(Photo by Kyle Johnson)

Find out after the jump who stole the show on the festival’s final day.

Rodrigo y Gabriela (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

Rodrigo y Gabriela (Christopher Nelson)

Best Performance: Rodrigo y Gabriela

Out of Sasquatch’s extensive lineup, this guitar-wielding duo may just be the most talented of the bunch. Using a fusion of flamenco, metal and classical guitar stylings and drawing upon influences from other genres and musicians (e.g. Jimi Hendrix), Rodrigo y Gabriela played an hour-long set of mind-numbingly fast songs that mesmerized an audience in too joyous of a mood and too caught up in clapping and dancing to be fazed by the rain that began to fall halfway through the set.

Starting with the slow building “Hanuman”, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero blitzed through a number of songs from their first and second albums, often forgoing breaks in between and blending the end solos of one song into the beginning of the next. For the majority of songs, Quintero provided the rhythm section, furiously strumming away while simultaneously rapping on the body of her guitar with her knuckles – moving so fast that the cameras broadcasting to the two screens that flanked the stage could barely track her hand movements. The number of percussive effects she produced using only a guitar was quite astounding, from the simulated clicking of castanets to the pounding of a bass drum. While Quintero acted as the backing band, Rodrigo took the role of lead guitar, nimbly moving his fingers quickly up and down the frets in order to keep his melodies-turned-solos at pace with her manic tempo.

The reality of their performance, however, is much more fluid than these descriptions would suggest, as the duo would interchange roles throughout songs, each allowing the other to have his or her own share of the spotlight. Helping to highlight each artist’s set of skills – and giving the other member a much needed rest – were two built-in portions of the set in which one guitarist would leave the stage while the other continued to play. This would continue for several minutes until the off-stage member would re-appear and jump right back into the frenzy. These solo sections served several functions: they allowed the crowd to focus on one person, fully realizing the extent of their individual talent, while letting the other member catch their breath and tune their guitar.

Perhaps not as intentionally, however, it displayed that although each is extremely skilled alone, the true magic that keeps fans spellbound occurs when the two are playing together, their guitars intertwining in complex arrangements and their own unique skill sets perfectly complementing each others. Sure, a set by either Rodrigo or Gabriela would still be interesting and impressive, but nowhere near as enchanting as when the duo combines their forces to create music that leaves the audiences simultaneously tapping their feet while their jaws slacken in awe.

 

Bradford Cox of Deerhunter (Nelson)

Best-Performance Runner Up: Deerhunter

Mother nature could not have set a better mood for the Deerhunter show late Monday night, as black clouds lit occasionally by sudden lightening bursts slowly rolled in and gusts of wind began to blow across the Washington plateau. The dark setting suited the brooding punk rockers’ dimly lit stage and emotionally intense set, an hour-long affair that drew largely from the band’s two latest albums and ensnared the audience in layers of guitar, keeping their heads bobbing along the entire time.

Recognizing that rain was imminent, the foursome of Bradford Cox, Moses Archuleta, Josh Fauver and Lockett Pundt rushed through their soundcheck, pulled up the hoods on their coats and quickly got to work playing their aptly self-described “ambient-punk.” Borrowing guitar and drum influences from the punk world, but leaving behind the mohawk and leather aesthetics, Deerhunter’s live show certainly supported the veracity of both those descriptors. Forever lit in the dark blue/green stage lighting (spotlights were only used to highlight Cox when he sang), Archuleta’s tight and purposeful drum beats and Fauver’s bass lines, which ranged from a plod in “Little Kids” to the driving force of “Nothing Ever Happened”, along with guitarist Pundt’s buzzed tones, provided a steady backdrop for Cox’s guitar riffs and vocals. Singing all but one song (opener “Desire Lines”), Cox’s voice conveyed surprising amounts of emotion, moving from a lower drone to much higher pitches thanks to effect pedals. As more than just a vocalist, however, Cox wowed the crowd with his solos, which snuck up on the listener slowly as layer upon layer of guitars were looped upon each other, discretely expanding until reaching a fever-pitch of a finale; the crowd could only realize what had just happened once it gradually subsided. The second half of the set – consisting of only three songs (“Nothing Ever Happened”, “Helicopter”, “He Would Have Laughed”) but taking up more than half the allotted time – all exemplified this lull-to-loud pattern and drew a more than willing crowd into the band’s sonic trap like swimmers pulled by a riptide into an ocean of noise.

As the final glimmering notes of “He Would Have Laughed” died into the night air, the full implications of Deerhunter’s “punk” descriptor became more apparent. The band had delivered a show full of the raw emotion associated with that genre, but artfully used repetition and pulsating tones to discretely convey that passion rather than packing it into two minutes of purging, leaving a haunting impression on the crowd that would last for days.

Taylor Guarisco of Givers (Team Nohner)

Best Surprise: Givers

Playing the earliest slot on the Bigfoot stage Monday morning, Givers lived up to their name, providing the wearied masses nursing weekend-long hangovers an effective remedy in their light-hearted, bouncy pop songs that brought smiles to the faces of even the groggiest of Sasquatchers. Cleverly combining afro-pop and island music influences into catchy pop songs, Givers make music that is made for sun-drenched days and firework filled nights, scoring a soundtrack for all those using the festival to kickoff their summers.

Coming off performances at SXSW, the band has caught the eyes of critics nationwide. After seeing their live show, the intrigue behind the band is clear. Matching their music’s optimistic vibes, the band played with a joy that completely consumed all five members as they ecstatically danced in place the entire show. Lead guitarist/singer Taylor Guarisco guided the boisterous bunch through a setlist containing songs from their self-titled EP and soon to be released debut album In Light. His clean guitar riffs (heavily indebted to the post-Vampire Weekend indie afro-pop explosion) and youthful yelps gave some structure to the band’s loose sound. Sharing the role of singer with Guarisco, Tiffany Lamson’s sweet yet raspy voice played well against his. Lamson also doubled as a secondary drummer, banging away on a standing set of toms and cymbals and compounding the up-tempo beats of Kirby Campbell. Their clacking sticks and booming drums laid the perfect foundation on which Guarisco, keyboardist Nick Stephan (who also played the flute), and guitarist/bassist Josh LeBlanc supplemented the performance with floating melodies and airy solos.

As a whole, Givers seem to encompass all of the emotions of the line from Where the Wild Things Are when Max proclaims “Let the wild rumpus start!” – the freedom, the fun, the wildness. From the music they play to the smiles on their faces, Givers exuded a total love of life that the audience could not help but adopt for that 45 minutes, completely complying with the repeated lyrical command to “stop thinking,” much preferring the alternative option of dancing along to the optimistic ruckus on stage.


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