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Sasquatch Music Festival Review 2015 – Liveliest Live Acts

Jonny_Sweet_itcher_contributorThe Gorge, the venue which plays host to Sasquatch music festival, is not only the smallest, most organised and cleanest festival site I have ever been to, it is by far and away the most breath-taking. Four days of musical mayhem is something of a marathon in festival terms, but anyone who found their spirits and stamina flagging on the Monday will surely have had it revived by revisiting the gorgeous backdrop to the main stage. ~ Jonny Sweet

An Unwavering Devotion to Alternative Music

A rolling green valley drops away to meet the podium, behind which the meandering Columbia river winds lazily between two sandy cliff faces.

Over the course of the weekend, the stage played host to some of the biggest names in music right now, such as Lana del Rey and Kendrick Lamar… but despite the significant radio time both of these superstars enjoy, neither made it onto my list of top 10 acts from the weekend.

Perhaps it’s my peculiar and indefensible aversion to rap music, perhaps it’s my disgust of plastic pop – or perhaps it’s my unwavering devotion to alternative music in all of its forms, but I found the performances of Kendrick and Lana to be flat and uninspiring.

Whatever the reason, the ten artists below indisputably rocked the socks off of everyone in attendance – if you get a chance to see them live in the future, grab it with both hands (just don’t wear your Sunday best hosiery, since you’ll never see them again).

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10) Black Pistol Fire – The Review

I must admit I’d never heard of Canadian/Texan duo Black Pistol Fire prior to seeing them at Sasquatch, and though the music was a little harder than the stuff I usually listen to, I don’t think anyone could fail to be impressed by the sheer energy of their performance.

Their unadulterated delight to be performing on stage in front thousands of fans (and the uninitiated, like myself) translated through their vigorous gyration and casually-familiar crowd banter.

Plus, the band managed two things I rarely (if ever) have seen at a festival performance before – an encore… and crowdsurfing WHILST STILL PLAYING GUITAR. I’m sure this has happened before, but I’ve never seen it – have you?

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9) Of Monsters and Men – The Review

Icelandic folksy outfit Of Monsters and Men lifted the spirits of a drained audience who had just expended a disproportionate allocation of their weekend energy on a rambunctious Gogol Bordello set, with their upbeat and uplifting tunes.

From the slow and steady rhythmic rocking of Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson to the melodic warbling and eye-catching contrasting dress of lead songstress Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, Of Monsters and Men enthralled and enraptured the crowd on the opening night of the festival, providing the perfect balm to the tired limbs and minds that had been put through the ringer by the gypsy punk upstarts before them.

Don’t forget to also have a look at these other bands that are like Of Monsters and Men.

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8) Shakey Graves – The Review

In a similar vein to Black Pistol Fire, Shakey Graves (aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia) invigorated the crowd with his Southern charm and clearly visible childish delight to be on stage.
Infectious as this charisma was, Shakey Graves didn’t disappoint on the musical front either, switching up his accompanying musicians as the song dictated but carrying the majority of the energy throughout on his shoulders alone.

He even compensated for the absence of duettist Esme Patterson on the band’s most rabble-rousing hit, “Dearly Departed”, by enlisting the crowd to fill in for her. Of course, we were most eager to oblige.

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7) Chromeo – The Review

Mix one part Hall and Oates-style rock’n’-rhythm’n’blues with two parts Steve Wonder-esque funky soul and add a generous smattering of electronic sonar stab wounds, and you won’t be a million miles away from Canadian electro-funk daddy superstars Chromeo.

If you witnessed their performance at Sasquatch and weren’t moved to thrust your hips suggestively (or at least nod along) to “Sexy Socialite”, you probably a) had imbibed one too many shandies b) were busily necking or ogling the stranger next to you c) were off on an artificially-induced hazy caper or d) have malfunctioning ears.

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6) St Vincent – The Review

I had listened to St Vincent’s back catalogue prior to the festival and had not been fully convinced that she was my kind of artist – a last-minute revisit on the morning of her set did little to persuade me, either. Indeed, I had almost written her off in favour of the far more downbeat José González, until a friend fought her corner for live prowess, and swayed me into attendance.

I’m so glad she did – St Vincent was the surprise package of the weekend, for me. Equal parts musical gig and theatrical performance, the slender banshee threw herself around the stage in ecstasies of suicidal fantasy (almost to the point of freaking me out, if I’m honest).
Her choreographed scuttling around in robotic fashion and last minute crowd-surf convinced me that no matter what I think of her as a musician, I adore her as a performer.

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5) Jungle – The Review

There is something deliciously incongruous about the members of Jungle. The gold-chained ostentation of founding members Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson is offset perfectly by the cooler-than-cool vocal accompaniments of Rudi Salmon and Andro Cowperthwaite to create a smooth sound that is almost aggressive in its laid-back funkiness… if that even makes sense.

Emerging from their self-imposed anonymity last year (prior to which they refused to star in music videos and performed live shows amid the obscurity of over-worked smoke machines), T and J and their bandmates are now reluctantly embracing their stardom. And so they should – they bloody well deserve it.

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4) Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters – The Review

Prior to the site, I had pessimistically hoped Robert Plant would play one, perhaps two Led Zeppelin songs to appease the hordes of Zeppelinites who had gathered to witness his green-bloused late set. Imagine my glee when the legendary singer played nigh on ten of the band’s finest numbers, all with the pitch-perfect voice which made them famous.

“When I was last in this part of the world, most of you weren’t born,” cajoled Plant, nudging and winking the adoring fans in between his soaring vocal rhapsodies.

It would be amiss to neglect the contribution of his backing band too – especially the spectacularly-named Skin Tyson – who helped to make the gig a memorable foray with great new riffs on old classics, as well as some impressive original compositions to boot.

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3) Gogol Bordello – The Review

The previously mentioned Balkan punk of Gogol Bordello is sure to have left anyone who flooded to the front of the stage to hear their anthems almost entirely bereft of energy.
Accompanied by a sensation similar to the exhausting post-coital euphoria (tinged with sadness at its passing) that accompanies a marathon session in the sack, only those who have witnessed them live will know just how musically pornographic the band are in a festival setting.

Gogol Bordello shook us all night long.

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2) Sylvan Esso – The Review

Sylvan Esso’s high ranking on this list is admittedly slightly biased due to my recent conversion to the cult following they enjoy. In the month or two prior to Sasquatch, I found myself listening to the duo basically on non-stop repeat – they are so good that I found I physically couldn’t turn them off.

In the flesh, they didn’t disappoint, matching the soaring highs of “HSKT”, “Play it Right” and “Hey Mami” with the understated lows of “Coffee” and “Uncatena” with equal aplomb. Plus, the onstage chemistry between the pair, plus Amelia Meath’s unassuming and down-to-earth rapport, made them genuinely seem like people you’d want to be friends with. Cool in the sense of amiable openness, not aloof twattery.

If you’re reading this Amelia and Nick, I’ll buy you a pint. Or a discount cocktail. Any time – you can take that to the bank.

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1) Future Islands – The Review

I’d say over the course of the weekend, Sylvan Esso were the top performers on a musical basis alone. In terms of energy, Gogol Bordello probably edged it; for theatrics, it was St Vincent all the way. For all three combined, look no further than Future Islands.

The raw dynamism of lead singer Samuel T. Herring, with his unexpected flexibility, Russian-style squat dancing, bulging eyeballs, emphatic finger-pointing and periodic other-worldly growling, is as captivating as it is impressive.

The rest of the band looked positively meagre by comparison – perhaps even scared, as if Herring had kidnapped the lot of them and was forcing them to perform on stage via the use of fiendish death threats.

Something of a cross between an eccentric cartoon villain and Elton John, Samuel T. Herring, and (Future Islands as a whole) was quite simply as breath-taking as the backdrop in front of which the band dazzled. Shine on, you crazy fucker!

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Your Experience

Honourable mentions should go to Shovels and Rope and Hot Chip, as well as tent groovers Slow Magic, Sohn and The Glitch Mob. Unfortunately there just wasn’t enough space for them all in the article.

Did you go to Sasquatch too? Was your experience different from mine? Which bands dazzled for you? Have you seen anyone crowdsurf whilst still playing an instrument before? Would you go again? How it does it compare to other festivals you’ve been to?

Let us know your views in the comments bit below.

I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
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