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Music Blog

Musicfest NW Review

by Austen Diamond
- Posted // 2010-09-14 -

City Weekly hit the road this weekend, venturing to Portland, Oreg. for Musicfest NW. A one-man reporting team to cover an entire four-day music festival is no easy task, for the sake of journalism or for my liver. Here’s the time log of what went down, with only a minor amount of censoring. Be sure to mark it on your calender for next year.


Thursday


Portland Airport, 12:05 p.m.

The clouds broke on a stormy morning leaving Salt Lake City, perhaps the last sun for four days. On the bright side, Portland has so many stand-up virtues: weather conducive for the indoors, beautiful women, unemployment and good booze. A writer needs nothing more.


Downtown on a bus, 4:30 p.m.

How efficient. Three and a half hours for one errand from the airport to Willamette Week in the upper northwest side to pick up tickets. I'm appreciative for City Weekly's downtown locale.


Friend's House, 5:24 p.m.

Tried to nap but realized what I needed was a beer. Off to catch Phantogram (playing SLC, Kilby Court, Oct. 18), then Ra Ra Riot (In the Venue, Oct. 12).


Wonder Ballroom, 6:10 p.m.

Really impressed with Ra Ra Riot. They just played "Oh La." These guys are going to be way huge. They have it all: catchy songs with quality musical sensibilities, charismatic frontman, beautiful women playing cello and violin.


Wonder Ballroom, 6:20 p.m.

Something is definitely wrong here and it's not violinist Rebecca Zeller's demonically-fluttering eyes ... No one is drinking, I'm not drinking, I'm surrounded by 16-year-olds. What the hell? I have to go to the crowded upstairs for a beer? Segregation, even in Portland!


Bus stop on West Burnside, 9:09 p.m.

This seriously blows. I'm missing Rock Gods Ted Leo and the Pharmacists because I've been waiting on public transport for nearly an hour. I think I could have walked the two or so miles in less time


Crystal Ballroom, 9:30 p.m.

Ted Leo is pushing on in years but he still thrashes and cajoles his body like he was a sprite youth. The floors here are seriously bouncing like a broke-as-hell trampoline.


Crystal Ballroom, 9:33 p.m.

He sings "Tell the bartender I think I'm falling in love..." My first beer in Portland is a PBR. Really? What a travesty, yet somewhat fitting paired with the old school punky-ness of Leo. 


Crystal Ballroom, 9:52 p.m.

Encore "Walking to Do" is making the floors just reverberate. Some guy next to me is lacking rhythm and is throwing the whole thing off. On another note, this venue is beautiful with its big open room, chandeliers hung from the ceilings and large paintings on the walls.


Scooter's, 10:07 p.m.

Blessed be thy free pour. Someone tipped me off to walk around the block for cheap whiskey.


Crystal Ballroom, 10:12 p.m.

It's The Thermals’ (playing SLC, Urban Lounge, Oct. 29) CD release party. The CD is very catchy, youth, if you will. Drummer Westin Glass might be the most excited person here.


Crystal Ballroom, 10:47 p.m.

The crowd is segregated as follows: under 21 (dancing and thrashing heavily), over 21 (dancing less), VIP (too cool). How can you not dance to this?


Crystal Ballroom, 11:15 p.m.

The Thermals encored with “My Name is Jonas.”


Roseland Ballroom, 11:44 p.m.

After buying a street week a bum led me to Roseland although I asked for direction to Barbeti’s Pan to see rowdy acoustic guy Frank Turner.


Roseland Ballroom, 11:48 p.m.

Everyone is on drugs here. Major Lazor is playing bass-heavy dance music to a throbbing crowd. The air is thick, humid and smells mildly of vomit and the dawning of sex.


Roseland Ballroom, 11:53 p.m.

Why is that whenever a band tells the crowd to take their shirts off and swing them it’s only the guys. Maybe I should join.


Barbeti’s Pan, 12:26 a.m.

“You can’t catch me I”m a wonderer” sings Justin Townes Earl (playing SLC, The State Room, Oct. 6). His swaggering semi-country ways stand in such a stark contrast to Major Lazor that only a city-wide music festival can make happen.


Barbeti’s Pan, 12:40 a.m.

This is my first time seeing Earl and he doesn’t look as country bad ass as the press photos led me to believe. Either way, he’s pretty witty bantering with the crowd. He said, “I just made this gospel record, not that God wants me in his house.” Debauchery from the crowd ensues.


Voodoo Doughnuts, 1:35 a.m.

Yes! It’s has been too long since these delicious little things.


Stranger’s car, 1:55 a.m.

Street stumbling around, looking for a bus. Of course there’s no bus, public transport here sucks. After getting accosted by what I presume to be a prostitute, stuck my thumb out and hitched a ride across the bridge, luckily, by someone who wasn’t a prostitute.


Friday


Wonder Ballroom, 5:50 p.m.

Borrowed a bike from a friend’s sister. Hallelujah. This was such much faster. Note to self: find a bike for SxSW.


Wonder Ballroom, 5:55 p.m.

Very minimally impressed with Surfer Blood (playing Urban Lounge Oct. 8). No stage presence and they can’t deliver like their CD, which isn’t half-bad.


Queen of Shebah, 6:10 p.m.

Doug from Portland Cello Project recommended this place and it cured my lingering hangover. Gin before Black Lips? I think so.


Wonder Ballroom, 7:22 p.m.

Is it punk or just disgusting to spit in the air and catch it in your mouth? I used to do that right around the time I learned about the “F” word. Maybe guitarist Cole Alexander just learned the “F” word.


Wonder Ballroom, 7:37 p.m.

Crowd surfing, yes, this is happening. They’ve been moshing for about three songs too and everyone just went ape-shit to “Drugs.” Catching spit aside, these guys put on a helluva live show. And, bassist Jared Swilley’s voice definitely translates live.


Wonder Ballroom, 7:56 p.m.

“Bad Kids” and all hell brakes loose. Black Lips, I will see you again.


Backspace, 8:27 p.m.

Cheap beer bombers doesn’t make up for Astrology continually saying they are on mushrooms when they are obviously not. Not funny. Oregon’s IPAs don’t go down fast enough.


Someday Lounge, 8:02 p.m.

Maybe my favorite venue so far. Boy Eats Drum Machine does it all. From beating on a drum beat box playing sax to spinning records. He just played “Hook Wire” and it reminds me of Charles Bukowski’s free loading characters. I brought Post Office with me for the plane.


Someday Lounge, 8:23 p.m.

There’s two screens projecting his record scratching skills. Encore with instrumental “Gun Fight.”


Someday Lounge, 8:44 p.m.

Idahoans Finn Riggins is the closest thing to home that I’ve seen so far. The drummer is playing a steel drum; that doesn’t happen enough in Rock.


Roseland Ballroom, 10:40 p.m.

Wiz Khalifa (playing In the Venue, Oct. 10) just laid out more weed references per minute than anyone I’ve ever heard ... and that’s saying a lot. He says, “I’ve been high as fuck since I got off da plane.” Well said. Security rigorously patted people down at the door, but literally everyone must have snuck weed in their shoes. Khalifa plays “Kush and Orange Juice,” which makes sense because this is the Waken Baken Tour.


East Burnside, 10:43 p.m.

Making my rounds. You can pop into so many venues in one swoop and see so many bands. Why don’t I live here?


Someday Lounge, 10:52 p.m.

Jared Mees and The Grown Children playing. Mees founded Tender Loving Empire, an artist collective and record label in town. I think a lot of the bands here tonight are on the label.


East Burnside, 11:17 p.m.

Choosing between bands is like choosing your favorite child. I don’t have kids. More like choosing your favorite IPA in Portland. Should I cross the bridge to see the Cave Singers at Doug Fir. Red brake lights and this tall beer say no. Oh, but they’re so good.


Barbeti’s Pan, 11:18 p.m.

Third song of Black Prarie. I’m telling myself four string players and seeing a new band is worth missing Doug Fir.


Barbeti’s Pan, 11:42 p.m.

These guys sound somewhat Polka-esk, yet there’s a horn attached to the violin. What devilish concoction is this?


Someday Lounge, 12:18 a.m.

Y La Bamba asks “Spanish song or “Forest Fire?”” Portland apparently hates Spanish. This song is lush and hazy. Their new record comes out this week. Please, please, please come to Salt Lake City.


Someday Lounge, 12:44 a.m.

Double the pleasure, double the fun. Typhoon has two of just about everything: violins, drums, trumpets. The somber quiet depth of Kyle Morton’s lyrics are emphasized when the remaining nine members pound out a bar or two of backdropped loudness. It’s soft, then loud, then soft again. Loving the contrast.


Barbeti’s Pan, 1:40 a.m.

One of Portland’s favorite bands, The Builders & The Butchers has kept the drunks out late. The spinning disco ball is not helping with all the gin. They just played “Hole.” One word: Captivating.


Sandbox Studios, 2:50 a.m.

I hate it when VIP parties make me feel like a corporatized whore. They could do better than this. Oh, wait ... drink tickets, I’ll shut up. Vitamin Water cocktail ... c’mon. Oh, beer ... OK, I’ll shut up again. The DJ is playing “Thriller” and it’s projected on a huge screen. This could be a recipe for watching the sunrise.


Saturday


Mississippi Studios, 12:11 p.m.

First, I can’t believe I’m awake, but I’m in good company. Just about everyone else at opbmusic.com’s private party is hungover. Sunshine, endless free Voodoo doughnuts, coffee and Bloody Marys all paired with a bunch of bands I would’ve missed otherwise. Who really needs sleep anyway?


Mississippi Studios, 2:50 p.m.

Typhoon just played an acoustic set. One of the trumpet players looks like hell. Do I look like that too? Wait, everyone here does. Also saw Tu Fawning (playing Urban Lounge, Oct. 15, opening for Menomena). Really impressive multi-instrumentalists, highly reverb-ed and lots of bangs. Then, Monarques and And And And were on the two-stage bill.


Mississippi Studios, 3:17 p.m.

The Thermals are everywhere. Again, drummer Westin Glass is the most excited person here.


Mississippi Studios, 3:42 p.m.

I’m leaving because I just realized I’ve only consumed two doughnuts all day, on top of lots of Lagunitas IPA and Bloody Marys. Willamette Week’s music editor Casey Jarmon recommended that I go to a taco stand just down the road that’s owned by the Shins drummer that was kicked out of the band a little while back. Apparently, he’s still a little sore about it though.


6:20 p.m.

I biked downtown, missed WEINLAND and realized upon seeing Blue Giant that I just wanted more free beer. Biked back across the bridge to the Riot Act Media party. Archeology is the last act to play. I’m seeing a theme here. So many bands have a cadre of broke musicians playing together to form groups with six-plus members. Some guy is playing the tambourine but probably also plays drums, trumpet and accordion depending on which broke friend wants him to play that night.


Pioneer Square, 7:03 p.m.

Laura Veirs just invited Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) and Adam Shearer (WEINLAND) on stage for “Can I call You Mine.” Downfall of any festivals is only catching the last song or two because you got sucked into drinks elsewhere. I’ll just settle for listening to July Flame on the plane; it’s one of the best albums of the year.


Pioneer Square, 7:45 p.m.

“Billy Liar” followed by “Engine Driver.” Damn, I love these lyrics. Meloy’s style is one of the reasons I quit everything else and went for writing. For that, I love and hate him.


Pioneer Square, 7:58 p.m.

The Decemberists are playing a couple new cuts from the record they’ll release in a few months. Folksy and harmonica-laden with lots of mountain and river references. Meloy must be spending some time outdoors.


Pioneer Square, 8:55 p.m.

The cheesesteak vendor is yelling for “Mariner’s Revenge.” I”m with him; last time I saw these guys they brought out a whale on stage for the encore. Alas, it’s a tribute to 9/11 with “Sons and Daughters.”


Crystal Ballroom, 9:27 p.m.

Tu Fawning isn’t doing so bad for their third show of the day, but there’s lots of feedback. She’s not doing so hot with mics (shocked heavily at Mississippi Studios earlier today).


Crystal Ballroom, 9:52 p.m.

Portland’s newest transplant band, Akron/Family is sprinting down photographers alley getting psyched for the show.


Crystal Ballroom, 10:15 p.m.

I was really not enjoying these guys, but they’ve turned the corner. From slow and sleeping to mildly annoying and somewhat infectious dance numbers. The crowd doesn’t know what to make of this.


Crystal Ballroom, 10:45 p.m.

The guy next to me said that the venue is at at full capacity and the line is down the block and around the corner. Menomena (playing Urban Lounge Oct. 15) hasn’t played in Portland in nearly a year.


Crystal Ballroom, 10:56 p.m.

Menomena made it on the cover of the current Williamette Week as they band that everybody loves, except themselves. Apparently, they can’t be around each other. Just reading stage dynamics, I bet it’s drummer Danny Seim and bassist Justin Harris that can’t get along. Both are too good and probably have big egos to boot. Plus, the keyboardist seems overly friendly.


Crystal Ballroom, 11:20 p.m.

I almost opted to see Smashing Pumpkins instead. So glad I didn’t. Portland’s best band sounds so perfect live. They’ve gone against my previously stated trend of having too much sound on stage and they have this stripped down, simple, yet perfect vibe. This might be the best show so far, but I think I’ve thought that a half-dozen times already.


Lost, 12:14 a.m.

I have no idea where the hell I am. And, you can’t ask for directions in this town because everyone just moved here last month.


Mississippi Studios, 12:48 a.m.

Found. I missed Portland Cello Project (playing Ogden, Peery’s Egyptian, Nov. 5). Damn.


Mississippi Studios, 1:32 a.m.

PCP joined Crooked Fingers. It seems that some music needs a cello accompaniment. For the last song, they cut the P.A. system and are playing acoustic. “Don’t Fly Away From Me” is a perfect way to end the weekend. Oh wait, I still have one more day left. How am I still walking?


Sunday


Friend’s House, 12:20 p.m.

Surprisingly, I woke up just before the alarm. But, I guess that’s not hard when it’s set for after noon.


Kennedy School, 1:28 p.m.

Bobby Bare, Jr. is playing Shel Silverstein songs at the Musicfest NW kids event called “You Who.” Twelve hours from now songs about unicorns would take on a completely different meaning.


Kennedy School, 1:39 p.m.

The Thermals are making a bunch of little kids go deaf.


Kennedy School, 2:05 p.m

“Not Like Any Other Feeling” lyric “You only exist to be replaced.” Nice, what a great message to implant in four-year-olds.


Pioneer Square, 5:02 p.m.

Great, I missed Talkdemonic. That’s three out of three bands I interviewed for the preview that I didn’t see this weekend.


Pioneer Square, 5:08 p.m.

The Helio Sequence drummer Benjamin Weikel is a trip. So many non-singing band members will sing along to themselves, but it’s rare to see a drummer singing his beats. I’m deciphering the language: Fa = snare hit; Ta = cymbal hit. He also looks kind of like a librarian.


Pioneer Square, 6:34 p.m.

I think there’s more people here tonight than last night. The sound is incredibly good for an outdoor venue. I noticed this last night; Twilight Concert Series, eat your heart out.


Pioneer Square, 6:43 p.m

The Walkmen are great live ... That’s about as quippy as I can be right now.


Pioneer Square, 7:49 p.m.

Finally, The National takes the stage after a very long set-up. I don’t know how much longer I can make it; the weekend has taken its toll. If it weren’t for this perch with a backrest in the amphitheater style venue, I’d probably just leave.


Pioneer Square, 8:31 p.m.

“Conversation 16” I always think about zombies when he sings, “I was afraid I’d eat your brains.”


Pioneer Square, 8:42 p.m.

The National is bouncing between old classics and tunes off their spankin’ new High Violet. I’ve liked these guys for years but have mostly listened to them as background music. They are winning me over ... if only I wasn’t haggard.


Pioneer Square, 8:58 p.m.

There’s probably less than half an hour left in Musicfest NW and I’m throwing in the towel. The world can live without my hungover comments to finish the set. It feels so good to cut off all four of these wristbands.


Friend’s House, 10:02 p.m.

Last entry. Looking back, that was an epic festival—like South by Southwest 10-years ago. Manageable, engaging, boozy. I”ll be back next year for sure.


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