Once upon a time, there was a little festival named Sasquatch. Born in the Pacific Northwest, it was a small, one-day festival with a jammy lineup featuring bands like String Cheese Incident and, later, high-profile local indie rock outfits. As the years went by, little Sasquatch grew and flourished in its home, the vast, post-apocalyptic Gorge Amphitheatre, with its towering cliffs and breathtaking river views -- until one year, it grew to two days, then three and, finally, four long days of rocking. By 2012, our little 'Squatchy has become a sprawling, genre-jumping affair featuring a dizzying range of acts like the Roots, Beck and Jack White and visited by tens of thousands of people a day -- who, this year, only had the option of buying a full weekend pass.
So what does such a beast look like? Well, on Friday night, it looked an awful lot like a rave -- or, at least, an all-ages dance club. The Banana Shack dance stage was thumping with sweaty beats and sticky dancers, of course. But with headliners like Girl Talk and Pretty Lights, even the mainstage area looked to be populated by a massive, neon-uniformed army.
Leading that army into battle was Santigold, who took the stage at 7pm decked out in enough floral and neon (including hot turquoise eyeshadow and shoulder fringe that looked to be made from blue Raggedy Ann hair) to be seen from Russia. Even brighter than her outfit, however, was the electro-hop artist's smile. OK, we promise that's the corniest thing we're going to say this weekend (must. resist. "gorge-ous" puns), but seriously: Santi's set overflowed with a charm and warmth that shrank the big main stage into an intimate venue, whether she was pulling up people in gorilla suits to dance onstage or breaking it down with her own fabulous, pom-pom-wielding backup dancers (who were as fierce and stonefaced as she was smiley). She played songs from both her debut and her new album, she busted myriad African dance-inspired moves, she even pulled off a costume change. Beat that, Sasquatch.
Later that evening over on the Banana Shack stage, Beats Antique kept the world-tripping dance party going with their blend of live, Gypsy-gesturing fusion rock and global bass beats. Neo-hippies twirled around neo-ravers (ok, maybe that's redundant) in the front of the tent, hula-hoopers kept things in motion in the back. But all eyes were riveted to the stage when Beats' resident belly dancer, Zoe Jakes, took the stage, garbed in getups that included a kabuki mask and a face-covering body suit and contorting her body in the most graceful, awkward, sexy ways. Meanwhile, the band name-checked the Occupy movement and kept the post-jam dance grooves thick and juicy.
If you forgot your shoulder-brushing feather earrings and body paint (or, you know, if you just don't like dance music), however, Sasquatch still had plenty for you Friday night. For us "fogie" types, Mark Lanegan kept the party rocking the old-fashioned way, with ringing guitars and grimacing, pack-a-day vocals that drew in the hardcore rockers and the bring-your-own-chairs set. And over on the "Maine Stage" (not to be confused with the Sasquatch main stage), the Northwest hip-hop was flowing mellow and funky all day long. Metal Chocolates' easy, soulful flow went down particularly smoothly with the fervent little crowd gathered (the fact that they performed an ode to beer didn't hurt).
So what did our all-growed-up Sasquatch look like on Day One? Well, it looked young, actually, and, frankly, a lot more wasted than it should have this early on, perhaps largely due to the fact that the fest gave attendees in-and-out privileges this year, allowing them to go back to the campgrounds for, um, water breaks. [Aside to the kids, who are still probably sleeping it off: Slow your roll. It's not cool to make your mom drive all the way out here to get you from the hospital. Also, dude: you totally can't hear the bands from there!] But in many moments and spots, it also looked relaxed and happy, content with its girth and growth. As the night closed at the Bigfoot stage, the entire back lawn seemed to be covered with tired, blissed out fans lying on their backs, gazing at the stars and mulling it all over as Explosions in the Sky's sweeping, shoegazing, near-symphonic waves of post-rock washed over them. Between the big, never-ending sky at the Gorge and the big, expansive sound at Sasquatch, there's a lot to take in.