Guest Post Robert Ham - Dispatch From Sasquatch (Day One)

Sasquatch Festival 2010 Nurses Nurses - Photo: Chona Kasinger/

If anyone had any questions about the commercial potential of the roughly drawn known as indie, they would easily be put to rest when looking over the sea of thousands of shirtless men, tattooed young women, and gents in bear suits populating the grounds of the Gorge Amphitheatre this weekend. The festival sold out in a matter of days, no doubt bolstered by one of the most talent rich lineups in its history (the first day alone boasted The National, Broken Social Scene, Vampire Weekend, and My Morning Jacket).

Now that indie rock and its varying offshoots have cracked mainstream, it means Sasquatch feels, well, like most any other rock festival. Xbox-branded beach balls were slapped around the smallest of the three stages, the camping grounds surrounding the amphitheatre were filled with revelers cracking beers in the late morning hours, and the corporate branding of just about everything is rampant.

But, like any other festival that has been going for almost a decade, the people behind Sasquatch have ironed out any and all kinks. Schedules are kept to, transitions between bands are quick and painless, and even the comedy/dance music tent (the Verizon Wireless Rumpus Room) has perfect sightlines and a great sound system.

As you have likely already seen, events of this kind tend to bring out the best in performers, amped up as they are by the big crowds and the sheer size of the grounds and stages. And, as expected, the intensity and volume of a performance was relative to the size of stage that the band played on. All the groups that worked the main stage - Broken Social Scene, Vampire Weekend, My Morning Jacket, especially - played for the cheap seats (or the top of the hill in this case) with bombastic sets that rarely slowed down to allow anyone to catch their breath.

Smaller stages tended to ratchet down the volume and grandiloquence. The Hold Steady took on the second stage, one that was run entirely on solar power, with their signature earthbound grit and Craig Finn's manic glee leading the charge. The smallest stage leant itself well to performers that wound intricate soundscapes together, such as the multicultural pop/hip-hop compound of Why? and the Technicolor widescreen pop of the Portland trio Nurses.

We're off to an amazing start with an even greater day, capped off by headlining sets by LCD Soundsystem, Pavement and Massive Attack, ahead of me.

Independence in Art, Music, Beer and Life