May 22, 2009 in Features

Sasquatch tries on Pants

Spokane DJ part of impressive lineup at Gorge festival
Staff writer
 
File photo

The Spokesman-Review James Pants, standing, lives with his wife and daughter in Vinegar Flats.
(Full-size photo)

If you go

Sasquatch Music Festival, featuring Ben Harper, Jane’s Addiction, Erykah Badu, Kings of Leon, Nine Inch Nails and many more.

When: Saturday through Monday, starting at noon

Where: The Gorge Amphitheater, George, Wash.

Cost: $76.50/day (Saturday and Sunday sold out)

Call: Ticketmaster outlets (800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com)

Sasquatch highlights

Here are some highlights of this year’s Sasquatch festival (for the full lineup, see www.sasquatchfestival.com):

Jane’s Addiction (Sunday): Every Sasquatch lineup should have at least one name on the bill that makes you say, “Holy crap, I may not ever get this chance again!” This year, it’s seeing the original Jane’s Addiction lineup of Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins. After breaking up, reuniting, breaking up and reuniting again, the founding four members will pass through the Northwest while hitting the major festival circuit with Nine Inch Nails.

Erykah Badu (Monday): Badu’s 2008 firestarter, “New AmErykah Pt. 1: 4th World War,” was unanimously praised for being both extraterrestrial and quintessentially hip-hop, making “best of” lists by virtually every major media outlet, including The New York Times, Amazon.com, Entertainment Weekly, Vibe and Spin.

Kings of Leon (Saturday): These guys are apparently too good to be American. Their latest release, “Only By Night,” went eight times platinum in Australia, and was the top-selling album last year in the UK and surpassed Amy Winehouse for biggest-selling digital album of all time there. The Kings won BRIT awards for Best International Album and Best International Group. The Southern alt-rockers do OK in the states, too. “Only By Night” went gold in the U.S. and was nominated for a Best Rock Album Grammy, losing to Coldplay.

Ben Harper (Monday): A lot of people were none too pleased when Harper swapped spots and bumped The Flaming Lips back an extra two hours after the mythic hailstorm that blew Neko Case off the Sasquatch main stage a couple of years ago. Even more people were happy to jam out with Harper’s Relentless 7 solofest. If you’ve seen them before, you know Harper’s crew does not hold back.

Nine Inch Nails (Sunday): Trent Reznor’s industrial symphony has laid waste to the Gorge before, and they”ll do it again. And now that Reznor is a free agent from his major label, let us see what true madness ensues.

Santigold (Monday): Tribal island tones mix with ska-punk grime and electronic glitch-pop chirps from this artist-producer duo. The sound is all their own; it’s no closer to M.I.A. than M.I.B.

Hockey (Sunday): The other locally connected band on the Sasquatch bill, this Portland-by-way-of-Spokane soul-dance-rock group has spent much of the last six months touring the UK, breaking singles “Learn To Lose” and “Song Away” – anthems that have been played at events like ElkFest and Pig Out in the Park. It’s nice to be ahead of the curve for a change.

– Isamu Jordan

James Pants has seen the world, but his favorite place is home.

The Spokane DJ and R&B experimentalist has toured Europe five times. He just finished his first extended headlining tour across the U.S and Canada.

But Pants’ favorite place to play is still the tiny Baby Bar across the street from The Davenport Hotel.

He sets foot on The Gorge soil for the first time this weekend as part of the sprawling lineup at the Sasquatch Music Festival, along with the likes of Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Erykah Badu and Ben Harper.

Pants is midstride in a steady climb up the ranks of one of the most respected independent labels in any genre, Stones Throw Records, while based out of Spokane.

In the eye of larger media, he’s viewed as an anomaly – the goofy white guy from a town known more for its serial criminals than its art culture.

And Pants (birth name James Singleton) prefers it that way.

“You can make your own weird stuff here,” said Pants, who lives with his wife, Kat, and their brand new baby, Olive, in a house in the middle of a trailer park in Vinegar Flats.

“I’m able to get more accomplished here. There’s not as much outside pressure to do a certain thing.

“I have a friend in L.A. who has to DJ all these birthday parties, and he gets his name out there, but he has less time to make music. I’m doing three records in a year and touring and I still have time to play ping pong because I’m isolated here.”

It’s been an extremely productive year for Pants.

His band, The Royal Zodiac, has been on an international tour. He’s been clocking high-speed numbers with his favorite side hustle, selling exclusive mix tapes for promotionals in Europe.

And he’s already sitting on enough product to release two more albums before year’s end.

For his next trick, Pants said he’s sculpted something of a backward follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut, the smiley-face, dance-heavy “Welcome.”

His next studio set, due this fall, was recorded during the hellish winter in Spokane, and Pants expects the moodiness to stunt the album’s commercial success. That’s OK, because for him, this one is all about street cred.

“I made the album in the winter and I was feeling all mystical and evil and I wanted a more psych-prog record to prove I’m not a one-trick dude who only does electro and boogie,” Pants said.

“This next album is not danceable, so I don’t think it will be hugely successful – if anything, more of a cult classic. This is not a cheesy, poppy record. This is for street credibility so people can look back and say, ‘At least he made one crazy record.’ ”

Pants is already over his cold snap. He’s following this forthcoming wintry album with a warm-weather tropical record, which he predicts for release next winter.

“I’m feeling good, but it’s going to come out in the winter when everyone wants to be depressed. I’m wearing shorts and drinking pina coladas and listening to Calypso,” said Pants, who fantasizes about filling The Baby Bar with sand and tiki torches and having a beach party for a December record release.

For Sasquatch, Pants said he’ll be in winter mode, playing a psych show in the dance tent – a misfit among electro bands, since he’s already abandoned that sound for the most part.

After that, he appears at ElkFest during ArtFest weekend, and as the featured guest at the Awesome Nice! monthly DJ showcase at The Blvd. After that, the Zodiac heads to London.

This is peak season touring for Pants, but being away from his wife and infant daughter for extended periods of time has its tradeoffs.

“I hate being away from the baby and Kat,” he said. “But if you calculate it out, I’m home more than someone who works 40 hours a week.”


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