Sorry Bonnaroo, too bad Red Rocks: Sasquatch is America’s most epic music festival at America’s most epic concert venue. Put 100-plus bands on five stages at the edge of the gaping Columbia River Gorge and you get a big-commitment, big-payoff recipe for an unforgettable weekend. Some 18,000 intrepid souls made the trek to eastern Washington Stage—three hours from both Seattle and Portland—for Sasquatch’s 11th incarnation. Here are a few select peak moments from a four-day weekend made of them.
Most expected surprise: Jack White
Of course the bulk of the erstwhile White Stripe‘s main stage headlining set consisted of songs from his just-released Blunderbuss album. Of course he played his bluesy cover of Hank Williams‘ country classic “I Know that You Know.” But when White broke out “Seven Nation Army” at the end of his set, the crowd on the Gorge’s massive, sloping lawn finally roared to its feet. It was a long time to have your fingers crossed.
Would like to see: White playing with his all-female band instead of his all-male one.
Most explosive drop: Starfucker
The Portland electro-pop jesters take the crown with their set-closing monster jam “Boy Toy” (narrowly edging out Pretty Lights’ Kanye remix). Friday evening, Starfucker played the inexplicably named Banana Shack to a neon-painted, glowstick-hurling, dance-mad crowd that ate up the band’s sci-fi inflected weirdness.
Would like to invent: Biodegradable glow sticks (don’t steal my idea).
Most likely to relocate to the Pacific Northwest: Kurt Vile
Shaggy, aloof, prone to druggy mumbling: Kurt Vile fits the Seattle rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic like flannel on a lumberjack. On the smaller Bigfoot Stage, the Philly native led his boisterous band the Violaters through densely swirling noise jams — complete with skronking sax — and segued into gentle, damaged acoustic balladry.
Exceptional wardrobe: The torn tank top with the words FUCK SLEEVES scrawled across the front worn by a kid in the crowd.
Longest Sustained Note: Alabama Shakes
Brittany Howard’s voice on “Hold On” is a miracle in breath control. The Athens, Ga. quartet delivered a quintessentially authentic set at the Bigfoot Stage, their raw, rustic southern rock a flashback to a realer, simpler time that never really existed in the first place. Which is what made their music a spiritual booster shot. The fact that “Hold On” is currently playing on Seattle commercial radio gives hope for the future of humanity.
Disappointed to see: Dozens of people sleeping through Alabama Shakes‘ set. Literally. Right by the stage.
Most Heartwrenching Tribute: The Roots
Talk about mixed emotions: When the Roots busted out all of “Paul Revere” in the middle of their midnight set, it was almost almost impossible to rap along thanks to all the uncorked emotions (RIP MCA). Fortunately, their version of “Sweet Child of Mine” was an ironic antidote to all the sincere sentiment. But besides their covers, the crew played a lot of old material to an extremely enthused, extremely inebriated crowd.
Check out photos of these artists, plus pretty shots of the audience and the Gorge from Hive photographer Chona Kasinger.