrics guy. Everything else -- music, presence, crowd control, everything -- is filtered through how I feel about a given band's lyrics. We Are Scientists sing about college bullshit. Getting laid, blacking out, breaking up, and all of it in nothing but the stupidest, simplest terms. I hate it, and it breaks my heart. If they put out an instrumental version of their album, though, I'd probably snatch it up in a heartbeat.
JOEL | That's funny. I write songs in my spare time and yet the lyrics are generally the last thing I digest when I hear new music. I hear the sound, the vibe, the feeling, then the interplay of the instruments, etc. That said, I liked We Are Scientists because I thought they sounded really good, and they had an interesting stage presence. The middle-aged couple standing in front of me in the burger line near the Wookie stage thought so, too, if that says anything.
LUKE | To fulfill the aforementioned lyrical craving, we were planning to see Headphones on the Yeti Stage, but on our way we swung by the main stage to see Matisyahu. We stood, again by the Honey Buckets, and watched him bounce around the stage, doing his Hasidic thing, thinking all the time, "Yep, that's him alright."
JOEL | Meh.
The Gospel of David
LUKE | "I can't believe this guy plays Christian festivals," I say to Sandpoint Reader publisher Chris DeCleur after Headphones' David Bazan has just finished telling a joke about impregnating hippie women. We're both big fans of Pedro the Lion (Bazan's old band), and Chris says he wishes he would've seen the look on the faces of all those Christo-ska kids at Tomfest when Bazan -- pretty much the archetype for gaining indie cred while still staying defiantly religious -- launched into one of his drunken, profanity-riddled rants. I look over at Adrienne and she's still looking sick and shocked by the joke, like someone just served her bad chicken, then flashed her. Such is the power of David Bazan, God's man in Indieland. Bazan then asked members of the crowd if they knew any good jokes. Things only deteriorated from there.
JOEL | Deteriorated? That was a good joke. What do you call a fish with no eyes? Fsh... Get it? No "I"s?
Savior, Save Thyself
LUKE | I don't know how a band like Queens of the Stone Age, who are supposedly the saviors of smash-mouthed arena rock, can suck so bad in such a big venue, but they pulled it off. Not even "No One Knows" elicited any emotion at all.
Yeah, oh God Yeah
LUKE | Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, sounding nothing like their record, sounding really pretty horrid at times, were nonetheless the only Sunday band to threaten toppling Blue Scholars from their perch as best show of the day. I'm still undecided as to whether they pulled it off or not, but I know one thing: singer Alec Ounsworth is a madman. Like, I'm pretty sure he's actually crazy. His voice was shot to hell, he scowled the whole time and, between lyrics, he'd pull back from the microphone and scream things at nobody in particular, his face reddening, the veins in his neck bulging, the wisp of hair he's got left on the front of his head blowing maniacally in the wind. Intermittently, He'd pound the body of his guitar in a way I've never seen anyone pound a guitar before. It produced a cacophony of sound I'm sure every kid with a guitar in attendance went home and began mimicking. The show, in short, was spookily amazing and the area around the Wookie stage was packed for it.
Everyone (myself included) seems to think that Clap Your Hands are poppy, fun and inclusive, trying to crack indie's self-serious veneer and give everyone on the other side a big hug. Four-fifths of the band seem to fit that bill. Ounsworth, though ... wouldn't want to hug that dude with a 10 foot pole.
JOEL | Clap Your Hands was clearly the mis-booking of the entire festival. I was about ten rows back when Damien Jurado finished his wonderfully sweet set (a perfect sundowner, I decided) and nobody budged. People were sticking around for CYHSY. When they started pushing from behind, I decided I didn't want to spend another hour and a half packed inside the crowd, so I moved to the back. Then people started filling in behind me. So I moved to the back again. And people kept filling in behind me. By the time the band started, I was in the middle of a sea of people that stretched almost as far as the eye could see, up the sloped lawn and out toward the beer garden. This show seemed to have more buzz than any other at Sasquatch. They could've played the mainstage easy, and they would've deserved it. Their set was sharp and dangerous, and Alec Ounsworth looked like a slightly wilder version of Roberto Benigni, if that's possible. I didn't see Blue Scholars, but I'd say Clap Your Hands played the festival's best show.
Like a Major Label Rock
LUKE | Earlier in the day I mused that Death Cab For Cutie were going to coast, put out a few more albums, then kind just disperse into thin air. After the relative disappointment of Plans, Adrienne said she agreed with that sentiment, so after the beautiful agony of Clap Your Hands, we decided to take a seat on the terraces to watch the magnificent, decadent ruin that had surely become America's biggest no-longer-indie band.
Too bad they were awesome, and solid, with Ben Gibbard displaying more stage presence than I've ever seen him offer. They played very few songs off Plans, perhaps irking recent converts, instead sticking to their best work --mostly off Transatlanticism -- offering shoutouts to those that helped them get where they got (David Bazan, Damien Jurado), and inviting Harvey Danger frontman Sean Nelson (who I'm sure no one younger than me is familiar with) on for a little backing vocals. In the vein of the great Motown divas (a steez I've long suspected Ben Gibbard of aspiring to), Death Cab put on a big, moving set. After sailing corporate waters for a while now, it looks like they may have found their sea legs.
JOEL | I don't know, man. I thought Gibbard had too much stage presence. Or not the right kind or something. He looked like a meth-mad trucker on a midnight haul. I thought his heart was going to explode. And his aw-shucks, boyish thanks between each song were just kind of annoying. I wanted to relate to him more, but he didn't talk much; he just flailed.
Their performance was tight, though. The sound was great and Gibbard's little drumming contest with Jason McGerr was fun. Also, I just liked the fact that guitarist Chris Walla wore an "Evergreen Tennis" sweatshirt. Represent!
That Never Happens, I Swear
LUKE | Boy, did Beck blow his load. Woooo-eee! Man, in the first, like, six songs of an hour-and-a-half long set, he brought out his kung-fu break dancer, showed us his little doppelganger puppet show (which was broadcast on the Gorge's big screens, re-named the Puppet-tron) and he played all his best jams. Slow down, turbo! For sheez, we bounced like an hour in -- after a ridiculously awesome cover of the Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?" -- because there really wasn't anything left to listen to. What was I waiting for, the third single off Midnight Vultures? If you think that, Beck, you don't know me very well.
JOEL | I was so dang bushed after two days of non-stop rocking that I had a hard time keeping up with Beck's shenanigans. The Puppet-tron thing was a pain in the ass. Sitting way over on the side terraces, the only glimpse of Beck I could hope for was on the big screens; when all they showed was an (admittedly funny) puppet version of Beck, I figured I might as well just go home and listen to him on my stereo. So I did.
But I'll be back next year.
(If you don't want to take our words for it, you should visit YouTube.com and enter "sasquatch" in the search field. Fans have already posted countless videos from the festival, including a nice clip of the Decemberists' Colin Meloy putting his bandmates to sleep and a number of good videos from the hail storm.)