Music Fest Recap
Outkast Shines, Seattle Gets a Stage, and Other Sasquatch! Festival 2014 Thoughts
A recap of the highs and lows of the Memorial Day weekend festivities at the Gorge, including a photo slide show.
Another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, which means another edition of the Sasquatch! Music Festival is in the proverbial books. Here's a recap of all that went down at the Gorge this time around.
5 Best of the Fest
Outkast - Hopes for an amazing Outkast reunion performance were tempered in early April when the hip-hop duo's headlining performance at Coachella (which was live streamed on YouTube) stunk. During a disjointed set, it seemed like neither Big Boi or André 3000 wanted to be back together. André sulked to the point of turning his back on the crow when performing "Hey Ya!". Things looked bleak. Well in the proceeding month, something must have clicked because Outkast was on its game at Sasquatch!. The set flowed smoothly as the duo rattled off fan favorites like "B.O.B.," "Ms. Jackson," and "Roses" while the crowd sang along with the choruses. It was a showcase of exactly why the two became the rap game's greatest 1-2 punch. After eight years away, that headlining set was worth the wait.
Queens of the Stone Age - There's an art to making a great set list, and Queens of the Stone Age came the closest to perfection of anyone all weekend when it closed out the main stage on Sunday night. The band came out the gates hot with "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire" and "No One Knows," and continued a hour long onslaught of their best songs ("Feel Good Hit of the Summer," "Make It Wit Chu," "Go With the Flow," etc.). As per usual, Josh Homme and crew found the ideal balance between metal heaviness and rock melodicism, and it proved to be a fitting soundtrack to end the festival.
Hannibal Buress - Hannibal Buress easily ranks as one of the best standup comedians going these days, and he showed exactly why at Sasquatch!. His riffs on topics like Waka Flocka's generational wealth and his ballerina-aided gibberish rap mixed his sharp eye for cultural observation with a sense of absurdity.
Kid Cudi - While he's not on the top of hip-hop's food chain, there's a decent chance that Kid Cudi is the best live MC in the game. With an ever-present grin and unrelenting energy, he perpetually seems like he's having as much fun as anyone in the crowd. That enthusiasm in turn hypes the audience up to another level. Closing the set with the remix version of the "Pursuit of Happiness" pushed the crowd to the most frenzied level of the entire weekend. Quite simply, Kid Cudi gets it.
Tune-Yards - In Tune-Yards, Merrill Garbus has formed a rhythmically deft tribe of musical pixie warriors. Her atypical indie pop tunes invite explorations in free flowing dance that's perfect for the a warm afternoon at the Gorge. She's sure to have converted more than a few newcomers to fans as the drum beats burst out across the main stage lawn.
The Hip-Hop Takeover
There's a disconnect between Sasquatch!'s headliners and the acts that draw the best crowds. While rock stalwarts the National and Queens of the Stone Age closed out the final two days on the main stage, the rappers that performed right before them—M.I.A. and Kid Cudi respectively—brought out substantially bigger and more fanatical audiences. While this isn't necessarily a problem, it does feel strangely anticlimactic when the peak excitement levels comes just before the top-billed artists. It may also be telling that the canceled Forth of July Sasquatch! weekend relied even more heavily on old rock acts. It might be time for a demographics reassment at Sasquatch! HQ.A True Seattle Stage
Sasquatch!'s tiniest stage—the Narwhal stage—received a major boost thanks to the cancellation of the Fourth of July incarnation of the fest. The subsequent rescheduling of Seattle bands to Memorial Day weekend basically doubled the Narwhal lineup. In past years, limited programing made the stage seem like a wasteland to throw smaller Seattleites on to get them out of the way, but this year it felt like it finally had it's own identity as the true local stage; a place where our city's musical diversity was on display. The sounds of Iska Dhaaf were the first thing to greet early Friday attendees entering the Gorge's grounds, and the weekend also featured rocking performances by Dude York, Kithkin, and New Lungs, soft sadness from Shelby Earl, funky songs from the Flavr Blue and Fly Moon Royalty, and much more. Hopefully, the Sasquatch! team will continue to "overbook" the stage going forward.
Just Play Some Songs
The hip-hop elder statesmen of De La Soul put on a fun show when they were actually performing songs... which, regretfully, was infrequently. MCs Posdnuos and Trugoy spent more time trying to hype up the crowd than actually performing songs from genre touchstones like 3 Feet High and Rising. While dividing up the crowd and being playfully antagonistic to rile up energy works for a while, when it becomes the majority of the set, it grows real thin really fast. So what if the youthful Sasquatch! audience might not know more than "Feel Good Inc."? Convert them with the music, not an endless gauntlet of call-and-response nonsense.
Short Set Sadness
Two of Sunday's best sets—Queens of the Stone Age and Waxahatchee—were cut short because of... well... because of nothing. Both acts played 20 minutes less than their allotted time slots, which can only be categorized as a total bummer. It's hard to watch a great performance come to an abrupt end and not feel slightly cheated (and to not let it color your opinion of the set as a whole). While marathon performances like the Cure's 31-song set at Sasquatch! 2008 aren't ideal either, it's better to have slightly too much of a good thing than not enough.
Other Random Musings
- M.I.A. knows how to throw a chaotic party. Whether bring the heat on hits like "Paper Planes" and "Y.A.L.A" or inviting female fans from the pit on stage dance with her, she had the crowd hopping for her entire set.
- Kithkin's energy is wild, but that doesn't mean the band members shouldn't give the crowd some warning before leaping into it. It's surprising no one got hurt during the band's set at the Narwhal stage.
- Granted, it's exactly what the group is going for, but Die Antwoord: What? Y'all are weird scary.
- This is anything but groundbreaking news, but it's hard to top the elegant simplicity of Damien Jurado sitting alone on stage performing with nothing more than his voice and a guitar.
- The award for most interesting lead singer performance goes to George Clarke of Deafheaven. Not only did he provide brutal screams during the band's heavy set, he also acted as a conductor, orchestrating the audience with sharp gestures that seemed militaristic.
- If there's a better way to start a festival day than dancing along to Tacocat tunes, I've yet to find it.
- The National singer Matt Berninger doesn't drop the mic so much as throw it in frustration. Repeatedly. The ultra emotive frontman unleashes waves of fury and sorrow when he performs in a way that feels like he's genuinely working through his emotions on stage. It's his therapy.
- Tyler, the Creator is awful in every way: His voice is bland, his flow is boring, his lyrics are demeaning and offensive for offensive's sake. It's frustrating to see him thrive. Chance the Rapper's lively Friday set blew Tyler's out of the water in comparison, but the latter still drew far more rabid fans.
I've never seen a Sasquatch! comedy crowd as big as the one that showed up for Demetri Martin. The El Chupacabra tent was overflowing in a way that only the late night EDM artists can usually attain.
- Sunday presented a choice between rock's old school and its new school as Bob Mould played the Bigfoot stage at the same time as HAIM taking the main stage. Unsurprisingly, the crowds were mostly divided by age, which meant there weren't a ton of people checking out the former Hüsker Dü frontman's set.
For more Sasquatch! coverage, check out our slide show recap below.