The Gorge Amphitheater is one of the country’s most scenic treasures, and the annual Sasquatch! Music Festival delivered on its promise of sonic and visual stimulation. VIBE was on site for the long Memorial Day weekend at the Toyota Music Den, hosting a stacked bill — along with our friends at SPIN, Stereogum, and BrooklynVegan — featuring West Coast MC and entrepreneur Casey Veggies, U.K. party-starters Rudimental, Walshy Fire of Major Lazer, and the triumphant return of ’90s Hip Hop trailblazers Digable Planets. Here’s some highlights from the VIBE stage.
One of the most welcome surprises of 2016 was the announcement of the reunion of ’90s Hip Hop legends Digable Planets (Doodlebug, Ladybug Mecca and Butterfly). They’ve been sorely missed since their brief 2011 reunion, and creeping up on the 25th anniversary of their Grammy-winning debut, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), it’s a reminder of just how ahead-of-its-time that seminal record plays. Their groove-laden, smoky blend of jazz club percussion and laid-back, surrealist wordplay has influenced a legion of forward-thinking artists, felt in the likes of Vince Staples and Flying Lotus. With Craig “Doodlebug” Irving on the turntables, and Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira and Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler providing on-stage accompaniment and vocals, the trio brought a typically eclectic set. Spanning West African rhythmic beats to Debbie Deb’s classic club banger “When I Hear Music,” the luminaries closed with a fitting call and response of “Love, Peace, Happiness.”
Devotees of Miami producer Walshy Fire, one-third of electronic supergroup Major Lazer, had been circling the Toyota Music Den all day, some even brandishing multi-colored flags devoted to their hero. Their time finally came as Fire took the stage at 5:00 p.m., with the largely female demographic losing their minds. Walshy relished the love and delivered a high energy set, pushing his slated 20-minute set past the time limit. Blurring pop and Latin rhythms, Fire brought warm Miami vibes to the windswept Gorge fairgrounds. It was especially cool when Fire shouted out, “Raise your hands if you’re only getting high on music.” The decidedly younger crowd all shot their hands into the air, closing out his set in a burst of positivity.
One of the West Coast’s brightest young talents, Veggies has been on the scene since his early teens. As one of the founders of the Odd Future crew, Veggies is also an entrepreneur, co-founder of LA’s clothing and management company Peas & Carrots INTL. The young MC arrived in style (a Metallica t-shirt) to the delight of his fans. The crazy-prolific Veggies knows how to work a crowd, and he pumped the already joyous festival-goers into ecstatic overload with old favorites “She In My Car” and recent tracks “Backflip” and “New Face$” from his latest, 2015’s Live and Grow.
U.K. party-starters and electronic, drum and bass genre-hoppers Rudimental kept the energy at a fever pitch. The assembled collective of Rudimental is deep, but the three core members — Piers Agget, Leon “DJ Locksmith” Rolle, and Kesi Dryden — are childhood friends from way back. Their ambitious blend of world, house, dubstep, soul and pop swirls into a propulsive party blend. Bridgette Amofah’s colorfully soulful vocals soared over the beats, while the Rudimental collective blew bubbles into the crowd. It was the perfect cocktail, providing fans a tasty treat before Rudimental’s headlining set later that night.
The blue-eyed soul of Kevin Garrett, NYC-based crooner and Beyonce collaborator, served as a nice cool day from the afternoon sun. The 25-year-old singer/songwriter/producer is popping up on everyone’s radar, earning praise from Sam Smith and Katy Perry, while landing producer/songwriter credit for Beyonce’s Lemonade opening track “Pray You Catch Me.” Garrett’s intimate set delivered on the hype, and hidden behind dark shades, Garrett played it cool on the keys. The Den hushed as delicate keys announced “Refuse,” Garrett’s 2015, piano-driven hit single. It’s easy to imagine Garrett bringing an arena to giddy silence, as I’m sure we’ll see him doing in the future.
The literal son of a preacher man, Philly R&B singer-songwriter Son Little — a.k.a. Aaron Livingston — had more than enough soul to spare, preaching his gospel to the late afternoon Den crowd. While Livingston trades on his Philly soul upbringing, his self-titled Anti-Records debut LP shares more in common with Delta blues, as Livingston sings of rivers, floods and loser’s blues. Stripped of backing percussion, his set was haunting yet uplifting. As fans approached sheer exhaustion from the 4 day weekend, Livingston’s laments had the crowd shuffling slowly, eyes closed in rapture as they could felt his pain.