Sasquatch Day 1: Politicking, dance parties

Crowds at the 2011 Sasquatch! Music Festival (photo by Christopher Nelson)

Day two of the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival brought Death Cab for Cutie to the stage as a headliner. Earlier in the day, the outspoken “rap n’ roller” K-OS (born Kevin Brereton) gave homage to the band in his lyrics, as did Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. Touring with Death Cab, Oberst gave the band praise for being “on top of their game.”

“They’ll sound fantastic,” Oberst said.

On the main stage Local Natives of Los Angeles reflected on their performance at last year’s festival. “We played last year to a 20th the size of you. This is no doubt the biggest show we’ve every played. It means a lot to us. Thank you.”

Local Natives (photo by Christopher Nelson)

With music heavily dependent on drum and percussion beats, the group elicited a spontaneous dance party reminiscent of Santogold’s 2009 dance eruption with their poppy tunes. Lead singer Taylor Rice sports a fantastic revivalist moustache, rivaling Sam Beam for the best facial hair of the day.

Wolf Parade (photo by Kyle Johnson)

Through the crowd wandered people in wolves’ clothing for Wolf Parade’s set. The Canadian group rarely tours due to member obligations in other bands, including keyboardist/vocalist Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown) and guitarist/singer Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs).

“What a beautiful day to be here,” Boeckner said.

Pink Martini (photo by Christopher Nelson)

From Pink Martini with its 12-piece orchestral arrangements to Iron and Wine’s grand and expansive jam session—complete with a full horn section, back-up singers and what can best be described as an electric didgeridoo—it seems live music culture has evolved to ambitious and sprawling ballads.

Iron and Wine (photo by Christopher Nelson)

Sam Beam himself has evolved from a one-man band to a sprawling band of musicians. (Listen to Iron and Wine’s Sasquatch set on NPR). He opened the performance with “Boy with a Coin,” almost unrecognizable from the album version, packed with creative pacing and robust sounds lent by the backing band. Overheard at Iron and Wine: This is hippy God music.

Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes (photo by Christopher Nelson)

In similar ways, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes has come to stage with a full orchestra, but on his Sasquatch performance he returned with long-time bandmates Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, accompanied by drums and bass.

Oberst took the stage like a boxer with a hoddie covering his head, his dark hair covering his eyes, and at the keyboard launched into “Gold Mind Gutted.”

“This is our first time at the Gorge,” Oberst said. “This shit is deep.”

With true middle class angst, Oberst launched into a song from the 2011 release “The People’s Key,” singing, “My private life’s a joke, and no one can explain it to me.” Like the trials he chronicles in his music, Oberst discussed some biting themes throughout the set, at times returning to a political and sermonizing stance.

“This next one’s about the pig,” Oberst explained before playing “Arc of Time.” “The pig is the proper name for the Internet.”

Bright Eyes (photo by Christopher Nelson)

His evolution from boy sonneteer to indie rock celebrity has given Oberst a platform, which he utilized. Regardless of his abrasive nature, Oberst sold his new album while still performing a set of favorites. During “Poison Oak,” a song he described as being about the “apocalypse.” Mogis’s lapsteel soared, the lyrics carried by the crowd. “”You’re the yellow bird that I’ve been waiting for…”

The world’s end was on several artists mind. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, in their closing set on Monday, told the crowd the band didn’t prepare a set for the festival.

“We didn’t want to put in too much effort and if we were going to be raptured,” Tweedy told the crowd.

Death Cab For Cutie (photo by Christopher Nelson)

While Oberst was outspoken, Ben Gibbard was approachable. He used the stage to encourage Washingtonians to vote. “Look at what happened in Wisconsin,” he said.

Death Cab For Cutie’s set was absorbing, Gibbard’s voice a captivator. They band closed their set with an encore that included “Portable Television,” “Photobooth,” and “Transatlanticism,” the chorus circling the Gorge.

Read about Sasquatch 2011 Day 3 > > >

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