Buzz bands & indie favorites rule Sasquatch! 2011 Day 2

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Death Cab For Cutie at Sasquatch! 2011. Christopher Nelson photo

Even with a big-time professional set by the Foo Fighters, Friday was nothing more than a warm-up for the rest of Sasquatch! Now Saturday, that was when things started rolling. A solid mix of indie favorites, buzz bands, and acts on the cusp of breaking out were spread out through the day, culminating with Death Cab For Cutie making it’s triumphant return to the festival just days before the release of its latest album, “Codes & Keys.”

Alberta Cross – Main stage (12-12:45)

A sparse crowd made it out early to hear the southern heft and melodramatics from this promising foursome. Yep, that’s about it.

Seattle Rock Orchestra – Bigfoot stage (12-12:45)

The giant mass of musicians took on some of Radiohead’s career highlights, hitting every note with force. The small-scale orchestra added beauty to “Creep” and a tinge of the “Day in the Life” freakout on “Karma Police.”

Pepper Rabbit – Yeti stage (12:15-1)

A reverbed-out, Caribbean-inflected, effects-laden, chill group. I just copied that word-for-word from my notebook. I don’t remember these guys at all. Probably not a good sign for them.

Secret Sisters – Bigfoot stage (1-1:45)

The first real discovery of the festival for me. Secret Sisters are minimalist, old-school country, and very heavy on covers by the likes of George Jones, Patsy Cline, and the original Hank Williams. Whether it was one of the classics or a tune of their own, it was absolutely beautiful, just two real-life sisters harmonizing with perfection while one of them cleanly plucked a pleasantly-toned hollowbody guitar. Where I come from, Saturdays are reserved for listening to “A Prairie Home Companion,” and while I couldn’t do that on this day, the Secret Sisters brought a little bit of that flavor to Sasquatch! It was also nice of the girls to try and bring some faith with an original called “River Jordan,” but I tell you, there is no saving those dirty damn hippies.

The Radio Department – Main stage (1:05-1:50)

A friend of mine recommended these guys to me when the lineup was announced, but warned me they didn’t have the best reputation as a live act. I think he was spot-on. They played some groovy, trip-hop-tinged rock that uses drum machines instead of a real drummer, but other than the fact that their guitarist was roughly 14-feet tall (I saw him later in the press area and was like, “Dude’s gotta be like Detlef Schremph or something, right?”), they weren’t much to look at. Whatever they played last was surely appreciated by the crowd, and I wholeheartedly dug it.

The Globes – Yeti stage (1:20-2:05)

I had no intention of watching this Spokane-bred group (509 represent!), but they stole me away with their frenetic bass lines, sequencer blips, and Johnny Greenwood-influenced guitar parts as I was walking down to the main stage. They built to a lot of crunchy crescendos, tapping into the best part of Pablo Honey-era Radiohead.

Dan Mangan – Yeti stage (3:30-4:15)

Apparently Sasquatch! loaded up three of the possibly 10-best performances of the entire weekend at the same time with Mangan, Aloe Blacc, and Local Natives (watch Guerrilla Candy for a full review of their set soon). After Local Natives wrapped up a star-making set on the main stage, I caught the last 2 ½ songs of Mangan, who was whipping up a frenzy with a hootenanny lovefest of universal twang-folk. The semi-large band behind Mangan was tight in its Mumfordianship (yeah, that just happened), and you couldn’t help but hitch your trailer onto Mangan’s wagon and let him take you wherever he damn well pleased emotionally. The closer of “Robots” was a highlight of the weekend, with a large and passionate (and considerably Canadian — he’s from Vancouver) crowd turning into a campfire sing-a-long by the end.  Hell, they were even chanting his name at one point. Also, it took me until halfway through the song to realize, “Son of a B! This is a song about RO-BUTS!”

Jenny & Johnny – Bigfoot stage (5:10-5:55)

Rilo Kiley is good. Jenny Lewis’ solo stuff is great. Jenny & Johnny isn’t even close. The middle-of-the-road 60s-style California pop just doesn’t do it for me.

Pink Martini – Main stage (5:30-6:20)

This semi-craze of giant-ass acts playing world music has got to go. Pink Martini is just a half orchestra playing various types of traditional music, and none of them seemed to belong at a festival like Sasquatch! Also need to deduct points for the inclusion of guest singer Storm Large, who you probably (don’t) remember as one of the cast-offs from CBS’ “Rock Star: Supernova” TV show. You know, the show where a bunch of singers tried out for a band made up of Tommy Lee, Jason Newstead, and some dude that replaced some other dude on guitar in Guns N’ Roses? Yeah, so anyways …

Wye Oak – Yeti stage (5:40-6:25)

The darker and lesser-known of two Baltimore-based acts to play drawn-out synthy shimmer and shoegaze at Sasquatch! (Beach House being the other), Wye Oak seemed out of place in the late afternoon sun. I still appreciated the all-encompassing echo synths and stabs of distorted anger.

The Antlers – Bigfoot stage (6:20-7:05)

Currently one of the most-listened to bands in my apartment, The Antlers were tight but not terribly exciting on the Bigfoot stage. It’s head-spacey stuff with great falsetto vocals to add direction, but the live show leaves much to be desired. I’ll give them some slack since the keyboardist was limping around in a constricting leg brace, and the music is top notch so I’m still gonna keep rocking that new album.

The Thermals – Yeti stage (6:45-7:45)

Never not good.

Iron & Wine – Main stage (6:45-7:45)

I went to the top of the hill to see how they were doing and couldn’t even hear Sam Beam’s whispering and finger-picking over the other stages. I took that as an omen and hightailed it out of there.

Matt & Kim – Bigfoot stage (7:30-8:30)

Reminded me a lot of The Thermals, in that it’s fun-loving, fast-moving tunes that give the audience a chance to get moving. The problem is unlike The Thermals oh-so-good power chords, the main instrument here is a really stupid keyboard synth thing that is not enjoyable whatsoever. I did like Kim running around like an idiot mid-song, only to return to drum like an idiot, and the interludes of classic 80s music like Biz Markie kept things interesting.

Bright Eyes – Main stage (8:15-9:15)

Okay, first off, does Conor Oberst have some kind of condition? I ask because he came out acting like a TOTAL douche. He did the whole “walk on stage after everybody else starts playing the song” move, and he was dressed and even acting like Eminem with his mannerisms. He between-songs banter was annoying at best, and he also introduced a song as being about “The Pig,” which is apparently the Internet. So for the record, Conor Oberst, not a fan of the Internet. Noted. Maybe I’ll Google that. On the Bright side (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), Mike Mogis is in this band, so that means the music is good, even if it is normally mid-tempo and lacking good melodies (my disdain for Oberst is undying).

Robyn – Bigfoot stage (9-10)

Other than the fact that she was clearly lip-syncing, the Euro pop indie queen put on a show that was unparalleled. The trashy club beats are actually really awesome, Robyn has some serious dance skills (thanks to some ridiculous flexibility), and the entire area near the Bigfoot stage was in full-on dance party mode.

Death Cab for Cutie – Main stage (9:45-11:30)

For a band that has basically grown up through the years at Sasquatch!, DCFC (or Foghat For Cutie, as I like to call them) was surprisingly commanding of the big stage under the fancy lights. The tension was built up nicely with the bass-heaven of opener “I Will Possess Your Heart,” which gave way to personal favorite “The New Year.” I didn’t stick around for too long, but it is deserving mention that loopy new single “You Are A Tourist” fit right in amongst the established anthems. Once again, Death Cab has proven to me that it is worthy of headliner status.

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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.