In the wake of increased costs and declining attendance, the long-running Pacific Northwest festival is folding. “We never had so much love on social media as we had this year, but it didn’t correlate to box office."
Sasquatch! Music Festival is officially done.
Adam Zacks, the founder of the long-running music fest, announced on Thursday that Sasquatch! will not return in 2019. “Today we take a bow and bid a fond farewell to Sasquatch!” Zacks wrote in a statement.
In an interview, Jeff Trisler, president of Live Nation Northwest, which runs the festival with Zacks, confirmed Sasquatch! will not be coming back, citing declining attendance over the last three years.
“We had a really wonderful run and things change in life, and the public just wasn’t supporting it like they used to and we need to move on,” Trisler said.
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Launched in 2002 as a single-day concert, the annual Memorial Day weekend bash became a Northwest institution, drawing thousands of fans to the scenic Gorge Amphitheatre with what evolved into a mixture of indie rock, hip-hop and electronic music.
2018 was somewhat of a make-or-break year for the festival, after the 2017 lineup — which included poppy rap-rockers Twenty One Pilots — triggered backlash among longtime fans. In a return to its roots, organizers stacked this year’s lineup with indie-rock heavyweights like Bon Iver, Modest Mouse and The National in an effort to woo back disgruntled fans. Despite an overwhelmingly positive reception online, the festival failed to break even for its third consecutive year.
“We never had so much love on social media as we had this year, but it didn’t correlate to box office,” Trisler said.
While there are no plans for a replacement festival, Trisler said Live Nation plans to continue holding Memorial Day weekend concerts at the Gorge.
Before this spring’s event, Zacks discussed some of the challenges facing the 17-year festival amid what’s become an increasingly crowded landscape for music festivals. With increased competition for talent and ticket buyers, costs have risen while fans have had more festival options and complained of festival lineups lacking distinction. Experimenting with the type of acts the festival booked in recent years was an attempt at drawing in a younger, broader audience in hopes of finding long-term stability.
“17 years is a long time to do anything,” Zacks wrote in the statement he sent Thursday. “The Beatles lasted a mere 8 years, a fact so astonishing it is difficult to believe. While we didn’t accomplish anything as indelible as ‘Hey Jude,’ the Festival left a lasting mark and proudly represented an independent spirit.”
It’s been a tumultuous few years for North American music festivals, with Sasquatch!’s end coming a year after Pemberton Music Festival — another Northwest heavyweight — canceled only a year after drawing record crowds. In 2016, at least 23 festivals were called off, according to industry publication Pollstar. Earlier this year, Los Angeles’ FYF Fest – backed by Goldenvoice, the AEG-owned company that organizes Coachella – was nixed despite what many fans considered a strong lineup, and sales for Chicago’s Lollapalooza were slower than usual.
Since its inception as a one-day event, Sasquatch! toyed with various formats over the years, expanding to as many as four days as recently as 2016. After tickets to the 2013 Sasquatch! sold out in an hour, the festival looked to add a second weekend the following year over the Fourth of July, though it was ultimately canceled amid a lukewarm response.
While it’s often the headliners that draw the most attention among ticket buyers, part of Sasquatch!’s charm was landing talented up-and-comers like a still-rising Kanye West in 2005. This year was no different, with many of the younger acts on the undercard delivering some of the weekend’s most memorable moments.
“We really set out to do things different with Sasquatch! 17 years ago,” said Trisler, noting it was often mentioned in the same breath as much larger festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo, “and we did. It was a little festival that could.”