Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Notes from Sasquatch

I spent a long weekend in Seattle and spent Saturday at the first day of the Sasquatch music festival. The trip was a last hurrah with one of my best friends before she moves to the Midwest for grad school, so I wasn't really in blogger mode. Besides, if people are interested enough in the "experience" of a certain festival to want to read about it, they're probably interested enough to go to it.

But I did come back with some general music notes:

If you're going to Lollapalooza or the Austin City Limits fest later this summer, do not miss Ghostland Observatory. The Austin duo absolutely tore up one of the Sasquatch side stages. Their set was part LCD Soundsystem and part Iggy Pop, which — you're exactly right — is not a comparison to be taken lightly. But as Thomas Turner and his sky-blue cape worked the keys and synth, frontman Aaron Behrens and his two chest-long braids commanded the stage with an energy worthy of the punk icon.

I've kind of slept on the band. I listened to part of their "Paparazzi Lightning" album last year and liked it, didn't love it, and never really got back to it. On Saturday, the live versions of those songs destroyed the recorded ones. Ghostland came through San Diego back in February, and right now they just have a few festival dates planned. So if you make a festival pilgrimage, seek them out.

Ghostland Observatory — Sad Sad City (MP3)
Ghostland Observatory on MySpace

It might not seem noteworthy to say that all five of us in my group agreed that the Arcade Fire put on the day's best set. But considering that it was a truncated repeat of the San Diego show just a month ago — same opening movie with the female evangelist, same video screens on stage, same band interaction — and considering we were packed into a festival crowd a hundred feet away from the stage, I expected a little bit of a drop-off. No way. From the first haunting, washed-out notes of "Black Mirror" to the finale of "Power Out," "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Wake Up," the band captivated as usual.

Every time The Arcade Fire kicked into the "Ohhh, ohhh, ohhh" chorus of "Wake Up," the congregation overpowered the sound of the choir, just another religious moment from a band that is a must-see regardless of the situation.

The Arcade Fire — Wake Up (MP3)

On record, Portland band The Blow is singer Khaela Maricich and beat maker Jona Bechtolt; on stage, it's usually just Maricich and the recorded beats, as Bechtolt works on his solo project, YACHT.

But Maricich has a solo project of her own: performance artist, and she incorporates that into her set. She tells the stories behind the songs before them, during their musical interludes and after them. It's not a concert in the traditional sense, but it was almost better, especially these days when some artists barely utter a thank-you during a show.

The Blow — Parentheses (MP3)

Finally, seeing a show at The Gorge amphitheater should be on any music fan's to-do list. I had heard how beautiful the venue was and had seen photos, but photos only give a sense of it. (Click on the photos to see them full-size)

The wide views from the hill are breathtaking, but so is the "view" from down by the mainstage. Because you're so far down into the Columbia River Gorge, you can barely see any land from behind the stage. It makes you feel like you're up in the sky among the clouds.

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