How does one write about their experience at an American music festival? Those of you who have been to an American music festival, would know why this is so hard to write or talk about. Because your not just showing up to a show and watching some music, and drinking a few beers or whatever…maybe watching the show with your friends and going home…oh no…It is MUCH much more than that. It’s an entire immersive experience. There’s the intensity, the literal fear and loathing, and then the alchemical cleansing that washes over you, and you end up in this spot of fierce wonder and awe, faced directly with the beauty and unity that connects us all. There are a billion long running acid jokes that never get old, jokes that aren’t funny to anyone other than you and your friend group. There’s the collective moments that bind you together forever, because they go so deep, because you see and feel so much, and you will never forget the way you felt at that moment in time. It’s beyond a feeling, beyond a sound or an image or a color. It is everything. There’s the non stop sparkling of music and the stars, and that ever present knowing that you’ve made it here, at the right time, in the right place, with the right people. I took this wild ride with an amazing group of people at a personally significant time and place in my life. Sasquatch was an unbelievably mind blowing experience because my cool ass friend group came together and were up for whatever. We were also present, present in every single moment that we could be. We came together in our collective need for release and positive escape to a dreamscape that was rooted in nature and music.
We set out w our camping gear and our high quality party supplies…and we hit the road and embraced a sense of pure unadulterated American adventure. When driving to a festival you must be like Jack Kerouac in On The Road, you are leaving the world as you know it behind. Your work, your day job, your problems, they are not coming with you on this trip. Oh no. There’s no room. Your rental van that looks like a spaceship is already packed to the gills with expensive camping equipment and a huge cooler filled with beer, and about ten bottles of gin and 4 bottles Seagrams 7 and a bunch of crazy clothes and glitter. There’s no room for your phone, or texting people, or thinking about your job or how your going to pay rent next month, nope. You are purely here for the experience, for the music, and the whackiness, the ups and downs, the revelations…it’s all going to happen. And with Sasquatch, driving up from Portland (where we flew into and Blaire Bowers lives) the beauty of the land and the Columbia River was an appropriate setting for an American spiritual hajj to the temporary promised land. The Easy Rider, psychedelic America, buy the ticket take the ride mentality the journey to the festival and back from the festival is allllmmooossst as important as the festival itself. It’s the gateway, the portals between this world and the next. The ride up and the ride down can feature some of the most beautiful and memorable parts of the trip. Make sure you have road music and some sleep in you and money for the diner.
So lets get to the particulars of Sasquatch. The Sasquatch experience. I haven’t been to a ton of festivals but I’ve been to some like Jazz Fest being a former New Orleanian) and smaller ones like Andy Animals Meltdown. Jared Smith warned me there would be alot of Canadians. And you know what? There was. Lots of Canadians. Like a lot. (Sorry eh!?) Also lots of people who you look at while your tripping and think “my God” or “where the fuck am i? who ARE these fucking ppl” (insert Ralph Steadman drawing here) Not a fashion forward festival. If your into style your not going to see a lot of people that you think are cool. Really the first 2 days of the festival, I was straining to see someone who was dressed cool and couldn’t. Not one person besides my friends. In fact it was literally the opposite. Everyone I looked at was terrifyingly frightening. I was on a lot of acid but hey….As the weekend went on though, the crowds seemed to get cooler and better. Less fat guys with backpacks and hollow eyed girls wearing tired booty shorts and more psychedelic young kids who looked like you could be in a room with them and not want to freak out or puke. Especially by Monday, the last day at Sohn. The crowd was definitely the coolest at of any other show I had been too at the fest. The positives of the crowds though, was that we were the coolest kids there (duh) and the people were scary looking, but not super sketchy. I never felt unsafe walking around. I never felt like meth heads were gonna rock up behind me slam me for my wallet. I mean I guess that safety is pretty typical at festivals, people being chill and all but yeah. Also a positive of the Sasquatch experience, the curly fries were awesome. But the REAL positive…..the real deal, is basically the reason that you came , and the only thing cooler than seeing Lana Del Rey on acid, is the fucking gorge.
The Gorge is the lifeblood of the festival. There is no Sasquatch without the Gorge. In fact, there is no you without the Gorge. You and the Gorge are one, you and your friends and the Gorge are forever linked, bound by some sacred natural law that was unknown to you until you saw the Gorge for the first time.The Gorge is your ever present spiritual flame leading you into the ever present moment in front of you. The Gorge is there when you look up after laughing, the Gorge is there when you look up after crying. The Gorge is there when you softly touch your lovers hair, the Gorge is there when your slamming a bottle of water trying to stave off a low key puke, the Gorge is there constantly behind your favorite musical artists. The Gorge is always there, gently holding you, ushering you into each and every state and elevation of your consciousness. Not every musician at Sasquatch performs at the main stage in front of the Gorge but the artists we saw in front of the Gorge ( which I will talk about in a few) included Gogol Bordello, Chromeo, Lana Del Rey , Modest Mouse, Sleater Kinney and Tame Impala, oh yeah and Kendrick Lamarr, who made the huge blunder of somehow forgetting he was playing outside of a fucking GORGE and said “Hows everyone doing in the building tonight?” What? Are you fucking serious? Kendrick, your playing behind a massive fucking gorge…were outside seated on a godamned amphitheater! We are not inside any fucking building. Go back to playing Mad city 6 times (true story) please and wrap this shit up. It’s fucking windy on the Gorge.
We had the best campsite at the festival. Literally we had cool chill neighbors on one side and nothing on the other. It was just an extra lot where a campsite should have been. So we had our own lawn, (we deserved it) and about a few hundred feet away we had the bathrooms and a water spicket. Also a really, really, really good view of the Gorge. Which as I mentioned earlier is a super important part of your Sasquatch experience. Because, unlike Kendrick Lamarr, we were very aware we were, at all times in front of an epic beautiful piece of nature. And we made the best of it. We were a group of young kids very much oriented on the American dream, and so we righteously took precautions to make this even as psychedelic as humanly possible. Like a group of kids who had pasts lives in the 1960’s and reunited magically in 2015, we sat on blankets and outside chairs (the kind with the cup holders) and made fantastic cocktails and smoked cigarettes and enjoyed the sun and looked at the Gorge. That was it. Just music, and ourselves and our sunglasses and the Gorge. We were so beautiful on the Gorge, so purely ourselves, un-encompassed by bullshit and the post recession political doomsday and paying rent and all that bullshit. We were purely divine beings, perched atop the ledge of the Gorge, looking out into heaven, into infinity. Drinking a Seagrams 7 and Ginger Ale and coming up against the walls of our own identity, and our subconscious and breaking them down, scattering the ashes into the Gorge. We were living a Gorge oriented lifestyle. Getting up and smoking weed and making cocktails and dropping Fluff Family Acid and just chilling, staring out in the gorge. We became absolute pioneers of absolute chill. It was like God came down from heaven and gave us an all access chill pass. No, it was like we gave ourselves an all access chill pass.
Last part: Long Way Down….The music. Gogol Bordello kicked off the festival for us like ancient shamans leading us out of the underworld into the light. Their pure ENERGY was so explosive, so healing so pure, it set the tone for the entire festival. We weren’t even ON anything at that point (actually a little bit of coke) but even still, Gogol Bordello was everything.I’m not going to say anything about Sleater Kinney but Carrie Brownstein really tried. Corin Tucker seemed like an “over it” super tired about to retire indie princess that was bored shitless with being on stage and Carrie Brownstein was all like “I need to kick this up a notch but I don’t want to piss off Corin” and that was pretty much the vibe of the entire show. Flume was intense, not great but then again I wasn’t on anything really yet and plus its just Flume… Coming up on acid while Chromeo was playing was everything you would think that would be. Super sparkly and really dancey and really fun. Like REALLY fun. They’re really awesome live. Glass Animals was scary for me because I didn’t know which side of the stage we were on, and they seemed really, really, really, really far away. Our cute little friend group was just standing outside of the tent with a bunch of people in like dirty furry suits and glo sticks who didnt even LOOK like they could even KNOW who Glass Animals were, and that really freaked me out. I was in the fear and loathing zone at this point. We ditched to go sit on the hill at the Decemberists were playing which was fucking hilarious, because wow what a bunch of like fake folksy partriotic nerd herds. We really felt the Canadians vibes with there like hyper phony Americana bullshit and someones fucking mom on stage singing and then like a huge paper mache hipster whale…it was gross. Also we couldn’t really hear them, which was really funny. And pretty fortunate because they suck. But the Canadian ppl were WAY into it. So then Modest Mouse comes on with a FUCKING LASER and we start peaking and they play super fluid and intense and we are tripping balls and Isaac Brock stops the show and starts talking about going down to the swamp that’s at the entrance of the festival and hanging out with the snakes and the alligators and eating them and then he starts playing again and there’s MORE LASERS….
And there were some causalities of war as well. We missed Future Islands and Shovels and Rope because well, we were chilling so damn hard on the Gorge we couldn’t make ourselves get up and dressed in time for the show. But we sure as hell didnt miss James Blake and Lana Del Rey. Seeing Lana Del Re yon acid was the highlight of my year. Seeing her with my amazing cool as shit boyfriend (who shamanisiticly led us through our drug induced spiritual exaltation that was our festival experience) was the most affirming thing I have ever experienced. I was clearly in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. I had after all, this past year, with the aid of Lana’s music fought for a new life. Her new album had been released at the same time I moved away from New Orleans to California and I felt like the themes in Ultraviolence mimicked my own struggles and personal chaos and later triumph. And now here I was seeing her live, exactly one year later with this amazing person, and Blaire Bowers my best friend and the entire Weather Tech Team on this hill, and we were all up for whatever under this starry sky encompassed by the gorge and unending love, and endless knowing. We were all really special and unique and beautiful and funny and natural born entertainers and it was like we were exploding out of ourselves, full of life and jokes and fervor, and happiness and knowing and not knowing all at the same time, and Lana, Lana was the climax. She was ascended, she was re birthed in white on stage. She had been where I had been and she was elegantly sharing her triumph and glory with me, with all of us. She stops mid set playing her own songs to gracefully sit and take center stage to play Chelsea Hotel (unexpected surprise) and then she closes with Off to the Races, and there’s this huge video of scattered and abrupt old images, images of women from the 50’s dancing, and lights and stock footage of America and New York City and its cut so fast, and there’s so much urgency, its in her voice and on stage and in the lights and I realize through her art Lana is mimicking a psychotic experience. And I feel that, because I’ve had that, and Lana gets me, she understands and I understand her, and there’s a beautiful sacred symbiosis. She is the best performer of our generation for those that know. She is a lost American angel, the goddess that went down into the underworld and rose back to this world with the white light to deliver the gift of her transmuted pain into the hands of those that are listening. She glamorous and humble and hurt, but a warrior and a princess and a muse. And she’s telling me that we can do the same, she’s telling me, urging me to translate life into art, but she is the queen and that performance took me out of my head. I was sitting on the vista of a whole new era in my life, the wind wipping my hair, Lana Del Rey gleaming and beckoning from the stage that the pain was over and life full of fun was beginning. A life where I could be free to be me, to be inspired and inspire others, a life of music and art. As Blaire said “Lana is an understood, she’s a part of us and every other young woman who feels what she feels”
So after that James Blake was pretty casual. But super psychedelic and great, because its James Blake and it was just great.
So by the last day, we made it out before nightfall to the gorge to see Tame Impala. Which was the grand psychedelic culmination of the fest. Everyone was dressed with a tinge of the 60’s and everything had that sun setting and good vibes kind of glow to it. The scariness had been watered down, eradicated, swallowed into the Gorge. Now all that was left was people like us, young people with passion and tact, spirit and fashion sense. It just felt different. And we went up one last time and prepared ourselves for Sohn, Run the Jewels and Kendrick Lamarr.
Walking into the “EDM” ish tent at Sasquatch (i forget the name) and waiting for Sohn was like coming in for a landing on a planet that ruled and that you totally missed. Finally there was cool people, people with fashion ideals that I recognized, and admired even. After what felt like weeks of North Face and hoodies, and the same damn booty shorts, and bad posture and there were finally some people around me that got it. Sohn was amazing, singing his heartfelt singer song writer jams on a varied amount of super psychedelic synthesizers. He was really really good live and I would def see him again.
My boyfriend was watching Run the Jewels while Blaire and I were watching Sohn, so I aksed him to write some stuff about and he says: ” tag team rampage, dad rappers showing up the younger generation, crowd wasn’t really holding their end of the whole call-&-response thing but RTJ just amped their own energy up to compensate for the overly chill crowd.” They were so loud that we could hear them playing on the Sohn stage every time he switched songs.
And finally Kendrick Lamarr. Who I told you didn’t realize that he was in front of a fucking Gorge on the Columbia River but was still pretty good. Although when he played MAAD City 3 time sin a row I thought I was going to lose my shit.
Also I forgot to mention we accidentally wandered into Robert Plant singing “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” but walked away…LOL
So that’s it. We went back and slept, and woke up which was hard, and deflated the air mattresses and took down the Weather Tech Tent and the outside tent and got a jump for the battery of our space van because it had died along time ago, and got on the road. And it’s been one month since we were all the the Gorge but the Gorge has us by our hearts and its burned into our past and our future and our memories are still real. Memories of the dream we created for ourselves at the Gorge amphitheter still resonate and color our lives. Our lives will never be the same after the Gorge and Lana Del Rey and the whole damn thing and I can’t wait for next year.