Part 3 of 3
Sunday, May 28
The final day of the festival is not without its treats. The much-hyped Arctic Monkeys and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah will each perform, not to mention sets from Death Cab For Cutie and Beck that are sure to please the little Seth Cohen in all of us.
Of course, no festival is complete without some horrendous major-label mistake that needs to fulfill its touring obligations before it is likely dropped. Enter Big City Rock, a band whose sound suggests that its members wanted to sound like Collective Soul but were coaxed to add some of the Killers’ synths to the sound. As I listen to “All of the Above” on their slickly designed e-card, all I can say is that I am both mortified and compelled by this atrocity of a song.
Big Japan is a country-tinged “rock” band that falls closer to the adult-contemporary side of things than the indie. Fronted by pretty-boy Nathaniel Castro, the Hollywood-based band would probably do well on a tour opening for Train. And this is why a diverse lineup can be a bad thing at Sasquatch.
To quote the press sheet: “Like Liam Gallagher and Kurt Cobain before him, [singer-songwriter J. Nicholas] Allard is a diamond, both polished and rough.” In other words, this is power-pop for those who view ’90s alternative rock as music’s formative era. And for me, that’s a huge pass.
The Seattle-based four-piece Mercir sites modern Radiohead and Björk as influences. Understandable, then, that the members play a synth-entrenched version of indie rock that is accessible yet somewhat forward-thinking. One of their key selling points is that their music was used on Laguna Beach and The Real World, which may or may not be a good thing.
Laura Veirs is a female singer-songwriter from the Pacific Northwest who manages to stand out from her masses of peers. Combining thoughtful lyrics with thoughtful music, Veirs and her band, the Tortured Souls, is a budding indie hero who will likely stand out at Sasquatch.
The eldest of the brothers Votolato, Rocky used to wield the axe for Seattle emo-dudes Waxwing before settling down into a decent solo career. Makers, his first for Barsuk, nearly broke him through as a major indie songwriter. Like many of the festival’s other acts, Rocky Votolato is necessary listening in the Pacific Northwest.
Recently “broken-up” from Pedro the Lion, songwriter David Bazan is in the midst of some major transitions in his musical career. Last year’s self-titled debut as Headphones, his electronic side project, was likely his best-received work to date, and it will definitely be worth seeing him at this formative time in his career. Ironically, however, his set is pitted directly against his close friend and former band-mate Damien Jurado on the Wookie stage, so more decision-making is at hand.
Jamie Lidell was a last-minute addition to the Sasquatch roster that added new depths of talent to the festival’s lineup. Increasingly acclaimed for 2005’s Multiply, the techno-mastermind-turned-soul-troubadour has always been notorious for his highly energized and improvised live performances. Without question, Lidell is another must-see at the festival.
Infiniheart, the debut from Calgary’s Chad Vangaalen, was laboriously worked on since 1994, and the record distilled nicely. Inhabiting a place where fractured songwriting meets with fuzzy, homemade instruments, Vangaalen’s version of pop is both innocent and ajar. Followed by little buzz, the chances are high that Vangaalen’s set could be a sleeper hit.
Citing Dinosaur Jr. and the Minutemen as influences, the members of the Heavenly States are an exciting bunch. Not only are their sonic ideas both exhilarating and fun, but they’ve also managed to bring their punk-influenced show worldwide to places like Cairo, Egypt and Tripoli, Africa.
Though his ten-plus-year career as a singer-songwriter has certainly had its moments, Ben Lee has never received his share of accolades. Sure, his albums have been collections of hits and misses, but no one seems to craft unassuming pop music quite like he does. His set at Sasquatch won’t be the most memorable, but I highly doubt it will disappoint.
We Are Scientists plays jangly, indie-rock-driven post-post-punk, the kind all the cool bands in your town played before discovering hip-hop or freak-folk. Their sound isn’t terrible, but it’s certainly uninspired. It might be okay to watch, but Rocky Votolato will be better on the Yeti stage.
Synonymous with the Seattle underground yet sorely under-appreciated, Damien Jurado‘s body of work varies in quality but is unified by his unrestrained sincerity. A kindergarten teacher by day, Jurado’s songwriting often follows darker stories of serial killers and lost love, and his stripped-bare live show is chilling, to say the least.
If you’ve opened your eyes to any music journalism in the past year and a half, you’ll already know the story of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Both a product of the hipster hype machine and a very solid band, the Sasquatch performance of these New York media darlings is rightfully anticipated.
The second of Sasquatch’s only two hip-hop acts, the members of Blue Scholars have a lot more experience under their belts than the members of Common Market. Having played more than 200 shows since 2002, they’ve shared the stage with the likes of Little Brother, De La Soul, and Immortal Technique. Depending on your mood, forty-five minutes of hip-hop might be a nice change of pace.
Pretty Girls Make Graves has released two amazing albums (Good Health and The New Romance), but it fell short of a hat trick with this year’s less-than inspired Élan Vital. The band’s live show was always described as underwhelming to me, but the loss of a guitarist and addition of a keyboardist means the members won’t pull off old songs such as “Speakers Push the Air” or “All Medicated Geniuses.” Two or three years ago, this would have been an exciting set to catch.
Nada Surf, whose ’90s hit “Popularity” will follow the members to their bitter graves, has enjoyed a lukewarm response to its Barsuk-released Let Go and The Weight is a Gift albums. Growing up after the ’90s must’ve been hard on the boys, so let’s hope the Barsuk street team can muster up a decent audience for this event.
The explosive nature of Arctic Monkeys’ emergence in Britain did not exactly repeat itself when their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, was released stateside earlier this year. Nonetheless, people seem to connect with the band’s radio-friendly rock, and will surely flock to their Wookie stage set.
Fans of the Decemberists rejoice: Your hero, Colin Meloy, and his band of smarty-pants indie folks are not only playing Sasquatch, they’re playing the main stage. That means you can hear his cute little sing-songs about civil wars and ships and all kinds of other pretentious schlock through the big speakers.
And then there’s the Hasidic Jewish emcee who will supposedly take us all by storm with his mix of traditional reggae and traditional Judaism. Just a question: When artists are hyped purely on the basis of their gimmickry, isn’t there supposed to be an element of humor involved? Granted, he has a nice beard, but that won’t be enough to keep me from enjoying a Popsicle somewhere far away from his set. (I really hope they sell Popsicles at Sasquatch.)
Of all my friends who badmouth radio-rock, I am probably the worst. That’s why I feel slightly ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t mind checking out a song or two from Queens of the Stone Age. Sure, every doofus with an alt-rock goatee will be there, but that’s the beauty of Sasquatch. I can just pretend I’m going to get a hot dog and satisfy my curiosity before anyone notices.
Purportedly upstaging Franz Ferdinand at recent shows, the members of Death Cab for Cutie hide a lot of spunk beneath their dreamy soundscapes. Putting Bellingham, Washington on the map and crafting accessible yet true-to-form indie rock are among some of this band’s credits, so these homecoming darlings will surely draw a crowd. Oh, and did I mention they have been featured on The O.C.? No one ever mentions that.
Part of the latest leg of his ongoing Guero tour, Beck Hansen’s headlining set hopes to close the weekend with a bang. Whether he follows the hits-mostly set lists of his recent dates or delves into some of his more obscure work, the nice guy of Scientology will likely close the fest in good taste. Nonetheless, I would recommend leaving early. Past experiences at the Gorge have involved an extremely clogged parking lot on the way out.
Prefix feature:Sasquatch Festival 2006 Preview (Part 1 of 3)
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