Sasquatch Music Festival 2017
The Gorge, George, WA
05.26.17 – 05.29.17

The jury might be out on the future of music festivals, as we watch the varying successes and implosions of the live genre. But if 2017 was, in fact, Sasquatch’s last hurrah, it was a surprisingly good one. While thousands may still be lamenting the disappointing no-show of Frank Ocean–along with the last minute cancellations of Mac Miller and Catfish and the Bottlemen–they still flocked to arguably the best venue in the country and partied the weekend away.

Each day of the fest kicked off with buzz-worthy Seattle acts for the early risers. There was the doo-wop-meets-stoner-punk of Gazebos and its magnetic frontwoman Shannon Perry, the dusky melodies of Sloucher, everybody’s favorite new local rapper, Do Normaal, and power-pop duo Sisters.

Mid-day slots went to up-and-comers from across the country and hidden gems from across the globe. Mondo Cozmo, fronted by Josh Ostrander, checked in on day one with arena-worthy rock that swung for the fences. And The Strumbellas got everyone dancing. Their good-time Canadian folk-pop seemed to draw everyone down the hill.

Thee Oh Sees drew everyone right back up for the first–and possibly only–real mosh pit of the weekend as they kicked their rock moves into high gear. Noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells tore the mainstage a new one, Alexis Krauss jumping off the stage to get up close and personal with the crowd, a giant grin on her face, and Big Freedia was crazy diva beats personified. Day one gem Rainbow Kitten Surprise came out of nowhere with their Southern-alt-rock mashup, vocalist Sam Melo smashing the idea of stage presence into a whole new galaxy.

Against a typically outstanding Sasquatch sunset, The Head And The Heart’s folk-pop showcase was a giant sing-along and then Foxygen got weird with costume changes before Charles Bradley got down. As usual, electronic acts got the night crowds moving and despite being the Frank Ocean fill-in, LCD Soundsystem closed the mainstage with a huge crowd awash in disco ball brilliance.

On day two, Swedish dream-pop quartet, The Radio Dept. backed up to Amsterdam-based Klangstof, whose spacey pop-rock is garnering US crowds’ attention. Everyone seemed to fill the mainstage pit in early in preparation for mega-pop closers Twenty One Pilots, but first enjoyed New Jersey wild boys Bleachers and Jack Antonoff’s power-pop genius. Arkells were a whirlwind of Canadian joy, personable, funny, jumping into the crowd to get everyone involved.

Local rap legend Sir Mix A Lot replaced Mac Miller–who bowed out in the wake of the Manchester explosions at girlfriend Ariana Grande’s show–and pulled off a killer throwback set that showed he can still rock a mic better than most. Recently reunited emo rockers American Football drew a surprisingly devoted crowd and Sam Lachow–another local fill-in–probably should have been on the lineup in the first place given how many ladies showed up to bask in his smile.

The driving synths and hypnotic light show of Aussie electro-rockers Jagwar Ma were a must-see, as were Vulfpeck with their old school funk sounds and shortest of shorts. Twenty One Pilots were, well, Twenty One Pilots. Probably the biggest individual draw of the weekend (full families drove in just for them and tweens squatted for their mainstage spots all day long), they did what they do best, mixing genres into magic mashups while drawing everyone in with their intensely there-for-the-fans attitude.

The last day of the festival was a bit of a mixed bag as we got Saint Mesa–fresh off the road from Bottle Rock–and their magical Aussie electro-pop, Chicano Batman’s LA funk with a side of Afrobeat, and White Lung’s punk attitude. Hip hop acts Boogie and Joey Purp had the kids going nuts while July Talk’s ballistic set got a little bit crazy in the heat. Their intense personalities and bendy vocal harmonies were on point.

Phantogram showed up on the mainstage with one of their best Seattle performances to date, The Shins had a sundown sing-along, Moses Sumney put everyone in a trance with his witchy solo work, and Chance The Rapper was the cherry on top. His closing performance was everything you might expect, his unconventional hip hop set against an incredible light show, pyrotechnics going off in the sky, the crowd enthusiastically rapping along til the end.

So while many might wonder what the kids are paying for, all you have to do is show up to find out. The mixed lineups of acts that fill today’s festival lineups–and turn off so many cynics–are meant for both draw and discovery. Sure, you might not know every band, but that’s the beauty of it. Get to know them. Give them a chance. You never know when you open your mind. And those big pop acts, well, they can actually be pretty damn fun. No booty shorts or flower crowns required.

Review and photos by Stephanie Dore

Sasquatch Music Festival 2017