As we drove away from our loyal campsite and back onto the cross-state highway, my last glimpse of the Gorge reminded me of Sasquatch’s isolation. Surrounded by the Columbia River, amongst wine fields and thousands of untapped acres, exists an annual festival bringing together music fans of all walks of life.

From the endless Canadians taking the weekend off to head south, to the Midwesterners travelling multiple states only to reach the nearest major summer festival, to the local Washingtonians road tripping to the other side of the mountains in their Subaru Outbacks, the long journey creates an atmosphere of collective celebration.

Since 2011 represents my first (and hopefully not last) year as a member of the press for Sasquatch, my experience naturally differed from years in the past. Re-entry, free snacks and Red Bull, no lines, and the opportunity to mull around in the photo pit for the first three songs of most acts, all culminated in a strong feeling of gratitude for such an amazing privilege.

Most of the journalists and photographers seemed to have business on their minds, thinking only about how to capture every little incident just right, so that maybe they could have something to attach to their portfolio to help snag the next gig on the ladder to Rolling Stone. But Matt (friend, photographer) and I saw things differently; we approached Sasquatch the way it deserved: as fans.

Not much could have been altered to make me more content with my Sasquatch adventure ” and that’s the sign of a festival that is doing something right. The lineup is not composed of aging rock stars and Teen Choice Awards winners. Instead, Sasquatch boasts local artists, cult legends from the 90’s, and groups worth a listen because of their music, not their publicists.

When I break down my favourite acts of the weekend, they all fit within the latter category, probably the highlight of the entire festival, put on a performance I won’t forget next time they swing through town. Washed Out, Gold Panda, and Flying Lotus all put on inspiring shows in the dance tent, formally known as the Banana Shack. And Aloe Blacc, along with Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, whipped out high energy, attention-commanding old-school soul revues. If any of those names are new to you, I highly recommend you give them a listen” or better yet, attend one of their shows.

Oddest of all, the three groups that I felt left the most to be desired had the fest’s most fervent fans. Hundreds of cars made the trek to the Gorge only to witness Sasquatch’s closing-night headliner, Wilco, and when Jeff Tweedy took the stage, all the fans looked like the kids from Jesus Camp. Same with Trailer Park Boys ” the crowd was yelling in adoration so loudly that all the members’ banter was nearly inaudible. And Guided by Voices came off poorly from up on the nearly empty hill overlooking the main stage, but apparently were amazing when wedged between the diehards in the pit.

But those three just go to show the inherent subjectivity of music. And really, three unexceptional performances out of the roughly one hundred or so that I could choose between are not bad odds.

Sasquatch offers such a diverse selection of talent in the unrivaled king of festival venues, that I cannot imagine any attendees walking away unsatisfied. I caught more than a handful of memorable shows, spent solid time with good company, and got a tank-top sunburn in the process; all of which are must-haves at any festival worth its salt” and I fully expect all the same next year.

See more photos by Matt Shanafelt from Sasquatch! 2011 via facebook.

Upon arrival, the first thing that caught our eyes at Sasquatch 2011 were the endless Vancouver Canucks flags. After entering the grounds, things were not much different with hundreds of jerseys worn in support of the squad representing Canada in the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals.

During the set of the Trailer Park Boys, a Canadian comedy troupe, chants of “CA-NA-DA” came and went. The group played off the homegrown fans and riffed on Canadian currency and the fitting gag from their show of “Sam-sqatch.”

Unfortunately, the set felt a bit forced and the mics were too quiet, so very few of the jokes actually landed. The audience didn’t seem to mind, though—they were just content to be in the presence of the idols they had come to love.

“I can’t believe it, fuckin’ Ricky and Julian are right there! Where’s Bubbles? This is the greatest moment of my life!” Those were the words of a Sasquatch-tripper right behind us, who seemed on the verge of tears for most of the set.

Really, that fan represented the atmosphere of Sasquatch this year: amazing. Everyone has been relaxed, elated, and completely in sync with the performers.

They showed their appreciation with screams and sing-a-longs to the first artist we caught, Aloe Blacc. His band was over fifteen minutes late and he was another ten after them, but when he skyrocketed from backstage, adorned in a purple button down, vest, and fedora, the energy soared.

Aloe jumped right into the vocals and dancing, greeting the crowd with the cheer-worthy message of, “My name is Aloe Blacc and I’m here to sing some soul music.”

His aura was undeniable and the crowd loved it, but nothing could compare to my personal highlight of the day, Washed Out.

Led by Ernest Greene, who I have an interview tentatively planned with, Washed Out breezed through a set of layered synths and bass riffs. Playing in the tent designated for electronic artists, they deserve respect for utilizing a full band amongst a series of keyboard-only DJs.

Washed Out unveiled a new song, taking its live v-card for Sasquatch and opening up a new emotional dynamic to their music. They successfully walked the rarely attempted tightrope of simultaneous emotions and danceable beats. Not to mention, the strangest group of musicians I’ve seen in a while (see: pictures).

I packed it in early, still adjusting to the switch from London to Northwest time, but according to the people I spoke with about Bassnectar’s late night set, he phoned it in with a mediocre DJ set and easy drops, making me thankful to have not deprived myself of much-needed sleep.

Looking back, it was a fantastic day with a perfect audience. Everyone is friendly and open to each other, because they know that anyone with the know-of-all to attend Sasquatch is probably someone worthwhile to get acquainted with. Well, then again, maybe its just because they’re all Canadian.

Washed Out – “Eyes Be Closed” by Stereo/Pirate

See more photos by Matt Shanafelt from Sasquatch! 2011 via facebook.