AudioHammock Podcast #67 - The Decline of Sasquatch Festival

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What Went Wrong?

Since Sasquatch Festival's inception back in 2002 by Adam Zacks, Memorial Day weekend at the Gorge Amphitheatre has been a pillar of good music and comaradaderie for many around the Pacific Northwest. People flock to the festival from Seattle, Portland, Boise, British Columbia, and beyond (I've met people as far as New York). Arguably the best outdoor venue in North America (Red Rocks in Colorado is the only other argument), The Gorge has filled up with twenty to twenty five thousand indie, electronic, rock, and hip hop fans for the majority of every recent festival year except for last year and presumably this. So why the dropoff last year? Why the complaints of the lineup this year? Let's delve into this issue deeper.

Ticket Prices | Headliners | Other Major Festivals

2017 Sasquatch 3-Day Festival Pass: $295
2017 Sasquatch Camping Pass: $99
2017 Single Day Fetival Pass: $99.50

2017 Boston Calling 3-Day Festival Pass: $269
2017 Coachella General Admission Pass: $399
2017 Bonnaroo 4-Day General Admission: $349.50
2017 Governors Ball 3-Day General Admission: $305
2017 Panorama 3-Day Festival Pass: $282

On initial glance, Sasquatch Festival seems adequately priced among its peers this festival season. $295 to get in, another $100 for camping which can be split amongst up to 6 friends for one vehicle. Tack on some service fees and taxes and you're realistically looking around the $370 neighborhood. Expensive but par for the course for many festival attendees. So what stands out here? I'll be blunt, the issue here is that Sasquatch Live Nation is charging tier 1 pricing for a tier 2 festival.

Sasquatch hauled in a major score by locking up Frank Ocean as a headlining artist back in 2016. With Blond arguably being the best album released last year Sasquatch secured it's life jacket for this year's festival but is otherwise losing credability with lending a headlinging slot to Twenty One Pilots. I'll be frank, I've seen Twenty One Pilots, they're fun live, but this slot is aimed at a young demographic, mainly the 15-22 crowd. Guys and girls I know that dont listen to music listen to Twenty One Pilots. When The End (Seattle Radio Station) is offering a contest to meet the band prior to Sasquatch and play video games with the band you really have to take a step back and ask yourself, what the fuck? Hopefully whoever wins that contest is actually old enough to drive to the Gorge. Twenty One Pilots? meh, I'll check them out. Twenty One Pilots fans? No thanks. I'm okay with Twenty One Pilots being at Sasquatch but a headlining slot discloses a lot about the hand Live Nation is showing us in regards to a goal solely focused on ticket sales to an emerging demographic while alienating an older but dedicated Sasquatch audience (lookng at you Reddit and Proboards).

Prices: Up | Total Artists: Down | Ticket Sales: Down

While Sasquatch 2016 was an amazing experience for me personally, the bottom line for Sasquatch was not good. It's no secret that ticket sales were around 10,000. As a fan it was a glass half empty half full kind of thing as you could be late to a set and walk right up to the front for a good view and yet at other times the festival grounds felt empty compared to past years. For Live Nation though, none of that is good for business. If the festival lost money it would not shock me and to make up for it Live Nation has dialed the festival back from 4 days to 3, cut the total artist list down and raised ticket prices. Live Nation appears to be in a infinite loop where they need more revenue to bring in bigger bands but cannot due to poor ticket sales. In recent years past you could not buy single day passes to Sasquatch but this year you can. Why? In a shameless act Sasquatch even has a referral program now where if you refer 5 friends who buy festival passes you will receive a free ticket yourself. Why is this all necessary? Because they need help selling tickets this year.

The Competition is Stacked

Going to a music festival is no easy endeavor. You need time off work or away from school, logisticially everything has to match with your friends, and then there's the enormous cost of food, shelter, alcohol, ice, and whatever else it is you may need. Businesses, coporations, and marketing teams are all cognizant of the massive amounts of money changing hands and the festival scene is now a flooded market and the bar is being raised constantly. Even in the Pacific Northwest festivals are popping up at a rampant pace and more and more are worth looking at. What The Festival!?, Pickathon, Pemberton, Treefort Music Fest, Capitol Hill Block Party, MusicfestNW, and Travelers' Rest are all Sasquatch competitors that are all pandering for your hard earned cash and people are starting to split in those directions. That's just at regional level. If you look at the Sasquatch lineup at the national level and compare it to the likes of Coachella, Boston Calling, or Panorama it's not even close. Yet the price is.

What used to be a "Hey should we go to festival A or B?" dilemma is now A-G.

Where's the Top Tier Indie-Rock Draw?

Did you notice the omission of a headlining worthy indie rock band at the top of this year's lineup? We sure did. The closest we get is The Shins. The Shins are fantastic live, with a worthy discography that includes some indie essentials such as 2001's Oh, Inverted World, 2003's Chutes Too Narrow, and 2007's Wincing the Night Away. While James Mercer and company did release a lukewarm Heartworms earlier this year it's on the strength of those three aforementioned albums that draws crowds. Now I know the undercard is absoultely stacked for indie-rock (looking at you Car Seat Headrest), but rock fans want more at the top. Where's Spoon? Where's Arcade Fire? Alt-J is touring. Fleet Foxes are on the cusp of a new album and will be in Seattle the week before Sasquatch. Modest Mouse will be playing Spokane the very week of Sasquatch. Sure seems like a few missed opportunities.

"I'd absolutely love to come discover some of these bands on the undercard but you need a bigger rock band to get me there." -D.C. native and podcast co-host Dylan Brown

Sasquatch Loves Canadians

But they're disappearing. During Sasquatch 2012 all my adjacent camping neighbors were from Canada and it was amazing. 2016? I didn't meet one. Now that's not to say that Canucks fans weren't there but with a weaker Canadian dollar, rising Sasquatch costs, and Pemberton in their backyard, Sasquatch isn't as appealing as it once was for our friends in British Columbia. Dear Canada, we miss you. Come back?

I have no doubt that everyone that attends the festival this year will have an amazing experience seeing the likes of Frank Ocean, Chance, The Head and The Heart, Big Gigantic, Bonobo, Phantogram, Bob Moses, Aesop Rock, Charles Bradley, Jagwar Ma and countless others. Yet something seems to be missing. How does the Sasquatch lineup sit with you? Let us know by emailing and we'll read a few emails on an upcoming podcast.

Russ Bashaw

Founder, Owner

Russ Bashaw founded AudioHammock in the summer of 2013 and continues to be an active contributor and editor. In addition to writing the occasional review Russ is also one of the hosts of the AudioHammock Podcast. Follow Russ on Instagram @russba1 or email him at