AU ABROAD

Sasquatch! Music Festival: Day One feat. Death from Above 1979 + Foo Fighters - The Gorge Amphitheatre, USA (27.05.11)

Etched in the side of a wide-open canyon in the middle of Washington State (USA), the stage of the George Amphitheatre sits perched on the very edge of a particularly large slab of red rock. Immediately beyond that is an wide open canyon that stretches as far as the eye can see - it’s a breathtaking view, and a seemingly strange place for any kind of music venue, but this isn’t any ordinary event and its locale suitably fits that bill. This very stage, one of three at the location, is the main stage for the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

Our Sasquatch! experience began at Seattle airport, boarding a shuttle bus that drove us three hours through city, suburbia, snow capped mountains and wide open lakes only to find our eventual expansive, desert-like destination. We arrived in the middle of nowhere to join ten thousand other peers to make a temporary home for the next four days.

With ample time to set up camp and exchange tickets for wristbands before the 3pm opening of the gates, there was ample opportunity to canvas the schedule. Day one was an abbreviated version of what was to come; a soft start if you will, but don’t be fooled – it managed to pack no less punch than any of the other days on the line-up.

After clearing security and taking a lap of the venue to gather out bearings, the first act up was Mariachi El Bronx. Opening on the Yeti stage (the festivals smallest), The Bronx’s alter ego took to causing a Central America-themed celebration. It was a kitschy but unexpectedly fun set that managed to stir far more fervour that you would expect from any noon act; punters hopped about in Mexican fighting masks and took great pleasure in the tracks that were dedicated to the “creeps” and “perverts”, amongst others.

Soon after, Scottish rock-outfit Biffy Clyro took to the Bigfoot stage and delivered a fantastic set that featured their signature and much acclaimed rock sensibilities to a largely unsuspecting crowd. True to form, and playing heavier than their albums ever project, they still managed to wow with their rock-laced bravado, offset by the intelligence of their lyrics and composition.

Without pause, it was back to the main stage to settle in for the evening. Taking in Bob Mould and The Bronx from the comfort of the grassy hillside, we prepared for what was to evolve into one rowdy night. Bob Mould took centre stage as a solo act – just himself and a guitar, and it was perhaps the first real (and rare) disappointment of the weekend – given the context of what we’d seen leading up to this, he was just a little underwhelming. The Bronx came quickly after, this time as their normal selves, and set out to rectify this apparent injustice by thrashing through an impressively energetic set that far outweighed their earlier mariachi efforts (in fact they played so hard that Dave Grohl would proudly later reference to witnessing drummer Jorma Vik vomiting on his kit during their set, although this wasn’t something we were able to confirm).

Death From Above 1979 were up next, and as one of the most hyped bands of the weekend, it seemed they would have a lot to live up to. Amazing, before they had even finished the first song of their set, they had whipped the biggest crowd yet into an unfathomable mob-rule style frenzy. Ignoring any need for crowd control, the masses rushed security in attempts to break into the already full pit circle, and failing that, began launching themselves into it by any means imaginable (“jumping” the barricade just doesn’t describe it – catapult style, one guy landed directly on my head). One girl came tearing out of the pit, on the verge of collapse, before warning everyone within sight to avoid the pit at all costs (“DO NOT GO IN THERE!”), and only seconds later a guy emerged sporting a freshly broken nose. But chaos aside, it was a rapturous electro-punk set that was completely overcame the air of expectation.

Closing out the night was the festivals biggest headliner, Foo Fighters. There’s very little to say that you wouldn’t otherwise expect – it was a strong ‘best of’ driven set delivered with the level of gusto you would very much expect. Taylor Hawkins thrashed his kit and took lead vocals on ‘Cold Day In The Sun’, and Pat Smear’s presence (after his subsequent return to the band) made for a very pleasant turn. Bob Mould joined the Foo’s on stage for "Dear Rosemary" (he also featured on the album version) and while "Everlong", "Monkey Wrench" and "All My Life" were particularly great, "Walk" really managed to stand out from the pack - a track from their new album that simply escalates in the live arena (so much so that it may go down as one of their best to date). And ultimately the boys showed the greatest amount of respect for their fans – forgoing the time wasting exercise of an encore to simply cram in as much music as possible.

All in all, the perfect end to an indelible first day.