MAY 23-25, 2014
Sasquatch! Music Festival took place just outside of Quincy, Washington, at the Gorge Amphitheater, during a magnificent Memorial Day weekend in May where the heavens opened up to a torrential downpour of smiles, sunshine and simply stunning performances.
Coming off the heels of over a decade of success, the festival originally planned to break the mold this year and create two weekends of music, with separate line-ups in both May and July. With much skepticism from fans and a lack of ticket sales, the July weekend of shows was canceled on March 21, 2014. And so it was written: one weekend, one line-up of incredible artists and one life changing experience for each individual in attendance.
The weekend began on Thursday evening with an explosion of anticipation, which set an immediate party tone for the weekend. For those using the Gorge’s expansive (but shockingly well organized) campgrounds, the first night is an opportunity to set up your own little campsite, which lives within a camp ecosystem of tents, flags, drinking games, barbecuing and untamed, yet genuine, people.
After an understandably slow start to the day (usually due to a skull-crushing hangover) performances start early Friday afternoon and continue through to Sunday night, igniting the real focal point of the weekend: music.
When entering the grounds you are treated to thousands of smiling faces, brightly colored signs, art installations, life sized cartoon Sasquatches, circus performers, five massive outdoor stages and, of course, the breathtaking backdrop of the Gorge – a view so epic that the only way to feel when gazing at it is euphoric.
As a disclaimer, it is nearly impossible to see every set of the weekend or every band that you originally wanted, but these were some of the highlights this reviewer was fortunate enough to see:
OutKast was energetic and their reunion tour was well worth the wait. There was a notable anticipation that boiled over when they look the stage with their outlandish outfits and stellar raps.
Foster the People also stood out with their expansive collection of hit songs, smooth dance moves and a mesmerizing light show.
Shakey Graves is a one-man band from Texas who sexes up dark folk and played during the sweatiest point in the weekend but used his effortless cool vibes to take over the crowd.
Hozier is a four-piece from Ireland that transmits pastoral pop songs, with raspy vocals, an intoxicating cello and flawless guy/girl harmonies. It was by far the most moving show that I saw all weekend.
Foals was one of the most enthusiastic sets seen on the main stage, delivering countless hard rock hits, crowd surfing, playing in the audience, and leaving everyone feeling feverish from their inebriating set.
Washed Out was surprisingly instrumental compared to the wavy ambient rock that their albums showcase, which made them even more admirable and dreamy to watch.
Canadian beauty, Austra, captivated during her nighttime set, wearing a cape that blew in the restless wind, and enchanting her audience with opera style vocals and up-tempo electro instrumentals.
The National were super chill, with minimal charisma, but their sound was impeccable and they played an appreciated assortment of beautiful songs from their many albums.
Rocking out with more explosiveness than their album reveals, HAIM lit up the main stage on the last day of shows. Three sisters, three sets of luscious locks and one epic bass face made their performance an absolute stand out.
Closing Sunday was Portugal. The Man who made all my dreams come true with their exuberant jams and insane talent, leaving the crowd breathless and doing justice to all the great music that had preceded them.
The only constructive criticism that could be dispensed with regards to the music was the odd set lists that bombarded the weekend. There was a definitive lack of cohesion from one band to the next, their sounds never lining up to make a proper set list. Understandably, the sets were arranged in order of who would get the biggest turn out going last, but a band like City and Colour could have opened for the National, or Austra paired up with Phantogram, or De La Sol with OutKast, and that would have just enhanced everyone’s, including the artists’, experience.
Although the bands are astonishing, the real stars of the weekend are the people you meet along the way. Whether you spend three minutes or three days with someone, each person met is incredibly special to your journey. There are the random people that you high-five while walking to your next show, the individuals in elaborate costumes, that person you bum a light off of who ends up living two blocks from you in Calgary, or those deranged animalistic people whose eyes can’t quite focus on anything but you know they’re having the time of their lives.
And for those that are fortunate enough to be washed up in the palpable love and sexual tension that radiates through the air, there is no better place to live out your own enchanted love story.
Some of the best advice I ever received was, “Live your life like it’s a festival.” If that was how we all embraced the gift of existing – by taking things one epic experience at a time, following our hearts for what our next stop is, not being concerned about time, the Internet or obligations – wouldn’t it be possible to create the same nirvana of a festival in our everyday lives? In the meantime, at least, there will always be Sasquatch! Festival to attend.
By Kayla Beattie
Photos by Matthew B. Thompson, courtesy of KEXP