I was lamenting not being able to go see Bloc Party on Sunday when it was pointed out to me that I was also missing out on something even bigger and better on Saturday: the Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington (gotta love that town's name!).
I've only been to the Gorge once, but it ranks right up there in my top three concerts - pretty impressive, since I didn't really like any of the three bands we saw!
Here's the story: my friend was turning 30 that year, and like many soon-to-be 30 year old women in North America that year, she had succumbed to the Rob Thomas syndrome (this is a curious medical condition that afflicted many 30 year old women that summer; symptoms included faintness, heart palpitations, sweaty palms, romantic delusions and other sexually-related side-effects. Fortunately, I happened to be immune).
I actually was clueless as to who Rob Thomas was, but she soon filled me in with all the details - he was the singer for a band called Matchbox 20 who was very popular on the radio that year (I don't listen to the radio, so was unaware of this cultural phenomenon). Matchbox 20 were appearing at the Gorge in Washington right around my friend's birthday - did we want to get a group of people together and go see the concert?
Me, go see a band I've never heard of? Sure thing! Me, go into a different country, to a venue I've never heard of? Point me in the right direction!
But we would be camping out on site after the concert - we don't camp! We don't own a tent, or sleeping bags! I asked if I could borrow my brothers' - nope, he had loaned it out to someone else. So I was able to organize to borrow my friend's old tent. We rented a car, because we were afraid ours might not make the trip.
And then September 11 happened. The concert was the week after the disaster. The borders were practically impenetrable. We live five minutes from the border; usually we can leave our house and be in the States in ten minutes. On this particular Saturday morning, we sat in line at the border for three hours while guards used mirrors to check for bombs under cars; trunks were searched; passports were produced and scrutinized. We had planned to do lunch in Seattle; we didn't get across the border until after 12.
By the time we hit Seattle, we were still in a convoy with our friends. But a woman riding with them had a panic attack, and so they zoomed off. We lost them in the traffic, and never saw them again. We had no idea where we were going, so we followed the signs to Yakima and hoped for the best.
Five hours later, we were in the middle of the desert (practically). We found the site, parked, set up the tent my brother had borrowed at the last minute from his roommate, and went over to try and find our friends at the concert.
The place was breathtaking. Set on the edge of a canyon, you looked down from the hill to the stage, and beyond that into the gorge and river. The weather was unbelievable - a warm, constant temperature enveloped us all night. The scent of the neighbouring alfalfa fields perfumed the air.
We never found our friends. A couple ended up offering us their extra tickets in the 'Headzone' (or whatever it was called) - we had chairs in the 12th row, while, it turned out, our friends spent the whole concert sitting way back up on the dirt on the hill.
Pete Yorn, a folk rocker, opened (not my kind of music), followed by Train (a very pleasant surprise - the guy's a real showman), and the night ended with Matchbox 20 (I'm still not a convert). In spite of that, the night was truly magical. The Gorge really is one of the top venues in North America - if not the world.
So, if you're not doing anything this Saturday, take a drive over to George, Washington, and for a measly $55 you can see some of my personal favorites, Pixies, Wilco, The Arcade Fire, and Bloc Party as well as a whole bunch of other good acts: Modest Mouse, Kanye West, Ray Lamontagne, Jem, U.S.E., Joanna Newsom, A.C.Newman, The Frames, Bobby Bare Jr., Be Good Tanyas, Benevento-Russo Duo, Matisyahu, Visqueen, Blue Scholars, Smoosh and Aqueduct.
You won't be disappointed.