A breathtaking desert landscape dotted by skeletal stages and wind turbines. Grazing cattle temporarily displaced by the most affluent, indulgent slum you’ll ever walk through. Dirty, tired, intoxicated people in the middle of their favorite days of the year. This is the scene at the Gorge Amphitheater for the Sasquatch! Festival, held every Memorial Day Weekend.
A few burning questions going into Sasquatch this year:
Just three days!?! What happened?
This year was an experiment of sorts: instead of the usual four days over Memorial Day weekend, festival organizer Adam Zacks cooked up two three-day weekends, one in May and the other over the 4th of July. Unlike the Coachella and Austin City Limits festivals, which have expanded and hosted identical festivals on consecutive weekends, Sasquatch 2014 would feature two completely different lineups, months apart.
A cool idea, but not one that worked out – the July weekend was cancelled just a month after the lineup announcement, likely due to poor ticket sales (Paradiso ravers and Watershed folks must be more resistant to extreme heat). So the Pacific Northwest was robbed of sets by Frank Ocean, Kraftwerk, Broken Bells, Neutral Milk Hotel, and others, with few shows rescheduled in Seattle (most Sasquatch acts are festival-hopping in the summer, and won’t be in the area otherwise).
How are the headliners?
Sasquatch draws from a pretty limited pool of potential headliners – an artist needs to be a household name among music followers, but not a ubiquitous radio titan. Exemplary acts from the past few years include Beck, Jack White, Sigur Ros, The Postal Service, Bon Iver and Wilco. Big scores this year could have been Arcade Fire, Kanye West, Phoenix, or maybe even a Kurt Cobain hologram, but no such luck was had. Perhaps we’re owed some surprises.
At its core Sasquatch is all about rock n’ roll, and Saturday and Sunday will be headlined by a couple of bands that are emblematic of that usual focus.
The National is an indie rock hall of famer with a slew of beloved albums over the past several years. They lack the notoriety and wattage of a typical headliner though, and have a reputation as a “grower.” So while a certain number in the crowd will be absolutely geeking out that The National is headlining Sasquatch, another group might be dozing off to their dense material.
The next night, a perfect complement to the white collar pedigree of The National will be the decidedly blue collar Queens of the Stone Age, whose bread and butter is tough, distorted guitar work and really slick song arrangements. Frontman Josh Homme and his revolving door of band members and collaborators have an unmatched resume over the past decade-plus, even as relatively straightforward rock music has fallen off the map. If it’s a killer guitar riff from recent years not by Jack White, it’s probably the Queens. Mind-bending, face-melting, etc etc etc.
The biggest headlining act, however, is OutKast, headlining Friday.
OutKast! That’s the “Hey Ya” guy, right?
Well, kind of. Not really though. OutKast’s biggest hits came from its least typical release, 2004’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below. Andre 3000 and Big Boi, usually a seamless duo, split up to each make their own half of a double album, which spawned singles “The Way You Move” and “Hey Ya.””Roses” is the only as-heard-on-MTV track where they share the mic.
But the duo, one of the biggest and best hip hop acts ever, made their name in the late 1990’s as flag bearers for hooky, dirty Southern rap. They’re reuniting to play, like, forty festivals this summer. It’ll mean huge paychecks, and also some perplexed crowds who aren’t expecting what they’ll get. But for hip hop fans who have found OutKast irreplaceable, it’s better than Christmas. The Gorge will never again be as playalistic as dopaliscious as when Andre and Big Boi visit.
What about the supporting acts?
The lineup isn’t its usual self this year, but it’s worth noting that the acts are crammed into just three days instead of four. So while attendees won’t see as many fabulous acts as usual, they’ll be just as entertained from hour to hour. And even on a relative down year, Sasquatch is still the best weekend of live music around.
Some bigger names near the top of the bill include Haim, M.I.A., Foster the People and Major Lazer. And with more smaller acts than you could ever see in one weekend, just keeping your ears open is a good bet. A few samples:
Mostly cloudy Friday through Sunday, highs in the upper 70s and overnight lows around 50. To save yourself a long hike back to your campsite, dress for stifling heat, torrential rain, blustery wind and anything in between.