By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb
Even with the Neptune Theatre stuffed full of people, the Sasquatch launch party didn’t feel big enough.
I get it, the launch party is designed to have a more intimate vibe than the musical blowout it’s hyping. Still, something about the bands chosen this year — all rock acts, some with varying degrees of electronica influence — didn’t get the room as psyched as they should have.
Sasquatch has pulled a Coachella this year, spreading the party over two weekends, and they’ve got big guns like Outkast, New Order, M.I.A. and Frank Ocean on the roster. I was hoping for a rowdier launch to officially induct Washington’s burgeoning festival into the big leagues.
Semi-petty griping aside, the evening had a number of redeeming moments. The first act, Derek and Pete from The Cave Singers, was a chill warm-up. The duo relied exclusively on guitar and bass to deliver some interesting new material that waffled between introspective Americana and freak folk.
The second act, Sir Sly (pun on the oft-texted phrase srsly perhaps?) was the evening’s pleasant surprise. It was obvious from their synchronized onstage movements and lightning-quick song transitions that the group had their set perfected. Their sound offered telling insight into the influence of EDM on contemporary rock. Held together by an uncanny drummer pounding on a mix of analog and electronic equipment, Sir Sly cranked out earnest rock songs, but complicated them with dubsteppy breaks and drops. Probably not to everyone’s liking, but they get points for innovating.
St. Lucia had a similar aesthetic (guitar music with electronic undertones) and way less finesse. Jean-Philip Grobler, the brains behind the act, sounded like he was bellowing off the edge of a windswept cliff, and the fact that a mysterious indoor breeze kept blowing his hair around Baywatch style made the performance a bit Ludacris (I heard several people snickering). But then they announced the lineup, and everyone moved on.
After everyone was done cheering and tweeting the lineup, the Cold War Kids got things back on track. This band has only one speed, but think of them as an artisan fixed-gear bike, not a broken record. The group has a heavy, chaotic energy that’s perfect for a party.
When they played their biggest single, “Hang me up to dry,” the audience started freaking out the way they ought to have been the whole time. The instrumental mix was a little muddled, but like I said: party band. The messiness didn’t detract much from the set. Outside after the show, People were gushing about the lineup and singing “Hang me up to dry” a cappella. It sounded like the launch party had accomplished exactly what it intended to.