Wilder Schmaltz

Pack the tent, wrap the pot cookies in foil, and gas up the car for a trip to the breathtaking Gorge Amphitheatre smack dab in the middle of Washington—it's Memorial Day weekend, which means it's Sasquatchin' time again! In its 10th year, the Sasquatch! festival is sporting what looks like its most consistent lineup ever, for better and for worse. There are some great acts that you thought you might never get to see again (Archers of Loaf! Death from Above 1979!) and some great comedians as well (Hari Kondabolu!). With very few exceptions, there are no outright bad bands on the bill this year—however, there is also a reliance on what seems to be safe, even pedestrian choices. While this means you get to see the Flaming Lips' whip-its 'n' ecstasy orgy yet again (never a bad thing), it also means you'll snooze through yet another Death Cab for Cutie set. (Seriously, how many times do you need to see those guys?)

Like every music festival with such a sizeable lineup, there are going to be lags when you're interested in none of the bands playing, and a few heart-wrenching quandaries when two of your favorite bands are playing at the exact same time. We're here to help you with some of the more difficult decisions.

Foo Fighters (Fri 9:30 pm, Sasquatch Stage)
vs. DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid (Fri 9 pm, Banana Shack)

Friday at Sasquatch! might seem like a night of go-Foo-or-go-home, with the fest's biggest name dominating opening night's abbreviated schedule. But unless you've been trapped in a vortex of shitty rock radio since 1999, you probably don't give a crap about Dave Grohl, or his band—including their blond Grohl doppelganger drummer. Don't panic, there's another option. Longtime Portland party mainstays DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid are bumping an all-night dance party in the Banana Shack, the tent that houses Sasquatch!'s comedy events by day and transforms into the best dance club in Eastern Washington by night.

Anjali and the Kid are best known for their bhangra dance parties all over Portland, including their monthly Andaz night, which for nearly nine years has brought Bollywood and urban desi dance music to Portland club kids. Celebrate our local heroes as they hold down the biggest rock fest in the Northwest, and kick off your Sasquatch! with something other than white dudes with guitars—of which there will be plenty throughout the rest of the weekend. Impressively, Anjali and the Kid have also been booked to open the dance-party festivities in the Banana Shack nightly through the rest of the weekend.

The Antlers (Sat 6:20 pm, Bigfoot Stage)
vs. the Thermals (Sat 6:45 pm, Yeti Stage)

With Burst Apart, the Antlers have released the year's most gorgeously disquieting record. The follow-up to their 2009 breakthrough Hospice, the new album breaks down any doors the Brooklyn trio had remaining in their way. Burst Apart opens with the devastating slow dance of "I Don't Want Love" and proceeds to brood and swoon its way through jagged emotional backdrops and perfectly integrated electronic and organic textures, with frontman Peter Silberman's keen falsetto and the band's ravishing melodies vacillating between anguished and reassuring. Their evening set on Saturday should prove to be one of the festival's emotional highlights.

Which is why we're saying something we thought we'd never, ever say: Skip the beginning of the Thermals' set. While the Portland trio is rightly one of our city's biggest bands, they're still oddly underrated, in a way—their über-catchy punk-flavored pop conceals the often-weighty ideas and emotions in Hutch Harris' lyrics. Last year's Personal Life was one of the smartest and most mature breakup albums ever set to tape. So yeah—under any other circumstance, we'd say don't you dare miss the Thermals. But to skip the Antlers altogether would be nearly as heartbreaking as their magnificent new record.

Sharon Van Etten (Sat 4:05 pm, Bigfoot Stage)
vs. Wolf Parade (Sat 4:20 pm, Sasquatch Stage)

By default, one of the can't-miss sets of this year's Sasquatch! is Wolf Parade's final performance in the States before they embark on a vague-sounding "indefinite hiatus." (The Canadian group plays an additional show in Vancouver, BC, on Monday, May 30.) After the tremendous debut full-length Apologies to the Queen Mary in 2005 and the nearly-as-good At Mount Zoomer in 2008, the members of Wolf Parade have recently seemed distracted by their numerous other projects. Keyboardist Spencer Krug's other band Sunset Rubdown released the stellar Dragonslayer in 2009, and guitarist Dan Boeckner also released two excellent records with his wife Alexei Perry in their band Handsome Furs; all three of those records bested Wolf Parade's airless 2010 effort Expo 86. So the time for a hiatus seems right. Their Sasquatch! gig should be a culmination and celebration of their finest moments.

Meanwhile, Sharon Van Etten is among the most commanding musicians currently performing. Over repeated listens, the songs on her flawless 2010 Epic album reinforce themselves as they turn intensely, sometimes cruelly addictive—they virtually become emotional crutches. In the live setting, it's physically impossible to disentangle your ears from Van Etten's stunning voice. In other words, you're unlikely to see a better performance all weekend. But if you're ever been a Wolf Parade fan, you'll want to see them to bid adieu. Our recommendation: If you've seen Sharon Van Etten in concert, catch the beginning of her set then mosey over to the big stage in time for Wolf Parade's farewell. But if you haven't ever seen her before, you're not going to want to miss a single note.

Guided by Voices (Mon 3:50 pm, Sasquatch Stage) vs. the Scott Aukerman
and Paul F. Tompkins Show
(Mon 3:45 pm, Banana Shack)

Lo-fi kings Guided by Voices play an abbreviated hour-long set, which means they'll play only 130 songs or so—and it'll probably be the cream of the crop from frontman Robert Pollard's comically immense discography of garage-pop miniatures. Therefore, this might be the best Guided by Voices show you'll ever hear; this actually might be the last Guided by Voices show you'll ever hear, since Pollard will likely put the brand name back in mothballs after making the summer festival rounds. How does that measure up to Mr. Show alums Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins joining forces for a comedy variety show that includes the adorable Tig Notaro and avant beatboxer/comedian Reggie Watts? It's close, but we'll give the edge to GBV, especially since Notaro and Watts perform at other times during the weekend, and by nature, variety shows are acutely hit or miss.

Pink Martini (Sat 5:30 pm, Sasquatch Stage)
vs. Wye Oak (Sat 5:40 pm, Yeti Stage)

Are you kidding? Are you 90? Go see Wye Oak. The Baltimore duo is great, and unlike Pink Martini, listening to Wye Oak won't make you feel like you've been dropped off at a retirement home by children who openly resent you.

SASQUATCH!: STAY-AT-HOME EDITION

Didn't have enough cash to shell out for a weekend ticket? Don't have the wheels to get yourself to the Gorge? Can't get Robyn to drop that restraining order she has against you? Relax—you can see a good chunk of the bands playing Sasquatch! without leaving Portland. While many of the bigger headliners have exclusivity contracts with the festival and can't play any other area shows (or, like the Decemberists and Death Cab, are playing Bend but not Portland), plenty of groups stop through Portland either on the way up or the way down. Here's how to see Sasquatch! without the hassle of leaving Portland.

Thurs May 26
Sleigh Bells—Roseland
S. Carey, Other Lives—Doug Fir
Sam Roberts Band—Mississippi Studios
Rival Schools—Peter's Room at the Roseland
DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid—Al's Den at the Crystal Hotel

Fri May 27
Yeasayer, Smith Westerns—Wonder Ballroom
Aloe Blacc—Dante's
Cotton Jones—Doug Fir
Alberta Cross—Mississippi Studios
Trailer Park Boys—Aladdin Theater

Sat May 28
Fitz & the Tantrums—Rose Festival
Gayngs—Doug Fir
Jaill—Bunk Bar

Sun May 29
Noah and the Whale—Doug Fir
White Denim, White Arrows—Bunk Bar
Pepper Rabbit—Mississippi Studios
Trailer Park Boys—Aladdin Theater

Mon May 30
Biffy Clyro—Doug Fir

Tues May 31
Iron & Wine, the Head and the Heart—Crystal Ballroom
Flogging Molly—Roseland
!!!—Doug Fir
Givers—Mission Theater
Mad Rad, The Globes—Star Theater

Wed June 1
Old 97's—Doug Fir
Foster the People—Crystal Ballroom

Thurs June 2
Stornoway—Doug Fir
Basia Bulat—The Woods
DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid—Al's Den at the Crystal Hotel

Fri June 3
Typhoon (at the Tender Loving Empire Fourth Anniversary)—Wonder Ballroom