The first day of a festival is an interesting thing. It’s a discovery day. The day you arrive, get settled, and, finally, when the gates open, follow the music. For many, the first day is the most exciting – a jumpstart to the weekend, a day heavy on local talent and buzz bands worthy of early arrival. For others, it might actually be the main event. But for of those in attendance at the Sasquatch! Music Festival on Friday, it all seemed to lead to one thing: a headlining spot from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
In truth, you couldn’t escape the draw of the Seattle-based duo even if you tried. Walking through the campground early Friday, you saw traces of their followers all over – tanks, tees and crews featuring the now infamous “Shark Face Gang” logo; homemade shirts boasting catchy phrases about poppin’ tags and wearing your grandpa’s clothes; groups of people finding their floor-length fur coats a worthy opponent to the afternoon rain.
You felt it most in the crowds gathering at the main stage. Amongst the drunk bodies spinning and swinging to ZZ Ward’s blues-y afternoon set, eyes darted through the crowd – plotting for the headlining act.
“He’s not on for another 3 ½ hours,” some lamented, as friends of friends murmured about which acts they’d have to sit through in order to secure the ideal spot.
While some hung on every primal scream and screeching guitar riff of Reignwolf’s set, others shifted nervously, peering at the rafters, where a large net holding white balloons barely hid the presence of dozens of shoes (Nikes?) hanging behind.
At the top of the hill, musical moments were in full force: Seattle emcee Nacho Picasso drew the largest crowd to the Cthulhu stage Friday afternoon, delivering his tough as nails rhymes to a field of rowdy, adoring hip-hop fans; Father John Misty’s always-entertaining delivery of stoner-friendly, hippy rock found swarms of people dancing in the afternoon rain; and Youth Lagoon’s trippy, electro-pop pulled passers-by toward the Yeti stage. But even those sets felt precursory – a series of opening acts.
No matter where you wandered, an undercurrent of anticipation – a huge expectation of what was to unfold on the main stage that night – seemed to follow. And by the time 10:30 p.m. finally rolled around, the excitement had reached a fever pitch.
As thousands of festival goers filed into the main amphitheatre, many of whom had slipped away early from Vampire Weekend’s set at the Bigfoot stage, the scene was set. The light’s dimmed, the opening notes of “Ten Thousand Hours,” began, and the tour-de–force commenced.
“I’ve been working my whole life to play this stage at the Gorge,” Macklemore told the 20,000-plus fans before him, showing no restraint in how important this performance, this moment, this night, meant to him. What unfolded over the next two hours was a homecoming to the greatest extent.
The lights, the props, the visual cues were massive, providing an elaborate backdrop to Macklemore and Lewis’ explosive stage antics, which included standard bouts of stage diving and crowd-walking – and the addition of a blow-up boat the emcee threw into the waves of people.
The magnitude of it all built from one track to the next: When clips of Dave Niehaus and Capitol Hill sprawled across the screens. And when Macklemore, rocking his most impressive fur coat, brought Wanz to the stage to perform “Thrift Shop.” Even more so, when the Nikes dropped from the rafters in the shape of an “M” during “Wing$.” Or when Mary Lambert’s contribution to “Same Love” brought tears to every person within arm’s reach. As the confetti burst from cannons framing the stage, we’d reached the finale – a sparkly victory lap for the local guys done good.
Sure, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ headlining set proved the first of many main stage moments in the next few days. But it might have cemented itself as the spectacle to top.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Setlist:
Ten Thousand Hours
Life Is Cinema
My Oh My
Otherside (second verse, spoken)
Can’t Hold Us
And We Danced