In case you didn’t know, Sasquatch is both Washington State’s most mythical cryptid and one of its highest acclaimed music festivals. It helps that it takes place in what might have been statistically proven to be the most beautiful place in the world, but the festival consistently books some of the best and most buzzed-about acts in the game, too. You might not catch a glimpse of Bigfoot himself (we hear he doesn’t like crowds), but you’ll definitely catch some fantastic bands, both established and on the verge of breaking out. If you’ve got no idea what you’re doing this Memorial Day weekend at the Gorge, never you fear – we do. Here’s what we’re up to: (Use the arrows to navigate this guide!)
Friday: 5:15-6:00 – Yellow Ostrich @ Bigfoot
Friday’s festivities don’t start until the late afternoon, and the festival’s big guns won’t be gracing stages until the weekend, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch amazing bands. Yellow Ostrich blew our minds at SXSW; if you think Alex Schaaf’s onetime bedroom project is too twee for a big, outdoor stage – well, respectfully, you’re wrong: dude doesn’t shy from laying down more than a few distorted guitar solos. Our money’s on him for the best set to open your weekend.
Friday: 7:10-7:55 – Santigold @ Sasquatch
We might stick around at the Bigfoot stage after Yellow Ostrich to catch a bit of Polica’s set, but trust us, you don’t want to miss Santigold – she’s been making the festival rounds and delivering awesome sets of material from her brand new record Master of My Make-Believe. Seeing her do “Go!” live at SXSW was one of the musical highlights of our year, and her backup dancers are the most badass young women we’ve ever seen, so, um, be there.
Friday: 8:30-9:45 – Girl Talk @ Sasquatch
If you haven’t seen Girl Talk yet, you should probably just take in this set as a rite of passage.
Friday: 9:15–10:15 – Explosions in the Sky @ Bigfoot
If you have seen Girl Talk, aren’t a fan, or don’t feel like dancing, Explosions in the Sky’s live show is absolutely not to be missed. Watch the Texans bend atmospheric reverb into cathartic, earth-shaking symphonies, then call it an early night – you’ve got a big weekend ahead of you.
Saturday: Noon-12:45 – Pickwick @ Sasquatch
Here’s where the going gets tough. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday offer you more stages and more bands and comedians than you can shake a stick at. If you can make it up this early, Pickwick are one of our favorite Seattle bands – insanely fun, relentlessly energetic, with a frontman who sometimes sounds like a soul singer and an impressive knack for pop songwriting. Then take in some time to hydrate before a busy afternoon.
Saturday: 3:00-3:45 – Alabama Shakes @ Bigfoot
It was hard to choose the Shakes over local acts Craft Spells and THEESatisfaction (and a comedy set from Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia), but the southern guys and girl have a fantastic new record, flawlessly anthemic, catchy songs, and a great live show.
Satuday: 4:05-4:50 – Kurt Vile and the Violators @ Bigfoot
Don’t move an inch after Alabama Shakes – we love Kurt Vile’s breezy lo-fi pop songcraft.
Saturday: 5:10-6:25 - ???!
This time slot presents you with the literally impossible choice between Childish Gambino at the Sasquatch stage, Dum Dum Girls at Bigfoot, AraabMuzik at Banana Shack, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the Yeti stage. We’re just going to advise following your heart, as corny as it sounds – if your heart tells you hipster rap, go with Donald Glover. If it tells you four ladies in black playing pop-punk jams, go for Dee Dee and company. If you’re feeling the master of the MPC, the obvious choice is AraabMuzik. And if your heart tells you to go see some PNW-ers (by way of Australia and New Zealand) melting your face, you should probably go see UMO.
Saturday: 6:45-7:30 – Purity Ring @ Banana Shack
Purity Ring have an incredible, theatrical stage setup and songs (mostly unreleased) as strange, fascinating, and emotional as they are danceable. Its frontwoman, Megan James, is utterly hypnotic; her partner in crime, Corin Roddick, has a mesmerizing command over his insane array of electronics. Basically, this is where you want to be.
Saturday: 7:30-8:30 – tUnE-yArDs @ Bigfoot
We’re never going to stop battering Merrill Garbus’s genius into your brain. You’ll probably understand where we’re coming from if you see her do the impossible – by which we mean, exhiliratingly recreate her amazing songs – in a live setting.
Saturday: 9:00-10:00 – St. Vincent @ Bigfoot
Stick around to catch Merrill’s labelmate, tourmate, and soul sister Annie Clark play guitar like no one else in the world. If you’re lucky, you might catch a stagedive or two – cross your fingers for her new single, the blistering punk banger “Krokodil.”
Saturday: 10:00-11:30 – Jack White @ Sasquatch
Duh. Really though – the guy plays songs from all his past bands (let's just count them down for fun: The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) with two different backing ensembles, one all women, the other all men. White’s theatricality is a huge part of what makes him such a fascinating musician and character – you’d be remiss not to check it out.
Saturday: 11:30-1:00 – The Roots @ Bigfoot
Giving new meaning to “the best band in late night,” the Roots are closing out Saturday night – if you can keep your eyes open, stick around to catch them.
Sunday: 3:00-3:45 – Here We Go Magic @ Bigfoot
It’s okay to sleep late today (though if you’re up early, you can check out local favorites Hey Marseilles or Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, both at the Sasquatch stage) – the first band you’ve got to see is Here We Go Magic at three. Picking up a hitchhiking John Waters is far from the coolest thing the best jam band in indie rock has done lately – they’ve also released a fantastic album, A Different Ship. They’ll definitely deliver on its driving, hypnotic grooves live; cross your fingers for the rollicking numbers, like recent single “Make Up Your Mind,” and the sexy slow-burners, like “F.F.A.P.” from 2010’s Pigeons LP. If you’d rather eschew that and see a dude carry several wooden flutes in a backpack (and, yeah, a fantastic tribal pop band), go see Gardens & Villa at the Yeti stage at 3:30.
Sunday: 4:40-5:25 – Beat Connection @ Banana Shack
The two Seattleites of Beat Connection can do a lot with a little – they’re famous for inciting dance insanity among hometown crowds, what with woozy, dancey chillwave synths, pulsing bass and drum machine, and spontaneous Arcade Fire covers. Basically – be there.
Sunday: 5:25-6:10 – M. Ward @ Sasquatch
Your best bet to recharge for a busy evening is to catch Ward’s set – the monster of folk will likely play a healthy dose of new Wasteland Companion material. Don’t bet on a Zooey appearance, though.
Sunday: 6:20-7:10 – Wild Flag @ Bigfoot
You’re in the Pacific Northwest, and if you drove up to Washington from Portland, you likely drove right under the Olympia overpass after which Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein named her first band, seminal riot grrls Sleater-Kinney – thus, it’s pretty much an unspoken law that you’ve got to go see Brownstein’s new band, Wild Flag, totally rip it up.
7:30-8:30 – The Walkmen @ Bigfoot
Don’t move after Wild Flag, because the Walkmen have an incredible new record, Heaven, and an incredible live show, they’ll likely bring some horns (!!), suits, and brand new songs along, and they tend to save their most driving, seething material (“The Rat,” “All Hands and the Cook,” you know the deal) for oudoor, festival sets – if that doesn’t sell you, we don’t know what will.
8:10-9:25 – Beirut @ Sasquatch
After the Walkmen, run over to catch more horns from Zach Condon and company. A long set time means a wider sampling of tracks from throughout Condon’s oeuvre, so you might get to hear a buried Gulag Orkestar gem.
9:30-11:00 – James Murphy DJ set @ Banana Shack
You’ll never get to see LCD Soundsystem live (moment of silence), but the next best thing is probably seeing its mastermind, James Murphy, DJ. If that’s not your thing, you can check out Bon Iver’s expanded live lineup and famously profound set over at the Sasquatch stage.
Monday: 1:05-1:50 – Grouplove @ Sasquatch
Happy memorial day! If you’re still alive and have enough energy to dance a little, check out bubbly LA collective Grouplove. If you’re more in the mood for something on the chiller, folkier side, Fleet Foxes side project Poor Moon plays the Yeti stage at 1:20.
3:20-4:05 - 4:25-5:10 – Don’t Talk to the Cops & Fresh Espresso @ The Maine Stage
If you’ve learned anything from THEESatisfaction and Shabazz Palaces (who we’ll get to later), it should be that you shouldn’t just associate Seattle with grunge – think about game-changing hip-hop, too. Heading to the Maine Stage a little past three puts you in ideal territory for checking out Seattle’s finest rap and R&B, in the form of the awesome Don’t Talk to the Cops and Fresh Espresso.
5:45-6:30 – Shabazz Palaces @ Bigfoot
Check out Feist at the Sasquatch stage for a little while if you want, but our money’s on Shabazz Palaces for this slot – dudes put on one of the best live hip-hop shows we’ve ever seen, thanks to the magnetic power of Ishmael Butler’s hypnotic rhymes. Wait until you see how he manipulates his voice and beats live – and cross your fingers for a THEESatisfaction cameo on “Swerve.”
6:50-7:35 – The Cave Singers @ Bigfoot
We know we’re recommending a lot of locals, but face it – the Northwest has a wealth of incredible artists, and home turf promises great performances. The Cave Singers are like other folk bands on steroids – we’ve never seen anyone else get such insane riffage out of acoustic guitars. We’re hoping they play “Black Leaf,” which, once you’ve heard it once, will never leave your head.
8:00-9:00 – Spiritualized @ Bigfoot
Jason Pierce and company have a new album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, and a renowned live show – what better way to wind down a busy festival than hallucinatory space-rock drones?
10:00-11:30pm – Beck @ Sasquatch
Beck’s been really, really quiet since the release of Modern Guilt in 2008, writing a few songs for the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack here and Charlotte Gainsbourg there, so you’ll definitely want to catch one of his first shows in years. Let’s hope for some new material.