I just got back from the Sasquatch Music Festival at the beautiful Gorge Ampitheater in Eastern Washington. It’s one of my favorite festivals because it always has a fantastic lineup and takes place in an unbelievably beautiful place. But this year I discovered another reason why it’s so great: small bands getting their chance to play for huge crowds. The festival itself welcomes 25,000 people through the gates every day, and the mainstage seats 20,000+. For some of these bands, playing the mainstage at Sasquatch (and even the side stages) is the largest crowd they’ve ever played.
In set after set, we witnessed bands being blown away by not only the scenery, but the audience. On Friday, Of Monsters and Men played an early evening set that drew in huge crowds. The next day, Pickwick drew a strong crowd for the first set of the day on the main stage. Later, The Civil Wars played an early 3:15pm set and managed to fill the pit and had the entire audience mesmerized. In between songs, John Paul White explained that normally at music festivals, they’re the quiet folk duo pushed to a side stage. Both John Paul and Joy Williams were gushing the entire set as the audience sang, clapped and stomped along. Also, extra props to Joy, who performed flawlessly while 8 months pregnant.
On Sunday, Tramped By Turtles held the 2pm slot on the main stage and absolutely killed it. People were clapping, dancing and crowd surfing for the entire set. Later in the day, The Head and the Heart made their Seattle (roughly speaking) homecoming on the mainstage, which brought violinist/vocalist Charity Thielen to tears at the end of her set as she thanked the fans.
As the sun set, Beirut had an amazing performance on the main stage, warming up the crowd for the 90-minute Bon Iver headlining set. The crew put on a spectacular visual and musical performance, playing expanded and satisfying versions of all the necessary Bon Iver
favorites, including the standard but still mesmerizing sing-along version of The Wolves (Act I and II) as part of the encore. Throughout the set, Justin Vernon seemed especially gracious even though Bon Iver has probably played to just as large a crowd before.
All in all, over the course of 4 days I saw 39 sets including (in addition to those above) truly amazing performances by Polica, Active Child, Ben Howard, Damien Jurado, Jack White, Feist, Pickwick, Explosions in the Sky, The Walkmen, The War On Drugs, Alabama Shakes, The Staves and more.
Enjoy the photos below, and if you get the chance, add Sasquatch to your festival calendar for 2013. If you’re looking for a roundup of professional photos from the festival, Spin has a great gallery of pics from the weekend.