PHOTOS / RECAP: Top 10 Moments of Sasquatch 2015

In its 14th year, the Sasquatch! Music Festival out of George, Washington is going strong. Attendees from near and far traveled to the riverside Gorge Amphitheatre to enjoy some of their favorite musical acts, all under the expansive Eastern Washington sky. Read on for our Top Ten Moments of the weekend, and stay tuned for our daily photo galleries.

1. Vox Mod’s Overload to the Senses

Based out of Seattle, WA, Scot Porter (a.k.a. Vox Mod) destroyed the El Chupacabra tent Saturday evening. Porter’s tracks range from slow grooves to fast and frenetic bursts, but they are never without complexity. Layer upon layer of samples build a moving composition which grows and shifts, lifting the listener to euphoric heights. Some of the songs on his 2014 release The Great Oscillator are slower, with calm guest vocal performances, but for his Sasquatch set, Porter stuck mostly to his spasmodic tracks. All elements intricately entwined to produce an oscillating, rippled effect. As his complicated beats radiated, Porter head-banged along, levels set to 11. During the songs’ climaxes, he threw out a few hand motions, wiggling his fingers and gesticulating towards the crowd as if casting wild spells. Across screens 20 feet tall and 100 feet long, visual artist Benjamin van Citters created wildly beautiful effects and exploding fragments of color. As the sun waned, Porter said, “This song is about light, and sun, and beautiful things,” and broke into his track “Illumina Incarna” from his album HAZMAT. With this onslaught of sound and light, Vox Mod’s set was sonically and visually breathtaking. One man was overcome with the experience, doing an interpretive dance in the grass, lost in his own world, as dozens others danced and yelled with joy.

2. Angel Olsen Perseveres Through a Windstorm

Jagjaguwar’s Angel Olsen battled the weather Friday night, as a wind storm delayed her start time on the small Yeti Stage. As the sky opened up and the harsh wind and rain billowed, her heartbreaking lyrics and soulful southern crooning swept listener’s emotions away. Her repetitions of “I want you to be the one,” during “The Waiting,” were enough to bring tears to audience member’s eyes. Songs like “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “Stars,” which would already be captivating in a club or theater, were absolutely arresting under such dramatic conditions. Despite Of Monsters and Men‘s simultaneous set on the main stage, Olsen drew a large crowd, and her smoldering voice weathered the storm.

3. Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse’s Dry Humor

Headlining the Main Stage Saturday night was Modest Mouse. Four time veterans of the festival, the Issaquah, Washington band felt right at home. Singer Isaac Brock is ironically not very modest, and he cracked wry jokes about “working on [his] stand up comedy.” He performed the classic dad-joke of pretending to separate one’s thumb at the knuckle, and joked, “I have two thumbs, but it looks like I’m removing one, HOLY SHIT!” When a fan inexplicably threw a deck of cards onto the stage, he picked one up, licked it, and placed it on his forehead. “It’s a ten. I know because I looked. And to the dude who just threw a deck of cards up here, what am I gonna do with that? I can’t possibly find them all, so it’s not even a gift. It’s just a bunch of s*** on the ground.” It was harsh but hilariously true, making the crowd laugh. Despite his slightly mean humor, the band put on a great set, filling the space beautifully with epic recordings of rain and thunder between songs. Crowd favorites “The World at Large,” “Dashboard,” and “Dramamine” spanned multiple albums and delighted fans old and new.

4. Father John Misty’s Lighting, or Lack Thereof

Joshua Tillman, (stage name Father John Misty), started his solo career in earnest with a new moniker after playing for years with Fleet Foxes. After two successful albums, Fear Fun and I Love You, Honeybear, Tillman shows no sign of slowing down. He has gained notoriety for his comical stage presence and tongue-in-cheek demeanor, sauntering around the stage with a deadened expression and comical dance moves. His presentation is deliberate while feigning disinterest. Though scheduled during the daytime for previous Sasquatch weekends, this year he performed in almost pitch black conditions on the Bigfoot Stage. His purposefully difficult lighting made it nearly impossible to see him, but his expert use of strobes helped illuminate him majestically as he danced frantically around the stage. This made his intense bursts of movement particularly dramatic, simultaneously highlighting him and disorienting the viewer. To top of it all off, the later songs of his set featured an ironic, sugar sweet neon sign stating “No Photography,” with a heart around the words. Father John Misty, you frustrate us, but we love you anyway.

Father John Misty at The Fillmore in San Francisco on April 16th, 2015. (Photo by Justin Yee)

5. Kate Tempest Absolutely Slaying

Delivering lyrics at light speed with an addictive realness, London’s Kate Tempest ripped up the stage on her first American tour and first American festival. Expecting a mid-sized, lazy crowd on the Sunday afternoon, she instead enjoyed a huge reception, drawn by her powerful voice traveling across the fields. Clever, gut wrenching rhymes ripped through listeners, Tempest spouting truths beyond her years. At one point, her set took an ad-libbed feel, and she rapped about the perils of a capitalist system which tricks people into thinking they need the latest style or gadget, rather than the realness of genuine expression. Her words were inspiring, many of her lyrics about overcoming adversity and those who want to see you fail. Tempest urged her fans to “Know the wolves that hound you. In time they will be the dogs that bring you your slippers.” It was hard to tell if the rap was a prewritten track or improvised, but it was powerful. Viewers screamed as her rhymes increased in intensity, searing like sweating shoulders in the afternoon sun, her poetry so skilled that she’s already working with the Royal Shakespeare Company in her homeland. Highlights included her songs “Marshall Law,” “The Heist,” and “Circles,” ensuring that Tempest will be on people’s radar soon.

6. Boho Dresses and Dancing During Temples

Early in the evening on Sunday, Kettering, U.K. band Temples transported viewers to a far away land of sitar-inspired guitars and blissed-out psychedelia. “A Question Isn’t Answered” from debut album Sun Structures created the perfect festival environment, with echoing words and a repeated simple chorus, making it easy for viewers to sing along. The Bigfoot Stage was a great setting, providing all of the expansiveness necessary for the band’s big sound. “The Golden Throne” commanded attention with its smart lyrics and attitude, and “Keep in the Dark” bounced along with rocking drums and moments ranging from lilting harp to deep bassy melodies. Their emulation of the Fab Four is undeniable, but the band seems to be giving the classic sound a modern spin with synthesizers and sampling. The band’s set made for a picture perfect festival set, with countless ’70s bohemian dresses, circular sunglasses, and fringe. This type of fashion has become commonplace at music festivals, but for once, it actually seemed to fit the music. Listeners swayed to the music and closed their eyes in happy abandon. One group of woman had their arms over each others’ shoulders, kicking their knees up in a can-can line. Another woman ran along the path barefoot, waving a paisley scarf majestically. Unsuspecting passerby probably wondered what year it was, but these listeners were right at home with Temples.

7. St. Vincent’s Other-Worldly Power

St. Vincent pretends to shoot the crowd with her guitar. (Photo by Victoria Holt)

Ever since she played the Bigfoot Stage in 2012, Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) has been destined for the Main Stage. Her fiery performance then was peppered with minor guitar issues and resulted in a fairly ticked off Clark, showcasing her intensity and skill as an artist. After working with the wonderful and bizarre David Byrne of Talking Heads on the collaborative album Love This Giant, Clark has picked up some quirks of her own. Sunday night, she opened with the strangest track on her latest album, “Bring Me Your Loves.” Discordant vocals clash with alien guitar, forming a haphazard melody that rockets back and forth across a scale. Some may have been turned away by such a jarring opener, but those in the know were in for a treat. The rest of her set featured mostly catchy songs such as “Rattlesnake,” “Digital Witness,” and “Birth in Reverse.” Older classics like “Cruel,” “Cheerleader,” and “Year of the Tiger” were scattered in between.

The choreography of her set was uncanny, as her and her keyboardist tiptoed around the stage while looking straight ahead, giving the visual effect that they were floating. When she freaked out on her guitar, Clark was like a dinosaur. It wasn’t in the washed up sense of the term, but rather like the animal’s timeless terror, all power and raw edges, totally in control while being completely unpredictable. Not one to end on a light note, Clark closed with “Your Lips Are Red,” a slow building, vicious song with lyrics like, “This city’s black from all the ashes in downtown.” It’s a triumphantly hellish number with angry guitar and a fearsome Clark, pausing between solos to slowly mime slitting her own neck. The postmodern punk ballad is the perfect opportunity for her to unhinge, crowd surfing and running around the stage, eventually collapsing into a heap on the floor. Her set ended on an exhilarated note, leaving fans begging for more.

8. Fun Mosh Pits at the Yeti Stage

All weekend long, the Yeti Stage was a hotbed for fun, carefree mosh pits. The stage was just the right size for people to get rowdy without getting too claustrophobic, and many of the bands featured awesome shredding and playful characters. Ex Hex from D.C. was comprised of three badass ladies, two of whom faced one another on guitar and bass, and executed high kicks with a vengeance. Another band of female shredders, Thunderpussy, struck irreverent and evocative poses, one of which gave the illusion that the guitarist was going down on the singer. Diarrhea Planet, King Tuff, and Fuzz all rocked the stage on Saturday, transforming the pit into rowdy parties with their upbeat riffs and flailing hair. If an attendee wasn’t sure where to be at any moment, chances are the Yeti Stage was popping off.

9. Future Islands Light a Fire Inside Us Despite the Rain

Vocalist Samuel Herring of Baltimore, MD band Future Islands takes the cake for the most expressive dance moves of the weekend. Bouncing around the Main Stage Monday afternoon, taking swipes at imaginary opponents, and raising his hand to the sky in wonder, Herring could express just about any sentiment through his body and voice. His powerful movements include pretending to peel back his face like a mask, eating his hand as though it was the heart of an enemy, and smacking his hand on the ground hard enough to make himself bleed. On top of these moves, his voice is a gorgeous range of impassioned highs and guttural lows, running the gamut of emotions. Add to it all that his stage banter makes him seem like a truly sincere, kind person, and it’s clear why Future Islands have such a loving following. Herring spoke to the crowd before their song “Seasons (Waiting on You)” as though to a younger sibling, saying, “This song’s about that person you’ve been waiting on. I don’t know if they’re here today, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for you!” During their set of beautiful, expansive synth pop, a rain cloud rolled in from the West, and Herring reassured the huddling masses, “We’ve got these grey clouds but we’re gonna blow that s*** away!” The rain persisted, but it added a certain seriousness to the performance, lending the songs their true weight. Gerrit Welmers and William Cashion provided the tunes on keyboard and bass guitar, and the band performed a variety of songs from their whole discography. Two treats were “Tin Man” and “Long Flight” from their 2010 album In Evening Air, as well as a new single called “The Chase.” The emotional set ended with “Spirit” from Singles, an uplifting track about finding your passion and holding onto it for dear life. Herring climbed down and stood on the barricade, reaching out to high five fans, giving everyone that extra boost they needed to get through the last day.

10. Hot Chip’s Insane Dance Party Closes Out The Weekend

With this month’s release of their new album Why Make Sense?, Hot Chip delivered a fantastic set of new and old songs, and were the final performance of the festival. They opened with the first single, “Huarache Lights,” which samples 1977 disco song, “Let No Man Put Asunder” by First Choice. It was a fitting start for the epic dance band, as the woman’s voice proclaimed, “I’ve got something for your mind, your body, and your soul,” and a muffled cowbell and reverberant bass keyboard built a booty-shaking beat. From there the set continued with all manner of dance jams, from 2006’s “Over and Over” to 2010’s “One Life Stand.” After four days in the sun, the sleep deprived crowd mustered their last reserves of energy to go absolutely buck wild. Everyone was moving, jumping, and swaying, and Alexis Taylor‘s gentle lyrics soothed sore feet and lifted tired hearts. After “Night & Day” from 2012’s In Our Heads invited the crowd to dance along with the words, “Let’s sweat,” the band took an emotional turn with the expansive, heart-wrenching track “And I Was A Boy From School” from 2006’s The Warning. There’s nothing quite as captivating as a band which can have you dancing one moment from happiness, the next from transcendence. After the crowd lost itself to the bubbling synths of well-known song “Ready For The Floor,” Hot Chip made a move that was to make this the best set of the weekend. From their 2010 album, One Life Stand, they played track “I Feel Better,” a slowly building dance number with steel drums and prophetic lyrics. Over a growing melody, Taylor declares:

“Nothing is wasted and life is worth living
Heaven is nowhere, just look to the stars
There is a day that is yours for embracing
Everything’s nothing, and nothing is ours.”

Here was Hot Chip, reminding the crowd to live in the moment, taking no experience for granted. The weekend had come to a close, but it had been a great one, and festival goers would return home with their ears ringing, their feet coated in dust, and their hearts full.