A very special festival tour diary from Oakland’s The Heavenly States
If only we could’ve tagged along for the ride. Oakland’s Heavenly States were invited to perform at this past Memorial Day’s Sasquatch! Music Festival along the scenic Columbia Gorge in Washington state. The band was in impressive company, playing a three-day event that included everyone from R.E.M. and M.I.A. to the Cure, the Flaming Lips, and Death Cab for Cutie. But since we were priced out of hitting the road as Heavenly stalkers, we asked the band to record their thoughts and digital images for us to post for everyone else who missed this big event. After you read their tour diary, you can welcome the Heavenly States home when they perform at Bottom of the Hill this Saturday, May 31. – Jennifer Maerz
After agreeing to share our impressions of what it’s like to play the Sasquatch festival, we realized the first challenge would be to get there early enough to partake of said festival. Normally in such situations a band like ours -- with no driver or bus -- arrives just in time to play the set, glad-hand other stinky under-slept road mates, chow down, and take off for the next gig. Of course this is no way to live. However, true participation and documentation meant leaving our gig in Missoula, Montana the night before at 2:30 a.m. just when the party was getting started, catching 2 ½ hrs sleep, and then hitting the road before sunrise for George, Washington, a six hour drive with trailer. The burden of this tremendous journalistic responsibility was richly rewarded. After picking up some friends at the main campsite, we were greeted by cheery Sasquatch gate attendants (pictured above) who distracted us from the gastric convulsions we were experiencing due to tour-gut.
Registration complete. We headed over to the Wookie stage, the mid-sized bowl of porridge between the enormous main Gorge Amphitheater and the smaller Yeti stage, where found a grassy spot near the frog pond, and hit the honey pots with time to kill. The lineup for our stage was super sweet so we decided we’d be spending most of our time there: Morning Benders, What Made Milwaukee Famous, The Heavenly States, White Rabbits, Rogue Wave, Mates of State, The Kooks, and Steve Malkmus and the Jicks.
Above and below: view from the loading area of the Wookie stage looking out to the crowd.
We checked in with the Wookie stage manager and crew, many of whom were from Montana. These guys are mostly musicians themselves who have traveled extensively and seen it all, and it cannot be stressed enough what a great job they do. Ryan, a stagehand from Missoula, told me about the painting onstage at the Badlander where we had a great show the night before. Anyway, these guys really take the edge off -- the edge from all your bad decisions of the last few nights, the too muchness and not-enoughness as pertains to whisky, greasy food and sleep. When it’s your time to play, 10 crew members swoop in and whisk your gear onstage while you set up and sort things out with the head engineer for a quick line check. It feels like it can’t possibly work out but it does. Then all you have to do is walk the plank and have a great time up there, which we surely did.
There were people boy, there were people! During the set, Ted got a wild hare and called up Gram from Rogue Wave to play some tambourine on “Lost in the Light.” Here’s Gram getting a pre-show haircut:
After five days of long western drives through some of the craziest weather any of us have ever seen in years of touring, ‘twas adrenaline and nicotine that saw us through. After the set we hung out with some friends from Oakland, Seattle, New York, and Portland. Our favorite Heeb was there, Josh from Heeb magazine (below right). We decided to head down to the main stage and get some grub.
Here’s a view of the spectacular main stage set at the edge of the Columbia River Gorge:
The festival grounds were well laid out from gate to gorge, with the special Flaming Lips film tent, the new comedy tent, food, and music stages all within easy reach for the stupefied, the sun-stroked, and the stunted.
(Double-dutching by the Ice Cream Man’s truck on the backstage grounds.)
If you want to really see the gorge, just go. Our cameras cannot capture the sensation of flying you get when you step to its edge. What we were able to capture after much struggle was what may be the most exciting photos of Sasquatch in recent years. We showed the pictures to an expert who has claimed the subject is not the famed yeti, but Steve Malkmus. However this did nothing to mitigate our excitement. Sasquatch or Malkmus, we caught him in the dining quarters and believe he may have flown in on the Lips’ saucer before daybreak and scaled the gorge cliffs to get to the poppyseed cake. The photographic conditions were difficult, and the subject was hidden behind a companion yeti, we believe.
Knowing that the subject would be sensitive to sudden flashes of light, we were unable to capture a well-lit full frontal shot.
Here, the subject leaves the grazing and watering site. There was much danger of exposure and possible ridicule for Ted, our cameraman. We did notice that the subject appears to have lost some weight since the nineties. As far as we’re concerned, the Sasquatch – festival, yeti, and/or Malkmus, reign on.