What was formerly a one-day festival expanded this year into a weekend-long event featuring over fifty bands across three stages. Held at the Gorge in central Washington, Sasquatch brought a fair variety of talent and ridiculously overpriced food.
I skipped Day 1, held on Friday, because the same ticket price as the other two days for a third of the bands didn't appeal to me. For those interested, though, I heard that Nine Inch Nails put on a great show.
Due to a slow-moving line, I arrived about halfway through Architecture In Helsinki's set. The Australian indie pop group had about eight musicians constantly working, fulfilling their reputation of putting every idea they can conceive into each song. They played a fairly even mix of songs off of In Case We Die and Fingers Crossed; I caught "Whirlwind," "Wishbone," "Nevereverdid," "Cemetary," and "Maybe You Can Owe Me," to name a few. They also played a new song, which fit well into the set.
While the majority of the crowd left the Wookie (middle) Stage for the Sasquatch Main Stage in favor of Sufjan Stevens, I stayed to watch Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Malkmus and the band took the stage modestly and played a set composed primarily of songs from Face the Truth with a few nods to the earlier CDs recorded under the new nomenclature (some of you may recognize the name as the singer of Pavement). Despite the disappointing absence of "Pencil Rot," Stephen Malkmus was highly entertaining to watch.
I also missed Iron & Wine, but I heard that Sam Beam played well. I wish I could offer some sort of set list; at the least, I know the crowd enjoyed "Jezebel."
People got excited for Band of Horses -- even Wayne Coyne came out for their set. Their slightly atmospheric indie rock is often compared to the Shins, but there's much more to the Seattle-based group. Their set included many songs off of Everything All the Time, including (in no order) "Our Swords," "Monsters," "The Great Salt Lake," and crowd favorite "The Funeral." The band also dedicated a new song entitled "No One's Gonna Love You" to the Washington state patrol, who apparently pulled them over and searched the band's equipment with dogs.
A short while after Band of Horse's set, an apocalyptic hail storm drove everyone to shelter. Neko Case's set was cut short, and the Yeti (small) Stage was shut down completely. Once the weather cleared, the Tragically Hip took the main stage for their set. I was completely unfamiliar with the band, but the singer was certainly entertaining to watch.
The Shins opened their set with "Kissing the Lipless" and played a few more songs off of Chutes Too Narrow. There was plenty of banter and terrible "Gorge" puns -- I'll let you use your imagination -- not from primary front-man James Mercer, but from bassist Marty Crandall. The crowd enjoyed "So Says I," "St. Simon," and a few songs off of Oh, Inverted World.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals were scheduled to headline and take the stage at 10:00, with the Flaming Lips opening from 8:30 to 9:30. Due to the storm, however, Ben Harper took the stage first. I was livid; now I had to sit through two hours of this man's shit before I could watch the Flaming Lips. They may have been the two longest hours of my life. I can only recall three distinct songs. One may have been titled "My Own Two Hands" or something, in which Harper had the audience convinced they could end racism if they just raised the roof. Well, that's the stupid arm gesture they wouldn't stop doing, anyway. Of course everyone shat themselves for that stupid "Burn One Down" song, and I'm sure everyone enjoyed the unity of lighting up at once to enjoy the shitty single. Despite a very talented percussionist, I hated the song. I also heard that stupid "always have to steal my kisses from you" radio single. I came damn close to writing a three-word review consisting of "Fuck Ben Harper."
After that seemingly never-ending barrage of shit, the stage crew took the longest time yet to set up the stage for the Flaming Lips. The band set up a giant screen to broadcast some bizarre footage of...things I can't begin to describe, from weird Japanese game shows to women applying and eating sunscreen. There were lights, smoke, streamers, balloons, and -- I swear -- two dozen people dressed up on stage, half as Santa Claus, half as aliens.
When Wayne and company were finally ready, they got on stage and the crowd went wild. Wayne got into a massive balloon, which was inflated and then rolled out into the audience. After being pushed around for a while, the ball made its way back to the stage and the band opened with "Race for the Prize," followed by "Free Radicals." After that came what may have been the highlight of the entire festival: "Bohemian Rhapsody." With the words appearing on screen for the few audience members who couldn't sing along without them, Wayne led the Lips and thousands of concertgoers in a completely awesome cover of one of the greatest rock songs of all time. The band then went on to play a variety of songs off of the new album At War with the Mystics, and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Songs included "The W.A.N.D.," "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," "She Don't Use Jelly," "Vein of Stars," and "Do You Realize?" We were also treated to both parts of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," a borderline surreal experience. The Santas and Aliens were "battling" with bright lights from separate sides of the stage.
After "Do You Realize?," the band left for just a moment before returning to thunderous applause. Wayne then launched into the only negative part of the band's set: an obviously improvised political speech. It was inconsistent, somewhat self-contradictory, and pretty disappointing. I hate Bush too, but there are better ways to say it. They then closed with a contemporary political song, which I am horribly ashamed to admit I failed to recognize. It was an uplifting number, though, despite the introduction.
The Flaming Lips may be the most entertaining live band I've ever seen. The aesthetic aspect of the show was outstanding, but they didn't sacrifice auditory quality. One fellow audience member yelled it best to his friend: "Is your mind not blown!?"