Story and photos by Nick Diamond, Explorebigsky.com Contributor
QUINCY, Wash. – Every year over Memorial Day weekend Americans flee their respective cities and head for the country: They break out their hiking boots and scamper up rocky, mountain trails; fill their trailer tires so they can launch that ski boat for the first time this year; or reluctantly cram the kids into the hybrid and drive eight hours to spend time with the in-laws.
Whatever your poison, there’s always a back-to-the-wild type calling on those extended weekends, something nostalgic about turning off your cell phone and kicking off summer without waiting for the spectacular 4th of July fireworks.
Being Canadian, my May long weekend (Victoria Day) occurs a week before Memorial Day, and the last few years I’ve made the 500 mile trip south to arguably the beautiful musical venue on earth for Sasquatch! Music Festival. Set high above the Columbia Gorge, just 10 miles northeast of Quincy, Wash., The Gorge Amphitheater’s 20,000-seat, grassy main stage has played host to the likes of Tom Petty, Coldplay, David Bowie, Ben Harper, Foo Fighters and Journey.
So, I loaded up my 1991 Winnebago Itasca RV at my home in Nelson, British Columbia and drove west, passing through Salmon Arm and on down to Vancouver. There, I gathered a few friends and began heading south. From Seattle we traversed the spectacular Cascade Highway east, and after 900 miles, one new set of tires from Big-O in Issaquah, a grocery pit stop at the Tacoma Boys H&L Produce, and four thirsty petrol fill ups, we finally arrived at the Gorge just in time for Saturday night.
Emily Haines, and her high-energy indie rock band, Metric, with their new wave electro synth style kick started an amazing weekend. The Shins and St. Vincent were next, and mega-star Jack White (yes that’s the uber-talented half of the now disbanded White Stripes) rounded out the night.
Surviving on three hours of sleep I trudged, zombie like, away from the festival and back toward the RV, but was summoned into the high energy, glow stick riddled, DJ “Banana Shack.” Hordes of scantily clad youth waved their hands in the air to the epic buildups of DJ Joey Youngman’s (stage name Wolfgang Gartner) adrenaline inducing beats drops. Two sweaty hours later I finally called it quits.
Sunday began slowly, with the hilarious comedy of Todd Barry, continued with Philadelphia based folk-rock band, The War on Drugs, followed by Canadian’s six-piece rock group Hey Rosetta!. As the sun started its descent, we were treated to American indie rock band, The Walkmen, and then worldly sounds of Santa Fe’s Beirut.
As the sun cast long shadows behind the Sasquatch main stage, folk artist Justin Vernon played with his Grammy Award winning indie band Bon Iver. Then it was night, and millions of stars shone above, visible only because we were miles from city lights. I concluded the night dancing until midnight with 5,000 neon-glow-stick-wearing others to the UK-based DJ, FEED ME (with TEETH!) in front of his 25-foot wide grinning set of electronic pearly whites.
Our group had made the tough decision early on to skip Friday’s shows and instead left a little in the tank for Monday’s star studded lineup, which included the only unsigned band to hit the cover of Rolling Stone, The Sheepdogs; the powerful voice of Canadian artist Feist; Los Angeles’s renowned rock group, Silversun Pickups; the ever entertaining and pretentious Jack Black with his band Tenacious D, and world class DJs, Nero, Felix Cartel, and LA Roits. The sway vote in our decision was the fact that closing out this year’s festival was the four time platinum artist BECK, and he didn’t disappoint.
Whatever your music flavor may be Sasquatch can feed your hunger. Pack the car, rally the troops and head west, north, east, or in my case… south. See you all there in 2013.
Born and raised on the north shore of Kootenay Lake, just outside of Nelson, British Columbia, Nick Diamond’s obsession with photography began at age 10. Now 27, his repertoire includes scenics, portraits, weddings and the high paced world of sports photography. nickdiamondphotography.ca