Monday morning I surprised myself with abundant energy. I felt well rested, happy, and excited for the final day of Sasquatch. My feelings had everything to do with having some extra rest before getting up. The first show of the day on my schedule wasn’t until 5PM, so I felt more relaxed than I had all weekend. Trying to reconnect with the friends that I fell in love with on Friday, I was determined to use the extra time Monday morning to do any socializing and camp fun I was interested in before it was too late. That night, lines of cars would dominate the pathways as the first waves of people headed home.
I wanted to be a fun guy on the last day, so I assembled the party time flag and volunteered as the Sasquatch clock tower for the day.
My morning plan to rekindle lost connections was a greater success than I could have hoped for. I strolled all the familiar avenues, and when people were not cheering for party time, they were inviting me in to play every type of lawn or table drinking game I have ever heard of. I found every person I thought to look for, and even some I didn’t. The first pass through I left my stuff all over the place in my forgetful revelry, and was so glad that on the way back it was all waiting for me. New and old friends alike made sure I was reunited with my flask, blanket, waterproof shell, and other forgotten items. I was so happy for the integrity in a place where “finders keepers, losers weepers” is a commonly the guiding rule.
Having so much fun socializing and losing things, I missed Mike Birbiglia at 3:30, but I had expected this to happen, the way the day was going. I loved his recent movie Sleepwalk with Me produced with This American Life, and I was sad not to repeat the star-struck TV-in-real-life moment I had with Nick Offerman. In my half-hearted effort to reach the festival before the end of his stand-up act, I ended up early for ODESZA.
Once per day, every year of Sasquatch, I expose myself to the sound of one new band who I have only heard or read about on the Sasquatch lineup page. Often the festival scheduling team surprises me by slotting in local Seattle talent that – despite my active participation in local music – I have never heard of. This year, the local ‘unknown’ I was most excited for was ODESZA.
Their self-released debut LP, Summer’s Gone, has been on repeat at my workstation throughout the weeks leading up to Sasquatch. The record can fill the auditory hole left in a silent room as well as, I learned, it can fill a dance tent of party rockers. The band is a production duo made up of Harrison Mills (Catacombkid) and Clayton Knight (BeachesBeaches). Their sound lives in the higher octave ranges cohabited by Artists like Gold Panda. The tonal range of the dreamy vocal samples and the instrumentation give a summer/beach feel to the music similar to fellow Seattle group, Beat Connection, whose song, “Saola,” ODESZA has remixed.
For their live set at El Chupacabre Monday afternoon at Sasquatch; ODESZA was submerged into a video-screened-lined DJ booth, bent low over their controls manipulating the sounds. When one or both of the members looked up to smile at the crowd it was a sure sign that the beat was really about to drop. I could see the joy from the dancing crowd reflected in their faces. Compared to the Summer’s Gone album, there was less of a Vox Mod-esque space journey in the live set. ODESZA was tending their responsibility to provide the dance tent with what it really wanted: non-stop booty shakers. They mixed an ebb and flow of the best dance sections of their catalog.
The show set a very friendly and positive vibe, living up to my expectations and exciting me for the bands I knew better the rest of the day. I stuck around El Chupacabre as Toro Y Moi (aka Chaz Bundick) set up. Usually when a debut album like Causers of This comes out and receives such wide acclaim from everywhere, a long awaited, nerve-racking, will-they-live-up-to-themselves sophomore release is hyped and speculated upon for more or less a year. Months after his 2009 debut 9-song EP, My Touch, Toro Y Moi released Causers of This (sharing zero songs with My Touch). He followed this within a year by two more EPs and his sophomore LP, Underneath The Pine. Almost as soon as anyone had heard of him, Toro Y Moi was an established name in the chillwave indie scene with a catalog demonstrating his quality over time.
It is always uncertain if an electronic rock artist like Neon Indian or Toro Y Moi will be able to deliver their manipulated sound live using the mysterious instruments that provided those samples, or if they will end up performing a lap top DJ set. Toro Y Moi delivered exactly what I had hoped for, giving us his true voice, and performing every synthetic wave with the press of his own finger, every wobble with a knob twist from his own wrist, and every shoegaze strum with his own pick. I was in awe, living in a happy bliss, only reluctantly separating to travel to Yeti for one of my longtime favorite bands, Menomena.
Two things about Menomena grab my attention right away when I listen to them. First, it’s that baritone saxophone. Wild Belle wet my appetite with their giant sax breaking it down rocksteady style on Sunday, but I was looking forward to the way Justin Harris would use the instrument to divide and re-pace Menomena’s songs on Monday afternoon. The second key to my heart is the vocal performance. I can not describe exactly the appeal to Danny Seim’s voice, but he has a way of separating each thought by using a vocal crescendo, peaking and settling as each line ends and the next begins. There is a common division among music listeners between those who live for the beat, and those who focus on the lyrics. I fall on the beat side of the spectrum, so when lyrics and vocals stand out to me beyond their musical relevancy, it means there is something special going on in their delivery. I really appreciate this when it happens because I do not try to ignore lyrics, they just don’t naturally offer the same appeal.
Having never seen Menomana before, I did not realize that multi-instrumentalist and co-frontman of the band, Danny Seim, played his live set at the front of the stage on the drum kit. As a drummer and performing artist, I get understandably excited whenever the role of the percussionist in a band moves past the back-stage relegation most common in stage setups. It also raises my expectations, and I enjoyed paying special attention to the complexity of the beats as well as their broken timing. The influence of the drum style became clear throughout the whole sound – the breaks and separations between sax solo, rhythm, and vocals that make Menemona’s sound unique all stem from the breakbeat style of Danny Seim’s percussion.
The next band on my schedule had so many expectant stars, hearts, and underlines around it that I could barely distinguish the word “Cake” in the Sasquatch stage column. The stars and hearts resulted from a young love affair with Cake. My first time in college at the UofA in Tucson, my good friend Chuck introduced me to Cake, and later that year invited me to road trip with him to a San Francisco New Years show the band was headlining. Live music, road trips, and San Fran were all new to me at that time; I could not hold back my enthusiasm for the adventure. Long story short none of us had learnt to meet dreams with practical time and expense budgeting, and I never did make it to the show. Since then, the west coast cities are all home to me, as is living in my car on the road. In fact it was that same friend, Chuck, who ended up going to my first music festival with me – Sasquatch – four years ago. But in all this time I had never seen Cake, and never stopped wanting to.
I learned a lot from spending that hour listening to Cake, particularly lead singer and frontman, John McCrea. He is a radical man, and passionate about what he believes in. Hearing his between-song diatribes against ‘the Man’ gave me a deeper understanding of the songs I had loved for years, and informed the tone of the band. John McCrea boasted that they had self-released their new album, and declared it a success against the predictions the record companies offered as Cake walked out their door.
In the spirit of independence, it made sense that Cake was reluctant to play their ’90′s hits in stead of their new record. After a few new songs, they relented to the unshouted demands of the crowd and got everyone dancing with “The Distance.” From then on they bounced around, not always new, but rarely a hit. Cake was asserting that the show was for us, but it was also for them. A collaboration underlined by John McCrea’s crowd involvement. He took several opportunities to divide the crowd, explain their different roles in the songs, and recruit 20,000 volunteers to perform songs like “Sick of You” from Showroom of Compassion. I was determined to stay through the whole set hoping to hear “Sheep Go To Heaven” and “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” (but was left wanting on both counts). I was not kept from satisfaction though when they ended with fan favorite “I Will Survive,” the opening track from Fashion Nugget.
My dedication to nostalgia nearly caused me to miss the start of Alt-J. My roommate had been stalking the area around Bigfoot looking to spot me, because he knew how much I loved this band, and we had been missing each other most of the weekend. I had been playing Alt-J’s new record, An Awesome Wave, for anyone unfamiliar with the band who visited our house in the past three months. I would introduce them by playing “Tessellate,” and then when “Fitzpleasure” came on, I would let the hair out and do exaggerated full bodied headbangs to the drone. Every headbanging muscle in my body was at the ready when the band began at dark on the final night of Sasquatch. They seemed to follow my lead, playing “Tesselate” right after the opener. The crowd responded with…slow swaying.
I bounced through six different places in the crowd that day, finding friends, making new ones – but never finding the party. There was no jumping around, no hyping the crowd. The band played about 15 feet deeper into the stage than they had to; the only person to move more than a foot from where they started was the bass guitarist, Gus Unger-Hamilton. This was because Gus plays with a wide metal stance and sometimes stomps a small rotation when he looks up through his short sheet of blond hair.
Perhaps the missing stage presence was focusing the crowd into a bored tunnel-vision, or in the back diverging watchers into side conversations. But all around me was a blur when I finally gave up on the people around me and took the space I needed behind the sound booth to rage out months of love for music waiting for the proper volume Bigfoot brought on Monday.
Following Alt-J, there was a mass migration to fulfill a calling we had all felt since the festival started. When the sun sets on Monday, there is only one place for everyone to gather and call it a week – the main Sasquatch stage at the edge of the great gorge for the final festival headliner. For 2013, that band was The Postal Service.
The last show that Postal Service played before last Monday was the closing headliner spot on the same stage at Sasquatch in 2004. They have been dormant ever since, and as Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) announced, Postal Service is back from the dead. 2004’s Sasquatch set was recorded as a live album, and that afternoon before the show a fair number of people were wondering, “Is there anything new? Are they going to just play the same set again” the answer was yes, and no. The Postal Service has been updated. They have re-mixed themselves, and performed Give Up circa 2013, with only a couple new songs that were not bad, but ended up being show stoppers in the bad way.
Impossibly, the updated classics we all know and love were better. I loved Give Up because, yes it had Ben Gibbards iconic twee indie vocals with the amazing Jenny Lewis, but also because it has amazing production. The beats are simple and clean, but are constructed electronically into sounds I have never heard. It had the complexity of trap or house music without the clutter. Restrained guitar and vocals allowed me to forget I was even listening to ‘electronic’ music.
The concert opened with “Such Great Heights,” the lights and speakers panning back and forth in tandem as band members took their places. They followed with “Sleeping In” and the whole place was on the same page, loving the new instrumentation, and not feeling like any of the original material was lost. The new sounds seemed more organic, changing as they were played, existing as a range of similar sounds. The sound waves free to play inside their octave, volume, or other constraint. “Sleeping In” had a dreamy, Ducktails-esque distorted ocean ring running through it. The guitar was given a slight surf flanger distortion, and still the feeling and vocals remained the same. The show left me feeling like more bands should update their best work with the benefit of modern talent and gained experience.
Rusko was still going strong when The Postal Service ended, but I broke tradition and did not even stop in. I was happy with the feeling I had. I was relaxed, and I was in good company for the final long walk home. When we arrived, I had time for a little food for once, as I watched many of my neighbors drive their packed cars away, and others collapse into their tents for the night. I could hear the celebration being stretched to its limits closer towards the main hub of the campsite and thought back to the years when I had watched the Tuesday morning sunrise over the grapevines. Sasquatch 2013 was deep. In sound, the slow, grindy, deep bass was the sound that carried through the weekend. It was deep in local flavor with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, OCnotes, ODESZA, Reign Wolf, and others. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, the xx, Vampire Weekend, and The Postal Service all came back bigger and more incredible than their last time at Sasquatch. For my own experience, I have never been so busy during a Sasquatch, nor made so few mistakes or run into so few problems. This year was a nonstop party that went off without a hitch. Cheers to that, and looking forward to summer, and the Capitol Hill Block Party!
All photos by Korbin Bennett-Gold except: Photo 1 of Toro Y Moi, and Photos 1 and 4 of The Postal Service by Matthew Lamb; Photos 2 and 3 of The Postal Service by Christopher Nelson.