Portland Music Scene Pt. III (MusicfestNW)

Yaaaawn...two weeks later, and I'm still recovering my life force chi energy from this year's MusicfestNW, an annual music festival hosted by the guys and gals over at Willamette Week. Unlike the free, all ages, all local PDX Pop Now! festival, this one is comprised of local and national acts, is spread across seemingly every good venue in town (most of which are 21 and up...sorry kiddos), and costs an elitist $40.00 for an all access festival pass, which while much more than most cats in Portland spend on shows (most are in the free-$8 range) really isn't a bad deal when you do the math. Four days of solid music from 8pm onward, one could theoretically hit ~20 separate concerts. I felt like a gangster for dragging my exhausted ass to 15, which works out to $2.67/show. Not too shabby if I must pat myself on the back. Anywaay...

Thursday, Sept. 6th:

Venue: Roseland Theater
9:00pm: Sandpeople
-A few months go by, and boy do I forget how poor the sound system is at the Roseland. Extremely unsophisticated tweaking of the board, heavily favoring copious amounts of bass, which apparently is what a hip hop show is all about right? Wrong. I like to be able to hear the beats and, heaven forbid, the lyrics, not just a throbbing chest thump that makes my eardrums bleed. The next few hours would leave me with a ringing pain in my right ear that I'm only now beginning to recover from. Alas, Sandpeople, I'm sure you were dope, but I couldn't understand a single line spit and it didn't help that seemingly all eight of the emcees on the stage rapped over each other's versus, creating an extremely muddled echo effect. I know these locals are better than this...go see their CD release show at Berbati's on Oct. 6th with The Grouch, which will be a much better show, I'm sure.

10:00pm: Blue Scholars
-This duo is one of my favorite groups doing hip hop music at the moment. Unrelenting energy and intelligence with the most solid style I've heard in years. These cats are so personable, they even got a Portland crowd to cheer for Seattle (where they hail from)...that's got to be a first.

11:00pm: Aesop Rock
-If you don't know about this dude, please wake up from your 10 year coma, go purchase Labor Days or Float, find a quiet dark dank place to relax in, and prepare to be intrigued. This show was my motivating factor for going to the festival in the first place, and homeboy didn't disappoint. By the way, Portland, what the fuck is up with throwing shit at the DJs and emcees at rap shows...I swear, I'll sodomize your ear hole if I catch you perpetrating like that again.

Venue: Berbati's
Midnight: Roky Erickson & the Explosives
-Roky has a fascinating story (click on the link above for the wikipedia entry), and tonight's show was hyped the fuck up. In the 60s this guy enjoyed a great deal of counterculture fame, then underwent a dark couple of decades of paranoid schizophrenic and electro convulsive therapy, and is now back on the comeback wagon...unfortunately, he seems to have lost some of his edgy creativity in the process. Sure this is some good ol' rock 'n roll, but

Friday, Sept. 7th:

Venue: Doug Fir
9:00pm: Au
-Only caught the last minute or two of their last song, but was impressed with what I heard...nice experimental folk mood noise.

10:00pm: Tiny Vipers
-Jesy Fortino sang some hauntingly beautiful and melancholy songs. The crowd at Doug Fir sat silent and intently focused on the broken bird plucking at strings upon the stage, inwardly betting on how soon she'd fly away in frightened delight.

11:00pm: Eric Bachman
-Eric and Co. couldn't quite capture my imagination with the whole Bruce Springsteen/Bob Dylan shtick. Took the opportunity to capture my daily intake of gin and tonics. Spent the next 45 min. kicking myself for not going to see Laura Gibson instead.

Midnight: Grizzly Bear
-Wow. Heard mixed things about this Brooklyn-based folksy-experimental group, but I think I'm sold. Maybe it was the temporary alcoholism, but I was really feeling these guys. Not sure I'd hang out and spin their CD, but this is some very engaging shit live, the harmonizing voices giving me goosebumps at times...and I really hesitate to admit that.

Saturday, Sept. 8th:

Venue: Mission Theater
Noon: About a Son
-Still not sure how I managed to drag myself to this event so goddamn early in the day, but sure am glad I did. It's basically a series of interviews with Kurt Cobain, given a year before he committed harikari, played over some truly beautiful video of the Washington locales that Cobain spent time in throughout his life (Seattle, Olympia, etc.). More interesting than Last Days, for sure.

Venue: Audiocinema
6:30pm: Ghostface Killa
-Arrived at 5:30p to see Ghostface, and found myself in a line of hundreds, circling all the way around the block. Expressing my incredulity, I shouted out that Ghostface was played out a decade ago. Then I jumped in line, though I really should have just gone home. Appropriately, there was an ice cream truck handing out free popsicles and drumsticks to ward off the heat...if you don't get the reference, you never were a Wu fan. Got inside, and realized that I was an hour early, and was forced to listen to LA's The Bronx, some crazy death metal punk that did nothing for my Shaolin audio-cravings. Ghostface took the stage finally, and subjected me to the worst hip hop show I've ever been to, and likely will ever till the end of my days. Tony Stark rapped intermittently, leaving most of the MCing to his Killa Bees crowding the stage. One of his new "jams" had this lyrical gem of a hook: "Pop your colla/get your dolla"...so original, so inspired. For the last few songs, Ghostface invited ten 14 year olds up on stage, and proceeded to launch into songs with hooks like "get yo pussy wet" and "stuff shit in your vagina"...that's game? The best tracks of the night came when the DJ threw on ODB's Return to the 36 Chambers and let the crowd rap along to Shimmy Shimmy Ya, and Brooklyn Zoo. Ah, the memories.

[Took a break over at Shanghai Tunnels to slurp down a delicious noodle bowl, and chatted it up with a recently-returned Iraq-war vet who said he had "lots of fun blowing shit up."]

Venue: Roseland Theater
9:00pm: The Cool Kids
-So "Cool" that they didn't even show up for their set.

10:00pm: The Lifesavas
-Really, I've talked enough about these guys in previous posts for you to realize that you can't sleep on these dudes. Go buy their albums, show some love for the locals, do right by God or some such shit.

11:00pm: Girl Talk
-I'd never heard of Greg Gillis, but apparently he's the maestro of mashup music...think mixing Lil' Wayne, Cypress Hill, The Pixies, and New Kids On the Block together into a danceable orgy of ear fun. Folks rocked out so heavily that half-way through his set you could see a delicate multi-colored mist hovering above the crowd from evaporating sweat. A thing of beauty to behold.

Midnight: Clipse
-Cocaine raps, plain and simple. This Virginia duo does it better than most, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd heard it all before. Not that I didn't enjoy their shit, but I felt slightly guilty for not sticking to my original plan by going to see Pierced Arrows and The Obituaries. Ah well.

Sunday, Sept. 9th:
-Yeah. Right. There was no chance in hell that I was going to pull myself together to make it to the final smattering of shows (Swim Swam Swum, Holy Fuck, and Wolf Parade). Just didn't happen. Slept like 13 hours instead and have no regrets. A great festival...man, I love this city.

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