Afterthoughts: The Sasquatch! 2012 lineup

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Sasquatch! Music Festival 2012 Lineup Announcement from Sasquatch Festival on Vimeo.

The Sasquatch! 2012 lineup was finally announced last night (full details here) and as expected it was well worth the wait. Speaking as a seasoned Sasquatch! veteran who has attened all 10 Sasquatch! festivals I’m not surprised to see a lineup stacked with dozens of buzz bands and toploaded with some pretty big-but-not-too-big names.

Here are a few quick thoughts about Sasqsuatch! 2012 after finding a few minutes examining the lineup:

Jack White helped Sasquatch! keep its identity. Given its past successes Sasquatch! could’ve pulled out all the stops and attempted to go with big names for its headliners, but that’s not Adam Zacks’ style. The festival has always set trends instead of followed followed them and it continued to do so this year with booking Jack White as a headliner. He’s one of the biggest rock stars on the planet, yet he isn’t the type of performer you could envision going on a solo arena tour. Beck is also in that same stratosphere, although a Beck arena tour might be more likely than seeing Jack White rock KeyArena all by his lonesome. Jack White and Beck are the perfect headliners that let Sasquatch! maintain its idenity as the little, big festival that everyone will want to attend.

Other artists on the bill like Bon Iver, The Shins, Beirut, Girl Talk, Pretty Lights and Fiest aren’t your run of the mill superstars but they are all artists that Sasquatch!’s Pitchfork freindly fanbase will go nuts over. The winning combination of pairing headliners who are just big enough with an undercard filled with buzz bands on the brink of moving to the next level has been a winning formula year after year for Sasquatch! and this year’s lineup is no different.

Hip hop has a noticable presence thanks to Seattle. As reported here first earlier this week (you’re welcome Sasquatch! fans), the Maine stage will feature local hip-hop. The festival doesn’t have a rich history of hosting hip-hop music but that will change this year with at least 14 local hip-hop artists on the bill. The only major draw for hip-hop fans would be Childish Gambino and The Roots if it weren’t for the Maine stage. Guerrilla Candy favorites like Katie KateSol, Grynch, Don’t Talk to the Cops and many others have the opportunity to deliver career-definig sets a la Macklemore at KeyArena  thanks to the Maine stage, and something tells me no one on this stage will let this opportunity pass them by.

Electronic music continues to make its mark on the festival. While it is true that Sasquatch! doesn’t follow many trends, the one trend it has slighty picked up on is including a good amount of electronic dance music. Girl Talk, Pretty Lights, Nero (who will be doing a DJ set) and Mogwai are some of the names of note but there’s also Com Truise, Beat Connection and Strfkr who will keep the bodies moving on whatever stage, or dance tent, they perform.

Sasquatch! 2012 is going to get loud. Jack White is a guitar god and while his solo record has yet to be released there’s a good chance he’ll rip into more than a few amazing guitar parts on the album, which should make for an electrifying live show. But Jack White isn’t the only hard rocking Sasquatch! act. Howlin Rain, Explosions in the Sky, Metric, Joy Formidable, Silversun Pickups, Wild Flag and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are only a few of the bands on the bill that will crank things up to 11. Sasquatch! is definitely going to roar at the Gorge this year.

Once again the Northwest is well represented. Here are just a few of the Seattle-area musicians on the bill: The Head & The Heart, The Cave Singers, Shabazz Palaces, Allen Stone, Pickwick, Hey Marseilles, Beat Connection, Black Whales, Gold Leaves, Thee Satisfaction, Dyme Def, Fresh Espresso, The Physics, Sol, Metal Chocolates, Grynch, Spac3man, Don’t Talk To The Cops, Scribes, Fatal Lucciauno, Fly Moon Royalty, Katie Kate.

Sasquatch! continues to prove it isn’t Coachella (and that’s a good thing). Lots of people like to compare Sasquatch! to Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza but there really is no comparison. Sasquatch! is a very specific type of music festival that caters to a specific type of music fan, and Adam Zacks, the festival’s founder and curator, knows these fans well.

Think of it like this: If music festivals were grocery stores then Lollapalooza, Coachella and Bonnaroo would be your Wal-Mart, Target and Fred Meyer and Sasquatch! would be something along the lines of a Trader Joe’s. You can get groceries at the latter three but you can also get home electronics, appliances, jewelry, furniture and lots of other stuff that has nothing to do with food. On the other hand, Trader Joe’s primarily sells groceries and doesn’t compete directly with those other big box stores. And like Sasquatch! Trader Joe’s also caters to a specific type of consuer.

What I’m trying to get at is that yes Coachella, Lolla, ‘Roo and Sasquatch! are all music festivals but they are very different festivals. The big three offer up a smorgasbord of options that pretty much provide something enticing for anyone who pays attention to pop music while also giving you your household names for headliners. They also have attendances of at least 65,000 people per day which somewhat forces them to be a one-stop shopping destination in order to sell tickets.

Sasquatch! is more like a specialty shop and as such it operates within its limitations. The Gorge’s capacity of around 20,000 affords Sasquatch! organizers the ability to keep things focused when mapping out a lineup. This capacity limits the type of headliner the fest goes after since big names can sell out the Gorge on their own. Coachella and the other festivals have a much larger capacity than the Gorge which makes it easier for those fests to pay headliners a big paycheck since they can recoup the costs in ticket sales. Sasquatch! can’t do that.  The folks who plan out Sasquatch! understand the festival has become arguably the taste-making fest of note (overtaking Coachella) so they play to their strengths (intimacy of venue, reputation) when building a bill and fill the undercard with buzz bands that are in demand while selective choosing headliners that fit the Sasquatch! brand. This is a strategy that other big box festivals don’t follow. So keep that in mind next time you go shopping for some Two-Buck Chuck.

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Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 13 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut.com and others and was the founder and former editor of the defunct music site Ear Candy.