10 Things That Made Sasquatch!

Last weekend, the Gorge Amphitheatre opened its gates to tens of thousands of music fans for the tenth annual Sasquatch! Music Festival. As the sun shined above and the odd rain cloud passed quickly overhead many of the Northwest’s best loved bands took the stage and provided an emotionally and physically moving soundtrack, ushering throngs of spirited revelers through the first unofficial weekend of the summer. In ten years the festival has evolved from an unknown one-day get together for fans of Ben Harper and the String Cheese Incident into one of the continent’s greatest outdoor destination music festivals. In honor of the accomplishment, we present ten things – aside from the unbelievable weather and the unforgettable view – that made this Sasquatch! special.

Photography by Nate Watters

1. Costume Party The close of the festival’s first night began with thousands of adults dressed like children singing “Happy Birthday” to a man dressed in a sasquatch costume. The Foo Fighters then took the stage clad in their own winking costumes: everyone except drummer Taylor Hawkins wore flannel. The best looks, though, were yet to come. As the weekend unfolded, concertgoers kept things weird with multiple Bigfoot suits, fruit costumes and lycra Navi bodysuits. For the second year in a row, the trend amongst the uneducated was Native American headdress.
2. Moving It and Losing It Late-night dance-friendly shows by Bassnectar and Ratatat at the Bigfoot stage, as well as each evening’s beat-heavy offerings at the Banana Shack – including this incendiary set from DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid – kept the party going during, and long after, the Mainstage headliner sets. With help from the clear, if chilly, weather, these shows attracted huge masses of late-night revelers who wanted to move their bodies instead of, say, listening to Ben Gibbard sing about moving to Los Angeles.
3. District 9 After the final beat of the night finally banged, much of the crowd funneled onto the twisting dirt road that lead to “general camping,” where the off-brand festivities would continue long into the night, past the next morning and through the following afternoon. In this temporary village – unofficially dubbed “District 9” – young, neon-clad people danced, sang, drank and, most likely, made some bad decisions (like playing “Santeria” three times in a row while finishing a wizard staff of Keystone Ice cans).
4. The Seattle Showing Macklemore & Ryan Lewis capped a long list of well-received Seattle acts – including the Seattle Rock Orchestra (featuring Kaylee Cole) and Mad Rad – with a blistering early-evening set on Monday. The weekend’s biggest Seattle success story, though, belonged to the Head and the Heart. The band won over a midday Mainstage crowd Saturday with a flawless set of songs, inspiring a line of fans, 100 yards long, to sway together at the middle ridge of the amphitheatre as the band sang “Rivers and Roads.” Later that night, Ben Gibbard took a moment from the headlining Death Cab for Cutie set to acknowledge the newcomers, dedicating “Under the Sycamore” to the band. “They rocked this place to the ground,” said the singer of Seattle’s biggest band. “I’m surprised it’s still here.”
5. The Neon Battle Neon continued to be the tone of choice at the festival, most often found in apparel promoting insecure brands that covered up the bodies of insecure twenty-somethings. Neon haters – like one young man sporting a black and white shirt that read “FUCK YOU AND YOUR NEON SHIRT” – would have been well advised to avoid Friday night’s Bassnectar show where the crowd, led by a collection of screaming people gathered beneath the world’s largest showerhead (provided by the festival’s hair product sponsor), threw glowsticks at the stage. For those lacking cynicism, or aided by drugs, it looked pretty damn cool.
6. Crazy Canadians On Saturday night, Ben Gibbard was in the middle of an intimate solo-acoustic rendition of “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” during Death Cab for Cuties’ set. “You and me have seen everything to see,” he sang to a hushed crowd. Then he continued, “from Bangkok to Calgary,” and a roar erupted that frightened us. And by “us,” I mean the United States Americans in the crowd. The Canadians were not surprised. They were waiting for it. Because they are crazy. The organizers wisely packed the lineup with Canadian favorites like Death From Above 1979, Black Mountain and the Sam Roberts band, and the fans – including Jeremy Matheson, who insisted on doing a back flip for us – came in droves and partied like it was the end of the world. Go Canucks!
7. Funny ’cause It’s True Seattle natives Hari Kondabolu and Reggie Watts bookended the Sunday afternoon comedy programming in the Banana Shack by delivering the truth. Kondabolu challenged the very pale crowd with jokes about racism (“White chocolate, from the people who brought you white Jesus”), corporate malfeasance (“Corporations are treating the planet like it’s second semester of senior year”) and a convincing impression of Back to the Future’s Doc Brown as a raving racist. He also provided critique on the excess of littering and feathers at the festival, to much approval and laughter. Watts’ later gave the crowd an education on drugs by making everyone feel like they were on them.
8. Lights, Ephemera, Action! There was little doubt that the best stage show of the weekend would come from the Flaming Lips, who played the entirety of the band’s 1999 album, The Soft Bulletin, at the Mainstage Sunday night, assisted by confetti, balloons, a rainbow and dancing Dorothies in short skirts. Close behind Wayne Coyne and his band were the Decemberists’, who executed a rousing set Monday night while Mother Nature put on an impressive lightning display. Modest Mouse impressed as well on Sunday night, their lighting designer managing to create a mix of doom and beauty with the house lights that illuminated an excellent and intense set. Later that same evening, Ratatat, melted brains with its warped, candy-coated video installation and ghostly hologram string quartet.
9. Jumping with Joy Looking for a way to attract young music fans and desperate for another way to have fun in the ample sun, the folks at the Vera Project booth purchased a handful of jump ropes from a gas station, taped them together and started a new Sasquatch! tradition: Double Dutch. Many tried, most failed, but all were entertained, including Wayne Coyne who emerged from his tour bus at one point to videotape the jumpers.
10. Happy Birthday! The organizers of Sasquatch! celebrated the festival’s birthday twice. The first time was with a birthday sing-along on the Mainstage before the Foo Fighters’ Friday night set. The expertly crafted cake featuring a Sasquatch and a lumberjack survived. The second was in the middle of the Flaming Lips set. The lumberjack perished at the hands of Wayne Coyne, but the Sasquatch remained. Happy Birthday, Sasquatch! Many returns.