If Day 1 of the 2013 Sasquatch! Music Festival was more subdued and inconsistent, Day 2 was its total opposite, bringing bands that kept the energy high, crowds dancing and laughing and with a never yielding dose of sun. Surely there will be plenty more sunburns tomorrow morning, but the general consensus seems it’s been well worth it, as Saturday really delivered in every way.
First up was Vancouver, BC-based dance/rock group Bear Mountain, who started off with a meager group of listeners, but by the end of their set it was packed – something very rarely seen for the first slot of the day. Their cover of Tears For Fears’ "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" fit squarely in their genre, and definitely was a great take on the song, but what was even more revealing about the band was how strong their own material stacked up, and in many cases was better. This is one of those bands where you can go in knowing absolutely nothing and walk away feeling totally taken.
Next up was Atlas Genius, who in previous festivals have felt a bit uninspired and stale, but perhaps it was the beautiful backdrop (which they mentioned multiple times) or a quite sizable crowd of listeners, but they really brought it for their midday set. Obviously festivalgoers were most excited to hear hit single "Trojans," but they really were receptive to the rest of the set, which demonstrated a fun interplay between guitarist and lead vocalist Keith Jeffery with brother Michael Jeffery on drums.
Most people at Sasquatch! were seemingly unaware of the true identities of country/honky tonk duo Nancy and Beth – aka Megan Mullaly (of Will & Grace) and Stephanie Hunt. That was the only explanation for the small gathering in front of the Yeti Stage for their set, but proceeding undeterred, the two put on one of the best shows of the festival yet. Every song had its own eccentric choreography, and ran the gamut from murder ballad to… well, mostly murder ballads. But the lack of lyrical variety in no way detracted from the set, as they gave the audience everything they had and more- in the form of comedian Nick Offerman (Mullaly’s husband) who came on for a rap verse during "Smell Yo Dick" – which was hilariously preceded by a short cover of Rufus Wainwright’s "Vibrate." The duo had everyone in the audience cracking up and cheering back after every song- exactly what you want for a midday set at a festival.
Caveman gave a fantastic mid-afternoon performance on the small Yeti Stage, but their sound was enough to carry far beyond, and they were able to recreate the sweeping and thick instrumentation that is found on their albums. Highlight was new song "In The City," which came alive on stage with Matthew Iwanusa’s vibrant and impassioned singing. Devendra Banhart‘s new album still has a lot of exciting melodies and gorgeous instrumentation, but there’s no denying that he has mellowed considerably since his last release. And that came through especially during his late afternoon show. A lot of songs started to blend together and lost the edge that used to characterize a lot of his music. Enjoyable, definitely, but a little disappointing given what he used to bring on stage.
Nick Offerman was hilarious. Hard to say much more than that, really. He brought the delightfully wry and edgy humor of Ron Swanson to his more raunchy stand-up routine, but he definitely had the audience in his hand throughout the whole performance. Divine Fits were plagued with sound issues, as has been the case with the Bigfoot Stage throughout the weekend, and there were also moments when it seemed like frontmen Dan Boeckner and Britt Daniel were a bit bored with the songs, but overall it was a solid performance, with drummer Sam Brown propelling the songs forward and their muscly guitar and bass interplay making the songs come alive.
Watching The xx is a bit like watching the same Portishead song played ten times in a row, but by twentysomethings who take a little too much time to cry rather than climax. It feels as in every song other than "VCR" they start to build tension to then have a big release, but instead it dissipates into changing time signatures and unremarkable riffs. Also, it’s as if they watched a few too many Fleetwood Mac videos, as they try and recreate that type of Lindsey Buckingham / Stevie Nicks sexual chemistry on stage, but it just comes across as contrived rather than genuine.
Sigur Ros – Saturday night’s headliner – was absolutely incredible, hands down. Was that because they played after such a monotonous performance by The xx? Maybe. But they really were magnificent. Their trademark cinematic, majestic art/rock music really translated beautifully to the main stage at the Gorge, and they brought their own lighting rig and videographer, which kept their aesthetic tight, with its usual impressionist feel. The only thing wrong with their set was how short it was- you could feel the crowd wanting more and more, to hear their beautiful songs cascading out from the stage and filling space completely with its melodrama and catharsis. A perfect close for a day full of incredible music.