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I had already been to one music festival before attending Sasquatch!, but something about having a two-day event in the middle of an enormous South American city just didn’t have the same feeling as driving four and a half hours outside of Portland, Oregon to camp for five nights and six days along the beautiful Columbia River. Don’t get me wrong, going to Lollapalooza two years ago in Santiago, Chile was quite the experience, but what evolved at the Gorge Amphitheater a few weekends ago was truly magical.

After a hard days work the Thursday before the music began, we ran around frantically gathering pasta salad ingredients, camp stoves and headlamps, and clothing that could withstand the grime and grub of the desert-like terrain. We also packed our little Subaru with some new Pacific Northwest friends who were sweet enough to tag along, celebrate great music, and put up with my boyfriend John’s and my affection as we celebrated our two-year anniversary. The long Memorial Day Weekend was already off to a great start as we drove through gorgeous scenic highways, stopped to pick up wasabi peas and dried chili mango, and unwound from the busy week with some tunes from the War On Drugs.

Our troops made it into the Sasquatch! camping area just before midnight on Thursday and the construction of the festival’s tent city was already underway in the dim field lights. Structures of blue, white, orange, and green nylon ripstop and polyester were squished together to form little neighborhood-like communities of people who were ready to mingle and jam out with some of their favorite musicians. We somehow bundled up our anticipation, tucked it under our pillows at the top of our sleeping bags, and rested to prepare for the long sunny days ahead in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This music festival tale isn’t one about who wore what or how hard we partied. It’s one about community and feeling like you’re part of something bigger. It goes beyond your everyday work schedule, your tight knit group of friends you see every Friday night, and the hiking spots you frequent, and it certainly made me feel way more connected to the Pacific Northwest. That’s because our days were filled with camp chairs in pow-wow formations, perfect for swapping stories and really getting to know one another. Group showers that consisted of a complete stranger pouring a gallon of cold water over your head, and grabbing the hand of a new friend to quickly run from one stage to the next with the intention of sharing your favorite songs and dance moves. There was a ceramic community wine bowl being refilled with classy boxed Pinot Grigio and one too many games of flip cup, but the root of our experience was enjoying the people, the environment and the music that surrounded us.

Speaking of music, some standouts were Sylvan Esso, Little Dragon for a little late night groovin’, Shakey Graves and Benjamin Booker who soothed our craving for southern rock, the chill Aussie band Tame Impala, and the incredible soulful Alabama group St. Paul & The Broken Bones. Also, Mia was a big fan of the girl rockers like Jenny Lewis and St. Vincent. I really cannot forget to mention one of my favorite bands from Philly, The Districts. It was my fourth time seeing them and I swear their performances get better and better every time.

The music, our cozy campsite and the good company definitely made Sasquatch! Festival 2015 one of the best experiences I’ve had this year. A lot of what we see and hear about festivals is the fashion trends and the headliner shows, but once you get there, things shift. You get a little sunburned, your body is coated in dust, your feet ache from jumping around all day, and the outfit you took an hour to pick out suddenly feels a little off. That’s when you realize the music around you has formed a community of people who traveled to the Gorge for the long weekend to hit the refresh button, let go a little—of expectations and stress—and take in the beautiful surroundings we’re fortunate enough to have in our lives.

As we broke down camp and traveled down the road back to Portland, humming our favorite songs from the past few days, I couldn’t stop smiling. Exhausted with a scratchy throat and dying for some middle-of-nowhere diner breakfast, my boyfriend John and I looked at each other and said “That was perfect.”

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