Recently the founder of Sasquatch! Music Festival announced the fest will not be making a return. Explore the recent history of this one of a kind festival and the “Sasquatch magic” it beholds.
It’s Monday, July 2nd, and the local news just ran a report about a 500 acre wildfire happening near Quincy, Washington — one of the few small towns surrounding The Gorge Amphitheater where Sasquatch music festival and many other annual events take place.
In the middle of Tyler, The Creators midnight set just this year, Tyler asked: “Where the fuck are we?” The crowd answered with uncertain “woo”s, to which Tyler replied “We’re in the middle of fucking nowhere.” Which got much more affirmative “woo”s in return. The Gorge amphitheater really is in the middle of nowhere. Pretty much in the center of Washington, the Columbia gorge was formed by a mega flood that swept through the area over 10,000 years ago. The result has left amazing landscapes, and the venue itself is placed inside the gorge, making for incredible sights and sounds that make The Gorge a contender for one of the nations, if not world’s, greatest natural venues.
2015 was my first year of Sasquatch, coming just a couple weeks before graduating high school. We assembled a group of 10 and embarked on a crazy adventure in which I experienced a lot of firsts personally.
Though I believe all festivals have their own culture and identity, one reason I can recommend festivals to people in general is the abundance of music you get to see. Without a festival, I’m good getting through a whole year seeing five to ten shows. With this single festival, you could see over ten artists in a single day, every day for three or four days. By now, Sasquatch has single-handedly bolstered my live show count to over 100, and Sasquatch has provided some of my favorite live experiences, like Kendrick Lamar and Jungle in 2015, or Anderson .Paak and NAO in 2018.
I never journalistically covered Sasquatch. I started my music blog in the months following year one, and had worked my way up interning for multiple publications beyond that point. By my fourth and senior year of Sasquatch, EMCEE Network had helped me grab a media pass for the festival, pretty much getting me in for free and saving myself a venue ticket.
Despite getting a press pass for year 4, which was a dream, I still had a hard time even starting my coverage of Sasquatch. There’s something so sacred about the weekend and the memories that block me from writing about them in traditional form.
The steep pricing of Sasquatch was the biggest struggle over the years, and as far as I’m concerned was a reason for the fests downfall, while also upholding the stereotype that festivals are filled with rich white kids, even though the fest did sport diversity and I myself was struggling poor for my entire Sasquatch career.
Sasquatch’s closure was a new kind of heartbreak, because it was something that had become an annual gettogether for me and my closest friends. Starting the Thursday of Memorial Day weekend, Sasquatch always felt like a perfect kickoff to summer.. A vacation in the truest sense, and arguably, it was better than Christmas. Camping for four nights (five until the fest cut monday in 2017.) Is a feat, but if you bring the normal necessities it’s an amazing experience. Once noon rolls around it’s about time to walk from the campgrounds to the venue, where a walking beer was a necessity. Ahhh.
Sasquatch was great because it was the light at the end of the annual tunnel. When the days were hard, there was at least comfort in the fact Sasquatch was nearing closer. Sasquatch was an environment where you could be yourself entirely and fit in without trouble.
Though there are plenty of other events that happen at the same venue, including niche festivals such as Paradiso and Watershed, which cater to edm and country fans respectively. Genre wise, Sasquatch catered to everyone, rightfully earning the contradictory title of an “indie pop” fest. 2018s genre diversity was probably the best I had seen yet, where we would see rock, rap, r&b, folk, dance, and experimental avant garde acts all in the same day. There are also concerts that hit the gorge throughout the year, and Hot 96.9 actuality hosted their own Summer Jam out here for a couple of years.
Despite the alternatives, I believe Squatch’s closure means I will have to take two or three years break from the venue. The feeling of walking over the big hill at the mainstage and seeing the view was a breathtaking feeling every time, and I’ll need time to heal before revisiting the same scene for something other than my beloved Sasquatch.
Pictures of people lying on the hill will forever remind me of the legendary Woodstock, and with the culture and community this fest formed every year, I’d like to think the two fests were pretty similar experiences as well.
Will another indie pop festival take over? I’d like to think so, and I’d like to be apart of this new era. Until then, it’s time to broaden the horizons. Seattle’s Bumbershoot is a great alternative albeit being a city festival and each year Bumbershoot is becoming more hip hop focused, where Sasquatch had its weakest rap year in 2018 of all the years I went.
Founder Adam Zachs released the following statement on the closure of Sasquatch!:
“Today we take a bow and bid a fond farewell to Sasquatch! I will no longer be producing the Festival, nor will it take place in 2019. The Festival began 17 years ago on a hunch, greenlit on nothing more than a name and instinct there was space for something with a uniquely Northwest flavor, on Memorial Day weekend, at one of the most beautiful locations on Earth – The Gorge. 17 years is a long time to do anything. The Beatles lasted a mere 8 years, a fact so astonishing it is difficult to believe. While we didn’t accomplish anything as indelible as ‘Hey Jude’, the Festival left a lasting mark and proudly represented an independent spirit. Sasquatch! will forever remain a tapestry of the people who worked with us, the artists who inspired us, and the varied experiences of the fans who attended it … of friendships made, engagements, hilltop weddings, permanent tattoos, once in a lifetime collaborations, weather events both treacherous and magnificent, at least one very public conception, and, of course, hundreds of awe inspiring performances. My humblest gratitude to all of you. May the spirit that made Sasquatch! so special live on.”
Consequence of Sound reported the following on the fest:
The festival was founded in 2002 as a single-day event headlined by The String Cheese Incident, Jack Johnson, and Ben Harper. It expanded to three days in 2006, added a fourth in 2011, and ran for three again in 2014, 2017, and 2018. In 2014, the festival attempted to add a second weekend over July 4th, but low ticket sales led to those plans being canceled. Over the course of its existence, it sold 1,026,095 tickets, donated $723,436 to nonprofits, and booked 1,313 bands. Neko Case played more than anyone else, having appeared on seven lineups and playing eight shows between The New Pornographers and solo performances (she did both in 2008).
As a bonus, here’s a viral video you may or may not recognize..
Also, here’s a playlist of the songs that made for the most special Sasquatch moments:
Did a festival change your life? Let us know @emceenetwork.