Please tell me everything I need to know about the Sasquatch Music Festival!
February 10, 2011 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I think I may be going to Sasquatch this year! I've never been - for that matter, I've never gone to any sort of music festival or even a concert bigger than a hundred people or so - so can any kindly souls out there give some tips or advice to a first-timer? I'm pretty clueless as a general rule so even the most basic of suggestions would be gladly appreciated, whether it's "if you hitchhike you will die" or "you will need to bring toilet paper" or "don't bother with a cell phone cause there's no reception out there" or "make sure not to miss this artist!" or anything else of the sort. My (pretty rough) plans and specific questions are under the fold...

I'm female, early 20s, and I live in Vancouver, BC. I'm thinking of probably going for just the music on Saturday and Sunday, but I'd like to arrive Friday night and camp out (can this be done or are the one-day tickets only good for campground admission on the same day?). I know one other person who's going, but she's coming from North Carolina and probably by train, so I doubt I'd be able to find her until I arrive.

Here also are some more specific questions - apologies if some of them are really dumb! I've looked around the website but haven't been able to find that much.

1) I may or may not be able to drive, but I'd rather get there in a somewhat more earth-friendly style since I'll be alone. From what I gather you can take a greyhound or train most of the way - is it reasonable to walk the rest or should I be looking to hitchhike/carpool/other option?

2) What should I bring? I figure tent + sleeping bag, water, phone/wallet (am I going to need a lot of cash?)/etc - do I really need anything else? And do you leave your tent set up in the campground with most of your stuff inside (except valuables) or is there a risk it'll get stolen?

3) Food-wise, what makes the most sense: Cooking over a camp stove? Buying the food they provide?

4) I'm not absolutely set on going for only the two days, but it is way cheaper and most of the artists I (already know I) like are playing Saturday and Sunday as far as I can tell (except The Decemberists, alas). Is there any super-compelling non-musical reason for getting the 4-day pass?

5) There are probably tons of questions that, in my naiveté, I don't even realize I need to be asking - so please, feel free to answer them for me!

Thank you all in advance for any help and advice you can offer. This could well be one of the most awesome experiences I'll ever have!
posted by daelin to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been to tons of shows at the Gorge and I highly recommend Wildhorse Campground if you are going to camp - it's smaller and way nicer than the Gorge camping, people aren't packed in as tightly and they run a shuttle down the road to the venue (or it's not a long walk if you're so inclined). The single-day Sasquatch admission doesn't include camping, so this should end up being about the same price or cheaper than dealing with the Gorge camping (which, again, is generally crowded and loud and full of bros).

I wouldn't plan on walking all the way to the venue from a bus stop, though - it's really hot and dry, you'd be walking along the highway, and it just sounds pretty miserable to me. I would bet that you would have no trouble hitchhiking the rest of the way with other festival-goers, though, or arranging a ride on craigslist.

I'd bring a tent, sleeping bag, food, etc. and just lock all your valuables in your car when you go to the show. Security is another great reason to stay at Wildhorse, it's smaller and more secure. Don't worry about leaving your tent set up though, that shouldn't be a problem.
posted by dialetheia at 1:44 PM on February 10, 2011

Purell and Charmin To Go.
posted by krisken at 1:47 PM on February 10, 2011

The single-day Sasquatch admission doesn't include camping

This year, it appears to include camping.

My tip is meet up with MeFites at Sasquatch!
posted by grouse at 1:49 PM on February 10, 2011

I don't know anything about this festival, but my wife and I went to a half-dozen or so fests last year, so I know the general scene.

Take toilet paper! It's a really bad scene when the porta-potties run out. We take those Tuck's cleansing wipes too.

For food, we generally take a bunch of ramen bowls and heat-and-eat Indian meals and stuff like that. Single-serving cereal bowls and shelf-stable milk. Maybe grilled cheese, but that's about as amibitious as we get. We used to do a whole camp kitchen thing, but that got cumbersome. There may be good food for sale there, but it's always good to have backup. We're foodies, and really enjoy cooking at home, but it's a hassle out there.

You will be outside for days, so you'll need sunsceen and insect repellant. Something to play with during set changes is good, too--if you have a drum or a guitar, you should bring that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:50 PM on February 10, 2011

From my experience:

1) I haven't ever gotten there or camped there without a car, so I'm not sure about that.

2) You'll want a tent, sleeping bag, flashlight, a bag or two for your trash. Pretty basic camping stuff. Depending on how light you're trying to pack, a folding camp chair of some sort would probably be a good idea. For clothes you want to be prepared for basically anything. Last year I was in shorts most of the time, in 2006 there freak hailstorms (not typical). It rains sometimes and gets pretty cold at night. As far as safety, you may want to pay attention not to leave anything super-valuable at the camp site while you're gone all day, but people are generally not too terrible. The first year I went, somebody rooted through my tent and stole 2 pairs of shorts and the only pair of long pants I brought. That was frustrating and pretty odd. Haven't had any problems in the years since, but I usually lock my bag in the car now anyway just in case. Cell reception can be spotty, but you're definitely going to want it if you plan to meet up with any friends. The campground is HUGE and you'd have to be pretty lucky to find anybody just by wandering around. TP is probably a good idea, the "comfort stations" start to look pretty grim after a couple of days...

3) You'll want to probably bring food to eat in the morning and after the concerts each day unless you want to pay $8-10 for every meal. Sometimes campers set up makeshift food stands (if you're not sqeamish about food prep standards) and there's an overpriced convenience store. Sealed water bottles are a good thing to have, they won't let you into the venue with anything that's been opened.

4) I think the best reason to buy the 4 day pass is that camping is included (worth ~$180 I think). If you decide you want to go on another day, you can sometimes pick up tickets if you have the cash and are lucky enough to find someone that has a spare.

5) If you're a drinker, make sure you bring whatever you'll need for the weekend. If you want to bring liquor in to the venue, a flask would be a good idea. Same goes for any other substances you may be into.

You'll probably have a lot more fun if you're able to meet up with your friend or make friends with the people camped next to you. They pack everybody in pretty tight, so you'll have some close neighbors.

That's about all I can think of at the moment. Oh man, now I'm getting excited to go!
posted by crosbyh at 2:00 PM on February 10, 2011

I went to Sasquatch once, but only for two days, nothing wrong with that. This was in 2007 so it may have changed since then. The biggest surprise for me was the climate. With the name and the forest imagery and the fact that it's in Washington State I guess I expected it to be in the forest. Wrong! It's scrub land out there, closer to high desert than anything else. It was baking hot during the day, so dress appropriately. Chilly at night, long-sleeve weather. (though the weather can be variable and there has been rain other years.) Also: Maybe you know something I don't but I can't imagine how you would get there without a car, especially the final leg as it's just rural nothingness out there. A rideshare from Vancouver would have to be the best bet. Look around on craigslist or ask your friends, you should be able to pull this off.

The campground was a big party scene at night and the crowd was quite young, if you are old enough to bring beer you might make lots of friends that way. The campground is a bit of a hike, at least 20 minutes away from the gates, and I don't think you were allowed in and outs, so you have to buy food and drink on-site. Which is typical festival vending fare, i.e. expensive and nothing special. Don't plan on getting drunk, the beers cost $8.

The main stage sites at the bottom of a beautiful amphiteatre. You can lie on the grass and just have a lovely time chilling out and watching the sun set and enjoying the view. I recommend though you try to get up front just to experience the rush of it (if that's your thing). So: there is a big flat area at the bottom, then a fence with entrances at either side, then a big area in front of the stage. Security dudes will shut off the entrances when the inner area is too full. There is little chance of working your way through that crowd as people will not let you willingly, but after each set there will be a big flow of people in and out so this is when to move. I remember I went down halfway through the 3rd last band of the night, and once they were done I just barely made it into the main pit where I saw the 2nd last band, and after that I got up quite close for the headliner; close enough to see the wrinkles at the corners of her beautiful Icelandic eyes. And that was amazing and totally worth it. Ahhhh... have fun.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:27 PM on February 10, 2011

I've stayed at Wildhorse and I've stayed at the official grounds. Personally, I feel if you are camping with neighbors, man, you are camping with neighbors. Might as well camp with 20,000 instead of 2,000, right? Right. Plus, sure, getting to the venue via shuttle is easy, but at the end of the night, it's a pain to have to wait in line to get on one. Why does everyone want to get back to the tent one the concerts over? Oh. So much easier IMHO to be able to stumble home in the mass exodus than catch a bus.

I did, however, one year get so plastered in the afternoon at the camp site that I didn't remember where it was 8 hours later. Imagine me wandering around in pitch black among thousands of tents going "Fuck Fuck Fuck". All porta-potties and tents look a like after 1 AM. To this day I still can't recall what happened and how I woke up in my tent. So, make a mental note when you are sober where you are parked.

Finally, here's the #1 biggest thing about Sasquatch: Weather. Wear sunscreen and be prepared for 80 degree desert sun, but after sunset, be prepared with a sweater, coat, and/or blanket, for for 40 degree drops. One year we got hail. One year we got fierce winds. The weather changes fast there, but nothing sucks the fun out of chilling out on the hill after a long day in the sun like freezing your ass off and wishing you'd brought a blanket.

Bring lots of food and alcohol for the campsite. You'll want breakfast and/or lunch before heading into the venue and a late-night snack. If you plan it right, you'll only buy one meal inside the venue, and you don't want more than that - not because it's expensive but because the line gets massive and nothing worse (other than freezing at 11:30 PM wishing for the encore to end) than wasting a fun day in line for crappy food.
posted by yeti at 3:12 PM on February 10, 2011

Getting to Quincy (Ephrata) or George by train or bus does not get you to the Gorge venue. It is still about 10-15 miles from the closest stop, maybe even further. You could probably set up rides on craigslist pretty easily. You can buy food in in the venue, or you can bring in food, but your are not supposed to bring in liquids. I bring in empty water bottles and fill them as soon as I get inside. You could bring the flavor packets too, in case you don't like plain water. Basically you get in line, quickly get to the grassy area that you want to claim and park yourself, it is a great place for a concert. I do not thinkit is worth upgrades for tickets if they are available. Lots of fun, amazing scenery, can be really really hot and sunny. Bring blankets, a jacket, pillow, food and you are set for a great time. You could splurge and try staying at the Cave B Inn, they now have yurts available. Though they can be pricey.
posted by jennstra at 3:31 PM on February 10, 2011

forgot, cell phone coverage can be spotty. if you are going to meet up with someone, it might be easier to choose a spot before getting into the Gorge.
posted by jennstra at 3:33 PM on February 10, 2011

I've never been to the 'Squatch, but I regularly attend several festival concerts/outdoor concerts every year. The camping advice already given above is spot on. A packet of baby-wipes is always handy to bring with you to these things as well, especially at the venue proper.

It's been my personal experience that you can count on two things at an outdoor festival concert: Lots of mud & Bros stomping on your feet. Doesn't matter if there has been no rain for days, somehow there is always mud at these things. As a result, I ALWAYS wear trail shoes or trail sandals with toecaps & a heel strap (preferably ones that are Croc-like and allow water to run out easily). Don't worry about how you're going to look wearing them. Your feet and toes will thank you later.

The other thing I bring is a rain poncho, just in case it rains. You can get $1 ones that fit in your pocket or (and this is my personal preference) a heavier duty one for 10-20 bucks that can be folded out as a tarp for you and your friend to sit on. You can usually find the ponchos in the camping section of a sporting goods store or big box retailer.

Have fun!
posted by KingEdRa at 3:53 PM on February 10, 2011

**caveat: i have not been to this festival, but I love music festivals and try to go to at least once a year. So my opinions are about festivals in general and not this one specifically.

1) A car to lock up valuable belongs is a big +, so if you can find a friend (meFi or otherwise to tag along with). I hate experiencing things like this alone so I will sometimes even pay out of pocket for someone to come with.

2) Tent, sleeping bag, phone, wallet, books and LOTS OF CASH. ATMs at festivals are famous for 10 and even 20$ fees since they know they can charge it. Bring anything you feel you'll need to make yourself really enjoy your time there. Oh, and make sure you bring toiletries, nothing is worse than standing in line next to someone who hasn't showered in 4 days, and smells like it, or worse: hasn't showered in one day but it smells like 4, and they crapped their pants.
I have NEVER had any instance of things go missing from my site (chairs, tents, etc...) but that doesn't mean to trust in others, because there are assholes that go to these too.
******Set your tent up somewhere either at the top of a "hill" or away from places you think others will urinate. You have no idea how inconsiderate some people are.

3) Lots of festivals don't allow gas or glass, so pack accordingly (they WILL take them from you). cereal bars and crackers with cheese are a must (assuming you're going with someone and have a cooler), granola and jerky as desired. Trust in lunch and dinner to be able to be bought, but you NEED to pack for breakfast and late snacks. Bring bottled water, I know of too many people who have gotten sick from fountain/water-barrel water at festivals

4) It's not just about the music, it's the people watching, vendors (I buy a lot of art at these festivals) and discovering bands that you've never even heard of before. I always show up for a whole festival, but i love torture (people partying all night next to your tent and a drum circle at the same spot at 6:30AM, terrible food and laughable times).

5) bring a camera. make sure to bring a pillow. bring toiletries, as i said above. bring some sandals that you have broken in otherwise you will have the WORST blisters and open sores ever. bring some layers to dress in. bring a rain coat of some type. and bring a sense of humor, because you'll need it sometimes.

You're going to have a lot of fun!
posted by zombieApoc at 4:13 PM on February 10, 2011

Along with sunscreen and insect repelant, like said above.
posted by zombieApoc at 4:27 PM on February 10, 2011

Oh, how I wish I was going to Sasquatch again this year. I went for the first time last year, driving down with my roommates from Victoria, BC. It was my first music festival as well, and a pretty great introduction to boot.

First point, we decided, as a group, to spring for premium camping. I would highly recommend this in a lot of ways, but I don't think it's the end of the world if you don't. There was generally more space in our camping sections than the non-premium camping (I got lost one night when I decided to walk back alone rather than take the shuttle. It was extraordinarily confusing), and it was obvious they weren't as interested in packing people in as they were in the other parts of the grounds. Probably the best thing though, was that our porta potties didn't run out of toilet paper and were cleaned every morning. I'm not sure whether that happened everywhere in Premium camping, everywhere period, or what, but it was fantastic. Even the last day was only mildly alarming, not the terror I had been warned against. (Comparing accounts with people who have gone for several years, it seemed like last year they really upped their game in this department. YMMV.)

If it were me, I'd want a car, if only to leave anything in during the day. That said, traffic was backed up for literally miles going into the Gorge, so if you could get close I have exactly zero doubt that someone would give you a ride into the festival. Many, many people rent RVs and drive them in, so they would definitely have space for you too hitch a ride, if you are interested in making hitchhiking friends. And although I don't know for certain, I would bet money that you could hitch from wherever the bus would take you too to the festival. It became increasingly clear the closer we got that yes, this many people really were going to the same thing we were. We had festival passes though, so we got there the day before and set up camp & such.

In terms of food, we brought all of ours in (and they didn't check our cars or anything for booze, glass, etc). There were about 8 or 9 of us all told, so we stopped at a grocery store in Ellensburg, WA (If I recall correctly). We cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner every day--at breakfast before we went in, packed lunches/snacks, and then cooked dinner after we all went back to camp. The food inside the venue is insanely expensive. I believe a small personal Domino's pizza was around 10$; fries or something like that were between 5-10$. We used a small camp stove and had zero problems, although we also came prepared with plates & bowls, a sharp knife or two, and things to cook. And an old milk crate to set up our "kitchen" on.

Regarding how many days to go for, many, many people go to all three (or four, apparently now) days. They don't always all go into the festival itself each day, as the camping isn't where you need a ticket. So if you wanted to, you could theoretically get a ticket for the first day, stay in camp the second day, and go to the third day, assuming that's what you had tickets for.

On alcohol: This was my experience, so yours may be different, etc. They didn't check any car that I saw for booze or any other legal or nonlegal substance. What they did check, insanely well for, was booze being carried into the festival. I mean this to the point of taking everything out of your bookbag/purse and making sure you aren't smuggling in alcohol. People still did, of course, especially mini-bottles, but you will have to be sneaky and put some forethought into it if you so desire. Just don't try the old "I've got crutches routine," only to have them sliced open (they were like plastic pipe wrapped in duct tape, it was weird) in front of hundreds of people. True story. Alcohol inside the festival itself is pricey, as is everything else. I believe a tallboy of Pabst was around 8 or 9 dollars.

Random other stuff: Don't lose your ticket(s). I misplaced mine for two hours, during which time my campmates and I tore everything apart. Things were looking pretty dismal until I found them tucked into one of like fifteen six packs of beer we had brought in with us. Alcohol: I'm 25 and have gone through grad school, so I've done some drinking, but I was surprised (probably naively) at the sheer amount of booze people were consuming at the festival. Everybody was cool about it though, and if you were to go around and introduce yourself to people randomly, you will be offered friendly drinks. We made several friends this way, one of whom was riding around on a tricycle selling pot brownies. Bring sunscreen, as someone else said. The Gorge is definitely not in the mountains, and it may be quite hot and sunny during the day. Bring some cash, as has also been pointed out. The ATM fees (especially for international banking, as I was doing) in the festival were pretty damned high. It gets chilly at night, we were all freezing the first night last year, to the point where I put all of my clothes on and slept in them, inside my sleeping back, inside my tent. Be prepared. Seconding whoever said to bring Purell. That's probably advice worth more than everything I've written here, if only to keep you from feeling like you've voluntarily renounced civilization while crammed in next to 20,000 other folks.

With all that in mind, I'll leave you with this: The girl I'm now dating drove to Sasquatch the year before me in a 97 Geo that died on the way back over the Cascades, with 2 friends, stayed in regular camping, and ate ramen the whole time, and had a blast. You'll be fine! Have fun, and I wish I was there with you!
posted by scdjpowell at 5:51 PM on February 10, 2011

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