By Meghan Kearney // In Its 15th Year, Sasquatch! Music Festival is Your Summer Destination
A few hundred miles distanced from our beloved Oregon cities, The Gorge Amphitheatre sits tucked away in central Washington State awaiting its first set of music-loving caravaners to breeze off Exit 143 and onto its grassy pitch. Serene silence anticipates slews of the season’s first icy cold PBRs cracking open in unison, miles of empty grounds yet tentless await the masting of the first Cascadia flag. In just over a month, the gates to Sasquatch! Music festival will open and thousands of Pacific Northwesterners will leave reality behind to bask in four days of music and six days of camping in arguably the most beautiful place on the planet.
Sasquatch! Music Festival is a Pacific Northwest staple summer festival. Unlike many other big name festivals, Sasquatch differs in that its venue holds a capacity of just over 25,000 - making it small in comparison to fests like Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Bonnaroo but with a consistently competitive lineup. It brings a mash-up of American and Canadian attendees, including fest-goers multiple flights away from the PNW. You can always count on finding some of the world’s next big artists long before they’re selling out the biggest venues around Oregon.
This year marks Sasquatch’s 15th birthday and the lineup is fully loaded from top to bottom. Every year, the fest brings top-notch musical artists all the way from Oregon’s backyards to the opposite corners of the Earth. This year’s headliners include The Cure, Florence and the Machine, Disclosure, A$AP Rocky, and Alabama Shakes.
Down the lineup, a few Sasquatch repeats and favorites will make their return, including power-pop queen, Grimes and ambient electronic act Tycho. You can catch Portland’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Blind Pilot, and Summer Cannibals, with Seattle faces Tacocat, Telekinesis and Thunderpussy. Also in the mix, Washington soul-folk star Allen Stone, and super-collab Big Grams featuring Phantogram and Outkast’s Big Boi, the hauntingly dark Chelsea Wolfe (who recently mystified Boise’s Treefort Music Festival), the amazingly talented Andra Day , plus over 100 more musicians and comedians.
New for this year’s festival, Sasquatch has launched an official podcast, hosted by a face (or, rather, voice) you might recognize: 90’s MTV correspondent, John Norris. Twice a week leading up to the fest, you can catch interviews with some of the artists and staff behind the scenes. The first episode includes a chat with Sasquatch founder and booker, Adam Zacks, which you can check out here.
We also chatted with Zacks about what to expect from this year’s big event, and what he is most looking forward to. Read the interview below, and press on for our must-see-artists to take the stage at the sunny Gorge beginning May 26th. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming week for the 2016 Sasquatch mobile app & the full artist schedule!
If you’ve yet to get your tickets, you’ve still got time! Make sure to grab a crew and divvy up that camping pass cost - in addition to the great musical experience, Sasquatch’s campground is a place where you can count on meeting your new best friends. We recommend arriving on Thursday and staying for the long haul. Every second at Sasquatch! Music Festival will be a cherished best second of your life.
Happy 15th birthday to Sasquatch! How do you feel now looking back on all 15 years and seeing how much the festival has grown or changed?
Adam Zacks: I'm just proud and grateful. The time has gone by very fast. My daughter was a toddler when we started the fest, and now we're touring colleges this week! My son wasn't even born yet. So yeah, my big revelation here is that time flies. The festival landscape has obviously changed dramatically over these past 15 years. There are so many of them now. Not that we haven't made mistakes along the way, but I like to think that we've earned a reputation for consistently high quality programming. The booking and the unique setting of the Gorge are the two things we've leaned on most to differentiate this event from the growing field. It’s still just as thrilling coming over grass berm and looking out into the canyon. When the fest is humming along and the sun is setting, it feels like holiest place in the world.
Will someone be filling the shoes of Wayne Coyne and throwing birthday cake around the Main Stage this year [2011 cake toss]?
Short answer: No. However, I do look forward to the 25th anniversary in 2026 when we'll be eating hologram cakes on our hoverboards while president Groban introduces Radiohead on their reunion tour.
With new festivals popping up in droves these days, have you found that the booking process gets more and more competitive (particularly this year with some of the big tickets that jumped back onto the market)?
It's a challenging balancing act to book an exciting lineup that has broad enough appeal and remains true to our core value to be an honest to goodness place where music discovery happens in a very real way. It's a fact that artist fees have risen dramatically with the proliferation of festivals. Luckily, a lot of bands in our wheelhouse really want to play this festival in particular so that does work in our favor.
What new surprises can we expect from Sasquatch this year that will be different from years past?
Surprises wouldn't be surprises if we revealed them, but the truth is that now more than ever we're feeling like keeping it simple: provide great music in a special setting and treat the artists and audience with absolute respect.
The Sasquatch lineup is always full of some of the Pacific Northwest’s best local artists. Why is local music important to you and the Sasquatch experience as a whole?
We're committed to supporting artists from our region because it feels right to do so and there are just so damn many good ones! It's also a differentiating factor for the festival and serves to maintain our identity as being uniquely Northwest.
Who on the lineup are you most excited about and why?
I just saw some photos of Sufjan Steven's show from Coachella and he did some incredible things with the set and costumes, etc [video evidence]. It got me extra excited for his performance. Ty Segall should be a thrill. His current band features members of King Tuff, Wand, and Mikal Cronin. Digable Planets will be great. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Nathaniel Rateliffe, and Julia Holter are all killer. I'm excited about a lot! Andra Day might be the sleeper of the festival, she is unbelievable.
If you could sum up the experience of attending Sasquatch! Music Festival in a single GIF, what would it be?
Florence & the Machine
Powerhouse pop ballads, explosive drums, and a voice that is sure to tear the entire Gorge in half, this should a top-billed set not to miss. Especially as the sun descends away behind the hills and that cold Gorge night breeze starts blowing in.
The Twilight Sad
Opening for The Cure through their tour, Glasgow Scotland's Twilight Sad is the first to call their music miserable, but not in the musical sense. Paired with James Graham’s truly angelic Scottish vocals this orchestraic post-punk will shower you with that same dark, but beautiful feeling The Cure’s going to give you in a much more intimate setting.
Seattleites gone Brooklyn, Iska Dhaaf’s sound spreads across a wide range of string-centric melodic and atmospheric to mathy psych rock and back to shoegaze dream-pop. In between all of it, their beauty will be lost on none and many feels will be felt to the tune of their set.
With a contemporary lounge singer feel and hints of euphoric, almost psychedelic pop, Julia Holter blends mixtures of sounds and haunting vocals making her one of the most uniquely enjoyable artists on this year's lineup.
Traveling all the way from southern Norway, producer/DJ Todd Terje will bring disco, multi-instrumental dance beats that are sure to be one of the funkiest, most joyous dance parties that the Gorge will see this year. Don't forget your good dancin' shoes for this one.
Chris Baio, bassist of Vampire Weekend, embarks on his solo project far removed from the sounds of VW. On his debut album, The Names, Baio captures addictive pop-rock dance beats that are going to be everything you could dream of in the Sasquatch sun.
Portland’s own Summer Cannibals will be one of the best undercard highlights this year, especially for Portlanders who know them well. Energetic and addicting, this female-fronted low-fi rock trio full of attitude will have you strutting away from their set like you own Sasquatch.