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?
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.
After nearly four years of living in Portland, I finally bit the bullet and overdrew my bank account to attend Pickathon. The weekend-long festival showcases indie and roots musicians from Portland and far beyond, plus a buttload of craft beer, food carts, and a commitment to sustainability.
Before heading out to Happy Valley on Friday, my anxiety about camping alone, feeding myself (all I brought was four bananas and a bag of Kroger spice drops), and making the most out of the event as possible was high. But three hours into my Pickathon—tent set up, stainless steel Kleen Kanteen cup purchased—I sat, watching Jolie Holland, sure that coming to this festival was the best decision I’ve made all year.
Fests for me are as much about discovery as they are about appreciating bands you’ve already come to love. Here are my picks for best shows of the weekend, the biggest misses, and my favorite discoveries:
Diarrhea Planet (Friday, Galaxy Barn and Saturday, Woods Stage): The six piece band from Nashville, Tennessee was one of my must-sees of the weekend, and they did not disappoint. Their show at Galaxy Barn was a sweaty, bruise-inducing mess in the best way possible. Even with four guitars Diarrhea Planet is tight—and as you might expect, unrelenting. I wasn’t planning to see them twice but I couldn’t pass them up. Their second show at Woods Stage had the same great energy, but felt a bit more laid back. Maybe it was all the twelve-year-olds.
Angel Olsen (Saturday, Lucky Barn and Sunday, Woods Stage): Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness is a haunting record that I’ve listened to regularly since it came out a few months back. Her voice is absolutely mesmerizing on record and her live show made no concession. Both performances were humble and stunning. Sunday’s show at Woods Stage was packed, and many musicians lingered backstage to take it in. Though she’d never admit it, Angel’s set herself up for a quick and lasting climb.
Warpaint (Sunday, Woods Stage): I’ve had a slow start with Warpaint. Some days, their album is great to me and others I’m a bit bored. Their performance, however, made me more than a fairweather fan. The four talented women share stage time, alternate who takes the lead, and present themselves so honestly. The final song of the set, “Baby,” was flawless.
Foxygen (Friday, Galaxy Barn): A big draw to the fest for me was Foxygen, whose album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic was one of my favorites of 2013. The group’s live show left a lot to be desired. They hardly played any of the big songs off of 21st Century and overall the performance seemed over the top yet lackluster. The energy was all over the place—one of the backup singers was so much more enthusiastic than all the others; the sound wasn’t great; overall I was left disappointed.
Shakey Graves (Friday, Fir Meadows and Sunday, Woods Stage): I got into Shakey Graves just before I left for Pickathon and was particularly excited by his performances at last year’s festival. And he’s a good performer—he’s talented, his songs are catchy, and everyone loves him, but I was bored. His first set had me hooked, but by the time I saw him again on Sunday, I realized that all of his songs rely on the same Johnny Cash rhythm, and though playing drums with your feet while also playing guitar is impressive on a surface level, it gets old fast. I’ll still check out his new album in October, but I won’t have to see him live again.
Destroyer (Friday, Woods Stage and Treeline Stage): I’ve been well aware of Destroyer for some time, but never invested that much in him (I’ve always just been a diehard New Porn fan). But Dan Bejar’s performances Friday were spectacular, shimmering, intimate, and unique. I’ll have his stuff on repeat until further notice.
EDJ (Friday, Treeline Stage): When Fruit Bats played their last show ever this past fall, I didn’t feel terribly sad—because I knew that frontman Eric D. Johnson would go on to create projects just as exciting. EDJ is his debut, and a strong one at that. If you haven’t already, listen to “For The Boy Who Moved Away.”
Parquet Courts (Sunday, Woods Stage): I knew absolutely zero about Parquet Courts going into Pickathon. Now I know that they are energetic, loud, and fabulous.
Courtney Barnett (Sunday, Fir Meadows): Australian-based DIY rocker Courtney Barnett took the cake Sunday afternoon with her high-energy main stage performance. Unapologetic, straight-up, finely-tuned grit.
I learned a whole bunch about music this weekend. And if there’s one thing I’m taking with me it’s that I should never miss a Pickathon again. A weekend of partying with music lovers in Portland’s backyard? Why did it take me so long to come around? I’ll see you next year, Pickathon! I just hope someone will come with me.
Any music fan in Portland knows about PDX Pop Now! It is the vicarious dream of a music festival where everything is free, everything is all ages, and everything sounds amazing. A cluster of local bands that span genres come together, and it’s so exciting. This weekend’s PDX Pop Now! festival was the first time I’ve truly devoted my weekend to the whole shebang, and I figured I should document that in some way.
Full disclosure: I was tweeting and instagramming for Rip City Review, and I was a PPN! volunteer.