If Friday was a warm-up, Saturday was a tone-setter, and Sunday was fun-day, Monday’s finale of Sasquatch! was more about giving the hipsters, hippies, and rowdy Canadians the best all-around lineup to send them home happy. That was accomplished through veteran live acts (Old 97s, Sharon Jones), breakout bands of the past year (Surfer Blood, Best Coast), talented relative unknowns (White Denim, Twin Shadow), local favorites (Macklemore, Head Like A Kite), and even a big reunion show (Guided By Voices). So I present to you, the recap of the final day of Sassy 2011.
Twin Shadow – Bigfoot (1-1:45)
As I hustled my way through the gate and down to the main stage for Old 97s’ set, this Brooklyn-based act was playing some eye-opening, fiery (and Arcade Fire-y) stuff. Will be purchasing.
Old 97s – Sasquatch (1:40-2:25)
The bash and twang of alt-country dreamboat Rhett Miller and band was in tip-top shape. The main-stage crowd was smaller than should have been for an act of such stature, but Old 97s didn’t appear to give a shit. A new song that I’m guessing is called “Train Wreck” (the chorus went “What the heck, I’m a train wreck”) fit right in with all the old cow-punk staples, but Miller’s yelling throughout the set left him winded and hoarse by the time it came to play signature closer “Timebomb.” Still nobody yelps their way through a song or rattles an acoustic guitar with more vigor than Miller, and the licks of lead guitarist Ken Bethea still sound like a Spanish-American War reenactment. Plus, how can you not love a band that has multiple members doing the Johnny Cash “point your guitar like a shotgun” move?
Head Like A Kite – Yeti (2:25-3:10)
In a first for myself, I found out that somebody was no longer in a band by seeing that person elsewhere on the grounds while said band was playing. In this case it was drummer/notable Seattle scenester Trent Moorman, who was sitting up against a wall with headphones in his ears in the media area (editor’s note: Moorman writes a column for The Stanger) just a few hundred feet from where his former bandmate, Dave Einmo, and a capable new drummer were playing to a generous crowd. Anyways, an Elvis-style jumpsuit-clad Einmo was joined by the normal guests (Asya Smoosh, rapper Tilson, etc.) for a typically energetic set of up-tempo trip rock.
Black Mountain – Bigfoot (3-3:45)
If ever there was an omen, I noticed I was surrounded by a giant mass of dude as I settled into a spot near the front corner of the barricades in anticipation of the Vancouver retro-rockers’ set. It all made sense within minutes, what with a solid stream of thick hard rock hitting my earholes from a band that had a keyboardist playing Dio-style mellotron, a guitarist wearing a Voivoid shirt, and a singer doing her best Pat Benatar impression. Opener “Wilderness Heart” was like an immediate gut punch from 1973 thanks to the stoner metal chug of guitar and bass. Even with some early sound problems, the five-piece had no trouble settling into the grooves or shifting to prog sections at a moment’s notice. One part had an excellent “Welcome to the Machine” like Moog interlude, giving me the sudden urge to install a black light in my apartment. “Tyrants” was a mid-set highlight with its Spinal Tap-worthy slow metal and folk excursions, followed by a forceful section that would have fit right in on “Ride the Lightning.” Sabbath-blues closer “Stormy High” came way too soon, so I am dying to see Black Mountain do a full 90-minute set as soon as possible.
Guided By Voices – Sasquatch (3:50-4:50)
OK, I know these guys are basically legends of the whole ‘90s alt thing, but c’mon, they’re unintentional hilarity at its finest. Every song is a hyper-stream-of-consciousness lyrical mess, and Robert Pollard wouldn’t leave enough time for even a second of silence before introducing the next song. Also, every song was about something terribly mundane (“Here’s a song about a kitchen”), and I’m pretty sure I heard about 12 songs in the 15 minutes I sat on the lawn. Man, you were weird, ‘90s alternative music fans.
White Denim – Yeti (4:35-5:20)
Hello, White Denim! Say, did you guys know you’re FREAKING AWESOME? (Quick aside: I took a quick break after writing that sentence, and I just happened to open the latest Rolling Stone right to the page with a review of White Denim’s new album. Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks they’re awesome). White Denim took the Yeti stage by storm with a super-loud, fast brand of prog-fusion jam rock. It reminded me a lot of being surprised by Akron/Family a few years back at Bumbershoot, though White Denim roots itself more in garage blues than Akron/Family’s folky background. It was just nice to see an indie band bring such techinal mastery to noodling around. I could see Benjamin Verdoes of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band (a pretty technically-proficient riffmeister himself) digging the whole thing from the side of the stage, and apparently Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy was around somewhere too, because he took time out of his own set to commend White Denim for absolutely killing it.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Bigfoot (5:10-5:55)
The only set of the entire weekend to give me chills, and I had them right at the start and at various times throughout. There was a well-above average (but not massive) crowd soaking it all in, and Macklemore turned The Gorge into one big Seattle lovefest by bouncing all around the stage (and even into the crowd) in his own “My City’s Filthy” tank top. Backed by a trumpeter, violinist, and masterful DJ Ryan Lewis, Macklemore made an immediate connection with the audience, getting a ridiculous number of hands in the air. The sensational Dave Niehaus tribute “My Oh My” was at least twice as touching as it was when I saw it performed at the Mariners’ home opener in early April, the sneaker lament “Wings” was surprisingly meaningful (perhaps just because I was a sneaker monger myself growing up), and the closing trio of the jokey “And We Danced,” Seattle-dedication “The Town,” and the self-explanatory “Irish Celebration” put a perfect cap on what was likely one of the biggest sets of Macklemore’s career.
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – Sasquatch (5:10-6:10)
I was having a moment at Macklemore so I saw just the last five minutes or so of Jones. All I caught was Jones belting out as soulfully as anybody ever for a few moments, only to walk off stage like the true diva she is and let her band take it home. And that’s when I thought, “I think I just missed SOMETHING.” After talking with a few people who had seen the set, it is very apparent I truly did miss SOMETHING. Damn.
Surfer Blood – Bigfoot (6:20-7:05)
Only days removed from having a bunch of their gear stolen in Seattle, Surfer Blood did its best with some unfamiliar equipment. The frontman used a trip through the crowd for a release of frustration on “Take It Easy”, and he continued by returning to his guitar to rip a tasty solo at the end. It’s just nice to see a band that enjoys playing guitar, even if it is some weird beachy alt-rock combination. One thing I do know — I will never tire of dancing to Surfer Blood. Never ever.
Best Coast – Yeti (6:45-7:45)
Leader Bethany Consentino appeared to be in a feisty mood, but she was still personable with the crowd. She thanked everyone for choosing Best Coast like it was an airline, quoted a line from Metallica’s atrocious “Frantic,” and said the band was going to slow it down like on XM Radio’s The Bridge. (For those keeping score, I was the only person to raise a hand when she asked if anyone listens to The Bridge, which she very kindly acknowledged. And yes, I actually do listen to The Bridge sometimes. OK, well, my parents do. That counts, right?) BC was on point, playing like a more likable, female-led Guided By Voices, and it was fun to see Bob Brunno switch from bass lines to power chords to forceful solos on his ever-versatile baritone guitar. The crowd was big but lacked enthusiasm, but the sun was setting on the fourth and final day, so could you blame them?