The Sasquatch! Music Festival, Friday-Monday, May 27-30, is 15 years old. Though the festival faces competition from a much-expanded national festival circuit, curator Adam Zacks still manages to sell out the Gorge Amphitheatre with a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces.
The annual Sasquatch! Festival, which returns this holiday weekend to the Gorge Amphitheatre, is now in its 15th year. That means that if the festival were an actual Sasquatch, he or she could drive to the Gorge (with a learner’s permit, and a supervising adult).
Sasquatch’s national profile continues to grow, and it is consistently listed as one of the nation’s “must see” music festivals (Rolling Stone said exactly that last week). That’s because of the unparalleled setting of the Gorge, and the consistently excellent lineup founder Adam Zacks curates.
This year Zacks has paired the anticipated return of The Cure with mainstage appearances by Florence + the Machine and Canadian singer-songwriter Grimes. And while that’s plenty of star power, Kurt Vile, Mac DeMarco, Nathaniel Rateliff and M. Ward are also worth the drive.
Sasquatch! Music Festival
Friday-Monday, May 27-30, at the Gorge Amphitheatre, 754 Silica Road N.W., George, Grant County; $350 (800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com).
When asked to pick his “sleeper” acts — bands that won’t be at countless other festivals — Zacks listed four can’t misses: two on Friday (May 27) — Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Andra Day; and two on Monday (May 30) — Thunderpussy and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra plays psychedelic-influenced alternative rock. That would also describe Australia’s King Gizzard.
“Unknown Mortal Orchestra aren’t a household name,” Zacks said. “But they are an incredible live band, and they put out a special record.”
Many of Sasquatch’s bands are indeed out on the festival circuit (M83, playing Saturday, has 75 concerts over the next three months). But one thing that makes Sasquatch unique is that Zacks books breaking acts on the mainstage, even when record sales don’t warrant it, as with Andra Day.
“Andra has the potential to be a worldwide star,” Zacks said. “You’ve heard her sing at the Grammy Awards, on an Apple commercial, and she could be up there with Adele someday.”
There is more competition on the festival circuit than when Sasquatch started, both for talent and ticket buyers, which may be why the sellout rate has slowed down from the frantic pace of years past. (In 2013, the festival had sold out by Feb. 9). In 2014, Sasquatch attempted to expand to two weekends, but had to cancel the second one because of poor sales. (To be fair, the first weekend sold out, and 2015 as well, by opening day. Passes for 2016 are still available.)
Sasquatch’s name also has been trending at a lower rate on Google searches, since peaking in 2011.
Zacks says search metrics only reflect how many “popular mainstream artists” he books, not the popularity of the festival itself.
“Over the years we’ve seen that when we book someone who is mainstream, and youth-oriented, we see that more,” he said of Google searches.
Though Zacks is trying to draw thousands, much of Sasquatch still ultimately reflects his personal taste, which is eclectic and Northwest-focused.
“We don’t just want to give lip service to the idea of music discovery,” he said. “We’re committed to new and emerging talent, and to Northwest artists.”
Which is why Thunderpussy — a band that hasn’t released a single yet (though they are in the studio) — plays the Sasquatch mainstage Monday. Zacks had them on a smaller stage last year, and “they completely crushed it.”
Don’t miss Thunderpussy, but do yourself a favor when it comes to this band or any other potential discovery at Sasquatch 2016. Don’t just Google them or watch them on YouTube.
Show up. Put your phone down and discover.