BY MEGHAN KEARNEY // Despite Mother Nature's attempts to dampen the spirit of Sasquatch, the fest plays out as one of the best
The fifteenth year of Sasquatch! Music festival is one for the books. This year’s Sasquatch was unique in a number of ways. Some made it the obvious summer fest standout, while some tested its entire existence. But no matter the circumstances, one of Sasquatch’s most under-the-radar lineups offered surprise upon surprise of new, unexpected, and stop-in-your-tracks and run to the stage moments. A lineup that looked so sweet on paper, beyond exceeded itself on stage.
Sasquatch has always been best known for its dedication to non-mainstream, and locally focused acts and with The Gorge in its back pocket it continues to stand up to a saturated festival market full of must-sell-out lineups. Lineups that couldn’t possibly live up to the covert talent that you’ll find at the most intimate Sasquatch sets.
Under the cool, clear skies of The Gorge Amphitheater, near perfect temperatures throughout the weekend battled against a burning fire and what felt like hurricane force winds. Despite shredded tents, canopy graveyards in the campground, and one morning vexed with cancelled, rearranged sets, the Sasquatch spirit remained alive and well.
From the biggest names like The Cure who played a perfect, extended set down to Soak, a twenty year old Irish singer-songwriter who puts genre leaders with twice her age's worth of experience to shame: Waterfalls of tears. From A$AP Rocky on the mainstage, to Vince Staples growing each day into his own talent: rhymes as world movements. From the Seattle electronic crooners of Beat Connection, to Norwegian DJ/producer Todd Terje: invincible dancing. From the all-female rockers, Savages, to the frenzied punk rock of Titus Andronicus: riotous, unwavered thrashing.This year had it all, in every sense at its best.
Here were some of the best moments from Sasquatch! Music Festival’s 15th year. You can also check out the FULL OMN PHOTOSET from the weekend here.
Baio’s set is easily classified as one completely unexpected to be the level of perfection it was. Bassist of Vampire Weekend, fairly new to the solo-project market, and a lower-billed spot on the lineup against the stature and quality of Chris Baio’s set is so mind-bending it’d be foolish not to award him best set of the weekend.
Decked out in a jacket and bowtie more suited for a cocktail party, Baio’s quirky, straight-faced performance was full of energy and catchy, joy-filled beats. Playing tracks from across his small catalogue (including most tracks from his wonderful debut LP The Names) he had the El Chupacabra dance tent full of bouncing smiles looking to one another to confirm the collective happiness. As if expressing a glimmer of success in their otherwise tangled schedules “this was a really good choice.” All nestled together inside the shade of the dance tent.
Baio himself was as fun to watch as the music was addictive. Pinging his mic in the air to the beat, the set was like watching a Charlie Chaplin silent film from the 1920s shifting under the catchiest dance beats of the 21st century. The aesthetics extended back to projections full of swirling shapes and colors that gave even M83’s geometrics some competition. If all moves forward with Baio’s solo project, expect to look back years from now, see his name at the bottom of the 2016 lineup and feel endlessly thankful or very regretful.
LANY, a three piece group from Los Angeles crafted inviting sounds that waved through the back half of the Sasquatch grounds on Friday evening. Their dreamy-pop, emphasis on the pop, was undeniably drawing, bringing droves into their sunset set. Sounds similar to artists like St. Lucia, and fellow Sasquatch artists, Beat Connection was a perfect find for anyone who got into The Gorge early enough to beam into their set.
Four Tet, who recently stopped through Portland, OR and filled the Wonder Ballroom for what was one of the most enjoyable dance parties of the year, brought his deck to a late evening dance tent set that made his perfect Portland performance seem like a cruel joke. A light show nearly unprecedented inside of the festival’s dance tent was so intense it was almost blinding. In the best way possible. Beats were so tricky, intricate, and yet so beautifully stitched together, each and every body nearly decimated by fest exhaustion hours before its Monday night end, was miraculously reborn to dance along with Kieran.
Austin, Texas’ Bayonne has the Sasquatch spirit embedded in him. An entrancing early Friday slot kicked off Sasquatch 2016 with excitement. Bayonne, a solo artist looping beats with live drums, and even welcoming Pacific Northwest’s own Manatee Commune on viola for a track, had more energy than some full bands exuberate collectively. With just enough weird to please an Animal Collective fan, enough spontaneity to draw fans of such artists as Battles, and flowy, beautiful sounds escaping into the Gorge air, Bayonne was this year’s number one sleeper.
The winds at the Gorge Sunday afternoon led to a few cancelled sets for artists whose schedules left them little flexibility. Glasgow Scotland’s, Frightened Rabbit was one of these sets. Their first appearance at Sasquatch was to be a treat as they’ve grown a cult following in the area - openly stating that Seattle, and most recently Portland housed some of their best crowds. Those lucky enough to attend Scott Hutchison, frontman’s, solo acoustic set earlier in the day on Sunday, found a bit of relief from the windy loss. Cranking through a short but heartfelt set that included oldies “Backwards Walk” and “Old Fashioned,” and “I Wish That I Was Sober” from this year’s Painting of A Panic Attack drew a packed and adoring crowd.
Veterans of the festival, Tycho, made their third appearance at this year’s Sasquatch, graduating from an early afternoon set in 2012, an explosive late evening packed dance tent set in 2014 and a well-deserved Bigfoot headlining set this year. The band returned to Sasquatch with an almost [Portland show a few days prior got the first listen] exclusive premiere of new tracks including “Atoms” and “Epoch,” and a brand new set of visuals. New tracks resembled sounds you’d find at the hand of Thom Yorke, blended with that signature Tycho key sound. Full of classic Tycho landscape shots and minimal geometrics, new visuals also incorporated more abstract and experimental elements. This small premiere of the next chapter of Tycho was a beautiful glimpse into their continued growth in music and art likely to overflow on the next record.
The much-loved Seattle indie-electronic foursome, Beat Connection, took to the El Chupacabra dance tent this year. Battling through some technical difficulties prior to the set, frontman Tom Eddy grabbed the mic - “That was the most stressful situation we’ve ever been in. We’re going to go take a shot, and you all should do the same.” The visibly frustrated gentlemen took a brief moment at the side of the stage, not taking shots but rather gathering in a short huddle before coming back and playing a set that was perfectly beautiful in sound and sight. Shredding through beachy dance tunes in front of brightly colored visuals, not a single ounce of stress made it passed the first chord, fully proving that no amount of tech problems can take away from the talents of Beat Connection.
Just over 6 months ago, Conner Youngblood played a free show for The Fader in Portland, OR. There, he mentioned that his best friend and dog, Juneau, is usually with him at shows. This year at Sasquatch, he was, and he joined Youngblood on stage for a beautiful set full of soft, spirited tunes. A perfect vibe for the sunny afternoon slot, the solo multi-instrumentalist switched between guitar, keys, drum pad, and ukulele with soothing vocals to match. Young full of talent, and radiating positivity, Conner Youngblood, plays tunes reminiscent of Bon Iver, truly bringing home the feeling of Sasquatch.
Grimes, making her return to Sasquatch after her last Sasquatch appearance left the majority of her audience dismayed by stage sound issues, seemed hell-bent on playing the best show of her life. Clearly humbled, and almost speechless at her adoring crowd at the mainstage this year her energy was unparalleled by any other act. A spit fire through and through Grimes ripped apart hits from old and new albums including her most recent Art Angels. The sweetest, almost child-like vocals burst into blood curdling screams while back up dancers swung around traditional Okinawan Sai. A truly unreal set from a powerhouse of a lady.
Sasquatch! Music Fest 2016 defying odds against Mother Nature, a saturated festival market, rapidly decreasing age demographic and Canadian dollar is still the Pacific Northwest’s, number one spot for unbeatable views, and unbeatable musical talent. Despite this year’s setbacks, the internet is aglow with positivity for this year’s festival. Most definitely one of the best festivals in the world. And as planning already kicks off for 2017, Oregon Music News will be counting down the days until next year’s weekend at The Gorge.