RECAP: Sasquatch! Music Festival 2013, Day 2
By Kyle Lemmon; photos by Daniel Kielman on June 25, 2013
Sasquatch fans may have experienced a little bit of rain on the first day, but the sun was peeking through the gloomy clouds on Saturday. Many campers were probably nursing hangovers back at the sprawling campsite, but New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band played to an early afternoon set on the main stage. I heard about the soulful jazz collective from the scratch Montreal DJ Kid Koala, who is collaborating with them on his upcoming album. The old-timey tunes got many people dancing. The octet included a trumpeter, trombonist, two tuba players, a clarinetist, a saxophonist, a pianist, and a drummer. The whole group was decked out in black and white suits, so beads of perspiration quickly appeared on their foreheads. The 45-minute set featured a few of the band members taking turns at the mic and that unpredictability kept the modest audience on their toes.
I decided to fast-forward to modern times by taking in the electronic one-man-band Robert DeLong at the Bigfoot stage. The young artist is obviously inspired by old chiptiune music, so he creates his choppy and swerving electro-pop using hacked joysticks, Wiimotes, and traditional laptops. Usually electronic shows are pretty boring since musicians stand behind their computers the whole time. DeLong ran around the stage and even jumped on a drum kit for a part of his set. Although his recorded music is too emo and juvenile for my tastes, he did succeed in making the crowd dance with abandon.
Florida blues/soul/funk/country outfit JJ Grey and Mofro were up next on the main stage. The crowd was mostly spread out across the grassy hills, but the group’s blasting horn section and slippery bass grooves perked up a few passing ears. Mr. Grey commanded the stage with his weathered vocals.
After dinner, it was time for a rare trip to the El Chupacabra tent for the comedy and musical stylings of Park and Recreation’s Nick Offerman. I had no idea what to expect from the comical libertarian and meat lover. Most of his jokes were of a similar stripe to his Ron Swanson character. He went through his ten rules for living. Of course the first one was “Make Romantic Love.” His hilarious sexual euphemisms tickled the audience in the comedy tent who actually stood up when he entered shirtless. He also sang songs. One tune was a repurposing of Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line” into “I Get Offline.” He also ripped Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel” a new one, by singing his own version: “Jesus, Take the Weed.” His Sasquatch appearance was part of a college tour for “American Ham,” a one-man show he describes as being centered on 10 tips for a more thriving life. Offerman was more of a humorist and oftentimes his dead serious delivery of lines evoked Mark Twain.
Offerman’s instructions included “Eat red meat” “Say ‘please and thank you,’” and “Go outside. Remain.” On stage, Offerman is adroit, philosophical, and extremely sober. His stentorian baritone is often disrupted by an adorable, nearly girlish giggle. His most ardent homily came for “Get a hobby,” which he demarcated as learning to do something with your hands besides playing Angry Birds. Offerman is an accomplished woodworker like his TV persona and worries that most people don’t have real world, practical skills. “Instead of playing Draw Something, f------ draw something!” he exclaimed. The audience voraciously ate up his treatises and then went back to playing with their smart phones. Oh well…
Offerman might have been an unknown quantity, but London post-punks Bloc Party are becoming fairly predictable. The English group attracted a large crowd on the Sasquatch stage, but they’ve drifted so far away from their ‘90s post-punk roots that it’s hard to fully recommend them live. Most of the new songs off Four that were played sound uninspired and sometimes sluggish in the percussion area, which doesn’t translate to a fun show.
Divine Fits was the next band circled on the schedule despite the indie-rock supergroup failing to deliver a truly impressive debut album with A Thing Called Devine Fits. The Canadia foursome, is composed of Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner sharing vocals and guitars, and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks on drums, and Alex Fischel of PAPA on keyboards. They blend Daniel's penchant for punk minimalism with Boeckner's more electronic flourishes. Touching on '80s new wave, boozy '70s rock, and contemporary indie music, the group's sound is as inventive as it is familiar. Their show was a rollicking good time, but I left early to check out the dance tent.
John Talabot added some disco DJ jams into the ether in the El Chupacabra tent. The festival is slowly booking more and more serious dance acts instead of the party-ready rave artists. The Barcelona act is certainly serious about creating beats that are crisp, clear, and cut above audience chatter. Talabot flew onto the scene in 2009 after a pseudonym change and released his debut LP, fIN. Curious onlookers and hardcore dance fans seemed to really get what Talabot was serving them.
I was most looking forward to Sigur Rós’ headlining slot since they were plagued by sound problems at their late night Bonnaroo show in 2008. No technical flubs could touch them at the Gorge, though. The Icelandic group, is led by Jón "Jónsi" Þór Birgisson on vocals and guitar — with which he uses a bow to create a haunting effect. The full 11-piece band took up the entire stage in floor space and filled the venue with beautiful instrumental rock soundscapes. The music often starts slow and quiet, and that tension and release upped the dopamine in my brain. The addition of f the three-piece string and horn sections was excellent and helped fill out those bombastic outros.
The visual component of the concert was just as epic. There were uncovered light bulbs set on posts at varying levels around the stage and the lighting director choreographed them in tandem with the glacially paced music. When the set ended, Jonsi tossed his guitar to the ground and left the rear center stage. After some coaxing from the audience, the bandmembers march back out for a two-song encore. Both songs nailed home the fact that describing this music is next to impssible. Just remember this: Don’t miss Sigur Rós if they come to your town. They deliver life-changing, emotionally draining experiences on a nightly basis.