By: Kaitlin Summer
Finding community at one of the nation’s biggest music festivals requires a bit of magic.
The Gorge Amphitheater in eastern Washington is an incomparable place of natural beauty. It boasts layered and etched cliffs, a rich blue river, and an exact angle to the sunset that provides sprawling, super-saturated color. While spending four days camping on the grounds over Memorial Day weekend at the Sasquatch Music Fest, it was amazing to wake up every morning to that view, and to be serenaded into that sunset by a killer lineup of music.
Natural forces of the landscape were not to be dismissed. The early heat and all day sun, high winds that even disrupted performance schedules, and plummeting night temperatures made for a hearty challenge. There was also a noticeable transition from the camp experience into the festival grounds. This year’s festival was sponsored by multiple alcohol, cigarette, and car companies; it was hard to avoid that feeling of being “sold” something at Sasquatch. With a massive company like LiveNation handling production, the direction that most major summer festivals have been heading (ie: more profit) was visible, and quite a striking contrast to the surrounding natural beauty.
In the midst of that contrast, I did my best to seek out the community behind the scenes. When you get the opportunity to work multiple music festivals around the country, you make friends with people you only see during those events. It’s a great place to connect and network with other people in the industry, whether with press, artists, or production: the crew that is responsible for setup and takedown of multiple, world-touring artists each day; the people that work endlessly to make those experiences special to everyone attending. The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to amazing music festivals, and it’s a great feeling to work with people you recognize in a new place. Everyone is working (in some form or another), but when you get to share in the experience of a beautiful scene or an amazing show together, letting yourself be a spectator as much as a participator, it always feels like some wild and crazy gift.
The more we recognize how good community feels, the more we encourage that life force to emerge from underneath the thinly-veiled mass consumption aspects of corporate music festivals, and the longer we can hold out for magic. Because there is magic to be made in expression and performance, in sounds and light, in being in a moment and a place that so many people have come together to make. The festival itself and the upkeep of tent life was at times exhausting. The rules and the hoops and the designated areas were often a distraction from the bigger experience: the one that extends from the stage to your face, from the crew to this computer screen. The bigger experience of loving music, of loving a live show. And despite the challenges, despite the exhaustion, I would do it again, every time.