In a bathroom with pink satin lining the walls and uncomfortable floral couches, Amy and I aren’t planning our next move–we’re taking selfies in the mirror and rubbing our hands with free lotion. The El Korah Shrine bathroom is our green room, our hideaway from the bustling, chaotic festival happening right above us. In the media lounge across the hall we scarf down hours-old pizza and pull out our notebooks. We just scored an interview with Modern Kin tomorrow at The Crux and we’re reviewing the bands we’ve circled in the program:
Big Tits are an offshoot of Warm Soda, and we can’t wait to see them; La Luz is playing tonight and we won’t miss it. Between shows in parking lots warm with Boise sunshine, coffee shops, and bars, we rest in the basement of El Korah Shrine, watching old men pass into the bar next door, coveting their trucker hats.
This is TreeFort festival.
A festival that features more Portland bands than any in our own town (except maybe PDX Pop Now!), TreeFort is truly the Portland music scene’s home away from home for a week. It’s our spring break. It’s a welcome retreat. It’s fitting that TreeFort declared itself a “festival of discovery” because year after year I leave in awe and with a long list of new bands I can’t get enough of. Music scenes from Boise, Seattle, Portland, New Orleans, Austin, even abroad coalesce in Boise, Idaho to create a five-day, non-stop, high energy adventure.
And there’s no shortage of things to do at the festival. Aside from wandering between the many venues, there’s beer to drink, stories to hear, friends to make, yoga to do (if you want to get up early), secret shows, day parties, skating, art, etc. I’m so looking forward to spending these five days at TreeFort.
Amy and I are making the drive to Boise on Wednesday. Here are a handful of Portland shows I am most looking forward to (full lineup here):
Divers: Drinking a beer with your Dad in the back of the venue.
Roselit Bone: Country music soundtrack to your bar brawl.
The Domestics: My new favorite Portland band.
Catherine Feeny: Super impressive vocals that you Mom would like.
Summer Cannibals: Loud, fast, no-bullshit–Portland’s next big thing.
Talkative: Wild, upbeat, no apologies.
Bearcubbin: When you’re in the mood for sweaty, jittery dancing.
Wooden Indian Burial Ground: Proudest moment of TreeFort 2014 was the bloody nose I got in the pit at WIBG.
Genders: An underrated Portland force, perfectly garage-y yet put together.
In the final weekend of the summer, Portland attempts to hang on to summer just a little bit long with the last outdoor music festival of the season. Project Pabst, new to the city this year, bring big-ticket bands and local acts together in what has been dubbed a “love letter to Portland” by PBR at Zidell Yards.
I was excited to hear about Project Pabst in the midst of my frustration with MFNW. It seemed to me like Project Pabst offered a better alternative to MFNW’s changed format: it had the outdoor festival in addition to multi-venue shows that cost extra, which could be a downside–but considering I paid only $45 for my festival pass, shelling out some extra cash didn’t seem like a big deal.
WHO I’M SEEING
I’m going to start the day with K. Flay, the honest and unashamed rapper/producer, whose newest album Life As A Dog is seriously addicting. Next I’ll catch Red Fang, Portland’s resident stoner metal experts, whose music videos are the most fun ever and who are the loudest hairy dudes I can possibly tolerate. I’m really, really looking forward to seeing Phosphorescent for the first time. Take one listen to Here’s To Taking It Easy and have your heart simultaneously broken and set on fire. Last summer’s Muchacho was a more ethereal record, but stayed on par. I’m ending my night with Violent Femmes, to whom I owe several angsty high school drives screaming the lyrics to “Add It Up.”
Portland’s Grandparents have come a long way since performing the foyer of the art building at Lewis & Clark, where I first saw them. Their weirdo experimental folk has grown, bigger and badder than eve, albeit with more pop. I am a huge fan of Shabazz Palaces‘ Lese Majesty. The newest songs from the Seattle duo are wide in range, interesting, and all-around hypnotizing . I won’t even try to say something intelligent about the GZA, but I wouldn’t miss him. And finally, Modest Mouse, who I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t seen… ever (although my Mom thinks we saw them open for R.E.M. once together. She might be right).
Summer Cannibals, The Woolen Men, The Constantines: Two powerhouse Portland bands open for a buzzed-up classic indie rock band playing a much-anticipated set. Friday @ Dante’s.
Wooden Indian Burial Ground, Deep Sea Diver, Built to Spill: Catch these two PNW acts who are entirely different but entirely great in their own respects. WIBG is galactic, rough, and rowdy. Deep Sea Diver is poppy, full, and Jessica Dobson’s voice is a force to be reckoned with. Saturday @ The Crystal Ballroom.
WHAT I’M EXPECTING
I look forward to experiencing a Portland festival that I never had before, and seeing what everyone thinks. My hunch is that the acts themselves will make or break the festival, regardless of the experience or “feel.” But, I’m looking foward to drinking a shitload of PBR and getting wet and gross with a bunch of other music lovers.
See you there?
Sometimes when summer ends it takes a whole bunch of other stuff down with it. People move away, bars close, the rain sets in, maybe you even get your heart broken. No matter the reason, the changing of seasons kinda sucks until it doesn’t anymore. I’ve made a playlist with equal parts depressing indie music and vindictive pop to get you through the turbulence. Honestly, I went from crying to feeling kinda okay while listening to it. Hope it does the same for you.
(Note: Playlist has best effect if listened to IN ORDER.)
Track list, with key lyrics for your reference:
- Sad Girl – Lana Del Rey
- Calico Man – PHOX “And I will shout it from these corners that I may never love again”
- Pretend You Love Me – Sonny and the Sunsets
- Dark Parts – Perfume Genius
- Not Your Lover – Blitzen Trapper “In my sleep I’m not your lover anymore/ When I wake I have to remind myself that I’m sleeping on your shore.”
- All Too Well – Taylor Swift “You call me up again just to break me like a promise/ So casually cruel in the name of being honest.”
- The Good That Won’t Come Out – Rilo Kiley “I think i’ll go out and embarrass myself by getting drunk and falling down in the street/ You say i choose sadness, that it never once has chosen me/ Maybe you’re right.”
- Burn – Usher
- It Is What It Is – Kacey Musgraves
- Starring Role – Marina and the Diamonds
- Saltwater – Beach House “Love you all the time/ Even though you’re not mine.”
- One By One – Billy Bragg and Wilco
- Unfucktheworld – Angel Olsen “Here’s to thinking that it all meant so much more.”
- In Due Time – PHOX “And for years to come in the mornings/ You may think that I’m the best thing you’ve almost had/ In due time if I gain some self respect/ I could smile upon the day that we first met.”
- Tangled Heart – Luluc
- We’re Just Friends – Wilco
- Stay – Rihanna
- You Are What You Love – Jenny Lewis
- The Mermaid Parade – Phosphorescent
- Don’t Apply Compression Gently – Courtney Barnett “I may not be 100 percent happy but at least I’m not with you.”
- Stupid – Kacey Musgraves “Love is stupid/ Don’t know why we always do it.”
- If It Makes You Happy – Sheryl Crow
- I Won’t Share You – The Smiths
- I Care – Beyonce
- Dancing On My Own – Robyn
- The First Cut is the Deepest – PP Arnold
- I Go To The Barn Because I Like The – Band of Horses
- Really Don’t Care – Demi Lovato and Cher Lloyd
- Tears in the Typing Pool – Broadcast
- If I Needed You – Emmylou Harris
- Chasing A Ghost – The Morning Benders
- There Will Be No Divorce – The Mountain Goats “If i ever want to drive myself insane/ All i have to do is watch you breathing.”
- Love Hurts – Roy Orbison
- Happiness/The Gondola Man – Elliott Smith “What I used to be will pass away and then you’ll see/ That all I want now is happiness for you and me.”
It seems that summer has been full of new releases, and teasers for fall albums. Over the past few months, there’s been a lot to sink your teeth into. I’ve collected some of my favorite songs of summer onto a Spotify playlist that I will continue to update as I prepare to travel this week! On it you will find…
“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj: Nicki’s booty-shaking song is rich with empowerment, humor, and all-around goodness. It’s an anthem for thick girls, man-eaters, and powerful ladies akin to Lady Gaga’s G.U.Y…. but better. Since it’s release, this song has become a staple in my routine–getting ready for the party, heading to the party, at the party, after the party, etc. And don’t forgo the video.
“Eyes of the Muse” by King Tuff: Following the release of his self titled album in 2012, I was a die-hard King Tuff fan, and I’m pleased with the first of two singles he’s released from his upcoming. The weirdo garage rock guru melds shimmering guitar, angst-ridden lyrics, and danceable melodies so seemlessly. It’s a summer jam for sure, and a song that’ll keep you warm through the beginning of fall.
“Bad Timing” by Pony Village: I’ve had the pleasure of catching Pony Village twice this summer. I’m a huge fan of their early-Death Cab-esque sound and all around stage presence. Up until recently, I never took the time to listen to their recordings–definitely worth sharing, and a local band to keep your eyes on.
“Avant Gardener” by Courtney Barnett: Courtney’s performance was a stand out to me at Pickathon. She is completely herself and completely rock n’ roll. Since first seeing her at the festival, I’ve listened to The Double Ep: A Sea of Split Peas maybe 100 times. “Avant Gardner” is a ballad about breaking the mundane with dire consequences. Barnett delivers dark subject matter with humor and apathy… it’s perfect in its relatability.
“Raspberry Seed” by PHOX: PHOX released one of my favorite albums of summer. Each song is a beautiful, well crafted, and often-heartbreaking tribute to loves lost and what is left. “Raspberry Seed” is a long track that I feel really encompasses the mood of the album. The cutting lyrics, honestly, and tenderness of it all is woozy but crisp.
“Brooklyn Baby” by Lana Del Rey: No summer playlist is complete without indulging in a guilty pleasure. But honestly, Del Rey’s album Ultraviolent doesn’t make me feel that guilty. It’s solid. “Brooklyn Baby” is a breather from the heavier, heart-wrecking, gut-wrenching stuff on the album. Del Rey lifts her head from the Sad Girl puddle and delivers an ironic pop song about, what else, annoying people that live in Brooklyn. I love the song–thank god for artists who can poke fun at themselves.
Plus a ton more! And more to come!
Check out the playlist on Spotify:
For the four years that I’ve lived in Portland, I’ve attended Musicfest NW. It’s always been a long weekend of thought-out adventure and time management that culminates in too little sleep, ear ringing, and general euphoria of seeing dozens of bands across town in venues as small as Bunk Bar to big blow outs in Pioneer Square.
This year, things were different.
I’ve been throwing shade at this year’s incarnation of MFNW for many reasons (“American Apparel stage” alone is making me gag). But why should I be a grumpy? Portland is truly blessed to have such an established and rowdy fest, and even stuck in one place without the cut-throat at-capacity competition, MFNW is bound to be unforgettable. Here are a few shows that I wouldn’t miss:
Modern Kin (Sunday, 2:20, American Apparel Stage)
Portland’s prodigal front man Drew Grow has put his all into every project he’s been a part of. It seems this city is finally throwing him a bone with his latest, Modern Kin. The band, made up of Grow, Kris Doty, and Jeremiah Hayden, have undeniable energy and are band that just seem to click. Their self-titled album is strong. Produced by Janet Weiss, it’s a force of electric guitar, stand up bass, and haunting lyrics.
Run The Jewels (Saturday, 6:25, Moda stage)
If you haven’t taken the time to appreciate this honest, no-holds-barred hip-hop duo, now is the time. El-P and Killer Mike deliver beats and lyrics that will stop you in your tracks but, at the same time, make you want to dance. It’s abrasive, it’s heavy at times, but it’s fun, and it’s real.
Tune-Yards (Sunday, 6:25, Moda stage)
Tune-Yards’ weirdo pop makes waves across musical circles for its innovation. 2011’s Whokill was a a revelation; an intoxicating take on drum loops, synth, and lyricism. Merril Garbus returned this past year with the much-anticipated follow up Nikki Nack, which doesn’t miss a beat. I’m sure Tune-Yards performance will be a stand-out at MFNW. If not only for the energy, for the spectacle.
Haim (Sunday, 7:25, American Apparel stage)
The premiere album “Days Are Gone” from this group of LA sisters was the earworm of 2013. But beyond their Urban Outfitters appeal and Normal Girl aesthetic, this group of women is seriously talented, and seriously loved (for good reason). Even if you aren’t a fan of their take on pop music, it’s hard to deny their spirit, energy, and depth of sound. Perhaps one of the buzziest bands to play at MFNW this year, or at least one of the “big names” amidst quirkier headliners, Haim is sure to pack a punch.
Honorable mentions: I have every confidence that Girl Talk will deliver the most fun out of all MFNW performances. You’d be a fool to miss Spoon, the critically acclaimed, tenured group who just released a new album. And, if you want to cry, don’t miss The Antlers. You might also consider RSVPing now to the slew of Red Bull Sound Select shows throwing down some local love this weekend (cheap!), and make your way to the Doc Martens store tonight for some Pain.
While MFNW might be different, and making changes is scary, the fest will fall into step and carve out a new place for itself in the Portland scene. Don’t let your bitterness outweigh your willingness to experience something new.
It’s August, and I feel like summer only just started. Joke’s on me because it’s almost over, and I’ll be spending the tail-end of Portland summer back home in Washington, D.C. But, until the rain sets in and I once again have to wonder why only ONE of my jackets has a hood, here are two gorgeous albums to usher out your summer.
Adult Diversion: The magic of Alvvays
“Alvvays” isn’t an album, it’s a feeling. It’s the taste of late summer; the drying of sweat after magic hour; the windows rolled down, the radio turned loud. The premiere album from the Canadian group by the same name was one of my most anticipated albums of the summer–and I’m beyond pleased with their 9-track debut. “Alvvays” is a shimmering, innocent ode to Summer. Songs about parties, love, getting in trouble, getting married, and sailing on the Atlantic flow together to create something that feels timeless. Stream this sucker on Spotify or purchase on their website.
Alvvays is playing the Doug Fir on December 1.
It’s a new you everyday: Jenny Lewis’ timeless heartache & musings on womanhood
There are few things written about womanhood that capture the pressures, insecurities, trials, and triumphs of being a woman. For almost two decades, and within the scope of three different musical projects, Jenny Lewis has done just that—and hammers it home on her new record “Voyager.”
In its exploration of motherhood, cheating, drugs, life on the road, heartbreak, and family, “Voyager” is a declaration of adult womanhood. It’s a document of mistakes, memories, and the things that give life meaning.
Lewis’s unique brand of narrative songwriting is infectious. Each song is a three-to-five minute glimpse into the life of a woman at a different point in her life or a relationship.
“Voyager” has gotten a lot of attention, thanks to the video for “Just One of the Guys” which features Anne Hathaway and Kristin Stewart. I love that track dearly, and I think it encompasses Lewis’s style almost flawlessly–presenting things that are pretty hard or heavy to think about in a way that is relatable, easy, and mind-numbingly catchy. My favorite tracks are: “Slippery Slopes,” a romantic ode to cheating, “Aloha & The Three Johns,” a song about entering middle age and a bad vacation, and “The Voyager,” a cosmic meditation on life itself.
Jenny Lewis is a role model for female musicians everywhere. Not only is she one of the most successful, but she’s entirely honest. To get a feel for her life and process, check out this moving NYT Magazine piece, which I was poised to hate but revisit frequently.
I could say A LOT more about this album, and maybe I will in time. For now, listen for yourself and tell me what you think.
Jenny Lewis is playing with Beck at Edgefield on August 21.