Sasquatchers were getting lost in singer/guitarist Doug Martsch’s counterbalancing act of vertigo guitar riffs and fall-into-yourself vocals on the main stage of the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday.
At that same moment, the real highlight of the Sasquatch Music Festival was happening on the second, more intimate stage during Donavon Frankenreiter’s set.
While the Jack Johnson apprentice was grooving the small crowd, all eyes were on the dancers down in front of the stage – future hipsters 8-year-old Giacomo Tanaka; his sister Ella Ray, 6; Zoe Jenner, 7; and her sister Mei Mei Schmib, 5.
“You are the real stars of the night,” Frankenreiter told them.
They already knew, as the children waved and bowed to the audience.
“It’s great to be able to be with them. Soon they will want to go to rock shows without us,” said Eric Tanaka, Giacomo’s and Ella Ray’s father.
Seattle friends Tanaka and Mary Jenner were among the thousands who flocked to the Gorge on a dry but windy Saturday for the indie-music smorgasbord that was this year’s Sasquatch Music Festival lineup.
Playing the last half of the night on the main stage were, without question, the absolute can’t-miss acts Built To Spill, The Shins, Postal Service and the sole hip-hop group, The Roots.
And there was plenty of hype and curiosity brewing for Preston School of Industry, Cat Power, The Long Winters, The Decemberists, The Black Keys, The New Pornographers, Sleater-Kinney and Frankenreiter – all relatively lesser-known acts that have developed cult followings.
Sasquatch got off to staggering start.
Cat Power’s delicate mix of violin and drums, accompanying drunken vocalist/pianist/guitarist Chan Marshall, was swallowed up in the Gorge’s enormity. It didn’t help that the white-girl indie-rock version of ODB was giving one of her typically sloppily unhinged shows that ended with Marshall badly lip-syncing a rap song as an inside joke that amused only a minority of the audience.
Meanwhile, on the small stage, Preston School of Industry’s sound came off equally hollow.
With similar hit-and-miss openers, the 12-hour festival really didn’t get into gear until both stages simultaneously came to life during sets by The New Pornographers on the main stage and The Long Winters, joined on the small stage by brass trio The Long Ones. The Ones added the right texture that gave a true representation of The Winters’ unpredictable studio sound that makes it more than just another Northwest indie-rock band.
From there, the barrage of half-hour sets only got better with astoundingly high-energy performances by female punk trio Sleater-Kinney on the main stage and by The Black Keys, a two-piece guitar-drums combo that rocked the small stage harder than anyone else Saturday.
Both The Shins and Postal Service got great response from the crowd as the sun was setting on the main stage.
By the time The Shins had finished, their guitarist was swinging on the neck of his six-string a pair of G-string panties, one of several thrown on stage during the set.
With Sasquatch being Postal Service’s only tour stop of the year, vocalist Ben Gibbard, who also sings for West Siders Death Cab For Cutie, was his usual awkward self, imported to sing the few happy love songs he’s ever written over Service’s electro-pop anthems.
Easily one of the most crowd-pleasing performances of the night, The Roots, who went on before headlining electrorganic group Thievery Corporation, truly closed this year’s Sasquatch Music Festival.
The live instrumentalized hip-hop band played a condensed version of the set it played Wednesday night at Spokane’s Big Easy to a similarly appreciative crowd. This time, supporting Okayplayer emcees Skillz and Jean Grae played minor roles while lead emcee Black Though navigated The Roots through a cluster of jams from their catalog, mixed with covers as diverse as White Stripes and Big Daddy Kane.
The sheer performance quality of The Roots kept the audience buzzing with dancing and hand-clapping.
For Thievery Corporation, though, it was a different story.
Even with live percussion, vocals and Middle Eastern instruments on stage, the group’s down-tempo electronica was like a sedative compared with The Roots’ stimulants. It wasn’t much more than exit music as the crowd gradually filtered out of the Gorge during Thievery Corporation’s set.
Still, even with a slow start and anticlimatic finish, the Sasquatch Music Festival included bands that expanded the personality of the festival as a broad introduction of progressive musical experimentation and, in doing so, further cemented the concept of indie-rock as more of a philosophy than a genre.