About This Festival
Each year, thousands of young people make the trek to a remote area in central Washington for Sasquatch!, a music festival set in a stunning natural amphitheater—a 20,000-person concert venue called The Gorge owned by LiveNation, a major concert production company. Throughout the summer season, The Gorge hosts some of today's biggest names in music, including Coldplay, the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, and more.
However, for two weekends it's the venue for much more, as dozens of musical performers and comedians take to five stages for hours all day and deep into the night, with thousands of avid music fans filling The Gorge amphitheater. Its adjacent campgrounds on the majestic bluffs overlooking the Columbia River are their home-away-from-home party scene for a three- or four-day stretch.
Sasquatch! was started in 2002 by Adam Zacks, a concert producer from the Pacific Northwest who, seeing an untapped local music market, created a major regional festival along the lines of blockbuster musical events around the U.S.—Coachella, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, among them. Zacks was on target. Even in its first year, Sasquatch! passes sold out fast. Today, with word-of-mouth and social media blasts, tickets are snapped up in less than two hours on sale day.
A Big, Hairy Festival
Sasquatch!, named for the big, hairy ape-like mythical creature that some believe lives in Pacific Northwest forests, has boomed in popularity in part because of its unique location. The Gorge is set above the Columbia River, about 10 miles northeast of the small town of Quincy. Concertgoers have spectacular views of the vast river canyon and Columbia River, the backdrops for the music artists that perform on the huge main stage.
It's now the largest music festival in the Pacific Northwest. However, although packed with up to 20,000 people, don't expect an event as big as Coachella and Bonnaroo, which is how Zacks, who co-produces the event with LiveNation, has said he wants to keep it.
“There are bigger festivals (much bigger), many of them great,” he said in an interview with Consequence of Sound online music publication. “I just try not to get distracted by trying to be 'big,' but rather relevant and respected. Coachella and Bonnaroo are fantastic, but they're like Star Wars-huge and awesome, and I'm just trying to make Annie Hall.”
In 2014, music lovers who've had a hard time snagging tickets swooned with the announcement that Sasquatch! is expanding, extending the event to 200 musical groups and two festivals, one over its traditional Memorial Day weekend and a new event added over Fourth of July weekend. Outkast and the National are among the headliners on Memorial Day weekend; Soundgarden and Kraftwerk are two of the big names for the first-ever Fourth of July Sasquatch!. Unfortunately, Live Nation, the promoter behind the festival, had to cancel the July event due to slow ticket sales and negative feedback from dedicated Sasquatch! attendees.
Sasquatch! has an eclectic mix of genres including hip-hop, electronic dance music, alternative and indie rock bands who performs on the five stages: Sasquatch! Main Stage, Bigfoot Stage, Banana Shack, Yeti Stage and Maine Stage. Several comedians and comedy acts typically also are scheduled, performing in between the musical groups.
It's a caravan-like experience for the thousands who flock to The Gorge, tying up traffic on the local interstate for miles. Make no mistake: Sasquatch! is a commitment. Concertgoers carefully prepare days and even weeks in advance for the three- or four-day experience. There are no day tickets: only the full three-day passes are available.
It's Definitely Rustic
Indoor accommodations in this remote area are limited and general admission passes include spots in The Gorge's designated campgrounds so almost all concert-goers opt for camping, packing tents, sleeping bags, clothing, tables, chairs and food. Hot showers are available for a fee and a convenience store at the campground sells basic supplies. Most arrive the day before the first show, making it a four-day outdoor experience in total.
The amphitheater itself does not have any seating so attendees typically bring a blanket and low chairs for the day and evening concerts; it gets cool at night and sometimes a strong wind kicks up so a jacket or sweater are needed. The weather can quickly turn: sometimes there's been rain and one year there was a freakish 30-minute hailstorm.
The campgrounds' official “quiet times” are from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., but there's little heed paid as pumped-up partyers sometimes go into the early morning, catching the sunrise over the beautiful vast landscape.
When Sasquatch! ends, after three days of nearly non-stop music, dancing, camping, eating and drinking together in an almost Woodstock-like communal experience, with an eclectic soundtrack of the latest hippest acts in indie rock, hip hop, electronic dance music and more, there's only one thing left to do. Plan for next year's Sasquatch!.