Afterthoughts on the Sasquatch! 2011 lineup

Sasquatch 2011 Lineup from World Famous on Vimeo.

The lineup for the 2011 Sasquatch! Music Festival has finally been announced and I’m not sure how I feel about the names on the list of bands that are coming to the Gorge. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.

It’s no secret that I’m a Sasquatch! fanboy. I actually consider myself the festival’s ultimate fan and its biggest critic. Sasquatch! combines one of my favorite places (the Gorge Amphitheatre) with one of my favorite things (music festivals) and I’m the only person I know — aside from Adam Zacks, who I met for the first time last night — who has been to every Sasquatch!. So you can imagine that I had pretty high hopes for what last night’s lineup announcement would hold and while I am disappointed at the lack of starpower on the bill, I will say I am very impressed with the talent coming to eastern Washington Memorial Day weekend.

For Sasquatch!’s tenth year Adam Zacks definitely followed last year’s formula of booking a full day’s worth of solid bands without banking on big-name headliners to sell tickets. It’s a smart move and it will likely pay off in the form of the festival’s first four-day sellout. The lineup’s established acts read like a greatest hits of Sasquatch!’s past (Rodrigo y Gabriella, Cold War Kids, the Thermals). There are plenty of locals who aren’t big names that are going to get some great exposure (Macklemore, Young Evils, The Globes), a few reunion acts (DFA 1979, Archers of Loaf) and plenty of up-and-coming acts (Beach House, Wavves, Sleigh Bells, Twin Shadow). This combination of acts gives the lineup a feeling of familiarity, excitement and discovery and makes the festival an excellent gateway drug for being turned on to new music.

In the headliners department Wilco, the Decemberists and my beloved Flaming Lips aren’t really the types of bands that make me want to take a 150-mile roadtrip to the Gorge. The other headliners, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie are local staples who both headlined Bumbershoot recently and they don’t even come close to matching the Foo Fighters, the festival’s biggest name, in the starpower department. I’ve seen all of those bands multiple times and I know they will deliver excellent sets (if Isaac Brock is sober) but I was expecting some names with a bit more oomph mainly because for no reason at all I thought this would be the year Sasquatch! pulls out all the stops and becomes the destination fest of destination fest.

Sasquatch! has always been ahead of the curve, which means I’m pretty spoiled when it comes to getting to see some of modern music’s biggest pop stars before they become massive, arena-packing acts. Cases and points: Modest Mouse, Kanye West, Arcade Fire and the Pixes all played the mainstage in 2005 and the year prior the Black Keys headlined the second stage in front of a crowd of less than 500 because the Postal Service was on  the main stage at the same time. Then there was 2009 when Kings of Leon played an impressive headlining set (which made me a fan) during what I believe was their first major U.S. festival headlining set.

Fast forward to modern day and Kanye and Arcade Fire are headlining Coachella six years after their afternoon Sasquatch! sets and KOL is headlining another day and of course you probably won’t be seeing the Black Keys headline a second stage anywhere. Sure 2005 was  back in the good old days when going to Sasquatch! only meant a one-day trip to the Gorge, but the festival is a much different machine now and it’s definitely for the better.

Sasquatch! has grown organically without  much corporate entanglements (aside from Live Nation’s promotion of the event and operation of the venue) and this has allowed it to keep its identity and reach its core audience, which is something that is reflected well in this year’s lineup. Expanding to four days is a logical move even if it makes covering the festival a laborious chore (wait, why am I complaining about covering a music festival?) and the addition of comedy and dance acts makes the festival a well-rounded experience that is well worth the $80 per day ticket price.

What I’m trying to say is that even though I wasn’t floored by the lineup announcement last night, Sasquatch! is definitely going to be one of the best music festivals of the year. You want to know why? Because Sasquacth! isn’t booked for people like me who get media access to the festival and might even sound a bit spoiled/jaded by making a fuss over the selection for headliners. Sasquatch! is booked for people like you — music fans who read multiple music blogs daily, get excited about consuming new music and don’t care if you’ve seen a band one, or one hundred times — and I think you are going to have a great time this Memorial Day weekend at the Gorge.

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