Sasquatch! 2017 is May 26-28 at The Gorge Amphitheatre with headliners Chance the Rapper, Twenty One Pilots and LCD Soundsystem. There are a few things different about Sasquatch! this year. Here’s what you need to know.

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Officially the Sasquatch! Music Festival starts at 12:30 p.m. Friday, May 26, when the Seattle band Gazebos takes the stage. Most veterans of the previous 15 festivals know, however, that the true Sasquatch! experience starts much earlier than that.

That’s true for several reasons, at least in part because the fest’s loyal fan base starts counting down until the next one as soon as the current one is over. The festival’s website even helps with that, by providing a countdown clock until the music starts.

Sasquatch! wasn’t the first music festival in Northwest, because that distinction would fall to 1968’s Sky River Rock Festival. Sky River featured naked hippies, Muddy Waters and the Grateful Dead in a field near Sultan. Bumbershoot would certainly be the longest-running local music (and arts) festival.

Festival preview

Sasquatch! Music Festival

Friday-Sunday, May 26-28, The Gorge Amphitheatre, 754 Silica Road N.W., George, Grant County: $99.50-$295 (www.sasquatchfestival.com)

Sasquatch! 2017

Fans cheer as Digable Planets perform at the Sasquatch Music Festival on Saturday, May 28, 2016, in Quincy.  (Johnny Andrews / The Seattle Times)
Fans cheer as Digable Planets perform at the Sasquatch Music Festival on Saturday, May 28, 2016, in Quincy. (Johnny Andrews / The Seattle Times)

But even in a period of what we could call “festival bloat,” with dozens of outdoor-music festivals in the region every year, Sasquatch! stands out. The outdoor setting at the Gorge, Grant County, and the cutting-edge music bookings can’t be topped.

The true Sasquatch! experience starts in February for many fans who attend the “launch party” when the lineup is first revealed. This year’s headliners include LCD Soundsystem (Friday), Twenty One Pilots (Saturday), and Chance the Rapper (Sunday). By nailing down Chance as the festival’s finale, before even his star-making turn at this year’s Grammy Awards, Sasquatch! grabbed one of this year’s marquee live acts for their youthful audience.

LCD Soundsystem is a relatively late booking, filling in for Frank Ocean, who in April had to cancel. “[LCD’s] last appearance in 2010 was an all-time festival highlight,” notes Adam Zacks, who produces Sasquatch! (with Live Nation), and books the talent.

Sasquatch! attendees know that Zacks often seeds the earlier part of the day’s lineup with gems. His talent is finding indie, outside-the-mainstream bands, who will likely be bigger deals in the future.

This year he cites Columbian dance band Bomba Estereo (Saturday), Chicano Batman (Sunday) and Jay Som (Sunday), as groups that might be off the mainstream radar but shouldn’t be missed. He’s also happy the festival continues to be a home for local talent like the Head and the Heart, the Shins, Car Seat Headrest and Blitzen Trapper.

There are a few things different about Sasquatch! this year. For a time, the festival sold out so far in advance that getting in last-minute was impossible. That demand has softened, maybe due to festival bloat. (Last year’s Sasquatch! reportedly had half the attendees of the previous year.) But it may also be in part because of the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar since the fest pulls many fans from British Columbia. So the fest has again instituted the one-day pass, in case you can’t make the whole weekend, where for $100 you get a bang-packed day. They’ve also adjusted show times, so its website boasts “No overlapping sets.”

That shift is actually just for the main two stages, and there is almost always simultaneous music at the other smaller stages, which are usually the site of the insider picks of the day.

On Friday evening, for example, you will have to choose between Foxygen (alternative-rock band with killer songs) and Charles Bradley (soul band with a killer live show). Most Sasquatch! vets know they need to sample both, which is part of the vibe of festival.

That’s why for most Sasquatch! fans the festival doesn’t just start when Gazebos begins. It starts the instant Seattle residents get off Interstate 90 at Exit 143, “Silica Road S.W.” To Sasquatch! vets, that sign indicates something special is ahead.

It’s the magnificent Gorge, it’s wheat fields, it’s vineyards and just 7 miles after that exit, it is music to be savored, until it all starts over again next year.