Indians started the day on the Yeti Stage, the smallest but most intimate stage. Indians creates synth-folk on the softer side of the spectrum. Frontman Sven Lkke Elze plays synth and sings while two females operate the keyboard and samples. The trio wash together blissful sound effects and looping vocals by constantly tinkering with knobs, levers and levels. It is shoegaze for the electronic generation. Their music is ideal for laying in the sun and encompassing life without stress.
Michael Kiwanuka is a British soul musician who plays with a genuine smile and real attitude. He crafts elegant smooth rock with jazz influence and displays a natural charisma. When Kiwanuka kicked off his set, there were some technical problems; his bassist was inaudible. Kiwanuka rolled with it and opted to play the first song acoustic. It was a moment of a musician keeping it cool and giving the audience a glimpse of his easygoing personality. Kiwanuka displays his influences on his sleeve: the man clearly listens to Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers– but instead of getting hung up on the past, Kiwanuka embraces it. His guitarist, dressed in Hendrix garb shred a beautiful cover of Jimi’s “Waterfalls”. For his last song, Kiwanuka thanked the crowd and expressed how grateful he is for being in the States. He then he brought out Mark Mumford, a trumpet section, a violinist and a trombone player for a upbeat sing-along cover of “The Weight” in what may be the most genuine moment of callback music.
Day 2 of Sasquatch continued with sway-rock as Devendra Bandhart took the Bigfoot stage after Kiwanuka. Bandhart featured a six-piece band, each adding a little piece to Bandhart’s musical puzzle. The Venezuelan-American singer-songwriter is a folk musician at heart but uses techniques from several subgenres to liberate his sound. He has light melodies and well-articulated vocals pulled from his lo-fi days, intricate and melodic guitar like trippy Americana, and even breaks into Spanish vocals recalling, presumably, his personal history. When singing in Spanish he seems more comfortable and even takes some experimental risks.
Bloc Party exploded onto the Sasquatch! main stage ready to wake the crowd up. A loud distortion rumbled the stage and when they walked out and picked up guitars a bombast of energy erupted– but it didn’t subdue their whole set. Bloc Party fast-picks guitar like all good post-punk bands, yet they coon with Kele Okereke’s beautiful British voice. For the most part, the band shied away from their mingling electronic tracks from 2009’s Intimacy, instead sticking to hits like “Hunting For Witches” and “Octopus,” keeping the crowd alive. Bloc Party took out all stops, avoiding breaks between songs by transitioning quick and clearly as if they were the same number. During “Banquet” Okereke yelled, “Come on you fuckers, jump!” after which the crowd quickly lost all control.
As quintessential as Bloc Party is, Divine Fits were the real rock stars of the day. Featuring dual frontmen Britt Daniel of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, they have a natural chemistry usually nonexistent in super groups. The two were playful with each other, exchanging one-upping facial expressions and differing styles of rock. They worked together, often switching guitar and bass, allowing each other opportunity to front the band. The guys made it impossible to decide which one was more of a badass. On top of their onstage appearance, their songs absolutely rocked. The songs on A Thing Called Divine Fits are mellow, but on stage they absolutely come to life. “Would That Not Be Nice” became a hard rock number with a turned up-tempo. Boeckner put down his guitar and sang “My Love Is Real” with a zany swagger. Later, he introduced a brand new song “That they’ve never played before” before retracting the statement, realizing they just haven’t played it enough. He laughed and called the new song “Fuck The Lady,” but he may have been joking. They even pulled out a semi-experimental cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lost,” featuring dynamic keyboard work including off-the-wall sound effects. If you get a chance to see Divine Fits, do not miss it.
After Divine Fits an announcement was made that Tame Impala were running late and were moved from the Bigfoot stage to the much smaller Yeti stage. This proved to be beneficial for Surfer Blood, whose crowd nearly doubled. Surfer Blood kept up their ideal indie-rock attitude with fast, life affirming songs. Can someone make up a new genre name for this specific kind of friendly rock? They are filled with positivity and feel-good outdoors vibes. Surfer Blood fill their songs with strong hooks pushing the crowd to jump and dance. Stadium-sized single “Swim” went over well with everyone clapping and singing along.
The biggest surprise of the day was The xx. For anyone who never understood the hype surrounding The xx, his opinion would be changed immediately after witnessing the band’s volume. Jamie xx adjusts all of the sound while perched, overlooking the other two members. He takes the minimalism of their sound and, at the precise moment, he lets it loose. The result is booming electronics. Bright lights illuminated the entire gorge while skin-shaking electro ruptured the crowd. Everyone on the floor and on the hill was on their feet and dancing uncontrollably. You might think The xx would induce the popular sway-dance but this was a beat-thumping majestic experience.
Icelandic post-rock group Sigur Ros delivered an all-encompassing cinematic performance. Every song is accompanied by a Terrance Malick-esque ambient short film, creating a backdrop of an abstract story. Sigur Ros play as a whole orchestra: three strings, three horns, a piano, guitar, bass, drums, a percussionist (who rotates between chimes and zylophone) and frontman Jonsi. Jonsi has the voice of an angel, connecting with unreal piercing high notes. Sigur Ros’s set list is written like most of their songs. They start out with more ambient and beautiful hits and as the show progresses they rock out harder with extended jams and increasingly dark themes. By the time they played their final song of the night, Jonsi was screaming into the mic as a complete barrage of sound exploded around him. Every single person on stage pushed the limits of what should be considered the ultimate climax. Sigur Ros writes songs as if they are a classical orchestra, yet they use the powers of rock to bring it to a transcendent level.