By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb
In retrospect, last year’s Sasquatch was a seminal event.
The enthusiasm generated for the festival in 2013 — tickets sold out in 90 minutes — allowed the festival to sprawl over two weekends this time around. That Coachella-esque expansion has accelerated some of the trends that have slowly changed the face of this beast over the last several years.
With the induction of the two-weekend schedule, one thing is clear: Sasquatch has lumbered out of the misty forests of neofolk and obscure indie rock, and into the sunny, solo-cup strewn field of EDM and party pop.
These changes, coupled with a creeping increase in ticket prices from year to year, make for a festival that feels very different form the Sasquatch I attended back in high school. For those who have been driving out to the Gorge since it’s inception in 2002, the event is likely unrecognizable.
Sasquatch is bringing out the big names to earn the big bucks in 2014. The lineup is littered with household names that have ubiquitous appeal. Outkast, M.I.A., Foster the People, Major Lazer — these are all bands so enormously popular they transcend their respective genres. They are the vanilla ice cream of music: known entities that almost everyone enjoys.
Beyond that, electronica has a strong presence both weekends, which is no surprise. There have been higher numbers of dancy acts every year since the induction of the dance tent in 2009. The electronica this Memorial Day weekend leans toward the ethereal, with Phantogram, Panda Bear, Phosphorescent, and Seattle’s The Flavr Blue.
The July weekend’s helping of electronica is even stronger though. The (higher energy) highlights include the Swedish paring of bubblegum queen Robyn with EDM duo Röyksopp, Dillon Francis, La Roux, Seattle’s RL Grime (seattle), and industrial titans F*** Buttons. It’s the presence of New Order and Kraftwerk (with a 3D show!) that make July the superior weekend for synthesizer sounds though. These two are undisputed progenitors of the genre that has become so enormously popular in the last decade.
With the exception of Outkast, July looks better for hiphop as well. May does boast Tyler, the Creator and Chance the Rapper, but this selection pales in comparision to the later weekend’s offering ofAtmosphere, Talib Kweli, Frank Ocean, Action Bronson, Deltron 3030 and Casey Veggies. Can you guess which weekend I’m recommending yet?
Regarding more local sounds, Sasquatch does a fine job of bringing area talent into the fold across both weekends. The Seattle acts break down roughly into two genres: hip hop and noise rock.
The former has Fly Moon Royalty, The Physics, Gifted Gab and Sam Lachow in May, followed by Sol in July. The latter has La Luz, Tacocat, Hobosexual, The Lonely Forest the first weekend and Night Beats, Chastity Belt, Dude York, Kithkin and Sandrider later on.
The common thread between all these local acts is the elevated energy level compared to the local music in previous years. No Death Cab for Cutie or Head & the Heart this time around, folks. This time, the Emerald City is getting turned up.
These adjustments in genre (both local and otherwise) are certainly noticeable, but not altogether unexpected. The hip hop presence was just as heavy last year with acts like Macklemore, Killer Mike, El-P, Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown. And the neofolk presence that once characterized much of the festival has been steadily phased out over the last four years. Gone are the days when Edward Sharpe, The Decemberists, Iron & Wine, etc. were adequate fodder for the main stage.
But there are still a few hangers-on this year. Look for First Aid Kit, Seattleite Damien Jurado, City and Colour and Neko Case for a folk/Americana fix.
The festival’s skyrocketing popularity (and prices, did I mention the skyrocketing prices?) are the impetus for this. I’ve attended the festival every year but one since 2008, and have gradually witnessed the audience shift away from northwest hipsters toward ravers and general music festival enthusiasts. I make this point not to caste snarky aspersions, but simply to note that folk rock doesn’t have enough oomph to satisfy this crowd, so the festival changed to suit.
Sasquatch knows better than to abandon it’s roots entirely, however. Both 2014 weekends have a large swath of popular alt-rock running through them, including many festival favorites that play yearly or every other year.
In May, look for Cold War Kids, The National, Parquet Courts, Portugal, the Man, Washed Out and Cage the Elephant in May. For July, scope out Dr. Dog, Spoon, Kurt Vile, and Sasquatch veterans Local Natives and Tegan and Sara.
Live Nation is sending out passwords to it’s mailing list for an Internet presale that goes live at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb 6 and lasts until 10 p.m. Friday, Feb 7. General ticket sales begin Saturday, Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. (Read the details here.) Tickets are $325 for one weekend, or $550 for both. That includes camping. If you can afford it, go to both. If money is tight and you can stomach missing Outkast’s performance, go for July. Overall, it’s got the better spread of solid sounds across genres.