Wild Flag rocks and Bon Iver triumphs at Sasquatch!

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Bon Iver at Sasquatch! 2012. Photo by Christopher Nelson

Strummy rock like Wild Flag and We Are Augustines were in abundance for the Sunday edition of Sasquatch!, as were keyboard-heavy acts like Gardens & Villa and, well, everything in the Banana Shack. So it was only fitting that Bon Iver, a band that melds those two worlds in its own way, stole the show at the end of the night.

 

Bon Iver’s triumph

I’ve attended at least one day of every Sasquatch! since 2005, but I don’t think anything I’ve witnessed has ever been quite as dynamic, epic and awe-inspiring as Bon Iver’s headlining set. Justin Vernon fronted an incredible nine-person band that both played his tunes with the precision they deserved and served as a credible men’s choir for background vocals.

Though some had worries of nodding off in the middle of the set due to the soft nature of Bon Iver’s albums, those worries were quickly put to rest after the noisy interludes of opener “Perth” and a throbbing version of “Blood Bank,” which nose-dived periodically into whispered verses.

The thing that impressed me the most about the whole set was how much command the group had over the audience. If a song featured silence between beats, you could conceivably hear a pin drop. The same goes for Vernon’s solo take on “re: Stacks” and crowd favorite “Skinny Love.”

Vernon made no bones about being blown away by the fact his band was headlining such a loaded lineup, yet he spent the entire time living up to the billing. After an excellent version of “Flume” closed out the main set, Bon Iver returned to lead an emotional singalong of the “What might have been lost” refrain of “Wolves (Act I and II).” And without warning, the band kicked straight from that tearjerker into an aural and visual cacophony, which gave way to the victory lap celebration of “For Emma.”

It could not have been better. Not in a million years could it have been better.

Winners

Finally getting to see Wild Flag live was a big thrill. Janet Weiss is one of the best drummers around, and man oh man does she get her money’s worth pounding the skins in the indie-rock supergroup. Besides Weiss, I especially appreciated how each member of the band shared the vocals, ala the Go-Gos but in a much-less my-mom-would-like-that way. I was also surprised to see that the band isn’t really Carrie Brownstein’s pet project, which was my assumption before. In fact, I dare say the other quote-unquote “frontwoman,” Mary Timony, is the real star — the songs she sings are the catchier ones, and her guitar playing was sneaky good.

Gardens & Villa’s self-titled album has been one of my more-played albums of this year, so it was nice to see the chilled-out melody makers in person on the intimate Yeti stage. Even better was the singer’s use of wood flutes, and even better than that was the sweet-ass Native American-style quiver strapped to his back that he kept them in (think an indie rock Ian Anderson … you know, the Jethro Tull guy).

We Are Augustines had a punky vibe going on, reminding me at times of Sasquatch! alums Against Me! Around the same time WAA was killing it on the Yeti stage, The Walkmen meandered a bit on the Bigfoot stage. Though they began their careers as an angstier version of the Strokes (as evidenced by their raging hit and usual closer, “The Rat”), The Walkmen have matured over the years. It doesn’t exactly make for the most compelling live music, but they’re always a safe bet for 45 minutes.

Though I only caught the last two songs, it was evident that The Head & The Heart and the audience had a mutual lovefest during their mid-evening turn on the main stage. The closer of “Rivers and Roads” was especially emotional and well-done. With two big-time main stage sets in consecutive years, I believe THATH has taken over for Fleet Foxes as Sasquatch’s unofficial band.

Seattle rap trio Dyme Def played a version of the Pinky & the Brain theme song at the Maine stage. That. Was. Awesome.

 

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.