Sasquatch Festival 2012 Days 3 and 4: Makin’ It To the Finish Line

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So it’s hard to believe but getting through a four-day festival takes FAR more energy than a three-day tilt — it’s like a four-hour Springsteen show versus a 30-minute showcase, but Weeping Elvis persevered and made it to the finish line with our senses still intact.

Sasquatch 2012 was a great festival overall with some really impressive acts on all of the days and a good time was had by all — a bucolic setting such as The Gorge combined with great music amazing weather (70s and sunny every day) will do that.

 

DAY 3
If you are looking for some really good folk-influenced rock with fantastic harmony singing (and who isn’t) and you wanna go crunchy but not full-on hippie (see: Sharpe, Edward), then Seattle locals THE HEAD AND THE HEART is what you are looking for. This is the best harmony singing I’ve heard since the Fleet Foxes. This is a case of singers voices blending together so well that they sound like a lot more than three people…a little like a modern day Mamas and the Papas. There is nothing too complicated here—just solid, mellow tunes with great playing and singing. The great Sub Pop records has now re-released The Head and the Heart’s 2009 self-titled release, which managed to sell 10,000 copies just by word of mouth and sales at merch tables. Dig it it now, as I smell bigger things for the little Seattle act that could.

I think DEER TICK entertained the crowd as much as themselves with their raucous brand of gritty, alt-country influenced rock. While they are from the unlikely music hub of Providence, RI, they have a decidedly southern feel. The crowd was not sure how to take lead singer John J. McCauley’s statement of …”let’s hurry up and get this over so we can party with you guys.” Yeah that’s great, John, but aren’t you guys here to play? It seemed that the party had started for John and the boys long before they got to the stage but they went on to play a good set and came back later in the day for a set of covers. It was a bit unusual, but fun—and that is Deer Tick in a nutshell.

Listen for the name LITTLE DRAGON (or the names of the members therein) on a Outkast, Raphael Saadiq or Gorillaz recording coming soon to an iPod near you, as all of these acts want to work with Little Dragon. These neo-soul, post–new wave beat bringers are from the unlikely country of … Sweeden?!? And they don’t play death metal? No, they’ve got their own thing going and seemingly 80s new wave recordings, a la OMD and Tears From Fears, certainly made it to Gothenberg. But Little Dragon is no retro act—they are truly taking these genres to the next level, incorporating elements of trip-hop and dream pop. From a composition and recording standpoint, they’re all over it, but the live show needs some polish. I’m sure they were running a click track, but I swear they rushed on several occasions (lead singer Yukimi Nagano should not try and be James Murphy and pick up the sticks to play percussion). These live issues will work themselves out, that is, if they have time to tour while working with so many other acts. Little Dragon has “being everywhere” written all over them.
WILD FLAG is vying for title of “Best All Female Band” (Are they adding this category at next year’s Grammys? Probably not.) with one of Jack White’s current touring bands and my girls from L.A., Warpaint. Maybe one reason is if  you were to listen to recordings of these acts (minus the vocals) you would simply say they are just a great band—not a great “all girl” band. Wild Flag is fun, punk-influenced pop (what maybe an edgy version of the The Go Gos would have sounded like if they had been really great musicians). Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia is one good guitarist—hell they’re all great.

I REALLY miss LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, as leader JAMES MURPHY disbanded the group after three highly acclaimed albums, so to see leader Mr. Murphy spin a DJ set was as close as I could get. It is interesting to hear him spin from a sound and tempo perspective. He keeps it pretty steady at 110-120 beats per minute, in much more of a 70s disco pulse with a lot of percussion sounds. One can only hope that Murphy treats us with something other than DJ sets soon. “Hey, can I go ahead and start playing records” said Murphy a full five minutes ahead of his start time…when does that happen?

 

L.A’s VINTAGE TROUBLE is a funky, get down-rock outfit that could make it on the strength of Ty Taylor’s vocals alone but the whole band is solid. The last time I saw them was in a small club in Santa Monica and he of the big hair and hat, Slash, joined them on stage. Things look to be taking off for Vintage Trouble with European dates and a tour opening for Lenny Kravitz. Anyone that has heard these guys loves them—before I could mention it to him, our other WE writer at Sasquatch asked me “Hey did you hear? Vintage Trouble, they were great.”  They really did deserved a bigger stage—Ty put on a fun show but one can only imagine how much fun it would have been if he had a bigger stage to play on. But even on a small stage Ty and the rest of the band will take your ass to church!

I know I am supposed to like BEIRUT, as they are called “different, groundbreaking, a new sound”, etc. but I REALLY do NOT get what they are doing. It’s not for lack of trying. I have listened to but not enjoyed their recordings and went to their set on the main stage hoping for some insight or understanding. I soon felt myself forcing the listening and I truly didn’t dig it. I have no problem with indie experimental—hell I’m a big fan of Tune-Yards and I’m sure many are confounded by them as well, but in my opinion, Beirut just had no cohesion and sense of purpose…I have no idea what they are trying to do or say.

I also enjoyed the stream of consciousness, psychedelia flavored alt rock from THE WAR ON DRUGS. THE WALKMEN are still putting on intense shows of good alt rock, slightly new-wave inspired songs with great vocals, and watch out for ZOLA JESUS…while large-scale success is an outside chance for this electronic, dream pop, dance music artist, I have now found her mesmerizing on two separate occasions—it just feels like an act that MIGHT break out.

 

 

DAY 4

fun. was just that (and a lot of it).  Even though I have seen them before I was blown away by the voice of Nate Reuss. This year brought a No. 1 single, “We Are Young” (feat. the amazing Janelle Monae) and in doing so became the first alternative rock song to go to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart since Coldplay’s “Vida La Vida.” I grow weary of bands being dismissed simply because they have popular hits and are appreciated by a young demographic. The fact is that fun. plays GREAT alternative pop songs and after being a part of an interview with guitarist Jack Antonoff, I understand how serious they are about making great music that appeals to the masses yet maintains its integrity. Since when is there anything wrong with that? I remember hearing “Wake Me Up Before You Go, Go” for the first time and realized that Wham! had written a fantastic pop song and I knew they were going to be big—big enough to launch the massive solo career of one of pop’s greatest singers, George Michael. I am not saying that fun. is in any way like Wham! but even though fun.’s music is far more complex, it still remains hugely popular. I make the comparison because popular CAN still mean great. Whether Nate and the boys will meet with George Michael’s kind of success remains to be seen, but they are already a good ways down this road and are poised for stardom.

I really loved the SHEEPDOGS. If you don’t know it, they are the band that won Rolling Stone‘s “Choose the Cover” competition, which allowed readers and listeners to vote on which unsigned act would appear on the magazine’s cover—the first unsigned act to do so. This is solid, straight-ahead rock music that grooves. I continually heard The Allman Brothers in their sound, which seems odd given their Canadian roots. Dr. Hook told us back in the 70s that success had come to those that “had their pictures on the cover” of the iconic music publication–I hope this is the case for The Sheepdogs as the rock world needs a band like this.

I am sure anyone who reads these reviews on a regular basis is sick to death of hearing about GARY CLARK JR. but until everyone I can reach has checked him out, I’m gonna keep touting the new guitar hero. He is rocking the world of modern blues with his blend of Hendrix and Austin-style rock, all bathed in the sounds of the old blues masters. It is truly astounding to watch him play. He’s had a big rise this year as he has gone from the smallest stage at The ACL Festival to the BIG stage at Hangout, Sasquatch and other festivals. Thousands showed up to hear him (in a place about as far from Austin as you can get) and were chanting his name, so obviously his fame is spreading. He is touring all over the states so please… in the name of Robert Johnson …go listen to this brother play. I have dragged many folks to see him and it is ALWAYS nothing but raves.

The debate is on as to whether hot new electronica act SBTRKT (basically pronounced as “subtract”) is post-dubstep, trance or techno. I would buy into the minimalist post-dubstep moniker based on his recordings but on this day SBTRKT was in full on techno mode. What sets SBTRKT apart is the completely unique yet unusual rhythmic patterns and accents he produces, along with some very cool sounds. One might think that this would be problematic for a group of 2,000 white kids to dance to, but he kept the pulse strong enough to feels and the amount of illegal substance flowing through the veins of the audience probably helped as well. While being musically challenging to the ear, the bodies still found the groove and ultimately it was easy to dance with a solid beat. I’ll give it an 8, Mr. Clark.

 

While they have been around a few years, garnering a Grammy nod for Best New Artist in that time, SILVERSUN PICKUPS are now hitting their stride with a dynamite live show featuring tunes from their latest release, Neck of the Woods. Their popularity is obviously growing as well, as several thousand people showing up to check them out, as Neck of the Woods hit Nos. 6 and 1, respectively, on the overall and alternative album charts. Silversun Pickups weave a nice mix of alt rock with solid bass grooves at their foundation with a little bit of psychedelia and shoegazer thrown in. Get ahead of the curve and check them out now.

Unfortunately, Day 4 leaned towards the boring at the end.

Both BECK and SPIRITUALIZED have been around 20 years or so and in that time have gained legions of fans. There is no doubt that both of these acts display great talent, but the stage show for both could use a lot of…energy…excitement…movement…something to get us a little bit jazzed about the experience. If you are fans of these artists then you were probably thrilled to simply hear the music but in the case of Spiritualized (Jason Pierce) we got some cool lights but he stood in profile on the far right side of the stage for the entire show and the rest of the band simply stood there—probably part of the act but it left me not caring at all. Obviously, Beck is a much higher profile artist and I’m sure his true fans were happy with a mixture of his hits and deep cuts but I found  his show dull, especially when compared to what Jack White, Charles Bradley and Bon Iver had done on the same stage nights before. I realize that the slacker angle has been his whole M.O. from the beginning and there is no doubt that he is a gifted singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, but a stand-and-play set with a band that was not tight–even disjointed—well, let’s just say the closing night of such a great festival deserved more…a disappointing way to end.
Look for a superlative (and not so superlative) list, a shopping list of who to listen to now and a wrap up tomorrow.

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