Concert Review

Sasquatch! 2013 Saturday: Sigur Rós, The xx, Tame Impala, & More

As day 2 of Sasquatch! began everybody, from fans to bands to tech, seemed to be adjusting to the swing of things. It was a little warmer, and there was no rain in sight. After walking through a camping area set up with afternoon beer pong and a car blasting “Same Love,” I finally got in to find the first wave of bands well into their sets. Bear Mountain had already pulled in a huge crowd with their catchy, comfort-food electronic pop, and Rose Windows were just finishing a decent set, albeit to a much smaller crowd. I decided to get up close and personal for Robert Delong, as I’d heard stories about his amazingly physical performance, and was curious.

I must have picked the right spot, because right next to me was a guy with the same t-shirt and facepaint as Delong (add in a cape and goggles for good measure), obviously excited for what was going to happen. “You must be a big fan,” I said. “No, I’m THE fan,” he replied. He certainly was, and it’s easy to see how Delong has already gathered so much enthusiasm from people. His overwhelming EDM beats are punctuated by some very personal and affecting vocals (“Emo-DM?!” is jokingly scribbled in my notebook somewhere) all tied in with his energetic stage presence. With a drum kit, drum pads, video game controllers, laptops, and synthesizers on stage he’s often manically running around trying to make everything work. But it does, surprisingly well in fact, and Delong has built up a collection of really good tracks already. That said, I’m still not won over by his radio hit, “Global Concepts” which gathered a huge reaction, but still just sounds annoying to my ears. At one point while fiddling with some knobs and his laptop, he threw a drum stick across the stage like a shuriken, hitting a cymbal at just the right moment. By the end of his 45 minutes, the guy had the kind of crowd you would have expected for a much later set-time. I spent some time after the Delong set to try and find something that might grab me and really hold my attention, but to no avail. Indians just weren’t doing it for me, JJ Grey & Mofro turned into somewhat of disappointment. That’s when I came across something unexpected.

Nancy & Beth are not actually named Nancy and Beth. Stephanie Hunt and Megan Mullally (of Will & Grace, Parks and Rec, and Party Down) have created an outlet to perform vintage pop songs and classic country, and while I initially was just going to take a peek at this oddity I ended up getting completely pulled in. It’s funny, as expected, but never mocking. Honestly, the whole set kept reminding me of the late-greats, Ween, in the way that humor and quality are not mutually exclusive. They also share the Boognish worshippers’ knack for playing extremely dirty songs with complete sincerity. Near the end of the set they began a huge tribute to one of the all-time great internet oddities, Riskay’s “Smell Yo Dick.” This could have been embarrassing, and a lame attempt for laughs, but they nailed it and made the song a sort of (I-can’t-believe-I’m-saying-this) moving performance. It doesn’t hurt that Nick Offerman (Mullally’s husband, and Ron-fucking-Swanson on Parks & Rec) jumped on stage to do the male verse near the end.

The heat finally broke just in time for Caveman to play a great set, and show off some of their new album’s best tracks. The Yeti stage had figured things out since yesterday I guess because the Brooklyn band sounded exquisite. They gradually built momentum (and a crowd) before dropping one of my favorite slow jams of the year, “Over My Head.” After they finished, it was off to Chupacabra, the electronic-slash-comedy tent … because those go together just great.

After the wonderful mind-fuck of Nancy & Beth it seemed like a good idea to check out Nick Offerman’s set. Channeling Ron Swanson, he gave the equivalent of an inspirational seminar with his 10 pieces of life advice, as well as some general philosophy on wood-crafting, Tolkien, and the evilness of vegetarianism. He’s known more for TV, but Offerman’s stand up (with some acoustic songs mixed in) is really impressive. As I was leaving to catch another set, the crowd, lighters up, had joined Offerman (and Nancy & Beth, now on stage as well) in a full band version of the Parks & Rec song “5000 Candles In The Wind.” I wonder if they have to pay MouseRat royalties for that.

As I sat on the rail of the media booth for the Bigfoot stage with its sea of moving bodies and flying pool toys, watching Holy Ghost! play a career-landmarking set, it occurred to me that I’d actually seen these guys open for LCD Soundsystem about 3 years ago. Damn, have they come a long way! While I certainly liked them then, if you had asked me I wouldn’t have expected them to be pulling in a huge festival crowd. But, wow — they pulled in almost as big of a crowd as Vampire Weekend did last night, and this was still relatively early. It was a really nice moment since even the band sounded a little surprised as they thanked the massive crowd for coming over, asking everyone to pose for a picture. They deserve it though, they gave it their all and brought back that DFA grooviness in a way that has felt absent for too long; it was one of the best surprises of the day.

Porcelain Raft sounded solid over at the Yeti stage to a smaller, but invested crowd. I hung around for a bit, then noticed the sun was about to set which meant one thing for me: John Talabot. The Spainish deep-house producer was one of my most anticipated sets, and if you’ve heard last year’s stunning ƒIN you might agree. Starting right at dusk and playing to a small crowd (most people were drawn to the xx and Surfer Blood), Talabot cast a dense fog of live drums, house beats, frog croaks, wailing screams, and ghostly vocals. It was absolutely hypnotizing as he slowly seduced his audience with many of ƒIN’s best moments. Near the end of his set I looked behind me to find the small crowd had grown into a throbbing mass of people going back to the end of the tent.

Leaving Talabot’s perfect set and moving back into the real world, I found that there were some major problems occurring. Turns out Tame Impala had to delay their 10PM set on the Bigfoot stage due to their gear being late to arrive. “No big deal, bands go on late all the time,” I thought. However it is a big deal if you’re going on before Empire Of The Sun, a band that takes roughly 3 hours to set up. So Tame Impala got bumped back 75 minutes, and moved to Yeti, a far smaller stage. People were understandably upset, but everyone just kept reassuring themselves that EotS was worth the problems (catching them as I left my only thought was the lights don’t really matter when the songs are so boring) I checked out Sigur Ros, the main headliner, in the meantime.

At this point the long running Icelandic band is in a great, and small, group of bands that could play an intimate venue in a city or on a mountain side to thousands and still deliver the goods. Wonderfully paced, the band played 15 minutes in near darkness, gently creating an atmosphere before the stage filled with light and booming sound. During “Svefn-g-englar,” the stage glowed with light bulbs hung throughout the stage, matching the stars overhead. The band truly made the best of the setting and impressed the screaming fans below and the groups relaxing on the hill above, watching the sky.

Sometimes delays and screw ups can work in your favor, because when Tame Impala finally took the stage about an hour after their set was supposed to end I’m pretty sure there was a golden period of maybe 10 minutes where they were the only band playing in the whole festival grounds. Keep in mind as well, this was a headlining band who had just gotten bumped to the second smallest stage. Those two things mix some very unstable chemicals and one of the best punch lines of the day came from Kevin Parker’s modest, “Hey … you guys made it!” to the thousands of people crammed into this smaller area. With all these factors coming together it’s no surprise that Tame Impala was fucking explosive. Mixing in Innerspeaker, Lonerism and even some deeper cuts like “Half Full Glass Of Wine,” the band sounded as bright and strong as the rainbow of lights glowing behind them. The biggest response definitely came from the recent hits such as, “Elephant,” “Endors Toi,” and “Feels Like…” all of which are jammed and stretched out like a colorful piece of taffy. The really powerful thing about Tame Impala’s live act, though, comes from the fact that, despite the catchiness of a track like “Elephant,” Kevin Parker’s lyrics are some deeply broken, and desperately lonely sentiments. And while the band sounds full and bright, Parker’s vocals remain exactly as they should be: fragile, anxious, and hurt; wrapped in a cocoon of psychedelic bliss. With that in mind, it felt truly satisfying to hear this man (who projects his isolation with such a giant sound) let the final line of “Solitude is Bliss” soar out over thousands of screaming fans: “You will never come close to how I feel.”