Tucked between billowing hills and jagged rock formations, Quincy, Washington’s Sasquatch! music festival drew thousands to the magnificent Gorge Amphitheater this Memorial Day weekend. Unlike some festivalgoers who attend music festivals for the fashion, glamour and Instagrams, Sasquach! attendees sacrificed luxury and basic hygiene to camp out for three days of great music.
With a lineup that included Major Lazer, Die Antwood, Outkast and The National as headliners along with lesser-known bands such as tUnE-yArDs, Papa, First Aid Kit, Gifted Gab and the Polyrhythmics, the festival provided impressive musical diversity that reflected the diversity of the attendees, united by their appreciation of good music and craving for collective experiences.
Hailing from Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, HAIM gave a performance Sunday evening performance that was undoubtedly a highlight of the festival. Oozing coolness, the band opened by inviting audience members to enter a jam session in their backyard, turning the thousands of strangers into their close friends. The fact that three of the four band members are sisters undoubtedly assisted in creating an intimate environment where everyone felt at home.
Unlike some performers who hide behind rehearsed choreography and confining costumes, HAIM connected to the audience by remaining raw. Este, singer and bassist, in particular broke the façade of perfection that so many female performers try to maintain on stage. As her face melted into a open-mouthed scowl — her famous “bassface” — she revealed the struggle inherent in live performance.
As they belted the lyrics to their anthems “Don’t Save Me” and “Falling,” the familiar sounds of ‘90s girl rock ala Gwen Stefani and ‘70s folk rock that would rival Fleetwood Mac came together in perfect harmony. The sisters, who have performed together since childhood, as part of their family’s band Rockinhaim, demonstrated impeccable musical ability as they bounced between guitar, bass, vocals and finally came together in a drum finale that had synchronized the heartbeats of everyone listening. With such natural talent and unguarded energy, this band could have headlined.
Tyler, the Creator
It was hard to believe that the lanky 23 year old who stood on stage in a short sleeve button-down and Vans was the man behind the monster that is Tyler, the Creator.
However, when the music started, the voice made familiar by his last three albums — deep and raspy — evoked images of terror. As soon as a song ended, the demon that created Bastard, Goblin and Wolf was humanized between inhaler puffs and crude jokes made to engage the audience. Forced to reconcile any preconceived notions of the being behind the malicious music with the lighthearted man before them, the audience was captivated by the walking paradox.
Though his personality may have come as a shock, Tyler delivered his music in a manner that could not disappoint expectations. Jasper, the comedic companion of The Goblin (Tyler) appeared as the DJ and hype man for the entire set, adding to the surprisingly friendly nature of the show and further captivating the crowd.
As a self-made artist, popularized by a self-produced and directed YouTube video, “Yonkers,” Tyler has recently been exploring the limits and powers of his fame. Throughout his set he repeatedly instructed the audience to passionately shout “Jason Derulo,” the singer-songwriter and dancer behind the song “Talk Dirty.” Why did he do this? Because he could. Why did the audience obey? Because he was Tyler, the Creator.
To close his set, Tyler instructed the audience to yell “Jason Derulo” one last time, at the top of their lungs. After they did, he uttered his last words to the puppets that made up his audience: “You are all idiots.”
The story of Sixto Rodriguez is as inspirational as it is heartbreaking.
After producing two folk albms in the early 1970s, both of which hardly sold in America, the singer-songwriter spent decades as a blue collar worker in Detroit, Michigan. Little did he know that while he was living in a house purchased at a government auction for $50 his records had gained wild popularity in South Africa. With his songs serving as anthems during Apartheid, Rodriguez became arguably more famous in South Africa than Elvis Presley was in America.
However, as far as Rodriguez knew, his brief career as a musician was unsuccessful and over. As far as his South African fans knew, Rodriguez was long gone, rumored to have lit himself on fire after one of his performances. This all changed in 1998 when Rodriguez was discovered to be alive and living in Detroit. Since then, Rodriguez embarked on multiple tours to South Africa and performed in front of thousands of die-hard fans.
Rodriguez’s fame blossomed in the United States with the 2012 documentary on his life, “Searching for Sugarman.” Although a sizable crowd gathered to watch Rodriguez at Sasquatch’s Bigfoot stage, Rodriguez’s story proved to be more engaging than his music. Clad in black, Rodriguez stood before the thousands calm and serene, as if he had been there his whole life. Although the slow, Bob Dylan-esque folk music felt a little out of place, by finding Sugarman, the audience found hope.
Although some audience members grew impatient during the nearly 20 minutes the band Papa used to soundcheck their instruments before their performance, the meticulous soundcheck revealed the unwavering high standards the band held themselves to throughout their entire performance.
Masterfully led by lead singer and drummer Darren Weiss, the three-man ensemble filled Sasquatch’s Yeti! stage with a sound that could have been mistaken for being the product of an entire symphony. Through excellent communication with his fellow band-members Weiss directed perfect transitions. Through subtle body language, vocal cues and eye contact, Weiss directed the band, ensuring each member, confident in their superb individual musical abilities, performed in unison.
Unlike much indie rock that overflows with softness and lacks angst, Papa’s sound possesses a refreshingly rugged quality. The music, written by Weiss and bassist Danny Presant, evokes powerful simplicity and raw energy. This energy persists not only in their written material, but also through solos that the members improvise throughout the set. Papa’s performance at Sasquatch served as nothing less than a testimony to their immense potential that will undoubtedly result in continuing success.
Contact Sophia Weltman at [email protected].