Sasquatch Sunday: The Fire of Savages, Leon Bridges’ Hillside Hymns, Purity Ring’s Enchantment and Wind a’Plenty

Mother Nature doesn’t care about your festival experience. That was the lesson learned at the Sasquatch Music Festival on Sunday as gale-force winds resulted in a number of rescheduled or outright cancelled performances, and uprooted countless tents on the campground as gusts fed a horizon-blackening fire three miles away from the fest. The scheduling shuffle allowed for some magical spontaneity, however, making an unexpectedly exhilarating moment in an otherwise tightly-controlled atmosphere. And as always at Sasquatch, the freak flags did fly hard in that blowing wind.

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Seatlle’s Tacocat was the first band affected by the winds. The poor feminista pop-punkers were cancelled, rescheduled, cancelled and rescheduled again, only this time for the much smaller Chupacabra tent. Meanwhile, an army of Live Nation employees all provided different answers to the same questions about the band’s scheduling adjustments. Then one tech had what was apparently five-alarm feminist faux-pas audacity to ask the band, who have less than 7,000 Twitter followers and your average hipster couldn’t pick out of a lineup, if they were backup dancers at the Chupa. Cue the righteous man-slaughter outrage on social media and recap articles.

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But over on the Bigfoot stage, the wild winds only served the dominant aesthetic of Savages, the black-clad post-punk London killers led by fiercely excellent Jehnny Beth. A stunningly powerful performance found Beth leaping offstage and leaning deep into the crowd, roaring righteous anger as the afternoon crowd reveled in one of the few bands on the bill that didn’t dress like blind ‘80s thrift-shoppers.

When introducing “I Need Something New,” Beth delivered the best advice of the weekend: “Only go see the good stuff today. Don’t let anyone bore you. If you’re bored, leave.” Words to live by in the mollywash lineups of today’s festivals.

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A dazzling curtain of LEDs adorned the stage for Purity Ring‘s hugely anticipated set, and singer Megan James wove and wandered her way through the chains of light while her counterpart Corin Roddick tapped away on a semi-circle of lighted crystal pods resembling futuristic lamps. The visuals were spectacular, and the sound was pristine, with new mixes omitting the guest rappers on their album tracks in favor of bass-blasting transitions. But something wasn’t right. It sounded too good. And standing a mere five feet away in the photo pit, took some serious studying to believe Megan wasn’t lip-synching. She just sounded that good. 

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Back at the Bigfoot stage, beloved Canadian songspinner Mac DeMarco made his first appearance at Sasquatch, and despite an ebullient set wound up pleading with people not to leave toward the end of his set. Thankfully, he didn’t have to resort to putting drumsticks up his ass to keep the holdouts captivated. Closing with heartstrummer “Still Together,” he crowd surfed across the span of the audience to go out on the highest of notes.

 

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The winds were treacherous all day, resulting in a 600-acre wildfire just outside festival grounds and a panicked shuffle to reschedule and relocate bands to other stages. While Allen Stone, Frightened Rabbit and Tacocat found other stage accommodations, Leon Bridges was stranded on the schedule. Left without a stage or a time slot to squeeze into, Bridges headed up to the sprawling green hill of the main stage to play some songs on an acoustic guitar.

What transpired was the kind of special festival moment that just doesn’t happen anymore. A few dozen hill dwellers rapidly became a few hundred as fans swarmed in to listen, all sitting down and hushing each other into silence for the magic unfolding. And magical it was, as Leon delivered a handful of soulful tracks, including a few new ones.

To many, including what had swelled to thousands up on the Sasquatch stage hill, Bridges was nearly inaudible. But the energy was electrifying, both fans and artist understanding the rarity of spontaneity in a venue tightly controlled on all levels by Live Nation’s corporate grip on activities and scheduling.

On to the final day of Sasquatch, featuring the most appealing lineup of the entire weekend. 

Photos: Johnny Firecloud