Following what many longtime festival-goers considered to be a lackluster showing in 2016, veteran fans were cautiously optimistic about Sasquatch!’s 2017 iteration. Towards the end of last year, they announced that renowned, reclusive R&B star Frank Ocean would be one of the upcoming year’s headliners, a promising booking that appeared to signal an impending rebound. But the momentum stagnated in January, as all mentions of Ocean disappeared across Sasquatch!’s social media pages, and the lineup was nowhere to be seen.
In due time, Sasquatch! sent an email announcing that the festival lineup would be released the upcoming Monday at midnight — a curious decision, as it would seemingly make more sense to release the lineup when fans and publications were actually awake for the announcement. The email came with a two-and-a-half-minute video revealing the lineup. Fourteen seconds in, it was apparent that this wasn’t going to be the return to form that fans were hoping for, as Twenty One Pilots vividly flashed on screen as the year’s top billing. The previously announced Frank Ocean was next with Chance The Rapper following up to round out the 2017 headliners. The undercard was lead by relatively high-profile indie acts such as The Shins, The Head and the Heart, Phantogram and MGMT.
As the video began to make the rounds online the reaction was loud and clear — fans were outraged. The announcement posted on the festival’s Reddit page was full of comments lamenting an uninspired and lazy collection of bookings, most notably angered by Twenty One Pilots securing top booking and a sizable drop in the number of acts. The Facebook announcement was littered with irate comments, so much so that Sasquatch! deleted the post and reposted the lineup hours later, further pissing off its fans.
Three weeks before the festival, Sasquatch! announced that Frank Ocean had to cancel due to production delays and was going to be replaced by LCD Soundsystem. The bittersweet announcement left many scrambling to sell their tickets well below face value, while others, including myself, rushed to find a ticket to catch LCD at The Gorge.
Upon arrival at the campsite on Thursday night, it was apparent that Sasquatch! had fallen significantly short of selling the event out for the second straight year, but those who had made the trek were filled with excitement.
The original 2017 line-up, before the inclusion of dance-punk outfit LCD Soundsystem and the removal of Frank Ocean.
The two loudest sets on Friday came from Thee Oh Sees and Sleigh Bells. Thee Oh Sees, a four-piece garage rock band from San Francisco, torched the Bigfoot Stage while rattling through their prolific discography. The highlight of the set came when they played, “Toe Cutter - Thumb Buster,” their most popular song. Starting with a plodding, but groovy bass line, the group slowly worked its way towards the instrumental breakdown, which threw the crowd into a frenzy. The band fed off the crowd’s energy, as both drummers violently hit their sets, and frontman John Dwyer flailed around the stage between verses.
Just after Thee Oh Sees ended, Sleigh Bells took the main stage for a loud but lackluster performance. The noise pop duo played a healthy mix of their four albums, yet wasn’t able to truly find a rhythm. Songs off their most recent record, Jessica Rabbit, were not met with enthusiasm from the crowd and even their most popular songs like “Crown on the Ground” and “Infinity Guitars” didn’t quite land as the speakers were pushed beyond their limits, significantly muddling the sound quality.
Moreover, The Head and the Heart, who laid down the most forgettable set of the weekend, managed to answer the age-old question: “What if Urban Outfitters made music?”
An hour later, LCD Soundsystem took the stage and delivered an all-time set. They started the show with “Us v Them,” a perfect opener from the opening lines: “The time has come, the time has come, the time has come today,” to the unveiling of the disco ball the size of Pluto. Following “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “I Can Change,” LCD launched into “Get Innocuous!” which packs a considerably larger punch live compared to the studio version, thanks in large part to the pairing of the extended grimy synth outro and frontman James Murphy pounding an auxiliary drum set for the final minute and a half of the song. The five-song run of “You Wanted A Hit,” “Tribulations,” “Movement,” “Yeah” and “Someone Great,” was played afterward — each track seamlessly stumbled into the next. After “Someone Great,” Murphy announced that they had finished recording their upcoming album two days ago, which prompted one of the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd.
To finish off the set, the band played the first two singles off their upcoming album American Dream. The first, “Call The Police,” was even more energetic than the studio version as Al Doyle shredded his guitar and Murphy bounced and jumped around, shouting the lyrics. The title track was a slow and entrancing synth based ballad featuring some of Murphy’s best writing. The final two songs, “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends” may have been worth the price of admission alone. The heavy synth drop in “Dance Yrself Clean” got the entire crowd jumping and shouting, while the final two minutes of “All My Friends” had everyone singing along with wide smiles.
Bonobo closed out the night in the dance tent with a set that exemplified his dance and downtempo stylings. The setlist heavily favored his most recent record, Migration, with standout tracks like “No Reason,” “Kerela” and “Bambro Koyo Ganda” while sprinkling in older favorites like “Cirrus” and “Kiara.”
Sunday’s highlights were Car Seat Headrest and Mount Kimbie. The former, an indie rock band based out of Seattle, played for a fairly small, but devoted crowd in the 90-degree heat. They opened with an extended version of “Vincent” from their most recent record, Teens of Denial, from which the band drew most of the set’s material.
The most interesting flourish the band incorporates into its live set is the use of samples that the drummer Andrew Katz triggers through a Roland percussion pad. “Maud Gone” benefits the most from sampling, as Katz peppers in a high-pitched vocal sample during the pre-chorus bridge and the outro. The penultimate song, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” was the peak of the show, prompting the crowd to sing along at the top of their lungs.
Later that night, Mount Kimbie played the best set of the day in the dance tent. After walking on stage to hazy, dark red lights that swirled into an intimate club-like atmosphere, the group opened with “Carbonated,” one of the most indicative of their post-UK dubstep style. From the second they launched into “Before I Move Off,” it was clear that Mount Kimbie was on top of their game. Next up was “Break Well,” a slow burn that starts off with two and a half minutes of fluttering synths before breaking down into the most rewarding pay-off in their discography. Towards the end of the set they played their newest single, “Marilyn,” a relaxing, though percussion-heavy track featuring vocals from critically acclaimed Micachu. Mount Kimbie ended the set with “Made To Stray,” easily their most dance-floor-friendly track that had everyone in the tent bouncing around from start to finish.
Despite the lackluster lineup and cancellations, Sasquatch! proved yet again that it’s the premier festival in the Pacific Northwest. The spectacular venue, paired with a remarkably friendly festival crowd, creates a truly unique festival experience that isn’t found at other major festivals.
Ryan Moloney is a contributing writer for Daily Lobo Music. He can be reached at email@example.com.