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 listening to Radiation City for a few months now; I was pretty into their LP The Hands That Take You and was much less into their most recent release Cool Nightmare. Maybe it was the band’s migration from Apes Tapes to Tender Loving Empire that changed their sound enough for me to lose my initial interest, but somehow the city of Portland is on the edge of their seats about this band.
The five-some just won Willamette Week’s “Best New Band,” a title that’s been given to the likes of And And And, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, and the late Explode Into Colors. Now, to me the poll WWeek puts together is arbitrary and not a great source of figuring out what Portland bands are doing. It’s a hype machine, really, and I have a conspiracy theory about TLE and WWeek being in some weird cahoots about the whole thing.
But that aside, I had the chance to take in Radiation City this past Friday at the Wonder Ballroom. The crowd was mostly there for headliners Pickwick, but seemed pretty stoked for RC. There were heads bobbing, a few girls in the front dancing, but I wasn’t moved. Vocals were solid and it sounded just like the record, but I was bored. Not to say that the music is boring, it just wasn’t engaging. You want to live up to “Best New Band”? Own it. They played almost all of Cool Nightmare and some fan faves from The Hands That Take You (which I would thank them for).
I think Radiation City has opportunity for greatness, I mean it really seems like the indie mainstream would be into their upbeat, understated pop music, but they didn’t leave much of an impression live. It may have been the venue, maybe it has something to do with the crowd, but it really left me wanting more. It’ll be interesting to see if Radiation City gets their act together and maintains a certain level of respect in our scene, or if they perish into hasbeenism like so many other “Best New Bands.”
I’ll be making a post later about “Portland’s Best New Band” Radiation City; they played at the Wonder last night.