Music, dancing, cold beer, new friends, sore feet and plenty of sunscreen. This was my weekend.
I went to Sasquatch! Music Festival, surrounded by my friends and breathtaking views, while experiencing some of the most impressive musical acts I have ever seen.
For anyone who has ever been to The Gorge Amphitheatre, you probably know that being at the venue is an experience in and of itself. Add in three days of music, camping out of the back of a car and thousands of people, and you have the complete music festival package.
Since I got back to Bellingham, people have been asking me the same questions:
“How was it?”
“Who was the best performance?”
“Aren’t you exhausted?”
Now that I have had the time to process and reflect on the weekend, and get more than five hours of sleep at a time, I will attempt to put my experience into words.
This was the third time I have been to Sasquatch. One of the magical parts about this year was that most of the people who were camping around my friends and I had never been to the Gorge. Seeing their faces when we woke up that first day reminded me of my first festival, and how I felt overwhelmed, excited and mystified all at the same time.
It’s quite a sight to see thousands of cars lined up with elaborate camping setups emerging from the trunks. As early as 7 a.m., I could see people sitting in folding chairs on top of RVs, canopies with colorful tapestries draped across to shield from the hot sun and even a complete DJ setup in the bed of a blue Ford pickup. There were American, University of Washington, Colorado, University of Oregon, Canadian and even German flags waving at all heights to make camp sites easier to spot in the distance.
My group consisted of Western seniors Mattson Overstreet and Laura Thomsen, junior Noah Matijascic, and my brother, David Mackin, who flew in from Colorado.
To start the day, we went to see a group from Canada called The Strumbellas. Not only were they lively and boisterous, but the six-person band played in a compellingly cohesive way. Combining fiddles, drums, guitars and voices simultaneously to show off their true musical talent.
We maneuvered our way through the grounds to see bands Thee Oh Sees and Sleigh Bells, before finding ourselves at the Yeti Stage. This was one of the four different stages at the festival. It was time to watch one of the shows I was anticipating the most, Rainbow Kitten Surprise. They are the kind of band that you can tell are having fun on stage, and sound even better live than they do on their recorded album.
Other highlights included a mainstage performance by Seattle-based indie-folk band The Head and the Heart. They had a tribute to the late Chris Cornell, as well as an electrifying set by Bellingham artist Manatee Commune.
To end the night, we made our way to the mainstage for the headliner LCD Soundsystem. Their show surpassed all of our expectations, especially Thomsen’s.
“LCD Soundsystem was the coolest thing ever. I did not expect to enjoy it that much,” Thomsen said. “I don’t think I’ve ever danced so hard in a concert, and it was amazing.”
The group played for two hours straight with an elaborate stage setup made up of drums, over 12 keyboards and various synthesizers. They had a rousing stage presence that included lights and complex visual components, accentuating the performance with every beat. Frontman James Murphy’s voice echoed throughout the Gorge, accompanied by the occasional cowbell.
Murphy announced that the group had just finished recording their album two days prior and played two of their newest songs “call the police” and “american dream.”
The interesting thing about Sasquatch is that you can go start your day dancing to an electropop group like Bleachers, then make your way to an Aesop Rock hip-hop show. The next thing you know, you find yourself taken back to 1992 while watching Sir Mix-a-Lot perform “Baby Got Back.”
Psychedelic-rock group MGMT took the stage at sunset. Andrew VanWyngarden, Ben Goldwasser and their live band played some newer songs and also included intriguing light and videos alongside “Weekend Wars” and “Youth.” The crowd cheered loudly and danced wildly for the 2008 hit singles “Kids” and “Electric Feel.”
Vulfpeck brought soulful horns, acapella and humor to the Bigfoot stage. It was impossible to stand still during their set, especially when they played “1612” and brought vocalist Antwaun Stanley on stage. Each band member was able to play multiple instruments including drums, bass, saxophone, keyboard and guitar, and they rotated throughout the set.
The second headliner of the weekend was Twenty One Pilots. After their performance, I understand why they won the 2017 Grammy award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Their set was full of dynamic movements, dancers, fog machines and lights. Members Tyler Joseph and John Dun even did backflips off the piano, and ran atop the crowd in giant inflatable spheres.
Western seniors Alex Brennen and Chris Menghini made the drive to the festival for Sunday since Brennen was excited to see The Shins and Rüfüs du Sol.
“I’ve always been a huge alternative rock fan, and I feel like they’ve [The Shins] been consistent through time,” Brennen said. “They’ve maintained their sound which I really love. They’ve also got this really positive energy to them which is a ton of fun.”
Both Brennan and Menghini had never been to the Gorge before but decided to make the trip to see The Shins.
“I’ve been a fan of The Shins for years,” Menghini said. “I’ve wanted to see them for a long time, and so being able to see them at this cool place, that’s pretty cool.”
To end the weekend, we made our way down to the pit and were about ten rows back preparing for Chance the Rapper. At 10:30 p.m., Chance emerged alongside a squad of background singers, and members of the Social Experiment including Donnie Trumpet. His set was an electrifying mix of songs from his mixtape “Acid Rap,” the Social Experiment’s “Surf” and his newest Grammy award winning album “Coloring Book.”
His stage presence was vivid. Gospel choruses bellowed from his backup singers and the blaring of Donnie’s trumpet brought the performance to an entire new level.
“His music promotes that live, really high, crazy, happy energy.” Matijascic said.
Chance touched on the fact that he had played Sasquatch before to a smaller crowd and he was humbled to be invited back perform on the mainstage.
With our heads still bobbing, feet hurting and skin kissed by the sun, we made our way back to camp to get in a few hours of sleep before packing up camp and departing at 6 a.m.
The festival ran from Thursday, May 25 to Sunday, May 28, and although I am exhausted, my heart is full and I am already counting down the days until I am able to return.