DAY 4: MONDAY, MAY 27TH:
The last day of the festival is always a bittersweet affair, and today would be no different. After 3 or 4 days of nonstop partying, dancing and whatever else, some folks can’t wait to get back to the comforts of their own bed and a hot shower, while others don’t want the party to end. The last day also separates the die hards from the rest of the pack: while a lot of people are straggling and dragging ass, some are on festival auto-pilot, and others are depressed that they have to start packing up and head back to reality. Throw a gray misty morning and a few hours of steady light rain into the mix and you’ve got yourself the makings of a damper of a day, yet it was amazing nonetheless.
So sunshine was clearly not in the forecast for this Memorial Day, as evidenced by the foggy mist that greeted Sasquatchers when they emerged from their tents and RVs on Monday morning. As some people broke down camp in preparation for a midnight drive home, I headed into the venue to catch CHVRCHES, who had been riding a huge wave of buzz in the blogosphere and were fresh off a plane from their native Glasgow. The trio took the stage to a slowed down wompy version of the intro to “Let’s Go Crazy” (#dearlybeloved) and dove into their set which consisted of songs from their EP and not yet released debut album. The fog which had become a full blown drizzle certainly dampened the energy of the crowd, but the band made the most of the situation and were lighthearted about it: “we feel right at home with you; it looks like Scotland out there”. While the songs were engaging and airy, the vocals felt a bit timid, and there was nothing exceptional about their sound to distinguish them from all of the other electro-synth-pop that’s out there at the moment. All of the songs I wasn’t familiar with started to bleed together. I don’t want to call them the flavor of the month before they’ve even put out an album, so I’ll reserve judgement for the time being. Regardless, I have no doubt the show would have been a lot better received if it were in a small dark sweaty club as opposed to a huge cold grey field.
Next up was soul crooner Cody Chestnutt who brought some R&B flavor to day. Perhaps best known for his decade-old hit “The Seed”, from his debut album “The Headphone Masterpiece”, Chestnutt worked the crowd with all the weapons at his disposal. Smiling the entire time, the rain not bothering him from underneath his now-signature army helmet, Chestnutt shared with the crowd the stories and inspiration behind some of his songs, like the slow jam “Love Is More Than a Wedding Day”, and whooped the crowd up into a series of call and responses. Clearly getting a kick out of his set, Cody enjoyed interacting with the crowd so much that he seemingly lost track of time and had to nix a couple songs from the planned setlist when he realized he only had 7 or 8 minutes left. His songs of redemption, love and life were just the thing to brighten up this grey day that had taken a turn for the worse weather wise.
The rain started to come down a little heavier around this time, and unfortunately it wreaked havoc for one of the two bands I was most excited to see on Day 4: The Barr Brothers. Half American (the Barrs) and half Canadian, the group mimicked the Sasquatch demographics, so it seem like a natural fit, but Mother Nature had other ideas. The soundcheck took at least 20-30 minutes to get all the equipment mic’ed properly (note to self: never tour in a band with a harp), and once the set finally started, the soundboard shut down during “Give the Devil Back His Heart”, which was only the second song. To make matters worse, it was a digital soundboard, so all the settings were lost and the audience who had been standing patiently in the rain had to endure another quick soundcheck.
Despite all these issues, The Barr Brother’s unique blend of folk, rock, chamber music and atypical instruments (pump organ, dulcimer, bicycle rim for a cymbal) ultimately triumphed, with “Old Mythologies” and the aforementioned “Give the Devil Back His Heart” complete with lengthy guitar solo by Brad Barr being the highlights. The band’s initial frustration with all that had gone wrong slowly gave way to gratitude for the relatively small but attentive audience who had endured it all with them. A truly captivating set all around.
Next up was something that couldn’t be further from The Barr Brothers’ intimate folksy sound: Sacramento’s Death Grips. Notorious for their offstage antics as much as their on-stage ones, I had heard nothing but raves about their incendiary performances led by rapper/yeller frontman Stefan Burnett. Unfortunately, propulsive drummer Zach Hill was nowhere to be found, so the crowd was met with just a duo on this day, but it didn’t matter: Death Grips still destroyed everything in their path. Between the glitchy beats of keyboard player Andy Morin and the guttural growls of Burnett’s confrontational f***-everything attitude, this was as intense a set as I’d seen all weekend. Burnett roved around the stage like a madman, thumping his chest and shoving the mic down his boxers, while Morin detonated womp-wompy beats left and right. The decent-sized crowd that was there lapped it up and I couldn’t help but wonder how nuts the scene would’ve been if this set had occurred on Day 2 when it was sunny and people were less tired. In hindsight, maybe it was a good thing because the people that were present were absolutely raging. I saw my first mosh pit of the weekend — well two actually, as there were ones on both sides of the barricade that went down the center to the soundboard. Either way, I was surprised it took this long for me to see one.
After that insanity, I wandered over to the Cthulhu side stage, where Seattle rapper Grieves was about to start. The crowd was still amped from Death Grips, so Grieves didn’t have any problem getting the crowd into it. He also had the best line of the weekend, when he urged the crowd to “Wave your hands side to side / Now jump / Now scream like you’re having a baby out of your ass”. You can’t make this s*** up. After a few minutes of this, I headed over to catch the last half hour of Cake’s set at the main stage.
By this point the rain had completely let up, the sun was starting to peek out, and people were splayed out on blankets and staking out their territory prepping themselves for the one-two punch of The Lumineers and The Postal Service. Cake’s set was exactly what you’d expect. I was lucky enough to hear “Stickshifts & Safetybelts”, “Shirt Skirt / Long Jacket” and “Never There”. The one complaint I had was that lead singer John McCrea was in full on work-the audience mode, chatting it up and engaging the crowd like a champ in call and response competitions, but I found myself wishing they would fly through more songs instead of having a noise contest. When you only have an hour for your set, every minute is precious.
I was only able to catch the last few songs of Twin Shadow, but loved every minute. George Lewis Jr. was clearly having a blast as well, as they had multiple bottles of champagne on the stage. I don’t remember what they were celebrating but whatever it was, it certainly didn’t affect their playing, as they nailed everything I heard them play from their two albums. Alt-J, whose popularity has seen an absolutely meteoric rise over the last 6-8 months, had a pretty sizeable crowd, and while they couldn’t command the attention of the whole audience, they came pretty damn close. Having already seen these guys crush in a small club, I was content being towards the back of the crowd so it was hard to read the band, but when the guitar player Joe Newman said “we flew all the way from England to play here, and it was definitely worth it”, I figured things had gone pretty well. They closed their set off with an a capella version of College’s “Real Hero” from the Drive soundtrack that went into their album standout “Taro”.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti had the last set of the weekend on the Yeti Stage. I’ve never been a fan, but I’ve always heard Ariel’s reputation for being an unpredictable cannon, right up there with Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox, so I wanted to investigate for myself. Well, nothing crazy happened, but I’m glad I caught a few songs. Their quirky brand of psychedelia was a great follow-up to Alt-J, swirling lights and all. Ariel was a character for sure: after playing their single “Round and Round”, he said, “that sounded really good for me, I hope it sounded really good for you. I just came in my pants”. He also referenced Honey Boo Boo at one point for some reason.
Last, but certainly not least on the bill, was hometown hero Ben Gibbard’s don’t-call-it-a-side-project The Postal Service, which was a surprisingly super soothing way to end the weekend. “The District Sleeps Tonight” the opening track of their decade old-album started off the set, with Ben proclaiming “Ladies & Gentleman, we are back from the dead”. Playing every track off the album, as well as a new song or two, the foursome displayed tons of energy all night. Not that I’d ever seen them before, but their sound was considerably beefed up, ostensibly to fill the stadiums they’ll be playing all summer long. The low end was prominent all night and there were were dancey xx-style synth beats all over the place, as if they had remixed the album slightly using the influence of the sounds that have emerged out of the last decade.
The crowd, some of whom I’m sure were convinced they’d never get to see these songs performed live, was absolutely stoked, bursting into applause as the first notes of each song rang out. The interaction between Gibbard & Jenny Lewis was probably the highlight — it was cleary they were having a blast up there, and the musicianship was top-notch all night. There was a drum set stage left that didn’t see any action until about halfway through the show when Jenny took a seat behind the kit, and a few songs later Ben took a turn as well while Jenny ripped a suucint but fiery guitar solo.
They had an impressive stage design too, with massive LED Greek-like columns behind the stage. Ben mentioned their last gig before the nine year hiatus was at Sasquatch 2004, remarked how lucky they were to have this venue in their backyard, and thanked the crowd for sticking around right before they went into “Such Great Heights”. It was a great cool down track for the beautiful surroundings, and the perfect moment to reflect on what a weekend it had been.
Read on for our summary of the festival highs and lows…