Monday arrived, the final day of Sasquatch! 2013. Despite worsening weather conditions, the upbeat attitudes were still going strong. After a decent Friday and memorable performances on Saturday and Sunday, day four continued to impress. Seriously, who could complain with bands like CHVRCHES, Disclosure, Alt-J, Steve Aoki, Dirty Projectors, Toro Y Moi, P.O.S and The Postal Service? The final day proved a worthy close to the festival, solidifying the heartiness of attendees and the strong breadth of its lineup. It also revealed the downfalls of four days of continuous music and intoxicants. Read below for my take on the closing day of Sasquatch!.
We awoke on Monday morning to the sound of pattering rain on our tents, a disheartening thought but not enough to completely dampen our spirits. Pulling together all of our leftover breakfast food—mostly bacon and eggs—we enjoyed one last feast at The Gorge. There was little time for me to hang around in the campground, though, as I had media duties to attend to. With a joint in one hand and my iPod in the other I began my solo trek to the festival grounds, striding eagerly to the upbeat sounds of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros' "Man on Fire."
A while later I emerged from the media area, fully satisfied with the people I'd met and the interviews I had. Stoned, I made my way to Honda Bigfoot where CHVRCHES were throwing down a dynamic set on a rain-covered stage. Immediately impressive was lead singer Lauren Mayberry, a petite woman with a voice much more grand than expected. Whereas other bands had audio problems at this stage, Mayberry had no problem ensuring her vocals were the center of attention. Amidst fantastic electro pop production, she was able to completely command the surprisingly large crowd before them. There was no better example of this than the band's hit single "Recover," which had the whole crowd dancing in their rain jackets and ponchos. It was only once Mayberry took a step back that CHVRCHES started to falter. For one song, producer Martin Doherty decided to give an attempt at singing, but it really fell flat. He was honestly not good. It got me thinking about the other members of the band: Why hadn't they told him that his singing voice was... well, shit? Thankfully, it only lasted one song, with Mayberry returning to the mic for a few last closing tracks. Overall, it was a surprisingly good set.
As the CHVRCHES crowd diffused, it made room for fans of Doomtree collective's P.O.S to rush to the front barriers. Stefon Alexander made his way on stage, greeted by a mass of cheering admirers and an increasing downpour. The rain tooks its toll on him, as he slipped on the wet stage and fell onto his side. He quickly returned to his feet, joking that it was entirely "intentional." But that didn't affect him at all, as he began tearing into his new album We Don't Even Live Here. For the majority of the set Alexander was right up against the barriers, grabbing the hands of an excited audience as his verses and flows spewed out. The set was made even more energetic by the beats underlying his raps, some grimey, electronic production that got people dancing their asses off at three in the afternoon.
P.O.S left us in a great mood, such that all we wanted to do was party. Realizing our campsite was stocked with plentiful alcohol and good food, we headed back for some R&R. With rain pouring overhead, we happily ate spaghettti and smoked weed until everyone succumbed to the toll of a weekend's worth of drinking and lack of sleep. Unfortunately, while passed out in my tent, I missed a few shows I wanted to see—Dirty Projectors, Death Grips, Toro Y Moi, Twin Shadow and Odesza—but hey, sometimes there are sacrifices we need to make. Especially for the sakes of our bodies.
With food in my stomach and alcohol sifting through my liver, I gathered our group and we all headed to the festival grounds for one last night of music and partying. We had a very direct goal, to go directly to the El Chupacabra tent to see Disclosure. My girlfriend and I are huge fans of these guys and missed them while they were in Vancouver, so seeing them at Sasquatch! was a definite priority. The El Chupacabra tent was packed, but we edged our way around the outside straight to the left side of the stage. After one hour of body-jacking electronica, I just wanted Guy and Lawrence Howard to DJ the rest of the festival. I mean, holy shit, these brothers can really manipulate a crowd. The excitement felt when they began playing "Latch" and "White Noise" was electric, and every song played saw one brother plucking basslines on his guitar while the other triggered claps and high hats on his drum kit. It was a subtle inclusion that added a lot to the overall experience of seeing these guys live. It also helped that every song they played was fantastic.
Exiting the sweaty confines of the Chupacabra tent, we heard Alt-J plucking the first note of their set at the not-too-distant Bigfoot stage. Rushing over, our group found a good spot on the right side of the stage, just outside of the tightly-packed masses. I'm hoping it was just because of our spot—it was at around a 170° angle facing out from the stage—but the band suffered from similar problems to others who performed at Bigfoot. You could hear the versatile talent of vocalist Joe Newman, but his voice lacked the punch it needed and was often overshadowed by a drum kick or bassline. Perhaps for the stage to sound perfect you had to be facing it directly, but it was still disappointing for these sound issues to appear again and again over the course of the weekend. Small gripes aside, I was still enthusiastic to hear Alt-J perform. Relying solely on their debut album An Awesome Wave, each song played was met with cheers from a crowd anxious to hear their favorites. "Tesselate," "Breezeblocks," "Taro," "Fitzpleasure," and "Matilda" were all there, and they were all great. I can't help but imagine how fantastic these guys would sound playing at a mid-to-large-sized indoor venue. Guess I'll have to wait till their fall tour.
As Alt-J's set drew to a close, the sounds of Steve Aoki at the El Chupacabra tent took over. We meandered over, lifted up the side of the tent and crawled under. When we emerged, it was to the sight of Steve Aoki popping champagne bottles all over the crowd, an inflatable boat with a girl in it skimming the tops of the audience. It was a raging party, and props to Aoki for his undeniable talent at partying, but it really emphasized an issue I have with a lot of producers. So many of them are great at making music, at using production programs to remix and create fantastic beats. But, and this is a big but, they rarely have a clue of how to be a live performer. Sure, Steve can blast his electronic stylings and revel in the drunken crowds ready to consume, but he's not really doing anything. He's mostly pressing play, fiddling with knobs when the song is about to drop and then crowd-surfing on an inflatable boat. It's fun, yeah, but it's not impressive from an artistic standpoint. There's no talent in pressing play.
I wasn't about to dedicate the rest of my time at Sasquatch! to Steve Aoki, so I opted for The Postal Service instead. A much better choice, I think. It's been ten years since I got hooked on their lone album Give Up, but I never got the chance to see Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello (aka Dntel) live. I jumped on the opportunity this time around. With ten minutes to go until the band's set time, the main floor of the Sasquatch stage still offered pockets of space ready to be occupied. My friends and I found one with ample view of the stage and held our place. Applause was overwhelming as the newly reunited outfit took to the stage, comprised of a svelte Gibbard, an upbeat Tamborello and the beautiful Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley).
They performed nearly all of Give Up's ten tracks, as well as a fantastic rendition of "A Tattered Line of String." I listened in excitement as Gibbard hopped on the drums for "This Place Is a Prison," or as Lewis and Gibbard exchanged playful looks as the sung a duet on "Nothing Better." The crowd's excitement elevated my elation, cheering wildly as "Brand New Colony" began with its echoing synthesizers or as "Clark Gable" shifts from soothing melodies to quick-tempoed synth pop. The sound during this show was simply outstanding, and each element—the bass, vocals, guitars, drums and synthesizers—came through crisp and clear. Even though the bass was loud it didn't take away from Gibbard's singing. It all resonated perfectly. Ten years later, I'm still a sucker for Gibbard and Tamborello.
Returning to Vancouver, we were exhausted, wet and hungover. Despite this, there was a definite sense of fulfillment. No matter how battered and bruised we were, we left The Gorge feeling more excited than when we arrived. All this thanks to so many incredible performances, (mostly) good weather, cheap alcohol and great friends. Sasquatch! 2013 was memorable in a lot ways, so many that it deserves a return visit. I will gladly return to The Gorge again soon.
By Adrian McCavour.