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Sasquatch! Fear and Loathing in Washington: Ep 2.

I woke to the soft patter of rain and the low grumble of thirty thousand hangovers. Tent zippers opening and the crunch of beer cans buried in grass. Nature seized the opportunity to strike us at our weakest, and the soft patter soon turned to a torrent.

We sat huddled in lawn chairs underneath a cheap gazebo, and shivered as we recanted the drunken misadventures of the night previous. Feeling the sludge in our veins, Jackie and I set out to explore the festival grounds. We trudged through the rain and walked past the mobile food trucks and makeshift vendors that donned the entrance to Tent City. A small convenience store was the only source of essential resources, and each morning disgruntled residents would stock up on beer, hot dog buns, tampons and other what-have-yous that ran dry. Line-ups would become a common theme, from the morning rush to the portable toilets (known as Honey Buckets), to the slow crawl of the three-dollar mobile shower trucks. Every activity was preceded with a lengthy queue.

The most tragic of all lines was that of the box office. We had purchased “Platinum Tickets” from the Sasquatch website for a lofty fee (double the regular admission), and we were quite curious about the benefits we would receive. The website promised free showers, complementary water and alcohol in the festival grounds as well as a private viewing area for each stage. However, reality came flooding down as quickly as the rain as we reached the front of the box office line.

The platinum tickets we purchased directly from the Sasquatch website, in fact, had no perks whatsoever. The only bonus being that they were twice as expensive; which is only a bonus for the most profligate fool. The tickets we thought we had obtained were “VIP tickets”, which we were told cost upwards to 1200 dollars. The website was creatively misleading, luring us to spend extra under false pretenses, however our wristbands were still valid, and after spending twenty minutes in the box office line we were grateful regardless of the financial trickery. A young woman broke down bawling and braced herself against a wooden fence as she learned her wristband was broken and thus “invalid”. Three men bickered with a lady behind protective glass about a bracelet slipping off a wrist in a drunken stupor, while a tactless youth was caught in an elaborate lie about how he obtained his ticket.

We heard sob stories of all varieties, and it became apparent that the system developed by the Sasquatch! festival was not wholly effective. Your wristband was your life. If it was broken, and you weren’t the original purchaser of the ticket, you were screwed. Since the tickets were sold out within moments of going on sale in March, many (if not most) attendees were forced to buy their tickets from a third-party scalper. Tickets would be bought en masse for the sole purpose of profit, and would-be festival goers were forced to pay a premium to private profiteers. If it so happened that the wrist band you purchased were to break or get lost, you would not be attending the festival. The wristbands themselves were highly prone to error, and between the four of us, two were faulty to some degree. But fortunately, we purchased our overpriced tickets directly from Sasquatch, therefore we were protected in case of accident.

We made the thirty minute walk from the festival entrance back to our campsite with a sour taste in our mouths, and the weather certainly wasn’t helping. Nothing quite irks me more than soggy socks, and the only solution to our nagging dissatisfaction was to refuel our blood-alcohol ratios. After all, the grounds would finally open in a few short hours, and first on my list were the Japandroids.

Playing at the HONDA stage brought to you by HONDA, the JAPANdroids were edgy and raw, just like the 2014 Honda Civic with it’s sleek design-..

*ahem*

The Vancouver based alt-rockers were a throwback to an era than fizzled out somewhere in the last decade. That wave of bands that swept the hearts of teenagers and flushed out the lineup of every Warped Tour for the better part of my high school life. Drenched in sweat as his curls clung to his forehead, Brain King was very passionate about the music. “Celebration Rock” was a few days away from its first birthday, and King with co-vocalist David Prowse pulsated with the energy and exuberance of a first show.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Japandroids-Wet-Hair.mp3|titles=Japandroids – Wet Hair]
Japandroids – Wet Hair

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Japandroids-Evils-Sway.mp3|titles=Japandroids – Evil’s Sway]
Japandroids – Evil’s Sway

———————

Few at the festival ever approached the charismatic magnetism of Joshua Tillman and his band “Father John Misty”. His performance could be likened to a full-bodied orgasm as he writhed and cooed onstage, puffing out his chest and channeling the sensual energy of a young(ish) Mick Jagger. In between songs, Tillman was quick-witted and whimsical, joking with the crowd and even quipping “What the fuck was that..” after the sound had briefly cut out at Sasquatch’s most blatantly sponsored stage. (Ironically, throughout the weekend, the Honda stage had a plethora of sound issues despite funding). Tillman oozed sexual energy and held the crowd on a string for his entire set, and will hopefully be returning for a sophomore effort under his new pseudonym Father John Misty.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Father-Joh-Misty-Hollywood-Forever-Cemetary-Sings.mp3|titles=Father Joh Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings]
Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

———————

Anticipation was the word at the Yeti stage. Artists were given a strict set time, and only headliners were permitted to go beyond the allotted hour or so. After finally appearing just over five minutes late, the crowd erupted as Trevor Powers took the stage.

What followed was one of the strangest twenty five minutes of the entire festival. There was very little prep time for the bands, and unlike most concerts the soundcheck would take place on stage for the first few moments of each performance. Powers was very meticulous. Obsessively meticulous. The crowd, half drunk, patiently waited as Powers tested every dial and knob on the board. He’d point up to the sound director indicating an increase in volume, or down. This wouldn’t be a problem for most bands, except Trevor Powers uses more wacky sound effects than Beck himself.

Up, up, up, down. This went on for twenty minutes while the crowd became incredibly restless. The nervous patience soon turned to frustration. A girl who had just finished explaining her love for Youth Lagoon, referring to Trevor as if he was an old friend, looked back at us and said “I can’t do this..” And with a uncomfortable smirk squeezed out of the crowd and out of the show. Youth Lagoon was one of a select few shows I was most excited to see, and while I managed to maintain optimism far longer than my compatriots, even my spirits began to wane. Was he even going to do a show? The liquor began to fade and a dull headache took over. Boos began to rain down on Trevor and his bandmates, yet he was unshaken. At no point did he acknowledge the crowd, nor our displeasure, and with his Technicolor sweater and acid-wash jeans he was truly in a world of his own. He was weird. We could all see it. And just as we all lost hope..

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/02-Mute.mp3|titles=Youth Lagoon – Mute]
Youth Lagoon – Mute

The start of Mute blew us away. The Yeti stage was one of the loudest and most powerful despite its size. Almost instantaneously the mood of the crowd changed, and Powers began his hypnosis. It became very apparent why the soundcheck was so meticulous, as every note and every noise was perfectly timed. A euphoria began to sweep over the crowd as the basslines rattled the Gorge.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/05-Pelican-Man.mp3|titles=Youth Lagoon – Pelican Man]
Youth Lagoon – Pelican Man

One of my favorite songs of Youth Lagoon’s latest album “Wondrous Bughouse” was Pelican Man. As he bounced between crowd favorites like “Cannons” and “July”, I found myself belting out the chorus line to Pelican Man.. only to discover I seemed to be the only person who actually knew the song. The faces around me stood in awe, mouth agape, and although they were singing along moments earlier the drugs had certainly took hold of them in that moment. I felt twinge of pride knowing a song that no one else did, but the pendulum would soon swing the other direction.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Youth-Lagoon-Seventeen.mp3|titles=Youth Lagoon – Seventeen]
Youth Lagoon – 17

17. Another track from Youth Lagoon’s first album “The Year of Hibernation”. I’d heard it only a handful of times, and the song never found its way in to my rotation. Yet the crowd around me had awoken from the bipartile hypnosis of Trevor’s music and their drug-induced state, and they loudly began to sing the chorus. Everyone knew the words, and I did not. It was a very strange moment as I became acutely aware of my own hipsterdom. I had no friends back home that knew Youth Lagoon existed, and there certainly wasn’t any radio play. There was no outside influence on the songs I liked most, I simply liked them. I loved Pelican Man, but the song everyone knew was 17.

In retrospect, this seemed obvious; Pelican man had only 9,000 views via Youtube, where as 17 had 400,000 plus. Clearly, it was the more popular sound, but I had no idea prior to the show.

Youth Lagoon remains the best concert i’ve ever seen. Nothing can quite capture the pure nostalgic euphoria of his brief set-list, and it remained a high I never quite came down from for the rest of the festival.

———————

Our last stop of the evening was at the main stage for the big headliner. Hometown hero Macklemore (paired with producer Ryan Lewis) was one of the biggest attractions of the festival. Everybody had packed the main stage to see one of hip-hop’s biggest sensations of the past year. The sun had long since gone down and the sight was incredible. Never in my life had I seen so many people in one place, and the breathtaking Gorge in the background was in stark contrast with the incredibly populated (and loud) hillside. A long peninsula stage jutted forth in to the crowd, and suddenly from the very tip, Macklemore rose from underneath the stage with his arm stretched upwards to the sky. Fully donned in a fur coat and a Detlef Schrempf jersey, the Gorge erupted in to an ear-blistering roar.

Macklemore was a true performer, and his show was full of flash and high in production value. Even as a very mild fan, I couldn’t help but appreciate the performance. Wanz soon made an electric entrance tearing away a janitors outfit to reveal a purple-suede suit, and the thirty-thousand onlookers instantaneously knew what came next. Thrift Shop shook the grounds to their core. The crowd threw their arms forward in perfect unison with the beat, and visually it was one of the most awe-inspiring things i’d ever seen.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Macklemore-Ryan-Lewis-Thrift-Shop-Feat.-Wanz.mp3|titles=Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop (Feat. Wanz)]
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop (feat. Wanz)

I always figured “Thrift Shop” to be a sarcastic social commentary and a stab at the new wave of vintage fashion. I thought Macklemore was making fun of us, a well-crafted parody song along the lines of LMFAO only much better. But it became apparent that he in fact was embracing his popstardom, and nobody was laughing at the joke. Maybe it wasn’t a gimmick after all? Did we really think ridiculous fur coats and cartoon one-sies were cool? I thought we liked these things ironically because they weren’t cool. The line between hipster culture and pop culture was completely blurred, and as the song wrapped up I found myself once again analyzing the experience from a social scientific perspective.

Macklemore broke up his songs with social commentary of his own. He told the story about how he used to come to the Gorge as a kid and “get fucked up”. His tone changed, and he began to tell the tale of his sobriety. It was a very strange moment as he preached about getting clean, and the cheers seemed a little ironic. There stood one man in front of thousands of heavily intoxicated fans. Drunks, poppers, snorters, smokers, and tokers on uppers and downers of all varieties. All listening to Macklemore preach about how drugs and alcohol held him back from his full potential. Surely this was a difficult moment for every ‘Molly Facepaint’ peaking while donned in full hippie garb, but it was only the first sermon of many from the Seattle-based hip-hop star.

His second speech hit a much higher note as he spoke of gay marriage and equality. The eclectic crowd once again felt in tune with Macklemore as he praised Washington for “leading the way” in the fight for equality. Many of us, however, were visibly irked. Not because we thought differently, but because he clearly snubbed half of the crowd without his knowledge. For nearly eight years, gay marriage has been legal in Canada. Washington had just legalized same-sex marriage only a few months ago. Upon our arrival the night before, it became blatantly obvious that half (if not more) of the Sasquatch attendees had driven down from Canada. We had been “leading the way” to achieve equality for the better part of a decade, but Macklemore was not aware of our overwhelming presence at his show. In fact, many artists throughout the entire weekend had made the grossly inaccurate assumption that the majority of us were from Washington state. Even though the festival was held nearly dead centre in state borders, actual Washington citizens were an incredibly rare sight. However, as Canadians, we are very polite, and our slight discomfort was immediately washed away with the passionate performance of Mary Lambert and her singing of “Same Love”.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Macklemore-Ryan-Lewis-Same-Love-Feat.-Mary-Lambert.mp3|titles=Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love (Feat. Mary Lambert)]
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love (feat. Mary Lambert)

Ray Dalton was the other standout and he boomed over the crowd with bravado. Macklemore had an incredible knack for pairing up with other hometown heroes, and Dalton’s performance on “Can’t Hold Us” was incredible.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Macklemore-Ryan-Lewis-Cant-Hold-Us-Feat.-Ray-Dalton.mp3|titles=Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Can’t Hold Us (Feat. Ray Dalton)]
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Can’t Hold Us [Ft. Ray Dalton]

Fatigue began to wash over me as I tried to keep up with the youth. At the age of twenty three I was surprisingly part of an older minority, and I lacked the vitality to keep a twelve-hour buzz going without crashing. We ducked out of Macklemore early and made our way back to the camp, desperate to fall asleep before the masses came trumpeting back from the first headliner of the festival.