With a name like Sasquatch! Music Festival, you know this is going to be one crazy, yet awesome production. This festival is as elusive as its namesake, especially considering that it doesn’t exist anymore. And, a lot of early reporting on Sasquatch! ends in broken links. But, Sasquatch Music Festival is definitely worth knowing about, especially for indie pop and indie rock fans.
Early years of the festival were packed to the brim with jam bands and indie acts. And, even in the more recent years, organizers remained faithful to the vibe. Stay tuned because we’re about to dive into the who, what, and why of Sasquatch Music Festival.
What is Sasquatch Music Festival?
Although it’s technically more appropriate to ask, “what was Sasquatch Music Festival?” we’re still in denial that this bacchanale of indie goodness doesn’t happen anymore. We truly wish we could still pose the question, “what is Sasquatch Music Festival?”
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Sasquatch! Music Festival was an annual music festival in the United States which ran from 2002 to 2018 and was held on Memorial Day weekend in Washington state. The Gorge theater in George, WA was home to the festival, which drew in crowds of over 20,000 indie music fans year after year.
The festival shut down primarily due to ticket sales and saturation in the market, but we’ll talk about that, Fyre Festival’s devastating impact, and more later on. For now, we want to reminisce on the good times.
Let’s talk about how Sasquatch got started before moving on to those glorious lineup lists.
Who started Sasquatch festival?
Sasquatch! began as a twinkle in the eye of a music promoter with dreams of a festival built on quality and artistry.
Sasquatch Music Festival was started by Adam Zacks, a music promoter in the Seattle area whose career began with the Oregon Grind in 1991. He went on to produce for The Grateful Dead, which helped develop his passion for jam bands and fan experience. He currently works with the Seattle Theater Group.
Zacks’ current project is a self-described boutique festival called THING, and he’s proud to boast in his Crosscut profile that not a single one of his headliners has a top 40 hit. After producing Sasquatch! for 16 years, it’s safe to say he has a firm grip on his artistic vision.
Who played Sasquatch Music Festival?
Sasquatch music festival was an ever-evolving beast, but they came bursting out of the gate at full speed in 2002. The complete list of acts is available on Wikipedia so follow along and leave us your thoughts on the lineups in the comments.
All kinds of artists have played at Sasquatch! from big acts like MGMT and LCD Soundsystem to indie darlings like The Postal Service and Vulfpeck. DJs, jam bands, and blues musicians were all well-represented on the four music stages. The comedy stage saw talents like Nick Offerman, Jenny Slate, and more.
Getting specific would take sixteen separate bullet points, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. You don’t want to miss a single year with lineups so stacked with indie artists. We’ll get the ball rolling with two or three of our favorites.
- Ben Harper
- Jack Johnson
Zacks himself says in an interview with Pollstar that he thought the first lineup was pretty random and more connected to the jam scene than it ended up becoming.
- The Pale Pacific
- The Flaming Lips
- Modest Mouse
- Minus the Bear
Sasquatch! Immediately started combining big names with local bands, which invited an awesome blend of all-star power and homegrown talent to wow a sold-out crowd of 25,000.
- The Black Keys
- The Fruit Bats
- The Decemberists
2004 was also a cool year because it was hosted by comedian David Cross, who also hosted a few other years and launched a rotation of comedian hosts.
- Arcade Fire
- Math and Physics Club
I have a special spot in my heart for Wilco. They were my first introduction to the wonderful and often weird world of indie music. What band do you remember first bringing you into the indie music fold?
- Bedouin Soundclash
- Band of Horses
- Neko Case
2006 was the first year the festival would run for the entire long weekend, going for three whole days of non-stop indie action.
- The Beastie Boys
- St. Vincent
Sasquatch! got its start the same year as Bonnaroo, which we have an awesome article about, too. Coachella had already been up and running, but by the time Sasquatch! was well underway, they were in good company as the touring scene wound down and it became all about summer festivals.
- The Cure
- Fleet Foxes
- Flight of the Conchords
- The New Pornographers
2008 was utterly massive, and it’s painful to only name a few. Take a look on The Cure’s site and let us know who we snubbed in a comment!
- Kings of Leon
- Passion Pit
- Beach House
- Girl Talk
The comedy stage was also rocking this year with stars like H. John Benjamin, Tim and Eric, Whitest Kids U Know, and Zach Galifinakis.
- Garfunkel and Oates
- Tegan and Sara
- The Long Winters
The New Pornographers also played with Neko Case this year, something they’d also done in 2004 and 2008. Neko Case played a total of nine times, the most of any act!
- Matt & Kim
- Wolf Parade
- Jack White
- Kurt Vile
- Poor Moon
Poor Moon is a Fleet Foxes side project, and it’s definitely worth your attention. Their self-titled album serves the same Fleet Foxes vibes, but every song has a pretty unique energy to it.
- Father John Misty
- Tame Impala
- Andrew Byrd
- Empire of the Sun
- Arctic Monkeys
A lot of indie darlings showed up to play in 2013. I think if we could travel back in time, most of us would head straight to this show.
- Queens of the Stone Age
- Cage the Elephant
As the years rolled along, Sasquatch! began to invite more and more foreign bands like Yelle and Crystal Fighters, to name a few from 2014. The blend of local and international is pretty awesome to see because of the unique cultural experience.
2014 was also the first year the festival spanned two entire weekends. Talk about a lot of acts! It ended up getting canceled, though, as there wasn’t enough interest.
- Slow Magic
- Robert Plant
- Glass Animals
The Sasquatch Music Festival had always brought in a few big names – (Kanye was there back in 2005, but we didn’t mention it) – but 2015 saw a large number of mainstream acts like Lizzo, Twenty One Pilots, Lana Del Ray, and Kendrick Lamar hired to play. This only grew worse as the festival approached the fateful year of 2018 and organizers tried to boost flagging ticket sales by catering to the “youth” crowd.
- Lion Babe
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra
- King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizards
A few acts were canceled in 2016 due to extreme wind weather conditions: Saint Motel and Frightened Rabbit.
- Cigarettes After Sex
2017 was the year fans first smelled trouble brewing, as ticket sales were down and big-time acts Frank Ocean and Mac Miller both canceled their appearances. The festival was becoming too expensive to put on and the acts too demanding. Zacks tells Crosscut that acts would pitch a fit over their font size not being big enough and threaten to cancel – then cancel after the changes were made, anyway!
- Jai Wolf
- Anderson Paak
- Japanese Breakfast
Zacks told Pollstar in his interview one of the things that finished Sasquatch! was the public’s disinterest in indie music, at least financially. He couldn’t compete anymore with the bigger, more bloated festivals and still keep true to his vision – so he ended Sasquatch.
Why did Sasquatch! Music Festival end? – And some final Thoughts
Sasquatch! was brought down in the end by poor ticket sales and a lack of interest in indie artists? Can it get any more depressing?
Don’t cry because it’s over – smile because it happened! These things move in cycles, and indie music is here to stay. The fact that you’re reading this article is proof that people still care about indie music. Zacks’ new enterprise, THING, is proof, too.
The first THING just happened at the end of August, so only time will tell. Could “boutique festivals” – small format festivals with finely-curated lineups – be the answer, or is it elitism in disguise?
If you didn’t know about Sasquatch before now, we’re so sorry to be breaking the news to you that it’s too late to get tickets for yourself. Hopefully, you enjoyed learning a little modern indie music history, and if you liked this article, don’t miss our other festival articles.