I’ve been quite remiss in posting this past week, but those of you who follow me on social media know why: I was at the Sasquatch! music festival at The Gorge Amphitheater in Quincy, Washington.
I attended Coachella in 2010 (headliners: Jay-Z, Muse, Gorillaz). My experience there was far from stellar, so much so that I vowed that it would be my last – unless another festival had an awesome line-up. I was getting too old to sleep in a tent just so I could spend several days surrounded by 75,000 screaming, shroomed-out, inconsiderate college kids.
Fast forward to February 2013, when Sasquatch! published its shortlist. Despite all of my fears of a repeat of baking in the California desert – and this festival’s length being four days instead of three – I made up my mind within 30 seconds.
I regret nothing. Let me break it down for you.
Coachella is, simply put, a giant bro-fest. Busloads of tank-top-wearing, sideways-pink-trucker-cap-sporting frat pledges rolled up to the Indio Polo Grounds, hoping a spot of rain might turn the desert into the world’s largest mud-wrestling competition.
Yes, those types roamed the fields of Washington, but in much smaller numbers. (The official poster says: “Meet tons of wild, awesome people – and, a couple of bros you just as soon forget.”)
In fact, we were probably outnumbered by our friendly neighbors to the north. At one point I wondered if Canada were using this festival as an opportunity to place ground troops for an invasion. (No, I was not on any illicit substances.)
You know you’re among fascinating people when you see a girl in the front row reading Lolita before rocking out to Holy Ghost!.
Inland California in April is oppressive. Triple-digit temperatures made tents uninhabitable after 7:00 a.m. The trampled earth turned dusty; I had to go to a medical tent because I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
Central Washington in May, on the other hand, is perfect. The highs were in the low 70s each day, with puffy clouds filling the sky. The drizzle on Friday and Monday was refreshing.
We were treated to spectacular sunsets on four of our five days. Here’s what greeted us as we set up our tents on Thursday evening.
People are friendly in the Pacific Northwest. My bus driver when I first arrived in Portland asked me how my day was, and we had a nice conversation. It’s a refreshing change from New York.
That courtesy extended to ensuring everyone had a great time. Security was firm, but personable. Guest services offered to charge my phone. Even the guys cleaning the Honey Buckets (what a name for a port-a-potty!) were chatty.
The crowd-management officer on the right gave out several high-fives and took pictures for fans – when he wasn’t pulling crowd-surfers to safety during Tame Impala.
You can view Coachella either as a tightly-regulated ship or as a rip-off. Security combs through your car before you may enter the campground; you can’t bring any food into the concert area; if you want water, you have to purchase a special bottle for $8 then wait in line.
Sasquatch! is much more liberal. Bring in a backpack! Fill it with food! Replenish your water supply at will! Sure, people were sneaking in weed and alcohol left and right, but this is Washington.
If security did find a beer in your secret backpack compartment, they threw it out, smiled at you, and wished you a good time.
Death Valley or The Gorge? You decide.
If that doesn’t convince you, check out the view at sunset on Sunday. Click for the full-sized image.
After two days at Coachella, I was relieved only one remained. After three days at Sasquatch!, I was sad it was ending so soon.
If there’s a next time, I’ll do a few things differently – maybe splurge for a Premium campsite to avoid the mile-long walk between tent and music, and maybe even go for the “Superticket” upgrade.
And there probably will be a next time. Sasquatch! made me a believer again.