Festival Review and Photos: Sasquatch 2012 – Friday & Saturday

The Washington Gorge. There’s little to say about the gorgeous scenery that hasn’t been said already, but you could see it in the artist’s eyes and hear in their words that this secluded place is truly inspirational. Over the coming days we’ll feature a ton of pictures and plenty of words on Sasquatch, now in its 12th year. There’s a full gallery of photos at the bottom on the post.


Yellow Ostrich
Yellow Ostrich was one of those bands I was aware of, but nobody I ever actively sought out. Their hype seems to be growing among the blogosphere, as their name seems to coming up over and over in my rss feed. So going into the show I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the outcome was way beyond any preconceived expectations I had. In a rather humble show slot, on a slow day on a small stage, Yellow Ostrich, the three piece from Brooklyn took command of the stage and excited an otherwise glazed-over eyes. Don’t scoff at me not being able to name any of their songs, but their prototypical power-pop was both simple and impressive.

The Portland Oregon collective STRFKR have been on the cusp of some great things in the past few years, being part of the burgeoning DIY scene in Portland and exploding nationally from there. Their Northwest roots definitely helped as they took the stage to a roaring applause on Friday night. Launching into tracks like “Bury Us Alive” and “Pink Pepto,” their gorgeous mix of keyboards and guitars took over the Banana Shack and left the crowd wanting more. With each performance it seems as though STRFKR grow out of their mostly one-man-band approach which originated with member Josh Hodges, coalescing into an impressive unit with a promising future. The regional acts always draw a good crowd, but there’s no doubt that STRFKR made plenty of new fans that night.

Explosions in the Sky
Even though I’ve never been the biggest proponent of Austin, Texas’ Explosions in the Sky, they’re one of those bands with a following so large it’s hard to ignore. And maybe I like my epic, instrumental music a little more electronic than what Explosions have to offer, but there’s a certain energy to their live performances that is hard to ignore. The aging faces of some of the members were a million miles form their energetic, spirited and lengthy set to close out the Bigfoot stage on Friday night’s shortened bill. And even though Girl Talk’s set across the festival had literal explosions in the sky thanks to his firework display, the backdrop seemed rather fitting as lights boomed and guitars roared in harmony. They might never be my favorite on record, but I’ve always had a good time at their shows, and they proved that to be true once again.


Say what you will about the sometimes middling music of Athens, Georgia band Reptar, the rambunctious foursome was more than happy to kick of Saturday’s activities on the Bigfoot stage. Hot off the release of their debut record Body Faucet, the group played to an expectably small but enthusiastic crowd, tearing up the stage as guitarist jumped from his knees to feet yielding his pointy instrument. It was damn solid, and they had fun performing. What else is there to say.

Alabama Shakes
Even though some people might be too cool for the car-commercial loving, southern rocking group, there’s just something about the Alabama Shakes that too perfect. Whether it’s the seemingly uncharacteristic members, the way the band exploded in the past twelve months, or just how good to be true it all is, some people definitely disrespect this group. But those people are the minority. The crowd that gathered for the group was beyond impressive for their afternoon time slot. Lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard is nothing short of charismatic, and the crowd ate up her every word. Alabama Shakes did nothing short of back up every kind word that’s been said about them since their hype began to explode, making sure even those “too cool” for them had a great time.

Craft Spells
Representing the humble city of Stockton, CA, buzz band Craft Spells have been a little quiet since 2011’s Idle Hands, their breakout debut record. As the group took to the Yeti stage on Saturday there was no shortage of front-row backup singers and passionate fans screaming the names of each member. Craft Spells really seem to have their thing down, as the set was tight and actually sounded amazing considering they were on the smallest, most ramshackle stage. It might be a while before we hear anything new from these youngsters, but they certainly have a dedicated fan base and promising future ahead of them.

Kurt Vile
The long-haired, apathetic looking Philadelphia native may not have been putting out music for that long, but since his debut in 2008 he’s been nothing short of prolific. Kurt Vile’s midday set was the perfect mixture of his homespun folk and all out rock, producing one of those shows that unknowing patrons would stop and pay attention to. As he ripping into tracks like “Freak Train” and “Heart Attack,” Vile’s hidden but piercing eyes combined for a gorgeous performance that was powerful but predictably understated. The mountainous, exhaustingly massive backdrop was the perfect canvas for Vile’s stories, making a terrific experience for everyone involved.

Helio Sequence
Having ran into this energetic two piece band before their show on Saturday, you could tell that the Helio Sequence were more than excited to play Sasquatch this year. After starting their set with the powerful “Can’t Say No,” lead singer and guitarist Brandon Summers called the view “rather distracting, actually” as he looked to drummer Ben Weikel and smiled. These guys always seem vastly underrated, putting out consistently impressive records but never quite reaching that next level of stardom. As they went on to play “Lately,” which is their undisputed hit single, the crowd sang along and enjoyed themselves and the midday sun finally began to shine down on the masses.

There’s some live music that’s hard to describe because the instrumentation is crazy or the visuals are unreal; and then there’s Theesatisfaction, the duo of Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons. These two soulful women command a certain energy on the stage that’s hard to not be drawn to. With their debut record just released on Subpop, and the residual buzz from their help on Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up, the two were a huge draw on the Yeti stage. The two members danced in rhythm to their minimal soul and R&B influenced beats, making for a mesmerizing scene as the sun perfectly shined on these endlessly talented women.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Regional up and comers Unknown Mortal Orchestra, now based in Portland, OR, played a short but rocking set to a crowd that either had a sense of humor or wasn’t familiar with their blend of psych and pop. Cheers of “more vocals!” from the crowd after “Thought Ballune” make me think the fans weren’t really in on the joke, but nevertheless the nonchalant members carried on rightfully unfazed. They eventually brought on a friend from Portland who plays in Wampire for some keyboard work, making UMO a proper four piece group and taking their sound to a whole new level.

One of the few artists who make even the worst photographers, i.e. myself, look like the a total pro, Tune-Yards were a fan favorite at Sasquatch this year. Merrill Garbus’ band have evolved into a finely tuned monster since her humble roots performing solo, making older tracks like “Sunlight” and “News” take on a whole different life. Even when Garbus had the first loop of “Gangster” on repeat, the crowd knew exactly what was about to come, throwing their hands in the hair to coordinate with the drumstick wielding leader. Her set was the perfect mix of new and old material, mixing jazz and instrumentals to command a great energy.

St. Vincent
How such a petite frame can have so much energy on stage is beyond me, but Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent rocked so damn hard on Saturday night. And yes, rocked so damn hard is the only way to describe it. Even her newest material, “Krokodil” sounded nearly perfect live, making her older hits like “Actor Out of Work” make the huge gathering go wild right along side Clark as she jumped about. Despite some early technical difficulties, launching Clark into even more of a frenzy, the fair-skinned, frizzy haired songstress put on what can only be described as a rock concert.