June 01, 2007

The lights swung dangerously last Sunday night at the Sasquatch festival at the Gorge in George, Washington as heavy winds bounced off the surrounding cliffs. This respite from Saturday’s desert heat was welcome after a day and a half of legendary acts and new artists all competing against each other for audience attention, all competing against the beautiful scenery. The trouble with festivals like Sasquatch is just that: too much to see. “It’s like a rock band grocery store,” said Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear. “It’s not like a delicatessen, like delicious chorizo and cured meats. It’s an all in one place type of thing, and consequently quality goes down a little bit.” He’s right. Acts with a more intimate sound like The Blow get shoved into a corner stage surrounded by lounging picnickers. The Hold Steady almost had some genuine Springsteen moments in their grasp, but were foiled by an early afternoon malaise. Basically, despite its sizable roster, Sasquatch, like all other festivals, was built for the headliners.

Björk in odd dress

This was especially apparent on Saturday night when Björk took the stage. Midway through her show a solid green column of light shot across the sky, hanging there as Björk—in a strange sun-yellow peasant dress—pranced around the stage. The audience was rapt, as they should have been since Björk doesn’t perform in the US often, and when she does it’s pure spectacle.

Mike D of the Beatsie Boys

Arcade Fire

But the headliners are a sure thing. There is no doubt that Arcade Fire, or the Beastie Boys or Björk will put on a show worth seeing, but most interesting are the bands on the main stage earlier in the day. Bad Brains were a highlight of Sunday afternoon. Lead singer H.R. stood calmly—nearly completely still—as the band whipped behind him. Their timeless power momentarily upstaging Mother Nature and giving thousands a brief but welcome transcendant experience.

The crowd for Bad Brains

Ultimately though, Sasquatch, and other concerts at the Gorge, succeed because of, well, the Gorge itself. “It was really stimulating to be looking at the Gorge while I was on stage,” Khaela Maricich of The Blow said. “All my songs are about outer space and sky and the experience of living on a planet so being able to remember you are really on a planet because you can see a big stretch of the planet right there was stimulating.”

The Blow

Grizzly Bear

The Hold Steady

The Gorge

That’s what brought everyone to Sasquatch. It wasn't really the music—you can see these bands everywhere—or all the people. It’s the scene in that picture right above. Whether you’re performing in front of a huge crowd, or one of the crowd, being in a grass oasis in the middle of a breathtaking desert, you realize it’s all you really need.


Posted: June 01, 2007