2015 marked the 14th successful year of Sasquatch! Music Festival thanks to a hunch followed by a Pacific Northwest concert promoter. Back in 2002, when the U.S. festival scene was an infant, Adam Zacks decided to try his luck with an untapped market and bring the festival experience to the Pacific Northwest. The single-day festival sold out its first year, quickly validating Zacks’ hunch and setting the stage for one of the world’s most unique festival experiences.
Embracing the culture of the Pacific Northwest, Sasquatch! caters to the growing breed of indie-centric fans caring just as much about the festival experience (if not more) than the music itself. Over the last 14 years, Sasquatch! has become a “must-do” for festivalgoers and continues to impress with a stellar lineup playing against the majestic backdrop of The Gorge.
So, when I fell into tickets the week before the festival, I jumped at the opportunity to see some of my favorite bands jam out at Mother Nature’s cathedral. Having no campsite and no ride to/from the festival, I posted a Hail Mary message on the Sasquatch! Facebook page, asking a bunch of strangers to take me in as one of their own … and it worked! That’s when I realized Sasquatch! is more than the music — it’s coming together as a community to lend a hand and help a fellow human.
The two-hour drive from Seattle to The Gorge wet the appetite for the alluring landscapes to come. My two new friends and I arrived Friday afternoon, just in time to set up camp and catch the sun fall behind the mountainous horizon.
Kicking off the festival, Friday’s lineup included the sounds of Ought, Mother Mother, Gogol Bordello, Action Bronson, Angel Olsen, AlunaGeorge, Little Dragon, Of Monsters and Men, Sleater-Kinney and of course, Flume, the 23-year-old Australian DJ/producer who has been taking the electronic music scene by storm since dropping his debut album in 2012. Despite a little rain early Friday night, the festival was in full swing and the energy inside the grounds built on itself with each performance. The unique sound of Little Dragon had the crowd flowing together, sprinkling in rumors and heightened anticipation for SBTRK‘s set on Sunday night. “Will Little Dragon come out for ‘Wildfire’?!” By the time Flume dropped his first beat at the Bigfoot Stage, the energy was palpable and everyone could feel why this young DJ was chosen to close out Friday night.
With the loving melodies of Milo Green rushing over the Bigfoot State by mid-day, Twenty One Pilots picked up the tempo with an animated performance on the Sasquatch Stage, where the dynamic duo commanded their early-day crowd. Sylvan Esso threw down a Bigfoot dance party when their hit “Coffee” ignited the entire crowd to dance along with the ever-so-strange Amelia Meath on stage. Chromeo‘s love for themselves may only be surpassed by the massive turnout the funky duo brought to Sasquatch! main stage early in the evening. Their funk-tastic sound and vibrant stage presence was perfectly timed to set the stage for following acts like Glass Animals, Kiesza, Modest Mouse, ODESZA and Spoon. Kiesza took the El Chupacabra tent by stormy lights and surprisingly produced more vigor into the crowd than the Seattle duo ODESZA, who seemed to play a more mellow version of themselves than most are familiar with. Just down the hill from ODESZA, 22-year-old rock band Spoon spilled heavy guitar riffs over the crowd and presented an alternative ending to Saturday’s electronic scene. For the second night in a row, Sasquatch! closed out the night with a young, up-and-coming electronic act, staying true to their committed mix bag of new and established performers.
Milky Chance wooed the crowd at the Sasquatch Stage in the late afternoon on Sunday with their unique electro-folk-reggae sounds, lead vocalists Clemens Rehbein’s deep, melodic vocals and the magnificent backdrop of The Gorge. Shortly after Milky Chance stirred the crowd, the unlikely future of rap, Kate Tempest, lived up to her reputation as a force to be reckoned with while showering the crowd with positive affirmations. The sun started setting behind The Gorge while the idiosyncratic St. Vincent moved so distinctly across the stage like an elegant robot, convincing the crowd they made the right choice. The sultry vixen Lana Del Rey attracted one of the largest crowds to the Sasquatch Stage on Sunday night. While Del Rey is not as active as some of her siren peers, her presence was not lacking. Captivating the masses while her white dress blew in the wind, Del Rey abandoned the stage to walk among her amorous fans before leaving her set early to pass the spotlight to an epic instrumental jam session by her band. Madeon, the 21-year-old child prodigy, proved himself once again in the El Chupacabra late on Sunday night when he led the crowd on a fantastic journey of impeccable mashups and psychedelic lights.
Monday was the last day of the four-day festival, and the crowds started to thin between the intermittent rain clouds playing hide and seek with the sun. Monday was also the day of drums, at least in the El Chupacabra. Armed only with a wolf mask, laptop and two drumsticks, Slow Magic kicked off the night in the Spanish-flavored tent with a one-of-a-kind experience. With his rare combination of synth and live drumming, Slow Magic is re-imagining electronic music as we know it. Not far behind the solo drumming DJ were the three-piece veterans The Glitch Mob. The trio conquered the stage with their new musical element “The Blade,” which combines both lights and instruments into something that looks like it came out of a space-age movie scene. Drumming their way into the bones of the crowd, The Glitch Mob elicited some of the most hands-in-the-air praise I saw all weekend. They closed out Sasquatch! with a bang, literally.
The Sasquatch! campgrounds were far from organized, which presents pros and cons, pending what you’re after. The grueling trek from general camping to the grounds made going to the festival more of a commitment than many appreciated. After a few journeys to and from, premium camping seemed well worth the investment. The wheel-and-spoke layout of the grounds made it easy to find other campsites and stumble into the food trucks for a late-night zombie dog. The camping community itself was friendly and full of love for each other, inviting neighbors to play beer darts and other awesome lawn games.
Despite the loving nature of the campers, the Sasquatch! campgrounds lacked the festival-sponsored activities so many of us have come to appreciate and expect like morning yoga classes at Coachella and personal development workshops at Lightning in a Bottle (LIB). The Sasquatch! community inside the grounds attempted to provide this outlet with a vintage arcade, self-defense demonstrations and community dance parties, but they fell short relative to other festivals. One could also argue the lack of art installations throughout the Sasquatch! grounds presents an area of improvement for the festival. That is, until they’re reminded of the natural art blanketing all of The Gorge. Well done, Mother Nature!
While LIB has been dubbed as “The Greenest Festival in America,” you’d think all festivals would have a strong commitment to sustainably responsible business practices by now. This was an oversight for Sasquatch!, as recycling bins were nowhere to be found and trash cans were often overflowing — a pretty easy, yet significant improvement that needs to be made.