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

May 28, 2012 at 11:23 PM

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Sasquatch 2012 full review: Jack White and other highlights

Photo by Aaron Lavinsky / Seattle Times; more photos and words from Sasquatch here

The one galvanizing main-stage performance at the Sasquatch festival this year was Jack White's weapons-grade electric guitar soloing on Saturday. Otherwise, it was by the book in the best possible sense. Thousands of people gathered peacefully and everything was on schedule.

The festival, which ended Monday with a performance by Beck, featured dozens of live rock, rap, electronic music and comedy acts packing five stages for four days over the sunny Memorial Day weekend.

A surprise mini-concert by Seattle rapper Macklemore Friday won wild whoops from a huge main-stage audience. But pity the fool who ignored the lesser-known action on the side stages.

Oakland's Tune-Yards mesmerized at the Bigfoot Stage Saturday. Leader Merrill Garbus faced the full yellow sun and belted out powerful melodies in her alto voice that seemed beamed in from African radio. She used looping pedals to blend the vocals with drums and modified ukulele, which she also played live. But her bassist and jazz horn players sent the music through the roof, chipping in on junkyard percussion — dented pieces of metal hit with drum sticks.

Swedish dance-pop band Little Dragon also excelled on the Bigfoot Stage Sunday, playing rubbery, minimal grooves with live electronic instruments to a massive swooning crowd. There was a big increase in dancing activity every time singer Yukimi Nagano's watery vocals entered. It was easy to imagine Little Dragon playing the main stage next year. Monday afternoon on the Bigfoot Stage, Seattle musician Damien Jurado could be seen writhing, howling hysterically. It was a wild new look for the typically withdrawn singer-songwriter.

One more non-main-stage highlight: Todd Barry, New York City comic and 25-year vet of the stand-up circuit. His Sunday Banana Shack set was severely impacted by loud hip-hop from Seattle rapper Spac3man, across the lawn, but Barry was a good sport about it. His sly, sniffing delivery actually fit the situation well. It was cool watching him bounce back.

There were plenty more highlights, including side-stage performances by Zola Jesus and Apparat, and the actors in the Northwest-skewering TV show "Portlandia," Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen.

But the main star of the show was Mother Nature. Sweeping vistas of the Columbia River Gorge never get old.

The dominant Sasquatch demographic was also something to see. Dazed-looking teens and people in their 20s staggered about like half-naked party zombies, bright yellow lightning bolts painted diagonally across their faces, wearing culturally inappropriate headgear like fake Indian headdresses and Asian rice-farmer hats.

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