2011 marks the tenth year of Sasquatch. In that time, the music festival has grown from a one day, little known event into a nationally respected four day extravaganza. Held at the Gorge Ampitheatre in the Eastern part of Washington State, it’s been praised for its beautiful scenery, consistently excellent selection of bands, and the laid back, yet enthusiastic, crowds that frequent it. The camaraderie that comes from spending a filthy four days in the middle of nowhere creates an experience like none other. In a place like this, the people make the festival as much as the music. I may have gone for the music, but I came away with so much more.
DAY ONE (Friday)
My day began at Death From Above 1979, whose initial reunion show at SXSW caused a near riot. That wasn’t repeated, but they did manage to raise quite a ruckus for being one of the first bands of the festival. They’re a duo that managed to gain a significant amount of adoring fans in the few years since their 2006 break up, and it definitely showed. They already had the Main Stage packed about a half hour before their set even started. Drummer/singer Sebastian Granger came out wearing nothing but a thin white jumpsuit. The crowd was quick to respond, resulting in one of the more violent pits of the weekend. The band played a tight set with minimal banter (the only thing they mentioned were the people that had sex on the hill above the stage at the 2009 festival), mostly drawing from their one and only album, You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, with and additional few from their earlier EPs. My girlfriend sat on the lawn, because she hates them, but even she was impressed with how well they were able to hold such a massive crowd with only two people. They exited the stage a little early, but, after the exhausting pit experience, no one seemed to mind. With their assaulting musical style, which the group has dubbed as “dance-metal”, they were wise to end early.
If you’re not familiar with DFA, you probably should be. They play loud, minimalist hardcore music with a dance bent to it. Consisting of only a bassist and a drummer, they manage to create an incredible wall of sound that most bands can’t manage with a full lineup. It’s wild, aggressive music that lets loose on itself and there’s talk of them releasing a second album in the future.
The Foo Fighters followed DFA1979. I’ve never been especially well versed in their music, but I’ve always enjoyed their radio hits. Luckily, that’s what they stuck to. Say what you will about them as a band, but they definitely put on a pretty solid live show. Dave Grohl is a charismatic and engaging frontman and their songs take on a new life and energy on stage. He whipped the crowd into a collective state of nostalgia, playing songs they hadn’t heard in years. Unfortunately, they often dragged them on too long. This was forgivable, until it become aggravating later in the set, and it was fun to see Grohl bring, earlier main stage act, Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü/Sugar) on for a couple of songs. I enjoy the music of DFA1979 more, but, from a purely objective standpoint, the Foo Fighters are equal if not better as a live act.
It’s a sad statement to make, but in this day and age, they’re the closest thing we have to a Led Zeppelin or a U2 (I know U2 is still around, but c’mon. Who are we kidding?). They’re a band that can still pack a stadium and play a rousing set, but they simply don’t have the musical quality of acts that did the same thing in the past. True, they played a good set, but all that I could think about through most of it is the role that they play in modern rock and how sad it is that they’re the ones who are filling that role. Their headlining spot felt like it was pandering to a demographic that SASQUATCH! had mostly avoided in the past, which makes me worried for the future of the festival. With Coachella potentially in its twilight years -due to the, sure to be disastrous, two weekend plan- I hope that Sasquatch doesn’t serve as its replacement. While it would be great to bring in some of the more notable acts that Coachella has gotten in recent years (Radiohead!), I would hope that Sasquatch never draws the kind of crowds that Coachella does. Hopefully, its remote location and difficult travel will continue to keep them away and, hopefully, the Sasquatch bookers don’t begin pandering to them. I would hate to see Jacks Mannequin on a future lineup.