by Dru Dinero -
SGN Contributing Writer
SASQUATCH! MUSIC FESTIVAL
THE GORGE AMPHITHEATRE
In the remote tan, yellow, and green desert that encompasses Quincy, WA, the mystery to me of the Sasquatch is no longer. For the past 12 years, residents around the Quincy area have reported sightings of the beast coming through their otherwise peaceful and quiet pastoral town. In reality, however, the beast does not appear just as the classic depiction of a hairy hominid creature. Sasquatch! Music Festival is seen annually in Quincy on Memorial Day weekend at the picturesque Gorge Amphitheatre, and it comes in the way of thousands of model-like urban and suburban twenty-somethings wearing floral headdresses, pastel colored face-paint, high-waisted denim shorts, neon-colored tank tops, colorful costumes and wayfarers galore. Sasquatchers frolic and jive at all five stages, under massive, world-class sound systems and mesmerizing light shows, to the most famous creations of modern-day musicians who fuel and are the pulse of the monster of energy that is Sasquatch! Music Festival.
After hearing many of my fellow Seattleites vigorously testify about the great time they had at Sasquatch! the previous year, I felt that I would be doing myself a major disservice if I missed the next opportunity to attend such a hailed music festival and see for myself what all of the fuss was about. And so along with SGN photographer, Nate Gowdy, I packed up for a three-day camping trip and drove off into the desert to take part in one of the most artistically driven, pop-culture riddled events in the Pacific Northwest.
Sasquatch! does a seamless job of keeping the music flowing for the entire weekend, with different genres of music and stand-up comedians on every one of their stages starting at 1 p.m. and closing out the night at 1:30 a.m. With over 100 different acts, seeing every single one is virtually impossible, but out of the acts that I did see, these are a few that were responsible for giving me what I am calling 'Sasquatch! withdrawals':
After twenty-years of being together, Atlanta's crown jewel, Outkast emerged onto the main Sasquatch! stage on Friday night, in a LED-lit cube, to the screams and applause of a sea of Sasquatchers. Andre 3000 and Big Boi opened their set with their hit-song 'B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)' from their 2000 Stankonia album. While Big Boi rocked his classic down-South D-Boy look, the always flamboyant Andre 3000 came out wearing a white, Andy Warhol reminiscent wig, white shades, and a black jumpsuit with 'Everything Is Temporary' written across the chest with a jumbo-sized red price tag attached at the hip that read 'Sold Out' on one side and 'For Sale' on the other.
Underneath the star-filled sky, Sasquatchers were hypnotized by Outkast's masterful performance as the ATLiens served fans hits like 'Hey Ya!' and 'Ms. Jackson' on a deliciously nostalgic silver platter. Although the junior Sasquatchers seemed to jump right on board the Outkast train that many of us have been riding steadily for quite a while now, I find it worth mentioning that I heard a conversation that made me, a 24-year old, feel aged. While in the pitch-dark standing room only port-a-john after the Outkast set, I overheard a baby Sasquatcher say to his peer, 'Man! Outkast killed that shit!' The peer agreed. The baby Sasquatcher continued, 'Do you know what the song was that they opened up with, though?' In a newly-deep post-high school tone, the peer answered, 'Uh... I don't know. I think it's probably from their new album.' I immediately felt a knot in my stomach and hurried to finish in the bathroom. 'Someone needs to teach these kids something worth knowing,' I thought as I walked away.
Immediately following Outkast's outstanding set, South Africa's politically incorrect internet sensation, Die Antwoord, who, according to their website, split with Interscope Records to become independent after some creative differences, took the Bigfoot stage and began their Sasquatch 2014 performance. Die Antwoord's strangely sexy and petite Yo-Landi Vi$$er, the prison-like tattooed Ninja and the ever-anonymous DJ Hi-Tek shocked Die Antwoord virgins by the opening song, 'DJ Hi-Tek Rulez,' for its audio-sample usage of Mike Tyson's infamous meltdown, where he called a member of the press a 'faggot.' For those of you who don't know, DJ Hi-Tek is apparently Gay. In a video released by the rap-rave group, Ninja explains that DJ Hi-Tek is Gay and sought to use that audio-sample in that track because as Ninja says, 'Hi-Tek says the word 'faggot' doesn't hold any power over him. Hi-Tek says 'faggot' all the time. He's taken that word and made it his bitch.' Die hard Die Antwoord fans, however, didn't just take 'DJ Hi-Tek Rulez' in stride, but were on some craze to get the full effect of the South African's group unapologetic attitude and 'Zef' style. The faces of excitement and bewilderment among fans were definitely noticeable as Die Antwoord rocked the crowd on the chilly first night of Sasquatch. Hit songs like 'Rich Bitch' and 'Fok Julle Naaiers' from both of their $O$ and Ten$ion albums were sung back as if the Bigfoot stage was the temple of Die Antwoord.
On Saturday, international star, M.I.A. came out onto the main Sasquatch! stage in a gold-on-gold outfit surrounded by back-up dancers and let us Sasquatchers have the most high-energy and visual set that was played on the main stage. M.I.A. has the leading ability to make her concert into an immediate party more so than just a concert. With this interactivity with the audience, security guards had to constantly handle the crowd to get away from the edges in the higher levels of the amphitheatre for their own safety. It seemed as if we Sasquatchers were so drawn to M.I.A.'s energy that we all were reaching to touch, at least, one of her fingertips when she came down from the stage and hung out with members of the audience in the front row behind the barricade. Accompanying her vibrant set were trippy psychedelic visuals playing on the screens behind the petite star. Political, revolutionary, and classic Indian cultural images and themes were mixed with neon colors and TV static effects to fully overtake Sasquatchers' senses and bring them into M.I.A.'s world. Killing Sasquatchers and her competition off with the gunshots in her, now legendary, 'Paper Planes', M.I.A. showed respect for an artist she clearly relates to and admires, Lorde. Mixing in Lorde's hit 'Royals' with 'Paper Planes,' the pop-culture fans in the audience simply lost it, and with good reason. It is a hot and sexy ménage à trois between M.I.A., Lorde, and the listener. In this case, the sound of the artists mixed with the sound of the audience singing back, became a mind-blowing sonic orgy.
Following M.I.A.'s set, indie rock band The National quietly strolled on stage. For the next two hours, this tight band proceeded to hit and soothe the souls of their fans with their folksy-bluesy and heart-wrenching sound. Prior to Sasquatch! I'd never heard of The National and, for some reason, I was looking for a reason not to like them, even before listening to one song. However, after I heard the first song, I couldn't help but fall in love with Matt Berninger, The National's lead singer. The lyrics, the sound, the stage presence, and the soul that this band brings are unparalleled to anything I have ever seen before. Fully intoxicated with song and perhaps a bit of Jameson, Matt Berninger rocked the spotlight and stage like a true fucking rock star. At one point during the performance, Berninger jumped into the crowd and was adored by his fans. At another, he began wrestling with one of the Sasquatch! stage banners, then growing with excitement, Berninger slammed the microphone onto the ground. Usually I'd consider this entertaining at first, but would grow disillusioned after the first few antics. However, with Berninger you can tell that it is not an act. The man feels his music ... and his whiskey. Constantly moving from what seemed like the anxiety of stage fright, the front man's vulnerability was endearing, and brought us in even closer to him emotionally. Delicious pain, grief, love and more delicious pain is what was booming through the speakers that Saturday night when The National graced us with their performance. If you have never heard of this band, I suggest listening to their High Violet album. It's been on repeat on my iTunes ever since I got home from The Gorge.
EL CHUPACABRA STAGE-TENT
One aspect of the festival that was the true highlight to me was the El Chupacabra stage-tent that was set up to host the majority of the Electro music acts. The open-ended tent provided an intimate 'club' feel that the other stages lacked. This year, Sasquatch showcased some of the biggest names in the Electro world. DJs/producers such as the French-sensation Yelle, hard-raver Boys Noize, and the dark, bathhouse sound of Gesaffelstein quenched the dance thirst of many Sasquatchers. While these acts were phenomenal and had me dancing like no one was watching, it was the Classixx that sent Nate Gowdy and I into another world. At one point Nate, who is not too keen on dancing, turned to me and said, 'This is what I imagine the idea of 'justice' sounds like.' I had to agree. Hundreds of gorgeous half-naked dancers peacefully grooving underneath a tent to the beautiful dream-like sound of Classixx sounds pretty damn just in my world. At this point, sexual tension was definitely in the air, with beautiful women atop the brawny shoulders of beautiful men; their pupils, as big as the pills that they took earlier, soaking in every bit of the colorful lights. It was sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll with a side of iOS's Siri.
Quickly becoming a favorite amongst dance enthusiasts, the New Orleans Bounce queen/emcee and open Transgender woman, Big Freedia, very expectedly directed a bevy of otherwise 'chill' suburban kids to shake their asses until they couldn't any more inside of the El Chupacabra tent. Wearing an American flag as a T-shirt, Big Freedia and her back-up dancers wildly let the New Orleans Bounce music flavor loose into The Gorge. Upon hearing Freedia's booming voice, fast and looping raps, rhymes, and infectious beats, you can't help but move. I wouldn't be surprised if Zumba becomes an old exercise fad once the health clubs in the major cities hear Big Freedia's music. As the old saying goes: once you dance to bounce, you'll drop an ounce... or 500.
FRIENDLINESS IN THE AIR
One thing that stuck out to me about Sasquatch! was that, although race diversity was somewhat limited and predominantly white as far as the Sasquatchers were concerned, usual cultural identifying factors, such as race and sexual orientation played no limiting role in the level of friendliness that was almost tangible in The Gorge's air. Many out acts, such as Seattle's Mary Lambert who is Lesbian, John Grant, Bob Mould who are both Gay, and, of course, Big Freedia, a Transgender entertainer, freely took stages at Sasquatch.
A kid I spoke to that was wearing a 'Legalize Gay' shirt, told me that he felt very comfortable wearing the shirt in the environment that Sasquatch creates because everyone there was more open to the true characteristics of humanity. I could not agree more with him.
Rightfully, closing out the wonder that is Sasquatch! was festival veteran, electro-pop act Major Lazer. Major Lazer's style in everything is very unique. Taking influences from little known music genres and scenes such as New Orleans Bounce music and classic Salsa music, DJ/ultra-producer Diplo, Major Lazer's mastermind, has been the production puppeteer behind massive hits such as M.I.A.'s 'Paper Planes' and Chris Brown's 'Look At Me Now.' Performing on the chilly Sunday night, the lively and unified crowd looking to end the festival right, danced all night and got body temperatures up to where it felt warm outside. Shirtless dancers swayed, jumped, clapped, and howled to the tribal-like sound of Major Lazer.
Rocking the crowd to the sounds of Free The Universe and Guns Don't Kill People ... Lazers Do albums, the Diplo crowd walked inside of a plastic bubble, held a booty-shaking contest, and even gifted two guys face dances from his dancers. Not lap dances, face dances. I'm sure you get the idea.
Bringing out the kid in all of us, the massive Major Lazer mascot, who looks like a future space mercenary, joined the party. Around this moment, fireworks were lit off and the remaining group of Sasquatchers danced to the finish line of the festival underneath the colors of the fireworks and music bursting inside of them.
Today, I am left with Sasquatch withdrawals. If I didn't have the sunburns to prove that I was there, it would seem as if it was just a beautiful dream, a high that was too good to be true. So like a true addict, I'm now looking everywhere I can to get my newly acquired fix and desire of music festivals. The pasty complexion of my skin, and the dull feeling of life that I had adopted from too many days under the Seattle gray sky, lit up and scorched under the sun, bass, and melodies to give me a tan that not only brought back color to my skin, but brought a new color to my soul. So like everybody else, I'm going to ask, 'Yo, Sasquatch. When is next year's lineup announced?'
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