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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

May 13, 2010 at 5:08 PM

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Sasquatch! 2010: the preview

Posted by Andrew Matson

The beast, the myth, the legend; photo by me

Note: my Sasquatch! music picks and conflicts are here

Sasquatch! is May 29-31, and the Gorge's major annual music event is sold out.

The festival is what it is largely because it happens at the Gorge in George, WA. With jagged cliffs cutting through moon-ish plains and the Columbia River snaking into the distance, geography always figures into main stage musical moments.

But Sasquatch!'s identity also has to do with the idea of one specific music nerd being given free rein, an NPR/KEXP-listening, Internet-literate human with relatively diverse tastes — a little rave here, a little rap there — and a deep appreciation of indie rock. Sasquatch! is what happens if that person has a field day, or better yet what might happen if you listened to his/her iPod on shuffle over a long, lucky span where no bad songs came up, very little MTV crossover occurred, and non-rock oddities like L.A. keytar boogie purveyor Dam-Funk and Glaswegian glam-hop producer Hudson Mohawke seemed expertly selected.

Well-chosen local notables

Sasquatch! 2010 wraps up all its Seattle cred in one booking: Shabazz Palaces. Led by Ishmael Butler of Digable Planets, the wider world is just now (barely) catching on to the Central District group's sweeping, echoing blend of pecked-out drum machine beats, African instruments and Hemingway-terse bohemian street poetry. Kudos to Sasquatch! for aiding that discovery.

Fresh Espresso is another shrewd Seattle choice, also hiphop, also pushing boundaries. A product of freestyler extraordinaire Rik Rude and P Smoov, he of the low-budget swag raps, vocoder vocal hooks, and synth-based production, the group's music is danceable and party-oriented but with an introspective edge.

Sadly, both acts go on early (12:15 and 3:15 pm), which wouldn't be a problem if Sasquatch! allowed re-entry into the official festival grounds, but it doesn't. That means if you want to see Shabazz or Fresh Espresso, your Sasquatch! day will most likely involve aching feet, sunstroke, and expensive food and drink. As they say on the Internet, :[

Less mainstream-y headliners than last year

Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction didn't make sense headlining Sasquatch! 2009 and neither did Tom Morello's Street Sweeper Social Club. They upset the festival's general hipness level ("burly" isn't hip these days) and felt tacked on, an already occuring tour conveniently attached for no good reason.

Pavement makes much more sense as a Sasquatch! 2010 headliner. The band is making the festival rounds on a reunion tour, but its tousled tunes are at the core of the festival's stylistic sensibility. Pavement was underground famous in the '90s and then cult famous in the aughts, specifically recognized as forebears of spazzy, lo-fi pop and titans in the still-popular tradition of writing super catchy songs and then lazing through them or messing them up on purpose.

The real story about Sasquatch! 2010 headliners, though, is that there aren't any. And that's OK. Pavement's a big deal (now), and so is Public Enemy, but they're bigger deals to music snobs. In general, Sasquatch! 2010's star power is decentralized, spread over famous but not overtly mainstream acts like My Morning Jacket, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Kid Cudi, and LCD Sound System, all of which could conceivably headline their own Gorge show. It's a smarter idea than pushing for a few marquee names, instead focusing the Sasquatch! brand and positioning the festival itself as the main draw.

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