Sasquatch festival serves as the unofficial pre-funk for the summer concert season. And this year, Massive Attack, My Morning Jacket, Pavement, Public Enemy, Ween, Band of Horses and Vampire Weekend are among the big names breaking in the Gorge Amphitheatre's new, million-dollar main stage Memorial Day weekend.
Live Nation cut the ribbon on the new stage setup Thursday, so fans no longer have to worry about those swaying lights you thought might tumble down and crush the Polyphonic Spree a few years back. The new rigging can withstand 100 mph gusts, Live Nation’s president of Northwest music Jeff Trisler said.
But for local music fans making the exodus eastward, other questions linger, aside from what the new stage will look like.
For starters, who will steal the show this year? Who will provide the freakiest spectacle? The bar was raised last year by Spencer Moody of Murder City Devils’ drunken ranting and rampant man-on-man smooching and Monotonix’s sweaty, half-naked stage diving. (Ew! Don’t land on me, dude.)
On a more practical note, which Biblical weather scenario should we pack for? Post-Apocalyptic, “Road Warrior” heat wave? Hail? Locusts?
You never know, but those variables only add to the excitement. What’s more certain is my agenda for three whopping days of musical decadence.
I don’t know what you’re doin’, but here’s my list of must-see acts for 2010:
The Hold Steady, 7:30 p.m. I last caught these boys at the University of Washington’s H.U.B. Ballroom a few years ago, a setting that left much to be desired. I’m stoked but also nervous at how polished and “mature” front man Craig Finn sounds on the new “Heaven is Whenever” CD. His unhinged, nasal rambling is better for all of those rowdy tales of chemically altered youth.
My Morning Jacket, 10 p.m. This genre-blurring rock outfit is my hometown Louisville, Ky.’s, hippest musical export since Slint. But somehow I have yet to catch MMJ in concert, leaving me to wonder if LA Weekly properly dubbed them “best live band in the world.” No pressure.
Brother Ali, 1:10 p.m. There usually is a buzz band that I wind up missing on day one because of traffic and camp setup time. I hope to have the last stake hammered down in time to catch this Rhymesayers recording artist whose versatile flow can both inspire and cut sucker MCs down to size.
The Posies, 5:10 p.m. I’ve seen these Northwest power-pop vets many times. But what ups the ante this year is band leaders Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow’s time spent moonlighting in Big Star. Will they pay homage to fallen front man Alex Chilton?
Vampire Weekend, 8:30 p.m. Their island-flavored pop was a hit when I last caught them at the Capitol Hill Block Party. They get extra props for writing an Auto-Tune-powered song that doesn’t make me homicidal (“California English.”) I wonder how this gig will eat into sales for the Aug. 29 date at Marymoor Park.
Massive Attack, 10:15 p.m. The British electronic duo recruited an all-star cast – including Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe – for “Heligoland,” its best disc since ’90s classic “Mezzanine.” Massive isn’t the most dynamic live band, but its atmospheric sound and eye-popping visuals should mesh perfectly with the majestic setting.
Public Enemy, 9:45 p.m. I spotted hype man Flavor Flav roaming the crowd just minutes before P.E. went on at Bumbershoot a few years back. He sported the Viking helmet made famous on VH-1’s “Strange Love” and a tasteful neck clock with b-boy avatar. I’m hoping he goes with leather football helmet and sun dial this year.
LCD Soundsystem, 7 p.m. The irreverent dance-punk outfit behind “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” and “North American Scum” just dropped its fourth studio album “This Is Happening.”
Martina Topley-Bird, 1 p.m. She has one of the sexiest voices in pop, as showcased on her solo albums “Quixotic” and “The Blue God” and in collaborations with Massive Attack, Tricky and Gorillaz, among others. Later, she’ll pull double duty during Massive’s set.
Pavement, 5:50 p.m. The kings of ’90s college radio reunited for their 20th anniversary last year and generated big buzz as the first act announced for Sasquatch 2010.
New Pornographers, 8:20 p.m. Tacoma expatriate Neko Case made a big breakthrough last year, going from indie darling to bona fide pop star. This Canadian band, which includes her in its ranks, deserves the same reward based on its brilliant, new power-pop collection, “Together.”
MGMT, 8:05 p.m. And we come to the most painful choice of the festival. “Congratulations,” this band’s psychedelic sophomore set, isn’t nearly as fun as the quirky pop of “Oracular Spectacular.” So the edge goes to the Pornographers. But MGMT gets in “Electric Feel” or “Weekend Wars” before I bounce for the main stage.
Band of Horses, 6:40 p.m. Horses might have vamoosed to South Carolina, but their reverb-drenched sound – as captured on new disc “Infinite Arms” still is all the rage at hipster hangouts such as the Cha Cha Lounge in their old Seattle stomping grounds.
Drive-By Truckers, 3 p.m. I have yet to get my hands on these southern rockers’ latest, “The Big To-Do,” but AllMusic.com calls it “their most intense look yet into the messy realities of life in post-millennial America.”
In an unrelated note, did I see that Bobcat Goldthwait is performing around the same time? Is this a cool indie-rock festival or “The Tonight Show?” (Yeah, I’ll probably sneak off to check him out.)
She & Him, 5:20 p.m. This duo pairs Portland singer-songwriter M. Ward with actress-turned-singer Zooey Deschanel. So could Deschanel’s hubby, Ben Gibbard, be lurking around on the Gorge grounds this weekend, too? Keep an eye peeled, people.
Ernest Jasmin: 253-274-7389, firstname.lastname@example.org, blog.thenewstribune.com/tacomarockcity