Category: Travel

Sasquatch Festival: Day 2

Sunday, May 25th, 2008 | All Things, Music, Travel

Read more from Josh Bis on Sasquatch: Day 2 — same lineup, better pictures.

I arrived at the Gorge to catch the second half of Rogue Wave‘s set on the Wookie! stage. Later, we would see Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, a.k.a., Mates of State here — that cute couple from Connecticut that was profiled in the issue of New York magazine I had in my backpack that afternoon.

We caught most of their set while waiting on line at the gear concessions stand. $40 for The Cure concert tee was deemed exorbitant — why, Bob? The millions you’ve made fetishing alienation and depression not enough for you? — but $25 for the limited edition festival t-shirt more reasonable. Or so we told ourselves.

As the sun shone brightly overhead, I dug into a Philly cheesesteak at the picnic area as The Blakes wrapped up their set on the Yeti! stage. (Why is it so difficult to eat healthily at these things? In my defense, it was at least not deep fried.) Afterwards, we could hear the sounds of The Presidents of the United States of America — truncated to “The Presidents” on the program — wafting over from the Sasquatch! stage. Now, I probably haven’t thought about that particular band in about a decade, so their prominence here was a bit baffling to me. Sure, “Lump” and “Peaches” were catchy in a post-grunge novelty act sort of way, but that was 1995. Chalk it up to hometown nostalgia, I suppose. (In addition to playing the main stage, PUSA were featured glowingly — twice! — at the Experience Music Project rock museum in Seattle. But more on that later.)

I was pleasantly surprised by Michael Franti & Spearhead who brought the crowd to its feet with an extremely energetic set, sending both concert-goers and colorful beach balls bouncing up and down the hill.

Local favorites Death Cab for Cutie followed as the sun set, and the hordes really descended then, many no doubt looking to stake out prime floor spots for The Cure’s closeout show. The boys opened with new materialwe approve that DCFC “avoid[ed] the post-blowup letdown with a strong new album” — before settling into more familiar tunes from Transatlanticism and Plans. Frontman Ben Gibbard, clad in black, gave shoutouts to The Cure and to The Smiths, explaining his black-wearing “because black is what I feel on the inside,” and because he was “so goddamn excited to see The Cure.” (Join the club, Ben!) He dedicated “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” to them.

[DCFC will be playing McCarren Park Pool — with Rogue Wave — on June 10.]

Sasquatch-induced ADD dictated that I slip out about halfway through the set to catch singer/songwriter/guitarist Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks… if for no other reason than that Malkmus was once the lead singer of Pavement, whose Slanted and Enchanted (1992) was perhaps the Greatest Indie-Rock Album Ever. (Their 1994 follow-up Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994) fares well on that assessment as well.) Pavement, which went on hiatus in 1999, is “credited with leading the lo-fi indie-rock movement of the early ’90s” and still serve as the inspiration for many modern rock bands hoping to succeed without the support of a major label.

Can’t say I’m as big a fan of the post-Pavement oeuvre. The classic rock influences are more straightforward — extended guitar riffs and such — but every once in a while, in more reflective sections, you can still hear the hints of Malkmus’ former sound.

Their set was late in getting started — lead-in The Kooks set them back by almost an hour — so by the time Malkmus and Co. took the stage, the excitement was palpable. No mystery over what many wanted to hear: I regularly heard shouts for Pavement songs, but most were satisfied with “Dragonfly Pie” and “Gardenia.” Malkmus wasn’t above teasing the audience either, remarking on how we were experiencing the nicest weather he’d ever seen at Sasquatch, although, “I heard that yesterday it was raining sideways… like, crooked rain.” Boo!

It seems that rumors of a Pavement reunion tour have been greatly exaggerated — much like the Morrissey and Marr rematch, I suppose. We can still dream… though I do hope it happens before it’s time to cash in my IRA.

After cutting out early again — really, I can count on one hand the number of full sets I caught this weekend — I found the main stage bathed in blue and violet lights for headliners The Cure, who finally emerged out of a rolling cloud of fog. Their September 2007 concert at MSG was rescheduled for my birthday in June when I’ll be out of town, so I was particularly excited about this set.

Robert Smith did not disappoint: the setlist mined the band’s extensive catalog, opening with new song “Underneath The Stars,” followed by Disintegration‘s “Prayers For Rain” and Head on the Door‘s “A Night Like This,” and continuing with a liberal sprinkling of the classics: “Lovesong,” “To Wish Impossible Things,” “Lullaby,” “Fascination Street,” “Hot Hot Hot!“, “Inbetween Days”…. Predictably, “Just Like Heaven” had just about everyone in the still-thick crowd on their feet dancing. Just straightforward playing, though — no banter: unlike other performers who bounded giddily around the stage, Smith spent the entire time draped over the mic, letting his distinctive voice do all the work… and it did, holding up surprisingly well after all these many years. (In body, though, 49-year old Smith is noticeably heftier, and the thick Goth make-up did his face no favors, which may explain the paucity of close-ups on the large screens flanking the stage.)

As I gazed up into the almost clear night sky, through which a few stars managed to twinkle through, The Cure broke out the moody, sentimental combination of “Pictures Of You,” “A Letter to Elise” and “From The Edge Of A Deep Green Sea” which nearly had me weeping, despite how many times I’ve heard those songs over the years.

I wish I could just stop
I know another moment will break my heart

I was probably — no, almost definitely — the biggest Cure devotee among our small group, and well into the band’s third(!) hour of playing, my friends were getting restless. By the time the second encore of old-school tunes launched — a run of “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” and “Grinding Halt” — The Cure had been on stage for nearly two and a half hours. At one point, Smith promised (threatened?) to play until dawn, and though I probably could have stayed on to see him take up that challenge, enough was enough. We made our way to the parking field to the strains of “10:15 Saturday Night” missing only the 31st song: “Killing An Arab.”

Going into this weekend, I hadn’t known what to expect from Sasquatch — the “circus of grossness” had been a distinct possibility — but this experience far exceeded my expectations. It was even worth missing the Brooklyn Bridge’s 125th birthday celebrations back at home. Aside from the occasional errant whiff (fully anticipated), the crowd was remarkably respectful. Or maybe just happily baked — who’s to say? A big plus was that by carefully monitoring my liquid intake, I managed to avoid the dreaded Honey Buckets altogether… perhaps the festival accomplishment of which I am most (dubiously) proud. That and squeezing my way to the front of The Breeders show on Day 1.

Revisiting old favorites and discovering new sounds were the primary reasons for attending, but the best moments I found were not the times spent rushing among the Sasquatch!, Wookie! and Yeti! stages, but the stretches spent just laying in the sun, enjoying the natural beauty of the gorge and the company of my friends. Throw in a plate of freshly fried dough and a frozen lemonade slushy, and it just doesn’t get any better.

Full Sasquatch Festival 2008 set on flickr.

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Wild horses & wine

Sunday, May 25th, 2008 | All Things, Drinks, Travel

After we spent the latter half of last night chilly and wet, A decided that we needed to make a quick stop at the Ellensburg Fred Meyer for some emergency ponchos. And true to some variant of Murphy’s Law, his preparatory purchase seemed to insure that we would have no need for rain gear; the skies remained clear the entire day.

We spent the early part of the afternoon along the roads of Central Washington: a pretty — and pretty fast (ouch) — drive which eventually brought us to the Wild Horses Monument on Interstate-90.

David Govedare’s sculpture of 16 wild horses was installed on this bluff near the town of Vantage for Washington State’s Centennial Celebration in 1989. Native American Govedare is one of the Northwest’s most recognized artist for his public works, including the lifesize Bloomsday runners of “The Joy of Running Together” (1986) in downtown Spokane’s Riverfront Park. (Not everyone’s a fan.)

This 200-foot line of charging horses (no two alike) can be glimpsed briefly from the interstate — if you’re not the one behind the wheel — or more leisurely from the Wanapum Vista Overlook, where we made this stop. Bonus: an expansive view of the Columbia River Valley, Wanapum Lake and the Vantage Bridge.

Govedare’s installation, created from welded 1″ thick tempered steel plates, is titled “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies“; the scene re-creates the legend of the Great Spirit turning loose a herd of the first wild horses onto earth. There is a rather treacherous-looking trail leading up the horses, but my festival flip-flops probably wouldn’t have gotten me very far up the bluff.

Later, at the Cave B Winery adjacent to the Gorge. Inventor/neurosurgeon cum real estate developer Vince Bryan purchased this 550 acre plot of land on which he carved out 100 acres of vineyard; since then, over two dozen wineries have moved into the area. He and his wife built the neighboring Gorge Amphitheatre in 1983 (now owned by Live Nation); in the 1990s, the Bryans added the inn and resort. A golf course is in the works.

We joined up with our Chimposium-visiting friends and together signed up for a tasting of six wines: the 2006 Cave B Sauvignon Blanc; the 2007 SageCliffe 100 Chardonnay (unoaked); the 2007 Cave B Saignée Rosé; the 2006 Cave B Sangiovese; the 2004 SageCliffe Merlot; and the 2005 Cave B Syrah.

A and NO picked up a couple bottles of the Merlot for sipping out on the veranda from which we could take in the awe-inspiring view of the vines and the Columbia River Gorge, while plinking traces of the White Rabbits piano heavy set drifted over from the festival next door.

Check out the flickr sets from our afternoon.

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Ellensburg, Washington

Sunday, May 25th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Travel

Lacking the youthful exuberance and temperament for festival camping, our group had booked two nights in Ellensburg, Washington, a 40-minute scenic drive from the Gorge Amphitheater. Our Holiday Inn Express was full of like-minded, similarly delicate (read: old) Sasquatch attendees this Memorial Day weekend.

After Michael Stipe kept us up late last night — has a hot shower ever felt more heavenly than after a long day spent outdoors? — we settled in for a leisurely morning exploring our surroundings. To answer NO’s query: this town of 15,000, incorporated in 1883, was so named in 1889 by its first postmaster John A. Shoudy, after his wife Mary Ellen.

Ellensburg’s raison d’etre is Central Washington University. MT observed that the streets were very similar to those of Ithaca… down to the signature area gorges. Our plan this morning was to visit the Yellow Church Café on South Pearl Street – a converted 1923 German Lutheran church popular among the locals for its [secular] weekend brunch. We arrived, however, to find a small crowd already gathered in the foyer: though classes were out for the semester, the otherwise sleepy college town was descended upon by Sasquatch visitors, and our party of five was advised of a half hour wait for a table. Just in case we were nostalgic for home.

Being somewhat less enthusastic about this early afternoon’s musical lineup, we were in no urgent rush to head out to George. And the delay gave us some time to walk the pretty streets of historic downtown.

This densely decorated two-story red wood frame house, known as Dick and Jane’s Spot, is the project of local artists Dick Elliott and Jane Orleman, who have dedicated their home and yard to showcasing their own and the work of dozens of other artists.

Back at the cafe, we waited a bit more until at long last our party was called up and seated upstairs in the former choir loft, from which we had a birdseye view of the main dining room and open kitchen.

CF and MT were running late for their scheduled visit to the Chimposium, so we started off by requesting a cinnamon roll for the table – warm, sweet and enormous… plenty satisfying, even split five ways. No doubt each wedge still packed the caloric punch of a full breakfast. (Fortunate, as our friends hardly had time to taste their meals before dashing off to campus to communicate with the chimpanzees.)

From among the mouth-watering list of “Praiseworthy Breakfasts,” I ordered the “Huevos Rancheros” — minus the cheddar — seen here. (“St. Benedict‘s Eggs” and “Pagan Pancakes” were also options.)

Worth the wait, and it did get me to church on Sunday after all.

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