I Went to Sasquatch and All I Did Was Cry and Get Heat Poisoning

A friend of mine has a few tickets to Sasquatch lying around and suggests I come. “I don’t have a tent for you, or a press pass… and you probably can’t come into our VIP camping area because they’re dicks about that, and you’re probably going to get burnt because it’s 85 degrees out here but, yeah, you should totally come!” she says to me over the phone.

I get in my car and drive out of Ballard, down I-5 and then out, East towards the mountains. The sky is a perfect blue and yet bugs are apparently attracted to the gray leather interior of my 1997 Toyota Camry. My windshield quickly becomes a graveyard.

After passing through melting Snoqualmie, and the arid brush near Cle Elum, I find myself in a long line of idling cars at the gates of the Gorge Ampitheatre. Fifteen-year-old children are charged with the task of leaning into my car and asking whether or not I want a camping pass.

“Sammy! Where in the hell is that credit card charger thingy?” one girl asks her friend. “I don’t fucking know! Jesus Christ is it hot out here,” her friend says as she gulps her Dasani “How many hours did you work today?” “I don’t know? Seven?” “You’re supposed to write down your hours, stupid!”.

Finally, someone finds the credit card chargy thing and I pay for a camping pass and park and unload my one person sarcophagus-tent. After spending about five minutes trying to insert the snapping poles into their clips, I give up, stuff the whole mess into my backseat, and set out for the ticket booth. It’s too much trouble, and I feel too self-conscious and pathetic pitching a single person’s tent in front of the people next to me, who are happily barbecuing burgers, laughing and drinking beers. 

Also, it’s hot. Really hot. Fratty boys waiting in front of me tug at their slipping cargo shorts and then, since they’re already down there, scratch their butts for good luck. Everywhere smells like melting skin and bargain sunscreen.

First act: King Kahn and the Shrines. Essentially, an East Indian man wearing a headdress, a gold cape and tighty whities belting songs with his band in the style of James Brown. People are dancing the way they do when they hear jazz but have no jazz-dancing partner. It’s more swaying than dancing.

Next: Animal Collective. Sometimes they sound like someone playing pinata with a bag of cats. Other times they sound like a lush jungle. I imagine this is also what it would sound like if I tried to fall asleep while on shrooms. The crowd around me: sunburned, half-comatose and speaking in slurs. A tribe of boys make their way up the hill, looking as desperate and thirsty as the lost boys of Sudan. 

I don’t have a cup for water, I don’t have cash, and I’m dying of thirst. There are no cups that I see, and my friend just lost her water bottle. So, I do what any self-respecting person would do: I go to the First Aid Camp. There, a woman asks for my name and I say, very quietly, “Steven” and try to look as miserable as possible. It’s not that hard.

The folks at the First Aid Camp are a quieter bunch, and much friendlier. A homely girl with bangs and glasses is commiserating with a tan, surfer looking dude who has the tattoo “I am an Ocean. My river; the consciousness,” except (blessedly) without the semi-colon. I look up at the Salene drips above me and feel guilty. But one girl’s affliction appears to be “grass burn,” so I don’t feel that guilty. 

I wander back to the amphitheatre area, where the Decemberists are playing. Lavender Diamond is being, well, Lavender Diamond. And then, all of a sudden, there are people having sex. Behind me. Up above by the fences near the top of the amphitheatre. The girl is going down on the guy, the guy is going down on the girl: they’re doing the whole shebang.

If they were gay or fat, shots would be fired. But instead: cheers. A man next to me shouts “Suck! Suck! Suck!”  like the world’s most annoying porno director. Colin Meloy is watching, too, and shoots the copulating couple a distracted smirk. A security guard approaches them, but instead of stopping them, he stares at their gyrating bodies and gives a big fist pump to the audience. The crowd roars with approval. I want to die. I think to myself “this is why I decided not to go to Arizona State.”

There are still a few acts left. I try to soak up Mos Def’s positive energy, but can’t. I eat some mashed chicken and Yakisoba and feel worse. Then, I wander down to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and finally feel some relief. Karen O is great: raw, powerful, strikingly gorgeous. I jump around a little bit and it feels amazing.

But I can’t find my friends. I can’t find my keys. Everyone’s cell phone is dead. I wander out the gates with the herds of people and down through the fences. I’m apparently in the wrong section of the parking lot. There are 20 different sections. It’s a disaster. I walk up and down the road next to the camp looking for my car.

Sasquatch has become my prison. I must leave these drunkards with their campfires and public sex and “free high fives.” Journalismism, whatever. Not now. I hate people too much. Except I’m trapped: my car is surrounded by campers and I can’t just run over them. So I cut a rope with my car key, get back into my car and turn on the high beams to scare folks away. Then I drive. And drive.

I’m probably too tired to drive, and I know it, but I keep driving. I pee at one of those scary rest stops where people in movies get raped or rape other people. I flinch when a man comes in, thinking “this is it.”

I drive to Ellensberg, where I saw a few hotels on the way to Sasquatch. I try and book a room but most of them have no vacancy. I speak like a half-dead person, with barely any inflection at all. Finally, the man working the graveyard shift at the Best Western tells me there’s room at the Super 8 across the street. In the lobby of the Super 8, there’s a lady stumbling around, drunk off her ass, telling the receptionist she wants to park her Sebring convertible in front of the hotel. The receptionist adjusts the Jesus cross around her neck and explains that it’s “a fire hazard” to park there and that she has to park in the overflow Burger King parking lot. “I ain’t parking in a burger king parking lot!” the lady says to the receptionist. “It’s a Sebring Con-ver-ta-ble!” Finally, I tell the lady that I parked in the Burger King parking lot and that I drive a Toyota Camry. “XLE!”  The lady looks at me for a moment. “Well I guess then that’s okay,” she says.

My room is a smoker’s room and smells like it’s been submerged in cigarette juice. The stench makes me want to throw up. I open the window, but there’s not enough of a breeze to compensate. I end up watching Little Miss Sunshine on Bravo, finding the depressed teenage boy character more relatable than ever. I laugh a little bit to myself and eventually fall asleep. 

The next day, I drive home and sell my tickets for Sunday and Monday on Craigslist. I no longer understand the appeal of Sasquatch. The crowds have changed, and so have I. The next time I want to listen to the ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’, I’ll just put on my headphones.


5 Comments so far

  1. wesa on May 25th, 2009 @ 8:02 am

    "Grass burn" Ouch.

    I think I would be too old for this. I’m only 29, but the idea of those crowds terrifies me.

  2. Ryan (ryanhealy) on May 25th, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

    This confirmed nearly all of my fears.

  3. Beth (sea_beth2) on May 25th, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

    Wow- and now I never want to even consider Sasquatch ;)

  4. josh on May 26th, 2009 @ 8:28 am

    that is a whole lot of local color! I don’t blame you for fleeing the camping lot; one night in the parking lot grass was enough for me. I think that most festivals require finding spots that are close enough where everyone is paying attention, but not so close that they’re crazy obsessives. Tricky business, occasionally worth braving for a good enough lineup.

    Glad you made it back alive and hope the ticket sales covered your awful hotel room.

  5. marmorek on May 27th, 2009 @ 3:15 am

    do the math yo. kings of leon + jane’s addiction = a bunch of frats. too bad you spent your time trying to think of a bunch of things to whine about and thinking king khan is a jazz artist.

    if you’re enough of a goof to not bring anything to hold water for a daylong festival in the interior, you deserve to be punished. no one should get points for documenting how negligent they are.

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