Sasquatch! 2010: A recap of 37 bands and two comedians over 3 days

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It was three days, 39 acts, sunburn, rain, feet pain, and awesome. That’s right, my Sasquatch! 2010 was awesome. And now my trials and tribulations, or rather just tribulations (you’ll get it later), are here in word form, band by band. Because really, if you don’t have something to say about something you watched for at least five minutes, then you’re not doing freedom of speech right.

DAY 1

Mumford & Sons: My Sasquatch! began just like every festival should begin — getting stuck in a giant clusterfuck of a ticket line, spending an hour getting herded closer and closer to the gate, and running straight to a band I really wanted to see. Sadly, Mumford & Sons’ crowd was quite packed, which I really couldn’t take after the whole line experience. So I stuck around for at least “Little Lion Man” before moving on. They sounded good at least. Good story, huh?

Minus the Bear: The new stuff from OMNI is good live, but the lyrics are still frighteningly horrible. I was happy to see the boys have developed some semblance of stage presence since the last time I saw them at Endfest 08, where they seemed more interested in tinkering with their shiny silver equipment than acknowledging the audience. Now they’re not a great studio band and bad live band, but instead a good studio band and good live band. You give a little, you take a little …

Portugal. The Man: Three acts in, and I had twice already been thwarted on enjoying a band I was pumped about because of overcrowding at the Bigfoot stage. Regardless, I got a little taste of their melodic psychedlic prog bluesiness, and I want some more.

Brad: Probably the most out of place band on the bill, but they were doing the organizers a solid by taking Wale’s spot so kudos. A weak crowd showed up, but Brad still brought it. Stone Gossard got his Hendrix on, though in a heavier way than his Pearl Jam cohort Mike McCready usually does. Also nice was a surprise two-song set from Satchel in the middle of it all.

OK Go: Don’t know exactly what to think about this. On the one hand, they were actually good musically, which was something I’d figured wasn’t their thing because their clever viral music videos wreak of promotional prostitution. But while the set was good, it was also short. If I could give a thumb sideways, I would. Oh, I can? Than I do.

The Posies: Ear Candy head honcho himself Travis Hay educated me on the 90s alt-rock vets as I attempted to formulate my own opinion of them during their set. I really can’t think of much to say about them, though. They were just pretty alright, and like Brad, suffered from a hipster heavy crowd that is apparently more impressed by synths than guitars. In a related note, screw those people.

The Lonely Forest: If you’re a die-hard Death Cab fan and hate listening to anything besides stuff that sounds like Death Cab, let me introduce you to your new second-favorite band. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Broken Social Scene: Ever hear that term about a girl who is hot from afar but far from hot? This is the musical equivalent. When I was up the hill during their set, BSS sounded really good. When I made it down to the main stage, they sounded really boring. When I went back up the hill, they started sounding good again. Either I have bad timing, or these guys have developed some sort of filter that makes their music better from farther away. One thing I do know — they have at least two songs that I don’t enjoy.

The National: It is at this point in the diary that I am realizing that maybe Saturday wasn’t so great top to bottom. The National was certainly something to watch, because their singer really has some shit he likes to work out during shows. But the music, it’s just so … uhh … bland. It’s like a band full of college English professors.

The Hold Steady: Hey, who wears glasses and is the best frontman in rock? Craig Motherfuckin’ Finn. God is he something to watch. He sang that song, you know, the one with the whole “Missis-ippi Riv-ERRRRRR” thing, and I just thought, Good Lord, this is fun. I like having fun. Hey National, you should have fun. Dammit I love fun.

Vampire Weekend: I liked their set, I loved the weird leg dance thing the bassist I did, and yet, I still don’t quite get what all the fuss is about. The music was mostly good, so I guess I’ll just leave it at that.

My Morning Jacket: OK, I’m biased. I love My Morning Jacket. Like, LOVE. A lot. So when I say this was as good as Sasquatch! got, you are free to disagree with me. Just know that you’re wrong. I mean, they OPENED with One Big Holiday. They shredded. They wailed. They had a crazy strobe-aided power rock jam intro. And I’m still very pissed that the crowd at the end was about half the size it was at the beginning. If you couldn’t stick around for that, there’s just not much hope for you, now is there?

DAY 2

Caribou: It’s pretty awesome to see a band huddled together in the middle of a giant stage making inventive music. That is all.

Local Natives: The buzziest of all the buzz bands at the festival, and with good reason. Their songs are great, their harmonies are perfect, and the style is both woodsy and modern. These boys are going places.

The Long Winters: As per usual, the music was great. The new stuff is coming along (finish the album already, John!), although it doesn’t quite grab you like “Cinnamon” or “Pushover” does. Nice of them bring out PUSA’s Andrew McKeag for a few songs, including a ramped-up cover of the Dead’s “Touch of Grey.” But what I’ll always remember about the set is this story: Midway through, a hooligan with a Canadian flag on a pole shows up and starts running around the back of the pit area. John Roderick makes the mistake of saying, “Canada arrived during that last song,” which was all the guy needed to fight his way down to the middle of the crowd and act like a jackass, waving the flag back and forth and pumping his fist like Arsenio Hall was still on TV. So John zings (paraphasing), “You are displaying the most un-Canadian behavior right now.” Best part? At one point this douchenozzle accidentally ties the flag on the pole upside down, but when he realizes it, he unties it and ties it back on right, rather than slide it down the pole and turn it the other way like somebody with basic logic. Being a half-Canadian myself, I’m not quite convinced this guy wasn’t just some Californian trying to fit in. I can only hope.

They Might Be Giants: Guess who remembered “Istanbul” is a totally sweet song? Yeah, that’d be me. Also, SINGING HAND PUPPETS!

Mike Birbiglia: As a stand-up aficionado, I wasn’t passing up the opportunity to see who I consider to be one of the world’s best ply his craft. He was absolutely hysterical, but I will refrain from spoiling any of his punchlines because he’s so much about delivery. Later in the day, I was looking over the selection at the Easy Street booth when a guy came running up from behind and yelling Birbig’s name, and I looked up and noticed he’d been on the other side of the counter just hanging out the whole time. The excitable fan gave him a nice scripted compliment and told him he was better live than on TV and left. I took the opportunity to tell Birbiglia I thought he was equally as good live as on TV, eliciting a laugh and boosting my ego for eons to come. Oh, you don’t think I’m funny? Well I made a professional comedian laugh, so take that, you naysaying Nancy.

Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band: During Birbiglia’s set, a band started up at Bigfoot, and after a few songs Travis looked at me and goes, “Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band?” Sure enough, he was right. They filled in for City & Colour, who were forced to cancel, and did a damn fine job doing so. They were missing their usual guitar/keyboard player, though, which worries me as far as what his situation with the band, because it really took away from the epicness that is “Albatross, Albatross, Albatross.”

Tegan and Sara: They’re a great band, but I don’t know if a big stage is the right place for them. Personally I want to see them do an acoustic show, but they’re never bad, so maybe I should stop complaining.

The xx: Not a fan. Not a fan at all. NEXT.

LCD Soundsystem: Probably the first band to legitimately win me over. This kind of dance music usually never makes sense to me until I hear it in person the first time. But seriously, how could you not love a band that has a song called “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” or another that’s sole lyric is just “yeah” over and over? It’s not much different from Hot Chip, who I very much enjoy, so there’s that. Sidenote: Sasquatch! bookers, can you PLEASE get Hot Chip next year?

The Dirty Projectors: Good and weird. Would have loved to have stayed longer, but a certain giant reunion was beckoning.

Pavement: Yes, this giant reunion. It was Stephen Malkmus’ birthday, yet he was in a bad mood, although that may all have had to do with the bass problems early in the set. Still, Pavement killed it, and Malkmus proved that no one can purposely try to play a guitar badly and still sound like a freakin’ shredmeister quite like he.

Public Enemy: Sound problems be damned, Chuck D and Flava Flav had the place bumping, delivered all the hits, and had plenty to say about Arizona’s new illegal immigration law. But my favorite part came when Mike Birbiglia, in all his whiter-than-white glory, came out of nowhere with his wife in tow, walking into the crowd while throwing his arms around in the most off-time whiteboy hip-hop fan way that it was nothing short of spectacular. That guy is just everything a comedian should be.

Massive Attack: If there’s one thing I could change about my Sasquatch! experience, I would go back and watch this entire set. I caught just a few songs before myself and the rest of the Ear Candy crew headed home for the night, but I really dug what I heard. And the visuals, while at times were REALLY depressing, were also thought-provoking and seemingly well worth taking the time to ponder.

Day 3

The Heavy: My day didn’t get off to a great start as I paced myself a little too much after a big breakfast, and as a result finally peered over the hill just as they were finishing up “How You Like Me Now?” But it sounded great, so I’m counting it.

Hannibal Buress:
The second and final comedian I saw at the festival, he was entertaining thanks to a Mitch Hedberg-ian style and a few Sasquatch!-centric riffs. Among the highlights, he made fun of Jaguar Love for their “variations of screaming” (JL was on the Bigfoot stage just before he started), claimed he’d be the first comedian to have a beef with MGMT, and wondered if it was possible to just have tribulations (as opposed to trials and tribulations) or to just pillage (as opposed to rape and pillage, or pillage and plunder).

Temper Trap: The Edge called. He wants his effects pedals back.

Phantogram: This was really the only Yeti Stage band I stuck around to see for more than five minutes. The male/female two-piece was enjoyable, and was equal parts Helio Sequence electro and trip-hop. Other than that, nothing really to write home about.

Seattle Rock Orchestra: There was a shitload of musicians on stage, and they played nothing but Arcade Fire songs. Can’t really go wrong there, can ya?

Drive-By Truckers: At last …  Much like The Hold Steady, DBT is a band of everyday dudes just playing guitars and raising a small amount of hell. Was great to see them downing beers on stage like it was 9 p.m. (it wasn’t), because southern rock and drinking just goes together. Though they skimped on songs from Southern Rock Opera, it was a rip-roaring set and featured the kickass story song “18 Wheels of Love.” That Chester … he’s ain’t nothing but bad news, Mama.

Quasi: Caught only the last song, but it was a good ‘un. You can never go wrong with a little jammy 90s alt-rock, especially if Janet Weiss is pounding on the drums.

Dr. Dog: Besides My Morning Jacket, my favorite set of the festival, and probably not one many saw since Passion Pit was supposedly SOOOO amazing (I’ll withhold judgment, but I doubt anything could have been better than Dr. Dog at this time). Whereas they normally sound pretty poppy, they have an added grit and riffiness in concert. And I’ve never seen a band connect so well with a crowd without saying so much as a word in between songs. Once again, a band that is going places.

She & Him: I’ve always thought Zooey Deschanel’s voice was just a little off (we’ll call it the actress quality), but I didn’t really hear that Monday. Instead, we got a pleasant set of cheery retro-pop songs, plus a little ukulele action, which is always a plus. And that “Roll Over Beethoven” cover … whew, that was pretty rockin’.

Band of Horses: It seemed like a homecoming for BOH, and they treated it as such. When they came out, head Horse Ben Bridwell announced “We’re called Band of Horses, and we started this band in Seattle. So we’re going to take it back to the start,” as the band kicked into the swirling chords of “The First Song,” the opening track from their debut album. The crowd was packed and singing along, and the BOH boys seemed to be having the time of their lives. Hell of a set.

Camera Obscura: I almost didn’t catch them because I’m such a giant BOH fan, but since their set had so many good songs early on, I figured I could jump up to Bigfoot for a few minutes to enjoy my favorite Scottish twee-pop band. That’s exactly what I did, and I immediately ran back to BOH after they delivered the equally delightful singles “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” and “French Navy” back-to-back. Couldn’t have asked for that to work out any better.

MGMT: I mean this in the nicest way possible — they could have taken a dump on stage, called it music, and the crowd would have loved it. But that’s not what happened. Instead they came on stage, dedicated the set to all the fallen soldiers as the crowd looked on in disbelief (apparently forgetting what Memorial Day is all about … again), then casually rolling through their set, playing every song exactly how it goes on record. But man, the way the crowd reacted to the big hits was unbelievable. I ran to the top of the hill to soak it all in, and I’ve never quite seen an audience bounce like that. Also, I spotted who I think was the infamous Sasquatch! Dancing Guy up there, humping the air and sipping a beer all by himself. Guess he doesn’t join dance parties, he only starts them.

The New Pornographers: By far the most Canadian crowd per capita of the entire three days. They really do love this band, and they love them back. Nice to see Neko Case, because she can sing like a bird and is just so damn lovely. I’m not very familiar with The New Pornos, but I liked what I heard. Yet isn’t it funny that Neko is a much bigger draw by herself?

Ween: Guess what? I kind of get it now — it’s totally Frank Zappa of the 90s/2000s. I was thinking that, then they played “With My Own Bare Hands,” which so could have been a mid-70s Zappa song that Dweezil could add it to the Zappa Plays Zappa set and I doubt anyone could notice. Best of all is Dean Ween’s searing guitar style. No matter who sings the song, or what style it is in, or what it’s about, you’re guaranteed to get a Hendrixian flood of awesome in your ear in the middle of every song. And really, that’s all I ever want.

*** All photos by Christopher Nelson for Live Nation

Brent Stecker

About Brent Stecker

Brent is a journalist and small-time musician based in Wenatchee, Wash. His passion for music wasn’t discovered until his teenage years, however, when he first got his hands on a Rage Against the Machine CD. He spent the rest of his adolescence broadening his musical tastes, obsessively learning guitar, and harnessing his writing abilities in journalism classes.