If you’ve been wondering where my Sasquatch! 2016 reviews have been, I must ask your forgiveness, as I have been working over what I saw and heard at The Gorge. This summer the mythical, musical beast that is the Sasquatch! Music Festival seemed overshadowed by the dark hand of commercialization. Once a festival worth reminiscing over, Sasquatch seems to have grown into a maze of shops, booths, and shitty food. The growth of this grotesque beast has been slow rather than sudden, but this year a few changes hammered home what the festival has come to represent in my eyes.
Now, it’s not like I didn’t have fun at this year’s Sasquatch! Music Festival, but this year more than ever I felt disappointed by the lineup, and I’m not just choked up because Leon Bridges was forced to go acoustic. Rather, I’m reflecting on a slow year that accentuated the slow transition towards a commercialized festival which demands more and more out of the consumer. From over-priced and under-poured drinks to premium seats placed in front of the common fan, Sasquatch had a way of reminding attendees that the almighty dollar still ruled the place, no matter how far we had all come.
Lucky for me, Savages were there to sooth my misery.
Music & Misery: Trying To Adore Life With Savages
As a fan of rock music first and foremost, Sasquatch has long been an ally of mine. This year’s lineup was no exception, with names like Ty Segall, King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard, Titus Andronicus, and Savages standing out on the poster, it was reasonable to think rock would be well-represented at The Gorge once again.
As is often the case, however, the rock and roll crowd were left with earlier set times, smaller stages, and concert conflicts that made it tough for someone with a taste for guitar to follow along. My media passes may have allowed for me to pass through the festival lineup quickly, but I can still remember years when I had to time hour-long lineups with set times. And that’s not to mention the friends I have to find later.
Inside the festival grounds, the ferocity of the bands mentioned above often seemed blunted by the blazing sun or sparse crowds, a product of poor set times and even poorer publicity on behalf of the band. And as much as I wish the entire world knew of Patrick Stickles’ writing brilliance or Jehnny Beth’s ferocious vocal performances, this isn’t the world we live in. Instead, when Titus Andronicus came on to perform during a sunny after set at Sasquatch, it seemed as if the festival hardly knew, or cared, for that matter.
Now I’m willing to admit that not everyone necessarily had this feeling when they came back from this year’s Sasquatch Music Festival, which is why I’ve chosen to document my reflections under the Music & Misery category. This is hardly the first time I’ve been left alone in my disappointment, even at The Gorge. I’m well aware that the few artists I did enjoy, like Savages, are prophets of the darker side of life. And while it seems out of place at a music festival like Sasquatch!, it was nice to know Jehnny Beth understood what I was feeling at that moment.
A Sad Person
“You are, you are A sad, sad person Always been A sad, sad person It’s not that bad You just take sadness for a ride And question everything you do You are never satisfied”
In past years, The Gorge has functioned as a summer retreat and general happy place of mine, however this year my misery followed me 400+ miles into the middle of Washington state, and in that state of mind all I wanted to hear was over-driven guitar. Forget the free-spirits, I wanted to be free from my worries, and I was as far from that goal as I was far from home.
Of all the memorable performances at this year’s Sasquatch! Festival, the show Jehnny Beth, Gemma Thompson, Ayse Hassan, and Fay Milton of Savages put on was undoubtedly my favourite of the weekend. Forget the teasing bass drop of Major Lazer, these four women were pumping out more sonic energy per square inch than anyone else at The Gorge that weekend. The only problem was that the crowd at the Savages’ show rivaled that of a lineup for $20 fast food in the middle of the Washington desert.
It’s hard to fault the artists for poor attendance at a music festival (blame the Canadian dollar, if anything), but for better or for worse crowd participation has become an integral aspect of a show’s overall impact, and it can be genuinely disheartening to see an empty crowd making little connection to the stage. For some stupid reason, a claustrophobic front-30 rows makes one feel like they’re present to see something special. And it matters.
Too often rock shows at festival are relegated to sweltering afternoon sets or other unfortunate conditions, and the resulting atmosphere rarely amounts to a good recipe for a rock show. Too early in the day for the party crowd, and too aggressive for the hippy crowd, a handful of rock shows seemed to slip through the cracks this year at The Gorge, and it was tough to watch.
When in Love
“Oh I hate your Taste in music You’re not the one I’ve been waiting for”
I could hardly believe my own notes, or lack thereof, when I took a first look on the return trip home. In the place of gleeful scribbles sat a few forces opinions, conjured not out of feeling, but out of forced habit. I barely had anything positive to say.
Have I gotten old? Am I out of touch? Is rock really dead? Did I come all this way just to feel disappointed? Should I just shut up and try to enjoy the happy music?
These are the questions that have bounced around my head since the last days of this year’s Sasquatch! festival. Not exactly the review friends or readers are hoping for, that’s for sure.
But the summer is far from over – in fact, it has only just begun. And with a season’s worth of sun-soaked concerts ahead of me I’m going to keep following one of my top life rules by attending as many concerts as I can, soaking up all the music possible. As much as my last musical experience wasn’t optimal, thanks to Savages I know The Answer is to chase down what I love and pursue it with all my ability.
So send me the next festival lineup. I’ll be there listening and nodding my head, but I can’t promise I’ll be happy about it.