Sasquatch! Music Festival 2017, Day 2: The Radio Dept.

Janice Headley
all photos by Matthew B. Thompson

The Radio Dept. don't seem like your typical "summer festival" style band. On their most recent album, 2016's Running Out of Love, the Swedish duo paired their dreamy '80s-influenced synthpop with fierce, biting lyrics towards their homeland's government. But, somehow, the group got the bros and teens bopping to the songs like "Death to Fascism" and "Sloboda Narodu" (which translates from Croation to, well, "death to fascism"). The boyish, winsome vocals of frontman/guitarist Johan Duncanson and the fun, dancey beats belied the urgency behind the words.

The guys also carry themselves in a quiet, unassuming fashion -- a far, far cry from the usual fist-pumping, crowd-rousing performances we'd seen this weekend. Duncanson scarcely, but politely addressed the audience between songs. Sometimes, there was an awkward silence as band members waited for each other to start the next track. At one point, an audience member shouted a request. "No," Duncanson gently replied. "This one is called 'The New Improved Hypocrisy' actually. But thank you."

The guys supplemented their live line-up with two additional musicians: one guy on keyboards and laptop, and a woman who swiftly switched from percussion to keyboards to wicked lead guitar solos. Bassist Martin Larsson loomed tall on the other side of the stage, wearing a long sleeved black sweatshirt in 80 degree weather. With his beard, ponytail, and distinctive bass lines against an electrobeat, it was hard not to think about Peter Hook and New Order. (Though surely Larsson and Duncanson have a better relationship than Barney and Hooky. And Larsson holds his guitar at a normal level.)

Blaring sunshine be damned, the set list also included the eerie track "Occupied" which samples "Laura Palmer's Theme" by Angelo Badalamenti for the Soundtrack from Twin Peaks. A perfect choice for a Northwest concert (and a Showtime booth was set-up at Sasquatch to promote the recently-launched third season), but again, a sound you'd associate more with grey skies, forests of douglas firs, and maybe a damn fine cup of coffee.

But, those infectious beats were undeniable, and the crowd were dancing the whole set through. So, while they may have seemed like an unusual line-up choice at first, the cool Europop sound of The Radio Dept. was actually the perfect foil to a searingly hot day.

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