Sasquatch! Day Two: it comes and it goes

(original/revised for edit post can be seen here, via mxdwn)

Now that Sasquatch! has reverted back to a 3-day format, it’s far too easy to see Saturday as something bland, sandwiched in between the exciting first day and thrilling third day. There were definitely a couple of savior acts for this particular Saturday, but many of the bands playing while the sun beat down – mercilessly – failed to bring much of anything electrifying to the table. Tight sets, for sure, but too often, straight out of the box, dull performances. At least credit can be given for their way of toiling through the heat.

An exciting beginning to the day were Deap Vally, who proceeded to rock the hell out of the Yeti Stage at the wee hour of 1pm. The lady duo performed flawlessly, invoking vintage Heart to the T. Throughout the songs, the drummer Julie Edwards could be seen wildly tossing her red curls around as she slammed on the drum, while the lead singer Lindsey Troy remained all glitter and shrieking rock ‘n’ roll. The small number of fans who had made it in for this early set were definitely rewarded.

Immediately following them were Portland sweethearts Radiation City, and it was definitely sad to see just a few of their songs. The group of indie rockers have such an interesting dichotomy together, and the lead female singer has such a retro, beautiful voice. Fans were also really into it, even when the music leaned toward melancholy.

Back over on the Bigfoot Stage, The Dodos provided a solid mix of upbeat and uptempo dance music that was just right for this time of day. Even when their songs would skew from such a positive place, they would soon bring it back, usually within the same song. It was an easy job for them to transfer from slow and melancholy to fast-face and optimistic, and make it sound appealing the whole time. Not as many people were up there dancing as normally would be, but to be fair, the sun was starting to beat down at this point. One of the group’s best songs of the day was “Confidence,” a more elaborate piece that showed their ability to add depth to their music. There was terrific play between the drums, multiple guitars & bass on this one, and they all complemented each other nicely.

By the time Violent Femmes got going over on the main stage, it was officially hot and windy, and this affected their set. Particularly the band members, who didn’t seem to have as much energy as they might’ve liked. This could be felt most particularly in the slowed down speed they were playing their music in. Those in the pit directly in front of the stage were very into it, though, despite a plausible age difference between them and the alt rock greats in front of them. Of course, who hasn’t heard “Blister in the Sun,” though? And the way The Violent Femmes played their set may have worked directly to their advantage, in keeping the crowd around: they launched into their timeless hits, like “Blister…” and “Add It Up” early on, then waiting until the end for “Gone Daddy Gone” and “American Music.” Lead singer Gordon Gano also lightened things up by laughing mid-song and announcing he had forgotten the words – he did just keep singing, however, and never missed a beat. A problem mid-set, however, was their choice of slower songs, ones not exactly familiar to much of the crowd. They were easy songs to zone out to with the weather conditions, but they were also easy ones to leave the show for. There was also the fact you couldn’t always hear the vocals very well, an issue we’d seen prevalent on several stages so far. Hopefully a problem that can get fixed for the rest of the shows this weekend.

Drifting away from the main stage, there was time enough to catch snippets of Deafheaven, Washed Out and Cloud Control, and all had moments of greatness. Deafheaven, a black metal group from San Francisco, had some great instrumentation, but with slightly annoying vocals. Washed Out, on the other hand, had a couple of songs with really good keyboard backbeat, but nothing from the set really stood out. Sure, the music was executed really well, but much of it was a bit too monotonous. As for Cloud Control, an alt four-piece out of Sydney, Australia, they were playing the perfect music for the hour as the sun was going down with just enough energy to pump you up for what’s to come later in the night. They may have had too many style changes song to song though. One was a rad one with psychedelic riffs while the next was a soft rock song, holding tinges of Paul Simon. Others felt like futuristic Abba songs.

Thankfully, the first of the night’s saviors came in M.I.A., a powerful force of cool dressed to her own brand of nines in golden pants and top. She was also flanked the entire time by three dancers not choreographed, and they basically just did their own thing to her music throughout the show. Two of them also stood in as back-up singers from time to time. The set went great – despite sound issues that kept returning – with M.I.A. barreling nonstop through her songs, backed by a highly effective DJ. It was clear M.I.A. is years ahead of so many of today’s musicians, and an entertaining example of this was the way she rolled out the opening to “Paper Planes,” only to begin singing a sample from Lorde’s “Royals.” The look on her face seemed determined to show us how similar the songs were, and how yes, she had done her song first. Regardless, M.I.A. is just so damn innovative with dance music, and she’s so coolly nonchalant about it while performing. Standout song “Boyz” had her surrounding herself on stage with girls from the crowd, then she chose to apply lipstick in the middle of the song, like it was nothing. She ended up closing with “Bad Girls,” but it felt like a sudden end to a really short set. It would’ve been fantastic to have seen a longer run of M.I.A.

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M.I.A.

But then it was time for Tyler The Creator, and I gotta be honest – my expectations were low for his set. He’d been written up recently for maintaining his asshole status wherever he goes, and all bets were that he’d be throwing it on heavy at Sasquatch! Yes, he was a jerk at times, but it quickly became clear it’s simply his character, and he does it well. Sure, he’d say things to the crowd like, “I fuckin’ hate you, but I love you!” and use some self-proclaimed ignorant comments, but it melded well into his gravelly and aggressive raps. He also introduced a song as one he’s used to performing with the rest of his Odd Future crew bouncing around him, and he truly seemed sad for a second, that he was doing it all on his own. Despite his cockiness, there’s a chance he doesn’t quite comprehend how good he is at all he does, especially pulling off a show all on his own.

The National and Cut Copy were then the two main acts closing out the night, and while both are outstanding musicians and performers in their own right, the former was one that almost put the crowd to sleep. Frontman Matt Berninger did his typically phenomenal job, rolling his lyrics out in a drunkenly debonair fashion, but the music was just too dark and moody for the crowd. Some highlights were “I Should Live In Salt” and “Don’t Swallow The Cap,” the latter of which pulled at heart strings as Berninger moaned, “Everything I love is on the table / Everything I love is out to sea.” And there was also the powerful drums of “Afraid of Everyone” and the rockin’ guitar of “Conversation 16,” reminding the crowd that, yes, The National are a terrific band.

Also great were Cut Copy, who on the flip side put on an awesome set to wrap up the day. “Take Me Over” one of their first songs, sounded perfectly serene and seemed to set the theme for the rest of their gig. “Free Your Mind” established itself as the pace, however, as the Aussie electronic trio cast those words up on the screen behind them for most of the rest of the show. “Where I’m Going” was their best number, however, especially in that it was slowed down a fraction. The slightly roller rink disco idea of the song then added to the laid-back feel even more. In all, it was the fun of this band that helped everyone who’d survived the day happily trudge their way back to their campsites.

Ah, Day Two. You were by no means a failure. It just would have been nice if you could have featured less sun and a better sound system.

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