On the cusp of an expansive canyon in the middle of Washington state, the AU review found itself perched cliff-side once more for our second year of coverage from the 2012 Sasquatch! Music Festival.
The venue itself is something impossible to ignore, where the music headlines right alongside Mother Nature; its physical presence, both majestic and inspiring, provides what is surely the perfect setting for a music festival (if such a thing ever existed).
This years sold-out Sasquatch! saw another twenty-five thousand punters flock from all corners of the globe, most from the US and nearby Canada, but it wasn’t at all hard to find foreigners which is testament to the success of its increasing popularity on the global festival scene. For all intents and purposes, Sasquatch! is a regional festival that skewers toward local North-West USA artists and music lovers but, as its demographic begins to widen, so to does the range of artists invited to perform at The George.
After hours stalled in traffic on a single lane road (which sounds tedious but was actually incredibly amusing owing to good company both within our group and passers by) we rushed to build our campsite before making the trek over to the festival grounds to enjoy some tunes.
Of Monsters And Men
We made it into the festival grounds by the middle of Of Monsters And Men’s set on the big stage. Here, the Icelandic six piece’s Arcade Fire-meets-Matt & Kim style offerings exuded the right of kind upbeat energy to start our Sasquatch! experience. Owing to the lack of what we saw there’s not a whole lot to comment on other than the fact that it was, if anything, this band provided a very sweet coming together of style and substance.
Mid-afternoon on the Yeti stage, the smallest of the festival, saw James McCartney working a crowd about a dozen thick (do those napping on the hill count?).
We were there only for the last few tracks of his set (owing to an overlapping schedule) and despite the fact that James was paying with the competence you’d expect from the son of a Beatle, the sum of it all was middle-of-the-road stuff, a little dry and deprived of energy. Why the poor turnout? It’s hard to say for sure but the comparisons that are inevitable when living in that kind of shadow, while impossible to avoid, certainly don’t work in his favour.
By late afternoon we’d decided to park a sunny hillside spot for Santigold’s strongly anticipated appearance. What came to be was just as eclectic as you’d expect from the Princess of Genre Defiance and not unlike what she brought to Park Life last year - pulsating beats, neon-clad dancers feigning looks of disinterest and an infectious energy that saturated an impressively sized audience (and didn’t omit those with little familiarity with her work).
It was a quick and snappy set that saw Santi churn through faithful favourites including "L.E.S. Artistes", "Go!" And that earworm "Creator", which left many screeching the high pitched ‘Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh’ hook for days to come.
“DJ’s belong at weddings and high school reunions. Why the hell would I pay to see a third party press play on someone else’s work?”
If the above comment (my own) doesn’t illustrate how strange it is that Girl Talk would perform one of my favourite sets of the entire festival, I don’t know what will. Any act that commences with the flare of fireworks is one that the organisers obviously have a fair degree of faith in and it didn’t take long to see why; Mr Talk (known offstage as Gregg Gillis) came out flanked in party-hard fans and served a set of remixes and samples that was bang-up fun, well-measured and climactic in the face of the acts that played before him. There was a little bit of everything – Elton John’s "Tiny Dancer", Kelly Clarkson’s "Since U Been Gone" and Missy Elliot’s "Work It" featured amongst the non-stop fray. If liking a DJ is wrong then, in this instance, I don’t want to be right.
Highlight? Ice Cube’s "It Was A Good Day" sampling MIA’s "Paper Planes". Whoa.
Explosions In The Sky
Getting caught up in Girl Talk had its downside – the overlap with Texan outfit Explosions In The Sky. This is a band whose stellar catalogue, as hype would prove right, is only outdone by their live performances, so it was a sad state when I realised I’d missed the majority of their set.
Having rushed to the Bigfoot stage in time to catch what would be their last song, I was immediately struck by the change in pace in contrast to Girl Talk before them. However, rather than wallowing in the disappointment of what I'd missed, my wants were sated with a masterful ten-minute rendition of their instrumental track "The Only Moment We Were Alone". Laced with a small orchestra of tinkering guitar strings and the occasional percussive bounce, it evoked an emotive ambiance that, crescendo after crescendo, washed through like a warm embrace. Lovely stuff.
Perhaps it was the wind-down of Explosions In The Sky or maybe it harks back to my general disinterest in the whole electro/DJ brand of artistry (most likely a combination of the two), but after the surprise of Girl Talk I’d decided to keep an open mind for the last act of the night, Pretty Lights.
Unfortunately nothing much came of it, for me at least. In fact it felt rather reductive, as a post-Girl Talk set. That said, the quasi-dubstep/industrial electro grinding somehow found appeal with a near-capacity crowd who seemed more than happy thrashing and convulsing to the relentless WAH-WAH-WAH-WAH-WAH’s. Cynically, I wondered if this is because Pretty Lights was the only act on at this point but the pragmatist within wouldn’t want to deny anyone their dues. Like me, my party wasn’t partial to what was on offer and decided to head back to the campsite mid-set before the buzz of everything before it was vanquished.
Chatter with strangers later that night came with mixed reactions to the set. Some loved it, some didn’t understand it at all and most agreed that, in terms of scheduling, Girl Talk and Pretty Lights should have occupied each others time slots.
But hey, I’m not entirely without compliment; he sure did have some pretty lights…