Following a tired Friday and an outstanding Saturday at Sasquatch! 2013, Sunday kept the good vibes going. The sun continued to beam down, festival goers were in high spirits, and day three promised great things. The diverse lineup was really showcased this day, with such a great breadth of performers ready to get the Sasquatch crowds moving: Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, El-P, Earl Sweatshirt, Mumford & Sons, Killer Mike, The Tallest Man On Earth, Dropkick Murphys, Grimes, Baths, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Primus and many more were ready to provide a continuous barrage of fantastic music. Not everyone was in top form, though. Sound problems ran rampant and drugs rattled performers' abilities. Read below for my high points and low points of the third day at Sasquatch!.
Starting the day off right, my friends and I heartily devoured breakfast, ready for drinking and debauchery. Ladder golf was played, beers were consumed, marijuana was smoked, and we continued making new friends around the campgrounds as well as running into old ones. The overall sense of friendliness was really great, and everyone was eager to offer a thoughtful "Hello." This was only apparent in the campgrounds, though. Once you began the journey to the festival grounds, people became focused on two things: which bands they were going to see and where their immediate group was. I'll admit, that was the mindset I fell into. It became stressful if you lost your friends, but in the end the buddy system always proved reliable.
Katherine and I made our way to the media area around 1:30pm, ate some snacks, gathered ourselves and got ready for the day. She had one goal that day, to see Mumford & Sons. That was the one concert we decided we would see from start to finish. Mumford and co. wouldn't be on for another eight hours, though, so we headed to the main stage for our first show of the day, Danny Brown. We arrived a bit early, enough to see the end of Youngblood Hawke's set. We heard their hit single "We Came Running," but I wasn't overly impressed. This band wasn't for me, I decided. Then came time for Mr. Brown. Meeting up with my friend Nathan, we headed into the crowd, easily finding a good spot in the crossover. We had some time to wait for Danny Brown's set, and Nathan relayed how impressed he was with Capital Cities' performance earlier that day. He wasn't the first person we heard that from.
Danny Brown started at 3:15pm, exactly when he supposed to. Good sign. Clearly, though, he was pretty fucked up. My observations proved right as he jokingly admitted he smoked "...some of the best weed I ever had..." just before performing his first song, and repeatedly telling us how fucked up he was throughout. But that's just Danny Brown, right? Sure, he's charming in his weird, high-as-fuck kind of way, but it became annoying when almost every song consisted of him harshly rapping into the mic to the point of it being incomprehensible. That, and he would often forget lyrics and start over or just switch songs entirely. These are mistakes that a goofy, stoner laugh doesn't make up for.
Thankfully, the bro'd out, trap-loving crowd of Danny Brown quickly cleared and made way for The Tallest Man On Earth. I had never seen Kristian Matsson live, but his alias immediately proved to be very ironic. A short, thin man, you would think his stage presence to be lacking. He swiftly pushed that thinking out of my head. His lone presence on stage, armed only with an acoustic guitar and the shoes on his feet, is very unassuming, but he completely owns that environment. His limbs stretched and he never seemed able to sit still, with every guitar pluck garnering a reaction in Matsson's face. What he lacks in size, he surely makes up for in emotion and animation. That, and the simple combination of his voice and his guitar is mindbogglingly good. His vocals boomed outward from the main stage, drawing in a massive crowd. It was humbling seeing his reactions to the crowd, who reacted to his music with such great enthusiasm. "I’m not high or drunk or anything but I know I stare at you guys from time to time just to make sure you like what I’m doing. I’m a little weird but I try to do good by you cause I am so grateful that this is my job," he said to his fans as his set drew to a close. Keep doing what you're doing Matsson.
The Sasquatch stage saw such a drastic turnover this day. One minute, it was Danny Brown. One hour later, it was The Tallest Man On Earth. As that crowd dispersed, it cleared room for the energetic, wild crowd of Dropkick Murphys. I'd only ever heard of these Boston boys through their hit single "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," but I was thoroughly impressed at how proud and passionate they are. It really comes through in their music. They kicked things off with "The Boys Are Back," and the energy never let down till the band left the stage. Apparently this was their first show together in quite some time, but that was never apparent. Banjos, bagpipes, guitars, drums, bass, piano and accordions assualted my eardrums for an hour straight, and when it finished on a cover of ACDC's "TNT" I couldn't help but raise my voice in cheering applause. The boys delivered one hell of a show.
Snaking through the departing Dropkic Murphys crowds, we planted ourselves in front of the main stage ready for what Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros had to offer. I've had friends see them live and come away disappointed, but that was nowhere close to the experience I had here. I'm stating this now, this was easily one of the best shows of the festival. The energy that Alexander Ebert and co. brought to the stage was infectious and spread throughout the surrounding masses immediately. They lit up The Gorge with "Man on Fire," causing the whole crowd to joyously and passionately sing along. "40 Day Dream" really highlighted the charm of this mismatch musical collective, as they crowded the stage, jumping and playing with vigor and joy. "Home" really brought it all together, though. Every person in the crowd was clapping along, pleased as all hell to be here at The Gorge with the people they love and enjoy. It was a genuinely special moment. What was truly special was the breaking of the "crowd-musician" barrier, as Ebert and vocalist Jade Castrinos made their way down to the crowd and handed the mic off to fans eager to tell their stories. "You just heard our story, it’s time to hear yours," he said. While some of these stories were laughably cheesy, others were truly touching. It was amazing to see the band extend beyond the stage and bring fans into the experience.
Following Edward Sharpe's fantastic performance, we were left with a good deal of free time and numerous options to choose from. We decided we would quickly stop by the Bigfoot stage to check out Earl Sweatshirt. I previously mentioned the sound problems at this stage, and it definitely took away from my enjoyment of his show. The beats laid out beneath Earl's voice were really good, but there were times where the bass was cranked up way too high. As well, Earl's raps were too often drowned out by the overpowering bass. It sounded like his mic levels just weren't high enough to match everything else. After hearing a few songs, we didn't bother sticking around. Annoyed by audio issues we made our way to a beer tent and forgot all about it.
With liquor fueling our bodies, our group took off to the Yeti stage to see Killer Mike. His sixth LP R.A.P. Music was one of my top hip-hop releases of last year, so it was great to finally get the chance to hear him in the flesh. I was expecting great hip-hop, but not to the degree that Mike delivered. He began his set by cooly stating, "Two things: first, I'm fat, get over it, and second, my doctor says that performing on stage is cardio." It was a charming and hilarious start to a great performance. For a man his size, he moves nimbly across the stage, dancing and pouring his heart out on stage. The ATL rapper tore through his newest album, delivering high-octane raps like "Go!" and "R.A.P. Music" and "Reagan." Raps aside, Mike made the most of his time on stage to show his appreciation to his fans. He humbly thanked us for our support, how he feels redeemed and thankful for everyone around him. It was emotional and truly grounding to hear his words, a moment that, for me, set Killer Mike above any other rapper I've ever seen live. He thanks us for our support but I thank him for his music.
Next up was Grimes. She performed at the Honda Bigfoot stage, and the sound issues were never more apparent than her set. We listened to two or three songs at the rear of the crowd and Claire Boucher's voice was nearly non-existant, struggling to seep through the overpowering presence of bass. Every other aspect—the basslines, the synthesizers, etc.—sounded good if not great, but her voice never managed to find a place above the instrumentation. I've seen her live before and she excels in smaller spaces and enclosed venues, but she just couldn't find her footing here. After the problems with Earl's set, it was pretty disappointing to hear them persist.
Leaving Grimes early had its benefits. It gave us plenty of time to catch up on some drinking as well as the chance to get to the main stage and secure a decent spot for Mumford & Sons. We carved a path towards the main floor in front of the stage, finding a spot on the right with a good view of the stage. As 11pm approached, the crowd grew larger by the minute. Cheers exploded as Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane walked on stage but subsided as the band eased into the slow ballad "Lovers' Eyes." The calm didn't last for long, being completely replaced with roarous excitement as the band's hit single "I Will Wait" was ushered in by frantic banjo plucks. What is most apparent seeing these guys live is their unrelenting passion. Marcus Mumford tears apart his guitar with furious energy all the while his feet thump away peddles attached to a kick drum and a tambourine. Meanwhile, Lovett plays piano, Marshall's fingers pluck his banjo a mile a minute and Dwane drives the underlying bassline. On top of it all, every member raises their voice alongside Mumford, adding a great depth of harmony to every chorus line sung. It's truly impressive how energetic the four of them are, standing mere feet apart in front of thousands upon thousands of fans. "Little Lion Man," for instance, was a sight to behold, as every person in sight of stage was up on their feet dancing and cheering enthusiastically. The enthusiasm never left the amphitheatre. "Awake My Soul" was extended from four minutes to ten, with every voice in the crowd singing back to band to the point that it drowned out his own voice. That's what you get what when you cheekily ask, "Shall we have a sing-a-long now?," Marcus. Returning for an encore, the craziness continued to escalate. The band performed "Babel," the title track from their sophomore album. It was sheer excitement on stage and in the crowd. Excitement continued to build when they performed fan-favorite "The Cave," the second song that saw Marcus playing the drums. By the end of the song, everyone was in a state of euphoria, completely caught off guard by the arrival of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. The two bands, together in a moment of elation, delivered a loud, unexpected cover of Fleetwood Mac's classic song "The Chain." Holy crap, what an end it was.
Day three ended on an incredible note, with Edward Sharpe and his Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and his Sons hightening the moods of thousands to an incredible high. There were a few disappointments throughout the day, but they were completely overshadowed by the plentiful awesome experiences that were had. What was most exciting was the diversity of these experiences, that at one moment I could be watching an amazing hip-hop show and the next be blown away by the energy of a group of Boston rockers. It really highlights what is so amazing about Sasquatch!, something that became even more apparent on the final day. The story concludes tomorrow with a recap of day four.
By Adrian McCavour.