If You Can Only Make it To One: Presenting Your Music Festival Power Rankings

03/06/2012 12:00 PM |

May 25-28, The Gorge, Washington

Ticket cost: 2
With 128 bands, DJs and comedians spread across five stages over four days, a $315 festival pass means you’re paying roughing $2.46 per artist, which is not a bad price to see Jack White, even if you’re convinced he’s not totally human. (The ghost of Edward Scissorhands, probably.) A pleasant surprise in the age of hidden fees, there are no additional charges that creep up on you come checkout (other than fancy delivery methods if you so choose), and the cost of a badge includes standard camping &#8212 even parking.

Travel expenses: 3
A quick search on KAYAK.com landed us a $350 round-trip flight from NYC to Seattle, departing on May 25 and returning May 29. Not exactly cheap, though we expected worse. From here, the festival provides round-trip shuttles, as well as from Ellensburg, Vancouver and SeaTac airports, to The Gorge for $90-$150, depending on departing location ($90 from Seattle), to rid the hassles of renting a car, paying for gas, getting sidetracked by a Cracker Barrel and winding up lost. If you do opt for car rental however, a badge permits re-entry to the grounds this year, so, theoretically, you could leave to grab dinner each night and keep the food vendor gouging at bay.

Location: 5
Yeah, it’s hard to beat this. The lawn-terrace seating has you perched over the Columbia River, and the stages look like they’ve been dropped into panoramic postcards of the canyon below. Not a bad view to be stuck staring at for four days. Plus, with the sloping lawn, you might actually find yourself staring at it, as opposed to the back of some guy’s head in the middle of an open field. Sasquatch!’s Northwest climate is perhaps the most optimal for camping &#8212 there’s photographic evidence of people in hooded sweatshirts as dusk looking perfectly comfortable &#8212 as long as, you know, it doesn’t rain. Even still, it’s a long way from the urban hustle and bustle of New York to help make it feel like an actual vacation. It’s also the nine-time winner of Pollstar Magazine‘s “Best Outdoor Music Venue,” and, as we know, magazine rankings are always right.

Headliners: 4
You’ve got one of the first big festival appearances of Jack White’s new solo venture, one of the first post-Grammy appearances of Bon Iver in the U.S., and the return of Beck to the stage (who, yes, is playing the Governors Ball much closer to home, but we once saw him pogo during “The New Pollution” while singing into a megaphone, so he’s probably worth checking out twice). So much of this comes down to personal taste, but if white guys in indie-rock is your thing, this pretty much takes the cake.

Lineup: 4
Sasquatch! excels at honing in on a certain indie-centric demographic, and essentially building a fest just for them. So if you’re part of that said demographic, which we’re going to go ahead and assume you are, things are looking pretty good here. The roster brims with Radio City and Terminal 5-ready acts (Spiritualized, The Shins, Feist, St. Vincent, Childish Gambino, Beirut, M. Ward, The Roots) that would cost you a fortune to see individually in New York. There’s a big helping of 2012 blog essentials (Santigold, Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs) with a focus on local Sub Pop players and other Northwest bands (Dum Dum Girls, Shabazz Palaces), plus plenty of quirks along the way (Tenacious D, Charles Bradley, Todd Barry, John Mulaney, and the geographically appropriate Portlandia live show).

Atmosphere 4
With 20,000 in attendance, it’s more of a regional festival but with a national draw, largely thanks to its location. There’s still the sticky shower situation as with all camping fests, and maybe a higher ratio of hacky sack diehards than at some of the others, but the relative small population makes the vibe seem more relaxed, while still eliciting the type of experience that allows for things like this to happen. It’s something you’ll tell your grandkids stories of &#8212 when you were young and free and danced with strangers on rolling hills.


Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.

2 Comment

  • What about Benicasim? It’s probably the best festival on the planet.

  • While not personally an indie guy, and therefor not a Sasquatch! attendant, I still love the nod to the greatest venue at which to see a show. Having seen many fantastic bands (Phish, The Dead/Allman Bros, DMB, among others) for multi-night stands, and live only 2 1/2 hours away, I take every opportunity to vouch for “Heaven’s Ampitheatre”(-Dave Matthews). The overall package of setting, sound, and atmosphere I’ve not experienced anywhere else. Not to mention the convenience, cost effectiveness, and party-hearty expanse that is the venue campgrounds (post-show rage fest!). This place is everything they say it is and then some, further supported by outranking bigger festivals with more space, stages, fans, and bands. Trust me when I say that while maybe not as “epic” in scale, 20K people is a lot more comfortable and enjoyable than 80K, and 1 stage in 1 majestic location is far easier and more enjoyable than 5-10 spread out over multiple acres. My basic point is if you live for live music, whether for a festival or single/multi-band tour, get to this venue. If you haven’t, it deserves a high ranking on the bucket-list….