Festivals are little alien planets of fashion and expression – and that ties in directly to the narcotic/pharmaceutical trends of each event, as discussed in yesterday’s Sasquatch Festival review. But dualities certainly exist within these little hubs of musical explosion, which was never more evident than last night as we stumbled along the rolling masses atop the hill at The Gorge: legendary classic rock superhero Robert Plant playing a haunting, sensational spin on “Going to California” to my left, as 20 year old ultrasensaton Madeon was bass-blasting legions with anthemic impact down the hill to the right. Precious genre purists be damned – this beautiful dichotomy is the face of a full musical culture. Well done, Sasquatch.
Let’s take this back a bit. A quick three-song rendezvous with Milky Chance led a beautiful Sunday afternoon with stony ease, a surprisingly large crowd enchanted by the German trip-folk buzz catch. This was a deceptive setup, however, given that we were committed elsewhere in short order: the spaz-rock blast of Royal Blood.
Jam-sprinting through the majority of last year’s killer eponymous LP, the UK duo made “Out of The Black” as ferociously seductive as the lustchild of Refused and Japandroids. “Come On Over” and “Figure It Out” undoubtedly induced some holiday weekend hospital bills. But you buy the ticket, you take the goddamn ride.
Then along came Kate Esther Calvert, better known as Kate Tempest. “Unlikely rap star” doesn’t quite cover it. Your British friend’s kid sister has fucking chops, and this is one Sasquatch discovery worth getting on board with.
Under an unruly shock of curls lies rap’s Janis Joplin with a Shakur lean. She’s not demure or gracious – she spends time between songs passionately ranting missives about maintaining confidence, remaining positive, fighting for truth… you know, the good shit. Her 2014 LP Everybody Down is soon to be spinning its ass off back home. She also apparently has a novel, Hold Your Own, which was recently published. Fascinating.
Then a pasty, fat white dude took us to church, in ways that silly Hozier bitch couldn’t dream – meet St. Paul & The Broken Bones. Paul Janeway led the procession, better known as St. Paul, a man possessed by the Spirit as well as the infectiously good soul jams of his backing band The Broken Bones.
Straight outta Birmingham, the group’s debut album From The City was sampled heavily through a raucously good revival session in the Sunday sunshine. “Like a Mighty River,” “Don’t Mean a Thing,” and “I’m Torn Up” were fantastically well received through a retro-soul, gospel-spiked lens.
After a quick midday rest from the previous night’s escapades, we hit up the buzz-prop pop queen Lana Del Rey on the main stage. All glamour and preening self-immersion, her faux-noir effect on the side screens matched the synthetic gravitas of her beloved “Summertime Sadness”.
Seriously, who’s buying this shit? Her ethereal-dream gravitas nonwithstanding, the tragic starlet trapped in her own melodrama act does not contain any gravitational pull. It’s a polished empty perfume bottle, spraying vapors.
This brings us back to the start. Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters represents the latest incarnation of the former Led Zeppelin frontman’s musical vision, and it’s a slippery one. Transitioning between genres, styles and eras, Plant led his band through a remarkably enrapturing set that was highlit by a stunning, haunted rendition of B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” in tribute to the recently-departed blues legend.
Then we found our launch pad, and the night became a blur. But along the way, we were enchanted by the inevitable ebullience conjured by 20 year-old French sensation producer Madeon. Say what you will about Molly Culture – and there is ample evidence of its damage to live music – the happiness was in rampant abundance in the Chupacabra tent in the midnight hour on Sunday night, and in the ebullient haze I realized I couldn’t possibly have been more content, thrilled to be alive.
Isn’t that why we’re here?
All photos: Johnny Firecloud