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Sasquatch Festival Coverage 2014: Day 2

“Hey I think you left your panties on the road there..” Bobcat said with a sly grin, pointing at the pair of abandoned undergarments trampled on the pathway. We pulled the joke on four separate groups of strangers as they passed, each one displaying low degrees of reception, unsure how to react to early morning shenanigans when they were zero beers deep. Premier camping turned out to be a pretty unelaborate lie, there were very little concrete benefits to shelling out an extra $200 bucks for a campsite; the free showers were laughable, out of order the first day and only half functional the second (most of the showers were cold water only), Cody described them best:

“If you were to hold the shower head directly in front of your face the water would fall before it hit you”

It seemed the only benefit was the shuttle service to and from the festival grounds, which became an extremely invaluable resource when faced with the exhausting walk to the gates. But there was still a major drawback, you had to ditch your liquor before you got on the bus, as opposed to enjoying a few beer on the walk. The modest line to pile on the shuttle often erupted into a chug-fest, the unlucky soul still sporting a full beer by the time the bus arrived would be sentenced to slam it as fifteen strangers exuberantly chanted “CHUG CHUG CHUG”. As a twisted metaphor for modern societal class differences, a tall fence with guarded entrances kept the premier campers from the general rif-raf, but our dear friend Emyn always snuck in regardless. It seemed like some sort Orwellian internment camp, and I started to wonder if we paid $200 bucks for the rather ‘lavish’ comforts of a fence. But we began to justify it in other ways: “I just like the atmosphere here it’s more.. mature” “Everyone in premier camping is just more, chill”, and whether or not these sentiments were valid didn’t seem to matter as long as we thought they were. Undoubtedly, we were the upper class.

Or rather, the middle class. Since terrace parking still existed for the upper middle classfolk (all 50 of them), and Gold parking for the hoightiest of toighties. The only real advantage being slightly closer proximity, and of course the all-American feeling of being “better” than others. I was reminded of our ‘Platinum Ticket’ purchase last year, where the four of us doled out double the cash for regular admission and received absolutely zero benefits whatsoever. Price gouging had become a common theme at Sasquatch, from the 13 dollar beers to the various tickets and campsites created to take complete advantage of those willing and foolish enough to pay, it’s no surprise they tried to stretch the festival to a second weekend… and quite relieving that they failed miserably.

It should be noted, however, that scalpers were extremely rare this year as opposed to last. Utilizing a four-ticket-per-purchase method as well as online registration, the staff were able to curb the problematic issue of ticket resales, and the system ran quite smoothly as a result. The festival itself should never be about the bottom line, shady camping deals or not, we were there for the elite musical talent. But with one less day of music, it was more important than ever to get to the grounds early and soak in the sounds. First on the docket were the critically acclaimed indie-folk Canadians, Half Moon Run.

Half Moon Run – 21 Gun Salute

It’d been a few years since the trio released their first album, ‘Dark Eyes’, but their sound was fresh and welcome in the beaming afternoon sun. The harmonious vocal melodies reminded me immediately of west-coasters and festival favorites the Local Natives, but there was a deeper more genuine element to their music that had me swaying. Perhaps it was the Canadian flavor, that unmistakable drip of maple-syrup saturated sweetness, Half Moon Run struck an impressive chord. I ducked out the press pit and drank in the end of the set from the back end of the crowd.

Half Moon Run – Call Me in the Afternoon

After raiding the press tent for snacks and garnering the usual forlorn looks of concern from the conservatively dressed dorks buried in camera equipment, I rushed off to the main stage to meet up with the group and snag some prime real estate on the hill. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the beauty of the Gorge could only be rivaled by the breathtaking brilliance of Swedish songstresses, First Aid Kit.

First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining

Mirroring our afternoon on the hill with The Tallest Man on Earth last year, First Aid Kit played host to one of the more serene and beautiful sets of the festival. With homages to Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and nods to country legends like Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash, the Swedish sisters left us in a state of awe. The scene couldn’t be sweeter; we were all reunited, sufficiently stoned and satiated from the festival eats, soaked in beautiful music and good vibrations.

There were a few pleasant surprises during the set, amidst favorites “Wolf” and “Emmylou”, First Aid Kit played an emotional rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘America’, much to the delight of our friend Jasmine, who teared up as she told us it was her ‘favorite song of all time’ being played by her favorite band. There were smiles all around, certainly aided by the treasure chest of drugs one of our compatriots randomly found on the ground, and we all left in the highest of spirits as we dipped back to camp to get our drink on.

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Shotgunning on the RV rooftop was on the regular; it seemed the most appropriate place to binge, but without a ladder we were forced to climb up rather awkwardly through the back bedroom window. It was a slightly arduous process but worth the result, the view on top was magnificent, and garnered the envy of every ground-bound tent dweller within eyeshot. We had a full schedule for the evening. Washed Out, Hemsworth, Chet Faker, Tyler and finally The National. The excitement was palpable, tonight was going to get wild.

There exists no recent album more festival appropriate than Washed Out’s ‘Paracosm’, and the atmosphere was dreamlike as Ernest Greene and company began their sunset set. Only two months prior I managed to catch Washed Out close out SXSW in a sweaty cramped concrete shoebox at the stroke of midnight. But with the beautiful open air and the sun beginning to crest behind the Gorge, the scene couldn’t be anymore opposite.

Washed Out – It All Feels Right

It was a bit of a mystery to me how Washed Out would manage a live show prior to SXSW. For the most part, Ernest Greene’s music seemed reserved for the bedroom loner, or perhaps the faint noise you hear from the headphones of a late night transit ride. Washed Out live was the exact opposite. Bursting with energy, exuberant and emphatic, Greene ran rampant over his acoustic guitar before turning to the tables and hitting the keys. It was a stellar performance once again. Reworking old gems from his early releases and weaving in hits from “Within and Without”, Greene showcased a rather impressive resume of tunes. It was sheer bliss. A floral thrill ride. And a highlight in an already incredible weekend.

Washed Out – Belong.

I ran over to the electronic tent to catch the back half of Ryan Hemsworth. The set was in full swing and so was the crowd, droves of wide-eyed fans were just beginning to hit their peak as Ryan rather calmly pumped out remixes behind a Tetris-like wall of colorful lights. It wasn’t my scene, and with the liquor starting to fade I elected to dip out of the crowd and run to catch Cloud Control at the Yeti stage. I felt like a yo-yo, bouncing between acts, desperately snagging my shots and getting a feel for the scene.

A few hours earlier I eavesdropped on a rather awkward interview with an unknown artist. The interviewer asked terrible questions, seemingly uninterested, and as a result the artist began to ramble on about old Sega video games. “Did you ever play Doctor Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine?” I perked up. I played the game for years, and began to chuckle audibly as he described the ins and outs of Mean Bean stratagem. He was met with a yawn and a disengaged glance. It was the worst interview I’d ever witnessed, and at the time I hadn’t realized the unfortunate artist was in fact lead singer Alister Wright. His dorky charm had won me over, and their set did not disappoint.

Cloud Control – Dojo Rising

I wasn’t familiar with the music, knowing only their sonic smash ‘Dojo Rising’, but the Aussies had been ruthlessly hyped by festival promoters, and for good reason. They were this year’s answer to Tame Impala. Sexy psychedelia, drenched in reverb and fuzz, Cloud Control drew obvious comparisons to the music of the 60′s and 70′s. They were undoubtedly one of the coolest most polished bands of the entire festival, and I made note to immerse myself in their music once I got back to my homeland. After three quick songs I had to duck out early to catch fellow Aussie Chet Faker.

Chet was on his game. For an artist who had been toying with the idea of early retirement before his career really kicked off, Chet Faker looked completely in control. At first I was skeptical of his booking in the electronic tent, but after the first beat dropped it became quite obvious that this would be the performance of his life. The crowd was in synch. For those paying particularly close attention, Chet had very few sounds that were ‘automated’, or rather, he controlled each instrument manually. It was a flurry of knobs and dials, and music aside it was a thrill to watch him multitask so fluently. He was truly a master of his own sound. At one point he blended two of his hits with incredible precision, and the whole tent lost it.

Chet Faker – Blush

Rarely would one witness a security guard doing anything other than looking miserable. But by measure of a good show, when Chet played his debut rendition of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’, every single guard was bobbing their heads and mouthing the lyrics. We were all children of the 90′s, it seemed, and for a few beautiful moments I felt the true soul of Sasquatch. The comradery, mutual respect and love that binds us, and our devoted appreciation for excellent music. It was all there. Someone nearby suddenly gasped and pointed backwards, and in the twilight the sky had turned the most beautiful shade of green. There was an energy within that tent, the unwavering feeling that we were all supposed to be there, and we were all connected.

Chet Faker – Gold

It was difficult to step into the ‘real world’ after his performance, and we had little time to adjust as we ran to catch the start of Tyler The Creator. The press pit was a jungle. Everyone was patiently waiting for that first glimpse, and Tyler made us wait. His DJ played some crowd favorites to pump everyone up, DMX’s ‘Up in Here’ being the highlight, and after fifteen minutes of crouching and exchanging awkward but knowing glances, the photographers shot up out of the grass and Tyler was met with a roar from the crowd.

The next few songs were a violent blur, I couldn’t quite make out who his stage partners were, but the three of them were bouncing all over the stage. The crowd had grown raucous, shifting fifteen feet in one direction only to be shoved back the other way. It was completely out of control. The ever-resourceful Mark would later tell me that after his glasses got knocked off his face for the second time, he knew he’d have to get the fuck out of there. What were the chances that he’d catch them mid-air three times in a row? But it wasn’t as simple as backing out. There’s only one way out of a crowd of that ferocious magnitude, and that was up. Mark crowd surfed out, and we met shortly after the three-song press limit and Tyler saying “Goodbye photo people” to the vacating photographers. It was hard to be a journalist in something so dangerous, and I had very little knowledge of the music that was actually played. The crowd was in a violent frenzy. We elected to dip out and head to a much more relaxed venue, the main stage for The National.

The National had recently garnered mainstream attention after a critically acclaimed album release and a series of television appearances. I remembered seeing Lena Dunham and her awkward talk-heavy skits on SNL being appropriately interrupted by raw, emotional songs from The National a few months prior. At age 43, Matt Berninger looked positively grandfatherly, which was appropriate considering his band had been long heralded as bearers of the ‘Dad Rock’ banner. Any alcohol I may have ingested had completely faded from the pure adrenaline of the Tyler concert, and I caught the first few songs from albums ‘High Violet’ and ‘Boxer’ stone-cold sober. That was until the most serene hippie slash babe lit up a baseball bat sized joint behind me, with every intent on sharing. After only a few minutes I was wide eyed and thirsty to the point of emergency. I couldn’t keep my eyes off The National.

The National – Graceless

It was, undoubtedly, the most emotional performance I had ever seen. Berninger paraded around the stage, slowly mounting his anger and antagonizing his bandmates. At one point he stood infront of his drummer screaming and waving his arms, desperately trying to throw off the focus and make him skip a beat to no avail. ‘Squalor Victoria’ reached boiling point, and soon after Berninger walked to the very edge of the stage a good thirty feet from the rest of his band to sing a song and wallow in self pity in a corner. While he threw a temper tantrum in the background, the Dessner brothers would walk to the front of the stage and deliver heavy, well-crafted guitar solos. Berninger was an emotional rollercoaster of angst and sadness. Their most recent album ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ was full of relationship-heavy misery ballads, and I found myself becoming completely overwhelmed by emotion. I stood there in deep reflection of my own life while songs like ‘I Should Live in Salt’ and ‘Hard to Find’ tore me to pieces. It was too much to handle, and I had to leave the crowd on the verge of tears.

The National – I Should Live In Salt

The National – I Need My Girl

Jackie and I watched the rest of the show from the distance. Huddled for warmth and emotional support, the scene was magnificent to witness. The massive crowd, the Gorge playing host, and the brilliant lights and sounds. Undeniably a human experience that bore no comparison. The desire to reunite with our compatriots had grown quite strong. We hadn’t seen Bobby, Joelle, Jasmine or Macklemost himself (Cody) in hours, so we elected to trudge back to camp and see if they’d made it home. I stopped by Cut Copy briefly to snag some rather disinterested photos, but my emotions were still elsewhere. The National had put me in a hypnotic self-reflective trance, and I was already dreaming before I went to sleep.

Sasquatch 2014 Festival Review: Day One

“What in the hell happened last night?”

My head was cleaved in two, and the fleeting memories of the night before were barely cohesive. A technicolor blur, short bursts of light and flashes of foreign faces; a musclebound roid-head with a genuine smile rolled about in a wheelchair, I remember lighting a small hot air balloon on fire, playing flippy-cup with Shannon and a batch of complete strangers, the epic RV cock-block on Bobcat… the bite-size tidbit memories were a-plenty, but it was nigh impossible to draw up a timeline of events. I must’ve met a couple hundred people. Such is the case on the first night of Sasquatch, the chaos takes over the moment the sun comes down, the walk of shame is multiplied by a few thousand, especially for those unfortunate enough to forget where they camped in the first place.

Fortunately the schedule granted us a lengthy recovery period, and the afternoon was spent piecing together the disjointed random events of the evening prior. Bobcat and I elected to work off some of the liquor with a multipurpose walk to the grounds; I’d snag my press pass and a coffee and we’d scope out the scenes of destruction across the campsite. Unfortunately our hike was for naught; the press passes weren’t available for another hour or so (the atypical oblivious volunteer sort of shrugged and tossed out a random guess), and the coffeeshop was out of sugar. After I plugged the old pun “I’m sweet enough as is”, we randomly bumped into David Greenwald of Rawkblog and The Oregonian. He was a welcome familiar face in a sea of lunacy, and the presence of an actual professional was quite reassuring in contrast to the drug-rattled mania. It was his first year at the Gorge, and he told us he was camping with the general admission, affectionately referred to as ‘District 9′. I felt a strong twinge of sympathy; David was a seasoned vet of music fests and journalism in general, but very little could prepare the even the saltiest of correspondents for the sheer weirdness of the Gorge. We shook hands and Bobcat and I made our way back to the campsite…

Rattlesnakes were common to the area; the Gorge itself was quite desert-like in vegetation and scenery, and although the initial shock of seeing a potentially deadly animal was quite a jolt to the small crowd, the actual threat was quite miniscule. Of course, considering the fact that over 70% of rattlesnake victims are drunken males, the danger seemed more palpable in the late hours when thousands of inebriated youth stumble to-and-fro up the very same path. We exchanged a few “Holy fucks” with the rest of the onlookers and made our way back to ground zero to refuel on food and booze.

Chance the Rapper was the first big name on the docket, and the absolutely massive sea of attendees left the MC in a state of awe-inspired appreciation. His stage presence was absolutely electric; spraying the crowd with a bottle of water (and subsequently apologizing to the security staff he drenched) while bashfully quipping how we were “the biggest crowd” he’s ever drawn. It wasn’t just a ploy to win us over, the crowd was monumental, stretching far beyond the physical limits of the Bigfoot stage and encroaching upon the surrounding neutral boundaries usually reserved for the burnt out and hopelessly drunk hot messes.

Chance The Rapper – Cocoa Butter Kisses (ft. Vic Mensa & Twista)

The press pit was absolutely abuzz, khaki’d dorks jostled for position with flowery hipster-femme photogs, every last camera drinking in the pure plasmatic and palpable energy of Chance’s performance. He blasted through a handful of old favorites from his 2013 debut release ‘Acid Rap’, and gained mad cultural clout for his unexpected cover of the theme song from 90′s cartoon Arthur. For the thirty or forty people who actually recognized what he was singing, it was surely a very special moment, but even for those who either never saw the show or were simply too far rattled in the late afternoon to be effectively coherent, Chance had the crowd swaying on a string, and set the bar sky-high for the rest of the festival.

Chance The Rapper – Everybody’s Something (ft. Saba & BJ The Chicago Kid)

I never wanted to become jaded. A lot of my fellow press members were hard to please; they’d seen it all before. After years of covering emerging superstars and buzz-bands alike, the prospect of being inches away from internet sensations was old hat. To me, the thrill never gets old, from my first press pass at the Calgary Folk Fest to the absolutely overwhelming intimacy of SXSW, the awestruck emotions always seem to strike me at the most poignant moments. Shooting pictures while literally standing at Chance’s shoes was one such moment, and in the midst of the all-enveloping sensory overload that is a festival press pit, I froze a singular moment in my memory. With raised eyebrows and my mouth agape, all I could think was, “This is the fucking coolest thing ever”…

One of the most glaring issues with the festival was the inability to stay within the grounds unless you had a hefty bankroll to quench your necessary bodily functions. Food options were plentiful, undoubtedly, but the price points were monumental and the cost of eating and getting sufficiently drunk enough to tolerate the festival ran over $70 dollars daily. It was a steep price to pay, and very few except the California trust-funders were willing to stay on the grounds and catch all the shows. Over the course of each day we would find ourselves refueling around 6:00 PM, unfortunately missing a few good shows in order to keep the juices flowing well into the evening. The major delay wasn’t from the twenty minute walk back to the campsites, but rather the senselessly monstrous line created by the rather pointless bagcheck before admission. Wait times were up to 30 minutes, all to satisfy whatever bureaucratic red-tape that kept attendees from bringing in their own beverages and liquor. The annual horror stories soon followed “They made me chuck my fucking unopened Red Bull!” “Dude said my umbrella was ‘too big’” etc., but for those fortunate enough to have a press pass, there was no line whatsoever and a very minimal bag check.

Smuggling methods were quite simple and the same as the previous year. Need your drugs and alcohol inside the grounds? Simple. Shove it in your crotch. Voila! Even the press had their own unique methods of smuggling; one beefy fellow from Seattle revealed all his stashed alcohol inside the battery storage areas of his many cameras. The bag check served no purpose other than ruining the days of those too stupid to hide their booze or those showing particularly bulbous crotches, and whatever show you may have been rushing to see would surely be over by the time you finally made it through the gates. Yet it was a necessary evil we all accepted as reality, for whatever reason, be it the insurance companies surely involved, the beer sponsors charging an outrageous $13 for a tall-boy, or whatever archaic and unrealistic Gorge bylaw, the admission line-up was a stain on the festival that nobody even suggested needing a wash.

We had a steady buzz by the time Phosphorescent started fiddling with his pedals, and unlike this time last year (a storm started rolling behind frigid winds during the Japandroids set) the sun was high and hot in sky. Fresh off the glowering success of his 2013 album ‘Muchacho’, Matthew Houck rolled through a series of sleepy afternoon blues-folk ballads, humming howling and hoo-ing with a whining twang like the country stars of old. It was a set perhaps better suited for the lazy drôle of the late afternoon mainstage, but mounting instrumental solos and crashing climaxes kept the crowd coherent. It was a bit overwhelming with the size of the standing audience and the general fervor of the crowd as the booze train began to roll, an obvious shame the organizers didn’t swap stages with The Naked and the Famous, as both bands would’ve been better suited to opposite stages.

Phosphorescent – The Quotidian Beasts

Such was the reaction you might expect from a man who has quietly released over a half-dozen albums in a decade, the majority of the crowd seemed sedated, but there were certainly a few people having some very profound musical epiphanies, as is the case when you pair introspective metaphor-satured folk-rock with copious amounts of drugs, alcohol and sunshine. To me, the set seemed best suited to a cigarette, a glass of whiskey and a few ounces of liquid loneliness, but it was a privilege to witness such a talented act regardless of the circumstance.

Phosphorescent – Ride On/Right On

I ducked out of the set with enough time to raid the complimentary cheese plate restricted for the press. Each day they provided us with a small array of delicious and nutritious snacks (as well as an unlimited supply of bottled water). Considering the proximity of the press building to several of the big stages, having access was undoubtedly the greatest benefit of scoring a pass. It was a small, air-conditioned oasis from the madness of the crowd, and although the press themselves plotted steep points on the anti-social spectrum, it was still a great space to catch one’s breath and psyche up for the next adventure. Phantogram was next, a band I had successfully managed to miss on six separate occasions, but this time I had a belly full of cheese and pretzels and a half-flask of Wild Turkey.

It was at this very point as I hopelessly adjusted my camera’s menu options that something went terrible awry. Although I wouldn’t discover the malfunction until 600 miles and five days later, something went haywire with my memory stick, and every photo I took between the start of Phantogram and first set of the last day mysteriously evaporated. 12 out of 24 bands witnessed were completely gone, aside from any photos I had taken with my iPhone, and the loss still resonates harshly in my coverage as well as my experience of the festival

Perhaps the busiest band in alt-electro, Phantogram had been touring solidly for as long as I could remember, hitting every festival and every venue humanly possible. Despite their saturated schedule, Sarah and Josh looked fresh as daisies, and proceeded to absolutely slay the Bigfoot stage and bring the crowd to a raucous frenzy. They had a number of festival-ready smashers off their latest release ‘Voices’, and it was an absolute treat to witness a band I had been religiously listening to for over five years. It’s difficult to narrow down their sound, somewhere between the oft-seen male/female electro coupling and hard-hitting guitar driven neo-psychedelia, Phantogram carved out a very specific sound that was completely in-tune with their set time. It was the start of the party, and the rowdiness had just begun.

Phantogram – Black Out Days

With Foster the People blaring away from the mainstage, I crept over to the Damien Jurado set to catch a few songs from his brilliant album “Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun”. Once again, it was relatively inappropriately placed on the Yeti stage, and after two decades of fantastic indie releases it seemed quite unfair to put Damien anywhere but the mainstage in the afternoon. One of the common themes of the festival was that the headliners were rather underwhelming compared with previous years (Macklemore and Mumford and Sons last year were gigantic heavyweights at the time), but with a mid-card bursting with incredibly talented musicians on the cusp of fame and notoriety, there were bound to be a few misplacements. Jurado seemingly picked up on this vibe, and rather grumpily performed a few acoustic jams before losing the interest of the crowd. Between Foster the People and Mogwai on the larger stages, as well as remix legend Classixx ripping hits for the drug-rattled molly-poppers like a giant bug zapper, there wasn’t much room for Jurado to draw an audience, and after a few sleepy jams I ran off to find the rest of the group jostling for early position to see Outkast in an hour and a half.

There were only a handful of ‘Photo’ passes handed out at this year’s Sasquatch, and I wasn’t one of the lucky ones employed by a national mag or newspaper, which meant I had zero access to the mainstage photo pit throughout the entire festival. Not one to follow the rules, I snuck in regardless, and after being spotted by a pit watchdog and booted out stage left, I slithered through the crowd and hopped back into the pit stage right. In all the confusion, darkness and noise it was exceedingly difficult for the staff to keep sneaky bastards like myself out, and although my pictures were all dark and shitty (and subsequently deleted forever) it was worth the effort just to see a world class act from only a foot away. The performance was polished, professional, and down-right entertaining, and although they had a lot of help thanks to pre-recorded vocals, Andre 3000 and Big Boi ran rampant on stage with no signs of rust. There were weird set pieces, some sort of strange holographic cube, and several strong doses of eclectic bravado from Andre in his bizarre white wig and black jumpsuit. But for those who had seen their fair share of live acts, the performance fell short on genuine emotion. Undoubtedly it was a blast to see 30,000 people ‘shaking it like a Polaroid picture’, yet when the majority of the audience were 8-year-olds when Outkast was relevant, it was hard to justify their clout as a mainstage headliner.

OutKast – So Fresh and So Clean

We danced our asses off nonetheless, and after a full day of drinking under the sun it seemed there were very few people with the energy to catch the end of Rudimental or experience the inevitable weird of Die Antwoord, I myself being one of them. Desperate to catch up with several lost members of our party, I clamored back to the campsite and shot a few forlorn looks at the Bigfoot stage where things were getting absolutely ‘feeky’.

Sasquatch 2014: Arrival!

A white-knuckled high speed burn through the careening mountain trails was certainly bound to get the blood to boiling point. While the sun set and the darkness enveloped the area, the danger became more and more apparent as sightlines decreased dramatically. A lukewarm sweat seeped through my palms and onto the steering wheel of the behemoth 30-foot RV; my mouth hung open on high alert, ready to yell and holler at my raucous passengers at the sight of any sharp turns or worse, wildlife. I heard very little noise other than a low-pitched hum from the back of my skull, it was some sort of instinctual defense mechanism designed to block out the pure vibrating chaos taking place behind the short curtain of the drivers cockpit. Five youths, my festival compatriots and dear friends had taken to the bottle for the past few hours, and their drunken disorderly RV party had reached its peak. For a moment I pondered the strange phenomenon of drinking heavily in a moving vehicle as the forest and mountains flew past in a midnight blur. I imagined it was akin to Dorothy’s house spinning around in the tornado, except the occupants were significantly intoxicated, and although the experience seemed like a dream, we were wide awake. We certainly weren’t in Kansas anymore; the never-ending canola and wheat plains of mid-western Alberta were supplanted by the treacherous winding highways of the Rocky Mountains. The destination was Cranbrook BC, but there were several hours of road to burn and my intense concentration could break at any moment.

Hozier – Take me to Church

A large, dark mass began to take shape in the oncoming lane as I eased off the gas and held my breath. Hazard lights blinked in the distance, and the mysterious mass grew closer. For a split second, a gruesome scene materialized as the RV headlights finally caught up to sight. It was a deer, buckled over onto itself, front legs bent backwards and head hunched to the side. In that fraction of a moment I saw the blood that had showered the road, and the piercing cold glare of the fatally wounded quadruped as it stood mangled on the verge of a crippling, painful death. It was a haunting vision, a snapshot of disfigured horror and a mortifying omen. As quickly as it appeared, it was gone, and the low-pitch buzz that shielded me from the noise of the cabin evaporated. Pure adrenaline coursed through my veins as I recounted the terrifying vision to my co-pilot who couldn’t quite make out the gory details of the scene.

The highway shifted northwest, and I knew we were only a short drive from Cranbrook. The looming rocky leviathans, with all their dangers, were mostly behind us. Falling rocks, winding roads and herds of mountain goats were no longer the threat, rather a straight-shot (more or less) to our final checkpoint lie ahead, as a welcome relief. Minutes flew by, and we suddenly found ourselves in the small East Kootenay city of Cranbrook. The warm sweat had subsided, and I breathed several weighty sighs as we pulled into the parking lot of a national supermarket and shut the engine off for the evening. There were a few cold beers with our names on them, and my co-pilot and I took off our Captains hats and emerged from the cockpit into the chaos.

———————–

We wasted little time in the morning, ripping past Moyie Lake and on through to the CAN-US border. We weren’t worried about crossing; all our drugs were safely buried under a rock in Cranbrook and there wasn’t a crumb of incrimination amongst us. It was only a momentary delay before we were off like a rocket once again, making brief stops in Bonner’s Ferry and tearing through Sandpoint long enough to admire the bridge and Lake Pend Oreille.

We refueled in the beautiful and charming Coeur d’Alene, loaded up on liquor (booze taxes in Idaho are significantly lower than Washington) and ripped through Spokane on the I-90 for the final stretch to Moses Lake, just outside the Gorge. The sun was high in the sky as my co-pilot brought the ship safely up to warp speed. After a solid six hours of driving south of the border, we made the all-important pitstop at the Moses Lake Wal-mart to load up on any last minute supplies and drain our dollars into the food fund. After the 2013 debacle of being cold, wet and hungry, the seven of us spared no expense and dished out $500 American collectively to make sure we never ran out of resources. It was tedious experience, co-ordinating our efforts and braving the lengthy lines caused by our fellow festival go-ers, but it was a necessary evil, and to take out some much needed frustration we elected to mangle a watermelon in the parking lot and the men held a brief contest over who could throw a chunk of melon the furthest.

KiD CuDi – Pursuit of Happiness (Ft. MGMT & Ratatat)

And suddenly, we were off. The scene was almost identical to last year; massive clouds loomed over the Gorge while the sun shot glorious beacons of light onto the ravine. The sun then began to set behind the Columbia river as we pulled the bus into the lengthy line of vehicles eager to gain entrance to the Gorge. Windows down, we blasted music that would soon envelop the main stage, singing to passing cars while droves of envious attendees marveled at our glorious behemoth RV in all its majestic beauty. We captained the ship nearly 600 miles, and it was a very surreal moment as we arrived at the main gate to our campsite.

Hyper-reality soon turned to concentrated panic, as the premier camping wristband lady rather sternly informed us that we were limited to six people per campsite. “One of you will have to go to regular camping. Sorry.” she flat-out backhanded all of our requests, rudely dismissing our pleas for a supplemental wristband and relentlessly ignoring reason and logic. “We’re at capacity, we can’t allow anymore campers..”

“You mean to tell me that every single campsite currently has the maximum of six campers?” I argued.
“It’s not like we’re taking up more space, we’re still all sleeping in the RV” my co-pilot Cody piped up.

But she couldn’t be reasoned with. It was ridiculous to ask one of our fellow campers to ditch their home and pitch a tent somewhere with strangers back in District 9. We had all paid equal parts for the RV, and our investment was too complicated to comply with her outrageous demands. We asked if we could park in our spot in order to figure out a solution, all the while knowing we would need to come up with a quick scheme in order to circumvent the rules. We cracked a nervous beer and set up our chairs and gazebo while my co-captain Cody and our free-spirited Québécois compatriot Joelle ventured off to the gates to find our solution. The plan was simple yet daunting, they would run past every oncoming vehicle until they found a small group headed to premier camping, at this point they would hold up traffic to quickly explain our story and pray that someone would be kind enough to allow Joelle to pile into a foreign convoy and snag the final wristband for the group. The rest of us would simply have to wait, nervously unpacking and constructing the campsite.

Fortunately, as with most unnecessary conflicts caused by festival organizers, with a little ingenuity and a fistful of balls, anything can be accomplished. And within twenty minutes our brave duo returned with our final wristband and was met with a rousing roar of approval. We had made it. And it was time to get straight dicked.

The Gorge would never be the same..

Stay tuned for our full festival coverage, including music reviews/photos, pink gorilla suits, copious amounts of liquor and drugs and of course, The Naked Man.

Five days, 2000 kilometers and an ounce of brain cells later, I’ve returned from the fabled Sasquatch! Music Festival a different human being. It was my first time as an official member of the press, and my first time where I completely let loose. I was a belligerent drunken spectacle (although quite composed and never overstepping my role as a journalist… heh), and on the final evening I rocked the press pit dressed in full mermaid(man) attire, only to switch a few hours later into an obnoxious fuzzy pink gorilla suit. Needless to say, I scared the living shit out of the khaki’d press.

There were a few very sentimental moments in the mix, the most poignant of which came while watching The National. I actually had to leave the front crowd because I was overcome with emotion; I couldn’t hold back tears, and as lame as that may sound there was a genuine, physical connection between myself and the music. One song stood out in particular, and it’s been on repeat in my cranium ever since.

Stay tuned for a cavalcade of updates as yours truly; the weirdest press fucker at the entire festival, reports back on all the drugs and mayhem that were this past weekend.

  • Artist: The National
  • Track: I Should Live In Salt

  • Chilled People: 19

Lonely Boy Adventures: Volume I

Lonely Boy Adventures: Volume I

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The sun had crested at the perfect peak above the rolling hills of Western Calgary, and I had an undeniable urge to walk out the backdoor and try and catch it. I stood at the peak of broadcast hill and marveled at the distant skyscrapers; concrete behemoths in a state of constant vibration, reduced to a rocky horizon.

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As I meandered through the upper middle class suburban sprawl, I stumbled upon a beer league baseball game. Although organized sport was the center of my attention on an oft basis, I elected to watch an out-of-shape teen climb the dauntingly monumental hill I had just scaled on foot. He struggled hopelessly; at one point a car stopped and offered him a lift up the hill courtesy of their rooftop bike-rack. I immediately conjured the image of this unfortunate boy riding atop the car while simultaneously mounting his bicycle, and a wry smirk cracked my face.

There’s something very humbling about the feeling of the setting sun as it touches your skin. It’s almost primal, an instinctual pleasure and a physical manifestation of the passing of time and life itself. I sat on a park bench for a while, listening to the distant sounds of children playing in a nearby cul-de-sac.

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Where was I going? There was an elaborate pathway system carved into the vast foothills, and I smiled at an older Asian woman in her yoga pants as I slapped heavy footstep after footstep down the side of the hill-face.

The music turned, it became more sinister and ominous, and the setting couldn’t have been more appropriate. I decided to follow an uncertain path, a Frost-ian ‘Road Less Traveled’. Thorns and thistles, the spiky and sharp remnants of native wheat-like weeds jutted out like spikes from the soft land. This was a treacherous point in my adventure, and after a rather arduous careful-footed affair I found myself at the edge of a barbed wire fence. Once again I stood and pondered the curiosities of life, only this time I nearly jumped out of my skin as a large bloodhound boomed a warning call from his backyard directly behind me. It seemed the appropriate time for a hasty exit.

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The Point, in Patterson Hills.

It was the future of a residential area, a seedling of the concrete jungle that would soon engulf the hillside. For now, only a road was paved, but the dirt surrounding had been excavated, and soon an army of trucks, workers, and cement mixers would descend upon The Point and lay the foundation of a couple dozen homes. I grew up in a small town under a constant noise-umbrella of booming construction, and thus I was struck with early explorative nostalgia as I ascended the road to a gigantic dirt mound in the distance.

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I recognized the call of the red-tailed hawk as it circled over the trees in search of a late supper. The undeveloped mud-mound was completely secluded from the view of the public; an unwatched limbo where the construction behemoth had only just begun to graze. Abandoned for the time being, one singular digger stood like a silent guardian, a reminder to nature that at any given moment he might make his fatal call, a deep, earth shattering rumble, and the ground would tremble and crumble underneath his mighty appendage. The Red-tailed hawk cawed in protest as the sun began to set.

I decided to make the long walk back home. Upon returning to the road, a car screeched to a stop, and a young man leaped from the drivers seat and began to walk in my direction.

“Heyy mann” he said with a drawl. I wasn’t sure how to respond, it’s not every day you get approached by a stranger in a secluded area as the sun sets. I played it cool, sticking to ‘safe’ topics like the beautiful weather and off-handedly mentioning how he should check out the dirt hill in the distance. It was at this point that he crept forward, and with one short phrase the bubbles of primal fear were immediately quenched. “So do you blaze or..?”

We walked back up the hill, kicking dirt and toppling rocks. He was young, in his early twenties, and he had the stature of a future life-long laborer. Somebody in construction. After only a few minutes conversation I learned about his work as a framer, his feud with a Cardel Homes foreman and his dreams for life. He was a blue-collar young stoner; a thirst for alcohol and fast cars and a surface-visible insecurity and ineptitude with the opposite sex. We didn’t have much in common, aside from our love of marijuana, and luckily that was more than enough to hold an engaging conversation for nearly 45 minutes as the sun set behind the trees and mountains. He was visibly shivering as we made our way back to his parked vehicle, and I decided to take further advantage of the opportunity and score a ride up the monstrous hill I had spent the past hour descending. He wanted to build his own home, he told me, it was his dream. “I’m gonna build one right on that friggen hill man”, he said with a distant look. As we went to climb into his car, I heard the recognizable clang of metal-on-concrete under his foot. He had kicked something, and as he investigated, he held up a semi-round thin piece of tempered steel. It was an old horseshoe. “Holy shit.. that’s good luck!”

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Ben decided to keep the horseshoe.

Stay busy. That’s been the plan as of late. With Sasquatch looming a mere eight days away, the pace has quickened to an avalanche-like pace. Aside from handling the online marketing duties for my new job, I’ve been scrambling like mad to acquire everything needed for my trip. The press pass came through this year, a pleasant surprise, so my coverage has to skyrocket a few notches over the oncoming mass of drugs, booze and music.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." ~ Hunter S. Thompson

There’s only one way to truly cover the festival from an anthropological perspective, and that was to look the beast in the eye with in-depth participant observation. I’ll be driving a 30-foot RV over 900 miles into the heart of the gorge, like a guided missile bent on raising hell. Things will get weird, and I’ll somehow wind up with comprehensive coverage once the beast gets slain. I’m going to war headfirst.

Nick Leng has been smoothing out some sultry jams for nearly a year, and this time he tags up with one-hit-no-more Midnight (mdnt), the soaring vocals behind last years smash “Dreamcatcher” ft. Jez Dior. This could whet (or wet) the lions of any lady in a few mile radius. So open your windows and soak in some spring.


  • Artist: Midnight
  • Track: Adonis (Prod. by Nick Leng)

  • Chilled People: 39

It’s been a very bizarre past month for yours truly. I’ve gone from successful student with a live-in girlfriend in a beautiful condo with a steady job to a broke, single, potentially homeless unemployed hopeless wreck. In a span of three days I lost job, my girlfriend, and dealt with the tragic death of a new friend who was ruthlessly murdered in the worst mass killing in city history.

They always say that writers draw great inspiration from the struggle; it is in these difficult times that we are supposed to pour out our souls in uncontrolled outbursts of creative fervor. Like a flower blossoming from a pile of shit. Unfortunately, all I see is the pile of shit, and I haven’t found myself more creative, rather the complete opposite. I’m lethargic. Restless. And completely terrified.

I did score a job at a new restaurant in the heart of my city’s trendy uptown nightlife. But after two shifts, two tables, and a mounting list of glaring issues and oversights, I’ve got the urge to jump ship from a boat that wasn’t even floating in the first place. It’s been an absolute disaster, and really another stessor in a life that has been incessantly spiraling downward into oblivion.

I think ‘Say it Ain’t So’ is the appropriate song for my life for a number of reasons. The first of which being that twenty years ago to this day, the ‘Blue Album’ was released. It was the first album I ever owned, I was a mere four and a half years old and I put the curt 41-minute dork-rock record on constant repeat, all day long. It’s an appropriate song because, well, everything seems to be crumbling before me. I’m noticing an old pattern emerging, one that I haven’t seen in over three years, and one that has me incredibly worried about my future.

I think that’s more than enough feels for one post. Enjoy the track. And for you loyal followers, wish me luck, because despite all my emotions, it IS so.

  • Artist: Weezer
  • Track: Say It Ain't So

  • Chilled People: 39

Melancholy. Can you find happiness in sadness? I derive some sort of sadistic pleasure from my own misery, and sometimes I find myself subconsciously feeding into my sadness. I spread the seeds, rather unknowingly, but I spread them nonetheless.

This blog started out as an outlet to share music, but i’ve read through a lot of my old material and I realize a lot of feels have been planted. Looking back, I can see a whole forest of emotions, each tree a specific memory, each branch a distinct feeling.

One day, i’ll look back at the sapling I’m sprouting with these words, and i’ll see the sorrow and uncertainty. I hate to buy into the old trope, spewing feels over a love that is fading, a relationship that is coming to a mutual close, but they say you should always write from your heart and from your experience, and thus… melancholy.

This song found me at the perfect time, one of last years most highly touted singles, Londoner Khushi strike me right in the feels and puts some fertilizer on my budding sadness. This one’s on repeat by lamplight all night

  • Artist: Khushi
  • Track: Magpie

  • Chilled People: 29

Perhaps it is my unyielding love for tacos and other Mexican fare, or maybe it is my new-found passion for tequila, whatever the case may be, Cinco De Mayo is my holiday.

This afternoon while drinking a Dos Equis and eating some Mucho Burrito, a man in the restaurant won a 7-day all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico. I was only a few customers removed from winning the trip myself, but alas, I won a free Jarritos pop instead. The world is sometimes oh so cruel.

This is a song by CocoRosie that holds a special place in my heart, not for the actual song itself, but rather the very distinct memory attached to it. A bottle of wine. An unfinished script. And two people on a loveseat. I dare not say more, but it was three years ago today, and every 5th of May my mind still wonders to that evening, as unassuming as it seemed to be at the time.

But this is not a day for envy or sadness! It’s Cinco De Mayo! So I hope, wherever you are, you drink a shot of tequila and rejoice!

  • Artist: CocoRosie
  • Track: Lemonade

  • Chilled People: 73

Future Islands was the biggest buzz band of SXSW, and I must admit at first I was quite skeptical of their sound. But a couple weeks ago I haphazardly “Hearted” a song on Hype, only discover later that yes, it was a Future Islands song, and yes, it was fantastic.

They’re pretty unique, to be honest, and although I never caught them live at the 10 or so shows they played in Austin, I heard from a number of industry cats that lead singer Samuel T. Herring is an absolutely maniac onstage.

Sonically, he kind of reminds me of Elton John, if Elton John did synth-pop. As a band they’ve been around for 8 years and nobody seemed to notice, but earlier this year they were swept up by the indie label 4AD (of The National, Grimes, Twin Shadow fame) and have since released their first big album, “Singles”, to pretty rave reviews.

But anywho, this is a song I like. I hope you like it too

  • Artist: Future Islands
  • Track: Seasons (Waiting On You)

  • Chilled People: 49

Makeover makeover!

I’ve given Beach Fuzz another facelift, which was long overdue considering the rather broken assortment of cobbled up HTML code that I frakensteined together one long night over a year ago. But alas! Bigger and brighter things!

Lowly (or rather L O W L Y) is an absolutely beautiful band that has been blowing me away all week. Perhaps it’s my Danish roots that connects me to this song, or perhaps this is one of the best things you’ve never heard.

Or perhaps both.

Blue skies all over this one, soak it in my chillers and chillettes

  • Artist: Lowly
  • Track: Daydreamers

  • Chilled People: 19

SXSW Wrap-Up: The End

I hesitated, spun around on the spot and snapped a couple quick photos. Almost immediately his focus changed as he stared into the camera lens, the slightest smirk hardly visible under his hedge-like beard.

“Do you want a hug?”
I lowered the camera, “Absolutely” I grinned.

He was a good hugger, surely from experience, and with a hearty chuckle and a couple pats on the back I felt the loneliness wash away, if only for a moment.

It was at this point I realized I’d spent the entire festival taking shots of artists and venues, while completely ignoring the most quintessential element of SXSW. The people. The majority of my time was spent people watching and navigating the massive crowds. Groups of friends stood on every street corner, laughing and slapping shoulders, retelling the events of the night before. Old friends stumbled into one another, eager to share their experiences and compare them to previous years. Droves of fantastical lunatics dressed like peacocks wore vibrant displays of colors and clothes, desperate to attract the attention of a suitable mate. While street performers garnered small crowds as they put on eclectic pop-up shows. The streets were constantly abuzz with life, laughter, and of course, music, and the city of Austin was undoubtedly alive.

I decided on the final day to drink in the atmosphere and turn my lens to the people and places of Austin. As such this post wound up being something a little different, and is more akin to a photojournal than a blog post.

Despite the clouds, it was another warm day at South By, and everyone was in good spirits in the early afternoon, eagerly anticipating the inebriated evening events that were only hours away. This was the scene at East 6th, the heart of SXSW.

The city of Austin was bursting at the seams, and high-end apartment complexes were in construction all over downtown. This particular high-rise was on the west end, on my way to the Quantum Collective Day Party on top of Whole Foods.

At first I had no idea who this woman was, until she played the iconic song “Tom’s Diner”. It was none other than singer/songwriting legend and the “Mother of the MP3″ Suzanne Vega. The song she wrote back in ’81 was about Tom’s Restaurant in New York, famously known as ‘Monks’, the frequent meeting place of Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer on Seinfeld. It was a bit of an eerie moment for me as she shot a look into my eyes.

Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner

The scene atop the Whole Foods was very mellow; kids ran about in the background while soccer mom’s mingled with the peaceful, yet strinkingly alternative music crowd. There was free soda pop and coconut water abound, and it was the most serene moment of the festival. Eventually, by will of the sheer good vibrations, the sun poked out of the clouds, and as I sat in the mulch behind the stage I began to deal with another wave of nostalgia from my time at the Calgary Folk Fest last August. This was the closest atmosphere to the Folk Fest, and a much needed afternoon of calm, musical therapy.

From Suzanne Vega in ’81 to electro-vets from 2001, the scene suddenly jumped twenty years as Dirty Vegas showed up to play an energetic set consisting of old hits and new material. Once again, I wasn’t even sure I recognized the English duo until they busted out their smash-hit “Days Go By”, a song that garnered a huge following more than a decade earlier.

Dirty Vegas – Days Go By

The feature performance of the Quantum Collective Day Party was one of my favorites, We Were Promised Jetpacks. After missing the first few songs of their set the other day, I elected to go out of my way to catch them play in their entirety. I also took the opportunity to approach Adam Thompson, shake his hand, and introduce myself as equal-parts blogger and rabid fan.

We Were Promised Jetpacks – Moving Clocks Run Slow

We Were Promised Jetpacks – Roll Up Your Sleeves

It was an energetic set in front of the free-spirited, peaceful afternoon crowd. Kids bounced on their parents shoulders and late-twenty-somethings stood misty-eyed as they recalled their infatuation with indie-rock before their iPod’s took a dramatic turn towards Jack Johnson and the like. The performance was capped off by a rare, yet hilarious mistake, as Adam fumbled his chords several times and proclaimed “Whoops” mid-verse. The band was still busting a gut as the song ended, mouthing “Whoops” to one-another and enjoying a full-bodied chuckle.

The sun began to sink as I started the long walk back to the heart of SXSW.

One thing I noticed about the street culture of South By was that it was very difficult to discern between the homeless man and the street performer. This gentleman was accepting donations in the form of phone numbers, and surely had stable housing considering his twitter account.

The value of social networking was very evident, as street performers often broadcasted their twitter and instagram profiles. Charles drew a modest crowd as he plucked the neck of his guitar with great finesse.

The crowds became much more viscous as the sun began to set on Austin, one last time. Although the majority of festival-goers weren’t stumbling just yet, there was certainly a buzz that proliferated throughout the crowd.

I caught this gentleman in the middle of a very intense “guitar” solo. He actually had a pretty sizable stack of cash in his “tip box”, and was generous enough to pose as I strolled by.

Surprisingly, not every show in the middle of the street was allowed to continue. Officer Beck shakes hands with these unknown artists as they are forced to pack up their performance. In all fairness, they had a full band playing in the middle of the road, but the attitudes of the police were still quite accommodating throughout the run of the festival. I took note of the artist wristband on the bearded gentleman, and wondered who they were.

Pedicabs were the only logical way to get around town. For a modest fee of ten dollars, you could enjoy the serenity of a quick ride from one end of town to the other. The driver’s themselves were often quite eclectic, and at times would wear outlandish costumes and dress up their cabs with flashing lights and booming speakers in order to attract potential clients. The few pedicab drivers I spoke to were quite annoyed with this practice, and although business was booming for South By, both Manny and Ian had informed me that it was extremely difficult to make money due to the sheer volume of pedicab drivers.

They would park at the end of Red River Street near Rainey, and wait upwards to an hour to catch a fare. Despite appearances, the pedicabbies were quite organized, and fare’s would be doled out based on which driver had been waiting the longest.

This was my home away from home, The Art of Tacos on Rainey Street. I ate here every day, sometimes twice, and was always greeted with a smile and a laugh from the people running the small food truck. They were very hospitable during my stay, and served up a generous amount of meat and toppings every time I ordered. I absolutely loved these guys, and I made sure to shake some hands and say goodbye before they packed up in the morning.

I went back to my hotel for one final recharge before heading out into the night. Lady Bird Lake was a most gracious host, and I sat in the park overlooking the water on several occasions throughout the week. I was always struck by the juxtaposition between the madness of the festival and the park I had to walk through to head home.

The garbage, much like every festival I’d ever attended, had reached a critical mass in the evening. However, as a testament to the spirit of SXSW, people did whatever they could to avoid actually littering, including precariously setting their garbage on the edge of the bin. Although I made note of the ecological impact, when I awoke the next morning I rather shockingly discovered that every trace of the festival had been removed. Apparently, teams of garbage disposal men are sent out on the last night around 4 in the morning and they swept the streets from top to bottom. It was quite incredible, and aside from the odd poster here and there, it was a completely different city only a few hours after the last artist played the last set.

My other second home, The Hype Hotel, played host to an extremely bizarre performance by Sophie and A.G Cook. It was a strange piece to witness after the show by UK’s Miley Cyrus, Chloe Howl. Their unique electro-set nearly tore the roof down while a hired model stood in a blow-up pool full of beach balls. With each song she moved on to another menial activity, playing with her hair, laying down and reading a magazine, or simply staring off into the crowd in no particular direction. I exchanged a lot of “What the fucks” with at least ten different attendees, and scribbled frantically in my notepad as I awaited for the final show of the festival.

This was not the bedroom chillwave I fell in love with. Ernest Greene took the stage sometime around one, and my curiosity about his live performance was immediately quashed upon the first song. It was upbeat, energetic, and every bit at place with a summer festival. I was completely blown away. The presence of actual instruments had a massive influence of the sheer sound and relentless positivity erupting from the stage. Ernest was flanked by a handful of talented musicians, including his wife, and his performance was one of the most energetic and exciting shows of the entire week.

Washed Out – All I Know

I first heard “Feel It All Around” back in July of 2009. It was the start of my beautiful relationship with The Hype Machine just after I signed up for an account, and an inspiration for me to open up my world to the ever-expanding universe of new music. “Feel It All Around” was the definition of chillwave, an emerging subgenre of tranquilized synthetic bedroom pop, and audio-therapy for anyone prone to stress and anxiety. In many ways, my musical career is the result of this song, and even five years later it sits atop my “Most Played List”, still as fresh and as poignant as ever. To hear it live on this day, at the Hype Hotel, was poetic justice, and although the pace was quickened and the sound wasn’t the same song I’d heard over 250 times, hot, fierce emotion pumped through my veins. In that moment, I lost myself. I was music.

Washed Out – Feel It All Around

“I hope you’re not all sick of live music” an out-of-breath Ernest Greene quipped to the crowd.

After seeing somewhere between 30-50 bands (I lost count quickly), in many ways, I was becoming a bit jaded with the performances. However, Washed Out was at the top of my “Must-see” bucket-list, and despite the exhaustion of a week-long beer and taco binge, I was bouncing on my heels the whole set. Seeing an artist live can yield a number of different results, but sometimes, the live set transcends the music you know and love, and becomes something wholly larger than the mp3′s you loop in your iPod. This was one of those shows, and Washed Out had uncorked pure, emotional bliss.

It was the only performance I’d seen all week that had an encore, and unfortunately one of the negatives of being at the very front-and-center of a set is that you have access to the set-list taped to the floor in front of each musician. Although I wasn’t surprised, I was thrilled at the opportunity to enjoy an elongated performance by one of my favorite bands. Ernest was constantly working at his craft, and throughout the night he delved into every EP and LP he ever released, adding new layers and fine-tuning instrumental elements of some of his oldest songs. It was as if his music was constantly evolving, and the emotional peak of the performance hit with his last song, “Eyes Be Closed” from 2011′s widely successful album, “Within and Without”. It was a full-blown sensory overload, and I let the atmosphere completely overwhelm me.

Washed Out – Eyes Be Closed

The walk home was a high like I’d never experienced. The drunkards were in great spirits as they wandered back to their hotels, and the entire week began to flash through my memory. From the nervous first few hours and the conflict with the hotel, to the Mel Gibson look-a-like and the tragedy only a few days ago; it was all capped off with one of the most energetic, emphatic shows of the festival. The feeling was bittersweet; my time at South By had come to an end, and I was met with mixed emotions as the reality began to set in. I had one more full day in Austin before my flight back home, and I knew the view from the very top had come to an end. Until next time Austin, you were a most gracious host.

(Much love to the volunteers and festival organizers who surely endured more stress than they deserved. Thanks to Elizabeth Derczo and the Press team for the opportunity, thanks to Anthony V of the Hype Machine for the last-minute VIP ticket, and a special thanks to all the people I met, and those who may or may not have read my massive wrap-ups.

And of course, thanks to James and Damon, without whom none of this would have been possible)

———————-

Stay tuned for my final word, coming up in the SXSW Epilogue.

3. Washed Out - Feel it All Around (58 Plays)

Rarely, someone stumbles upon the perfect sound, the quintessential song that captures all of their emotion, talent, and vision. Ernest Greene was fortunate enough to find that song very early in his musical career, turning the heads of early chillwave fanatics back in 2009 with his single “Feel It All Around”. I happened upon the song in July of 2009, and I credit Washed Out for single-handedly opening my eyes to the ever-expanding universe of new music. My life change the first time I heard this song, and without it I wouldn’t be where I am now; traveling to music festivals with a press pass and making a name for myself in this convoluted industry.

It’s no surprise that “Feel It All Around” sits near the top of my most played list every single year. Last year it sat in the fourth position with 47 plays, and the year prior it was right up near the top. I’ve listened to this song over 150 times in the past three years, and it still remains so fresh, so poignant, and so relevant. I consider it one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and after finally seeing Ernest Greene perform in live back in March at SXSW, I can truly say that i’ll die happily.

Washed Out will be playing Sasquatch this year and i’ll probably shove my way to the front once again.

Now sit back, relax, and drink a cold, crisp, glass of chill.

  • Artist: Washed Out
  • Track: Feel It All Around

  • Chilled People: 39

4. Black Marble - A Great Design (51 plays)

It’s kind of hard to imagine that a song would actually gain momentum after being in my rotation for a few years, but Black Marble’s ‘Great Design’ climbed 24 spots this year on my playlist to number 4.

I was born in 1989, and before I even developed a concept of music and the sounds I like, the 80’s synthetic movement was long gone. But as we are all aware, the synth has seen a massive re-emergence across pop and indie genres. This particular song, a lo-fi twilight dreamer, has always hit me in just the right way. It’s simplistic, mysterious, and undoubtedly, 80’s as fuck.


  • Artist: Black Marble
  • Track: A Great Design

  • Chilled People: 29

Beach Fuzz Premiere: Amarachi

The landscape of alternative hip-hop is forever changing, no longer are artists pigeon-holed by the narrow definitions of mainstream rap music. With labels slowly losing their stranglehold on the industry, the bottleneck has widened to allow for new sounds to emerge. The hegemonic masculine narrative that dominated hip-hop is being slowly pushed out of the limelight, and as a result new stories are being written by artists who are genuinely focused on honing their craft. Which brings us to our featured musician, Amarachi.

‘Barman’, the first official single off his upcoming EP ‘Black Sheep’ blends elements of fast-paced pop-hop with an expertly crafted atmospheric sample from Active Child’s ‘Hanging On’. Inspired by Omar LinX’s single “You and I”, ‘Barman’ on the surface appears to be an ode to the oft-appreciated alcohol abuser, but upon further inspection reveals a story about inner-conflict and self-reflection.

“It’s a song about the conflicts we have within ourselves, and the way we choose to deal with it.. which in most cases, unfortunately, is to get fucked up”.

It’s a solid entry in the growing body of atmospheric rap first penned by Kayne West’s ’808s and Heartbreak’ and adopted by industry heavyweights Kid Cudi, The Weeknd, Drake and many others. The movement away from the mainstream formulaic rhetoric of hip-hop has been well documented as of late, and Amarachi is the product of the diverse climate of hip-hop artists embracing the indie in the face of monotony. ‘Barman’s tension gradually mounting metaphorically represents the bubbling emotions of the narrator as he spins further and further into self-depreciating inebriation. We all put on masks to hide our inner emotions, something Amarachi admits he sees a lot when he moonlights as a bartender in the bustling downtown metropolis of Calgary.

“And as I talk to this stranger he’s got fear in his eyes/I think he’s fucked up but it’s a mirror in sight”

Stylistically, there’s a lot to admire about Amarachi’s unabashed honesty. Music is his bread and buttter, and his personal tastes traverse all genres from the soulful bedroom synthetics of Conner Youngblood to the up-beat kinetic electro-pop of Glasgow’s CHVRCHES. Amarachi is rarely seen without a pair of headphones around his ears, and his heartbeat truly pumps with the pulse of new music. When music dorks turn to recording, the results are almost instantaneously informed and magical (Re: Belgian Fog), and although you’d be hard-pressed to have any hip-hop artist identify themselves as a dork, Amarachi is undoubtedly so deeply immersed in the music scene it’s hard to argue otherwise.

Keep your eyes peeled for future releases as Amarachi continues production on his debut EP ‘Black Sheep’. Give him a follow on soundcloud, Facebook and YouTube below.

Soundcloud

Facebook
YouTube
Website

  • Artist: Amarachi
  • Track: Barman

  • Chilled People: 19