Sasquatch! Music Festival
Sat May 29
the Gorge

One welcome change on the live-music landscape I never would have predicted has been this year's dramatic improvement in programming on the U.S. festival circuit. We're currently experiencing a revival of quality that I figured had ended around the time Pavement released Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

Coachella was a legitimate pilgrimage for fans eager to see seminal legends like Kraftwerk and The Pixies share the stage with volatile ingénues like ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and Erase Errata. Even Lollapalooza, the "alternative" rock dinosaur everyone thought was extinct, has unveiled a spaz-worthy lineup: Between the prospect of seeing Morrissey, Le Tigre, and PJ Harvey on the same day and a second stage schedule that includes the Walkmen and Wolf Eyes, I'm feeling quite optimistic. And this Memorial Day weekend, House of Blues booking agent Adam Zacks has engineered the strongest lineup of his Sasquatch! festival since the all-day event was conceived in 2001.

By adroitly combining prominent national acts Thievery Corporation, Cat Power, and The Roots with Northwest stalwarts such as Sleater-Kinney, the Shins, and Built to Spill, Zacks is delivering on his personal mission to create a diverse, independent-minded festival within the confines of a decidedly corporate entity like House of Blues.

"I wanted to try a localized festival that was an alternative to the prefab touring festivals... something that was more progressive," explains Zacks. "The festival prides itself on being eclectic; this year is a little bit less so, and more indierock-oriented. I think that's a reflection on all the good things that have happened for indierock in the last year, and particularly the Northwest's role in that. Certainly Sub Pop is part of that--that's why they have three bands and one comedian [emcee David Cross] in the festival."

One of those three bands is the Postal Service, which is making Sasquatch! its only live U.S. appearance this year--a fact its devoted fan base should consider before balking at the $50 ticket price. This is also a singular appearance for the New Pornographers, according to the band's booking agent, Ali Giampino: "They have [a lot] going on right now, including solo projects, producing albums, and making films. There is a slight chance there could be a few scattered dates before the end of the year, but that is highly doubtful."

Along with showcasing rare appearances in the reliably gorgeous setting of the Gorge, Sasquatch! is fortified by the communal affection among the artists: Virtually every participant I interviewed for this piece is thrilled about sharing the stage with another. "I'm putting a Canadian mob hit out on the New Pornographers," jokes Visqueen's Rachel Flotard. "I can't stop listening to Electric Version and it's killing me how bad I need to see them again."

Cross is characteristically cantankerous when I ask him how he got roped in as host. "I'm emceeing in order to fulfill my 400 hours of community service due to the State of Washington after I was convicted of punching a salmon when I

was at the Locks one time," he tells me via e-mail. "Any time you are onstage and only talking at a big, unruly music festival filled with unfocused drunk people, it becomes an unpleasant, difficult task. This will be a nightmare for me."

Apt sarcasm aside, it's easy to find reasons not to make the long drive and pay inflated prices for bottled water, but simply getting out of town is justification for Kerri Harrop (AKA DJ Cherry Canoe), who will be providing her trademark party mash-up of classic and quirky vinyl between live sets. "Everyone thinks the Gorge is really far away but, to be honest, it's nice to get out of the city for a day," says Harrop. "Plus, it's funny to see all the regular groovy ghoulies out in the middle of nowhere, trying to figure out where to buy beer and sunscreen."