Afterthoughts: Sasquatch! 2012

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Sasquatch! 2012 Photo by Christopher Nelson

The 11th annual Sasquatch! Music Festival has come to a close and by all accounts it looks like it was another smashing success.

I say by all accounts because this year marks the first year in the festival’s history that I decided not to attend Sasquatch! I sent my best rock ‘n’ roll reporter, Brent Stecker, to the Gorge to cover the festival in my place and I quite enjoyed watching from the sidelines this year via Brent’s dispatches and by reading my friends and colleague’s reports via Facebook, Twitter and their respective media outlets.

But just because I wasn’t there doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention and it doesn’t mean I don’t have a few observations to share about this year’s festival and even a few suggestions for how Sasquatch! might be able to improve for its 12th year. Here are a few things I took away from my passive Sasquatch! experience.

Four days has its pros and cons: This year was the second year the festival was a four-day event and it looked like it was a mixed bag of success. Just about every report I read about Friday’s events included some mention of terrible gridlocked traffic which caused a lot of people to miss several of the festival’s opening sets. While there’s nothing Sasquatch! organizers can do about traffic (Pro tip: If you’re coming from Seattle take Highway 2 and swing a right at Quincy. You’ll avoid the Interstate 90 gridlock and the scenery is gorgeous.) they could possibly lessen the frustration by offering up single-day tickets again next year.

While selling only four-day passes for an in-demand festival provides a sell-out crowd of 25,000 for a headliner like Pretty Lights, an act that may or may not get that big of a crowd on his own merit, it also creates a massive bottleneck on Silica Road since almost everyone is camping  and everyone is attempting to arrive early to avoid traffic which just ends up creating more traffic. Having thousands of people stuck in their cars five miles outside of the venue while the festival is happening isn’t doing much for the performers on stage either. They’re missing out on the valuable festival exposure and fans are missing out on the chance to possibly stumble upon their new favorite band, effectively killing part of Sasquatch!’s charming discovery aspect.

It’s pretty obvious Live Nation won’t be shrinking the festival back to its former three-day — or even better in my opinion, single-day — self, so why not take some action to make things a little nicer for everyone who treks out to the middle of nowhere to be at the Gorge? Bringing back single-day tickets might make the festival a bit  more expensive but it also could mitigate this frustrating issue and make for a more pleasant experience for fans.

Derek Erdman needs to write about Sasquatch! every year: Last year at Sasquatch! I met Derek Erdman, the talented artist and witty writer, in the festival’s media area. He was attending his first Sasquatch! and writing about his experiences for The Stranger. He returned this year and his dispatches were not only hilarious, they were some of the best I read. I especially enjoyed “As Heard in the Media Tent.” It is a bit inside baseball but it’s also quite funny if you’re familiar with that side of the festival, and if you’re not it shines a light on some of the behind-the-scenes happenings at Sasquatch! So if you’re reading this Derek Erdman, I applaud you and please, please, please come back to Sasquatch! next year.

Spontaneity is the new black: There are quite a few exciting artists that perform at Sasquatch! every year but for the past few years nothing too terribly exciting has happened at Sasquatch! This has made the festival seem a bit stale in regards to personality. It’s not that there are many terrible sets, it’s that the true festival moments have become few and far between ever since Mad Rad performed on top of the roof of the Yeti stage and that one time that dancing guy created an Internet meme on top of the hill during Santigold.

That changed this year with locals Macklemore and Reignwolf making their marks in spontaneous manners, one more so than the other. Macklemore popped up for a “surprise” set on the floor of main stage prior to Pretty Lights. Of course this was a planned set since the stage was raised up in the middle of the main floor, but even though it was staged I bet it was a nice surprise for festivalgoers. Reignwolf on the other hand was a bit more spontaneous as he managed to reportedly deliver four different sets throughout the weekend, including a set on top of a van outside of the Easy Street Records booth. Future Sasquatch! performers take note, festivalgoers want more memorable moments from the stage.

The Maine stage acts killed it, maine: The Maine stage, which was filled exclusively with local hip-hop artists, was one of the things that intrigued me most about this year’s Sasquatch! and I’m so happy it was a hit. Unfortunately it looked like event staff and security wasn’t quite ready for the success of the Maine stage as extra security needed to be called in to separate the crowd from the performers. It was one of those things organizers couldn’t really plan for and it shows there’s a pretty big demand for local hip-hop having a place at Sasquatch! Hopefully next year the Maine stage will be back and it will become a more prominent part of Sasquatch!’s bill.

Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 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, and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.