Get this: Eastern Washington is a desert oasis.
I know, right?
You thought it was all evergreens and Space Needles and Starbucks.
But there’s a whole half of the state most folks are not familiar with. And it’s the arid climate and the propensity toward sunshine that are precisely what make The Gorge Amphitheatre one of the nation’s best outdoor concert venues.
Day 1 of the three-day Sasquatch Music Festival, now in its ninth year, showed off the Gorge and its breathtaking surroundings to the fullest on Saturday. The weather was perfect (mid-70s and sunny) and the lineup was outstanding. It’s no wonder the crowd was sizable even early in the afternoon for the sold out event.
Concert organizers have Sasquatch down to a science now. Divided between three stages – Yeti, Bigfoot and main — and an additional Rumpus Room tent set aside just for comedy acts and dance music/DJ sets, shows are staggered to allow concert goers to see as many performers as possible. I had to catch a lot of half sets throughout the day, but managed to see every band on my list for Saturday, and even one comedian.
First up was Fool’s Gold. I had been waiting to see this eclectic L.A. collective since hearing a tremendous buzz about them at SXSW (but missing their set in Austin) and subsequently falling in love with their self-titled album. They started my afternoon off right: they sounded amazing and their energy got the crowd moving in the sunshine.
Next I popped into the Rumpus Room to check out, at this blog’s editor’s recommendation (thanks, Shawn), comedian Brent Weinbach. He pulled out a dozen impressions and some hilarious stories, making for a very restorative session at the Rumpus Room, about the only place you’ll find a bit of shade and relative quiet during Sasquatch.
[mp3] Brent Weinbach – Jokes from The Night Shift (2009)
[mp3] Fool’s Gold- Surprise Hotel from Fool’s Gold (2009)
I bounced around between the two smaller stages for the rest of the afternoon, catching Mumford & Sons, Portugal the Man, The Middle East (loved this energetic Aussie group!), Patrick Watson (notable for their melodic, beautiful sound) and – the highlight – Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
[mp3] Portugal. The Man – The Dead Dog from American Ghetto (2010)
[mp3] The Middle East – Blood from The Recordings of the Middle East (2009)
The moment Edward Sharpe lead vocalist Alex Ebert took the stage in his flowing white Middle Eastern looking garb, backed by an actual crowd of instrumentalists, I knew it was going to be a fun performance. It was like watching a cult leader call his followers to order, all that was missing were the matching Nikes. The vibe was infectious and the palpable electricity of the audience only grew as Ebert left the stage and went into the crowd to start off the second song. The music was just as enchanting as its ringleader.
[mp3] Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home (RAC Mix) (2010)
I saw both OK Go (fun and dancey) and Broken Social Scene (a powerhouse performance and brilliant set) on the mainstage before returning to Bigfoot again for Miike Snow.
[mp3] Broken Social Scene – World Sick from Forgiveness Rock Record (2010)
Their performance was fantastic, I don’t think there was a soul watching who didn’t sing along to hits like “Silvia” and “Burial.”
[mp3] Miike Snow – Burial from Miike Snow (2009)
Why? delivered a catchy and comedic set at the Yeti stage next, you couldn’t help but be entertained by Yoni Wolf’s onstage clowning, and talent.
[mp3] Why? – This Blackest Purse from Eskimo Snow (2009)
I took in The National while also taking in a little scenery: the actual geological feature of the Columbia River Gorge, which serves as the phenomenal backdrop of the concert arena. The set was sublime, the view transporting.
Feeling rested, I made my way back to the Rumpus Room to dance with friends to the African beats of The Very Best. The enclosed tent was the perfect place to be as the sun began its descent and the desert landscape began to cool.
Vampire Weekend sounded spot on for their mainstage performance, offering plenty of singalong opportunities from both “Contra” and “Vampire Weekend.” My Morning Jacket closed out the mainstage in a big way as the sun set behind them.
The Rumpus Room was still bumping with a DJ set from Z-Trip as Deadmaus set up for a late show on the Bigfoot stage as I made my way out to my car, tearing myself away from the fun, but trying to preserve a little energy for two more days of one of the best outdoor music festivals in the country.
Tomorrow: More on Sasquatch trends (feathers and facepaint rule!) and another awesome lineup – I can’t wait for Local Natives!
Erin Lodi is a freelance writer and photographer, and an Eastern Washington native, who lives in Seattle.