Live review: Sasquatch! offers rain, heat, and tunes for the dedicated only

MIA @ Sasquatch 2008

Originally uploaded by flooing

Talk to anyone who has attended any major music festival, and they’ll agree that it takes a certain state of mind to enjoy. Never mind the process of manipulating your monthly budget for tickets and camping spots; campers at this year’s Sasquatch! Music Festival this past weekend in The Gorge in the middle of Washington state endured overcrowded campsites, severe weather changes, and the inappropriately, someone misleadingly named Honey Buckets (the less said about those the better). But for anyone who saw at least one performance at this year’s show, their restitution lies in the music.

The rain began to fall as M.I.A. commanded the main stage on Saturday evening, her bazaar of beats entrancing a crowd of damp onlookers as her performance peaked when she invited all moshers to the stage for the last three songs. R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe embraced the weather, choosing to perform barefoot as to avoid slipping on stage. “If I fall, I want you all to say ‘I told you so,’” he announced. He didn’t fall, but it certainly kept the audience’s attention rapt at the end of the first day.

Sunday afternoon saw the first rays of sunshine, just in time for the Cold War Kid’s appropriately titled “Hang Me Up to Dry.” By nightfall, The Cure was rocking a dry gorge as Porl Thompson’s brooding guitar riffs and Robert Smith’s powerful voice echoed throughout the Gorge; an emotional moment for any conscious rocker.

Clear skies and dry heats greeted Monday’s fans. The Hives gave what they called an “effort of 60 percent” under the mid-day sun. “If we were to give you 100 percent, this gorge would collapse and we would all die,” screamed typically arrogant frontman Pelle Almqvist. Although they later claimed to give 92 percent, no performance that day could touch the Flaming Lips’ U.F.O.-themed finale. From Wayne Coyne’s entrance on a space ship, to the dancing Teletubbies, and what appeared to be half the world’s confetti supply were among a few of the marvels that Sasquatch’s closing act had to offer.

Main stage underdog spoils go to Blue Scholars’ “true hip-hop” set, and Rodrigo y Gabriela for bringing a taste of Mexico to the weekend. On the Wookie! stage (each stage is named for a beastly creature, fyi), highlights came from the Kooks for bringing a splash of BritPop to Day Two, and experimental math rockers Battles, whose deafening set managed to drown out the nearby main stage.

Sasquatch! is not a festival for the faint of heart. Unlike the others this summer, you really had to earn the right to get dirty and hear some good tunes, and while many were swearing to themselves at least once during the weekend, “never again,” that’s all forgotten now as the musical memories remain just as the mud washes off your sneakers.

David Bell