A new day, a new approach. Through no fault of my own this day was hard to follow owing to overlapping set and a hefty does of indecisiveness. This saw a rapid-fire approach for the first half of the day before settling in entirely at the main stage for the night.
Comedian Pete Holmes opened by taking a (worryingly big) pot shot at Sasquatch!’s pricing of bottled water (of course, it wouldn’t be funny to mention that there are free water stations peppered around the festival site) before poignantly noting that breastfeeding equates going to second base with your Mum. It wasn’t so much offensive as it was a kick in the balls; laughs were had despite the fact that his shouty nature began to grate fairly fast.
If you’ve ever seen Portlandia, a satirical sketch show based in hipster-centric Portland (of neighbouring state, Oregon), you’d be savvy enough to expect a series of dry and awkward musings from Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. The opening bit had kick – a to-and-fro series of text messages between the two read aloud, affectionate on one side, dismissive on the other, but it slowly waned from there into a slideshow featuring biking signals, childhood photos and second grade poetry.
The Civil Wars
Despite being flanked by instruments it didn’t take long for John Paul Young, the male half of The Civil Wars, to demonstrate (and joke) that their staple of gear was indeed much smaller. With stage-partner Joy Williams, the pair stripped the main stage bare of the tempo, volume and utter flamboyance that it hosted the night before and delivered a raw, folksy set fuelled by their talents as singer/songwriters and performers. In short, they click on every level, harmonized in both note and chemistry, the way you would imagine Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham did during the best years of Fleetwood Mac.
Humbled by the size and response of their crowd, the duo gave an indelible performance covering tracks including “From This Valley”, “Falling” and the gentlest cover of “Billie Jean” you’ll likely ever hear.
Who is Donald Glover?
One side is a perceptive, articulate, lay-it-bare comedian. The other, in his most famous role, plays a gentle, dim-witted dork on a network TV series. There’s also the verbally aggressive rapper with a chip on his shoulder. Childish Gambino is obviously the latter of these, and I had a hard time anticipating that I would be able to separate the three (or rather, Gambino from the other two). Luckily this was not a problem at all.
On stage Childish Gambino devoured the audience and his companion alter egos along with it. It was an immersive set, driven by tight phrasing and a masterful sense of conviction that included tracks “Firefly”, “Bonfire” and “Heartbeat”. With voice unique from his rapping kin and the determination to be heard, powerful things can and did happen.
I think the real Donald Glover just stood up.
The sun goes down, The Shins are up.
The power that James Mercer and company yield is a catalogue of strong and revered work that has managed to captivate old audiences while continually building new ones. This is, in no small part, owing to Mercer’s drive to push his bands sound as far as he can, by any means necessary. For the latest album this meant a cleaning out a good portion of the band and with that nobody knew what to anticipate - this current tour is their first as a new nucleus.
On stage this determination shines through in a series of strong performances, accomplished by a band that knows the finesses of working as (talented) individuals steering towards something bigger. While my familiarity with The Shins catalogue isn’t strong, my appreciation for their musicianship wasn’t wasted.
If you ever get a chance to see them (here’s looking at you, Splendour-goers), you’d be a fool to pass it up.
If there’s an accurate way to surmise this set and do it justice, I’m at a loss. In short, dropped jaws were aplenty and brains were surely melted.
Washed in an electric blue light, the band cut through the air of anticipation with The White Stripes thumper “Black Math” (so inspired that a friend went on to punch me to the beat of the riff for days). The set that followed, while not an even spread, went on to cover all incarnations of White’s career to date. Stripes numbers were aplenty (including “We’re Going To Be Friends” and “Seven National Army” in the encore), “Sixteen Saltines” was a work to be reckoned with and a cover of Hank Williams’ “You Know That I Know” was thrown in for good measure. The crème of the crop, without doubt, was a thick and sticky take on “Ball And Biscuit” (in fact, the same friend who has been beating me for days has also been playing this track so hard that his “post Sasquatch! play count may hit triple digits by the end of the week”).
For a lack of better articulation, fact is that Jack White, without hope or agenda, single-handedly threatened to break the foundations of modern rock music as we know it.
In fact, that’s exactly what happened