Within moments of entering the Gorge Amphitheatre for Sasquatch! 2010, we spied a drunk and probably otherwise chemically altered hippie guy grooving to the alt-country vibe of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ “Home.” Oops! Left out the most important detail. He was wearing only a single tube sock. For the record, 4:20 is too way early to be butt nekkid in public. Just ask Miss Manners. But the timing somehow fit.
Then, several hours later, the night ended with yours having to put a sleeper hold on yet another deranged drunk, this one more prone to violence than exhibitionism. Long story. Much funnier than it sounds, but would lose something in translation. Bottom line: People are definitely downing those $12 Molsons they’re peddling at the beer booths. Ch-ching! And it looks like this is gonna be one seriously bizarre festival experience this Memorial Day weekend.
But between examples of public debauchery and sightings of Green Man – I’ve counted no less than three dudes dancing around in the lime tights Charlie from “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” made famous – there has been a ton of great music and comedy. As if I would expect anything different from Washington’s premier indie-rock festival.
After arriving a bit later than planned, my posse eased into things in the comedy tent with rising star Patton Oswalt, the self-described Sha Na Na of Sasquatch. He riffed on comedy magician hacks, how horrible life is on the East Coast and craptastic post-grunge bands, some of his bits familiar from last year’s “My Weakness Is Strong” album.
“Those Creed and Nickelback guys could just have strokes that paralyze the entire left side of their faces and they could still sing that stuff,” he declared, aping Chad Kroeger’s constipated howl between jokes.
But Saturday’s No. 1 agenda was the Hold Steady, a band I absolutely love but that I’ve somehow managed to miss since they played the University of Washington’s H.U.B. Ballroom a few years back. The Minnesota-bred rockers did not disappoint, delivering about an hour of life-affirming, fist-pumping goodness as the Green Man clones surfed the crowd and fans belted out the lyrics to anthems “Constructive Summer” and “Sequestered in Memphis.”
And seriously, how many front men seem like they’re having half as much fun as the endearingly hyperactive Craig Finn? The singer-guitarist flailed his arms and had a nice spittle going as he rattled off frantic couplets from “Stuck Between Stations,” the rockin’ leadoff track to the Hold Steady’s third and best album, “Boys and Girls in America.” Later, I totally believed him when he declared, “This is exactly what we wanted,” a line from celebratory new cut “Rock Problems.” This is a band that’s enjoying all the well-deserved mainstream exposure it’s been getting these last couple of years.
That was on the newly named Honda Bigfoot Solar Stage. Soon after, Ivy League rockers Vampire Weekend got an even bigger party their infectious tropical pop down on the main stage.
“I think it’s officially nighttime, so you can act different if you want,” declared band leader Ezra Koenig, egging on an already galvanized crowd. A sea of humanity bounced and surged to radio hit “A-Punk” as I ascended to the Gorge’s berm. And throughout the set, newer cuts “Giving Up the Gun” and “Horchata” had me thinking I need to revisit this year’s “Contra” album, a disc I have to admit I’ve kind of blown off so far this year. (I guess I kind of resisted the self-titled debut, too, turned off by the hype. But eventually, that, too, won me over and wound up on my best albums of 2008 list.)
My Morning Jacket capped things off with an epic flood of psychedelic jams and reverb-drenched crooning, a sound that helped pave the way for Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses, among other alt-country outfits to break out of Seattle.
MMJ galvanized the crowd with “I’m Amazed” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream,” among other cuts, with front man Jim James wrapping himself in a long coat for some songs. Thus clad, the singer would lurk around the stage, occasionally shielding his eyes like Bela Lugosi warding off a brandished cross.
Those boys did my hometown, Louisville, Ky., proud. But an hour and a half in, we were spent and headed back to the campground where the aforementioned mayhem ensued.
Revised priorities for day No. 2: (1) Massive Attack, (2) LCD Soundsystem, (3) not running into any more naked dudes.