Sasquatch! 2016 Launch Party with Charles Bradley, M. Ward and DJ Sassyblack at Neptune Theatre 1/11/16

Sasquatch, Live Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra
all photos by Morgen Schuler

How about that lineup, am I right?! Holy smokes, I don't think I've seen an undercard that solid on a lineup in years. Good luck figuring your schedule out, everyone! It's going to be damn near impossible to catch all of the phenomenal talent coming to the Gorge this year for the Sasquatch! Music Festival. Lucky for us, every year, we get a small taster of the fun to come over Memorial Day weekend at the annual Sasquatch! Launch Party, where a few of the names we'll see on the lineup decide to let the secret loose and squeeze in another set. This year, we got the party headliner early: the wonderful, magnificent, magnanimous soul sound of Charles Bradley. But it wasn't until he was walking on stage that we knew singer-songwriter legend and all-round monster of folk M. Ward was in the building. Together with a great DJ set from Sassyblack to help fuel the excitement, Bradley and Ward both put down fantastic sets tonight to set off Sasquatch! season the right way.

Giving the evening both its introduction and its intermissions, Sassyblack spun tunes from the front corner of the room to the infinite pleasure of everyone paying attention. When she isn't working within her fantastic experimental duo THEESatisfaction, Cat Harris-White makes even more experimental DIY soul as Sassyblack, and in her further spare time (whatever's left), she DJs under the same name. Tonight, plenty her own music made the playlist, alongside Black Constellation collaborators Shabazz Palaces and rising friends like Porter Ray. Elsewhere, Cat gave us a party with Beyonce and D'Angelo. Cat's table was quite hard to see off to the side of the stage, and the sets were cut from the online stream, which is a real shame. But for those present at the Neptune, Sassyblack made the time pass blissfully between sets and kept the energy moving forward and alive.

Sassyblack (DJ Set):

I still can't believe M. freaking Ward showed up as the surprise guest for tonight's party - what a complete treat. M. Ward is no Sasquatch! newbie, and there's a great reason. There's something about the way the Columbia Gorge looks when he's singing his dreamy folk songs that just makes the world go round. With Charles Bradley die-hards packed against the front barrier, some of those closest to the stage may not have realized the gravitas of having one of the true modern gods of indie rock in their midst. But it only took a couple riffs from Ward on the guitar for any unfamiliars to realize they were in the presence of greatness. For the rest of us, we just sat back and let him do his unbeatable thing.

This surprise appearance serves a good purpose for Ward, as it gives him a first go-round with a new band supporting him on the upcoming tour (including his stop at Sasquatch!) in support of the new record More Rain. The record is out in March on Merge and will feature k.d. Lang, Peter Buck, and Neko Case. Ward broke out the lead single "Girl From Conejo Valley" alongside several others from the new record, and if this is anything to show, it's going to be another instant classic. Elsewhere, Ward broke out his fantastic cover of the Beatles classic "Michelle", done almost in the style of Bossanova-era Pixies. Then after, the double-timed his Hold Time rendition of "Rave On" for an alt-country burner. All in all, M. Ward gave the audience a wonderful surprise and instantly put him on our list of must-sees for this year's Sasquatch! festivities.

M. Ward:

There isn't a man in rock and roll today with a bigger heart than Charles Bradley. You watch him sing. You watch him move. You watch him interact with his fans. It doesn't matter specific part of his performance you pay attention to - the result is all the same realization. Charles Bradley lives and loves through his music as much as he breathes, and there is no one that does it quite like him. How else do you explain countless metal-heads losing their minds over his cover of Black Sabbath's "Changes"? How else do you explain first-time listeners here at the Launch Party tonight stopping everything to listen to his 15-minute David Porter-style spoken word farewell just to turn to random strangers and offer hugs and words of endearment? First and foremost, Charles Bradley is a movement.

Second to that, Charles Bradley throws a party like none other. Listening back to both of his records and eagerly awaiting another (named Changes, after the cover) on April 1 on Daptone, there is nothing but fire on these records. When Bradley and his Extraordinaires break into "You Put The Flame On It", they aren't joking. And truly, due credit must be given to his band, who all perform with a flawless integrity that could make any contemporary shake in their boots. But it's Bradley's delivery that sells every second. It's just so earnest, so real, so true. That kind of honesty and vivacity - it never grows old. And with a whole new record to play with by the time we get to the Gorge, I can't wait to see Charles Bradley bring this same endless love to his biggest stage yet.

Charles Bradles & His Extraordinares:

Catch Charles Bradley, M. Ward, and countless others at this year's Sasquatch! Music Festival!

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