Wow. Not bad for a Thursday night, Portland! Unfortunately, I didn't have energy to brave the crowds for Norfolk and Western Wednesday night but bucked up (thanks to a tasty two hour nap) and headed out for the first REAL night of Music Fest Northwest. (Sorry MFNW, three shows on Wednesday doesn't a four-day festival make. And you know what, while I've got you, what's up with shows on Wednesday but nothing on Sunday? People have to work!)
Anyway, on to the music:
No Age @ Wonder Ballroom:
I didn't catch hardly any of this set, but what I did see was pretty rad. No Age are a raucous two piece (Guitar, and a Phil Collins style singing drummer). They looked like they were having a lot of fun on stage, which is really important to me. And as a member of a two piece band I can tell you how hard it is sometimes to really get amped when it's just you and one other person on stage. I saw three poppy punky songs and headed out to the parking lot for the kick-off party (because I am a chump, not a real music fan, and have an undying love of free booze).
The party was amazing -- catered by Holocene, whose food I have always felt is very underappreciated. Amazing brownies. Plus, did I mention free booze? I have a policy, probably the result of years of hearing from my mother about starving African children, of NEVER letting free booze go to waste, so I made sure to get my share.
But it wasn't all fun and free booze, there was also much much more awesome music, so (thanks to Michael Mannheimer limo service) it was off to:
Eskimo and Sons @ Crystal Ballroom
I really don't know what to say about this performance. I mean, I know it was amazing, but I'm really not sure exactly how amazing. Chelsea says it's possibly the greatest single performance she's ever seen. And you know what, I think I totally agree. But it's hard for me to separate the reality of the set from all the emotional baggage that I carried in the front door and up the four flights of Crystal Ballroom stairs. Maybe it's worth an effort though, even if it's hard:
Emotional reasons this was the greatest show I've seen:
- It was Eskimo and Sons' second to last show ever. This is a band that is part of my life. Their shows have been among the most beautiful moments I've had, most recently a sunset performance atop the Hotel Deluxe parking garage.
- They did their incredible version of "Man Of The Frontier", one of my favorite songs by the Red River (a band who I discovered at one of the aforementioned life-changing shows -- Eskimo and Sons, Red River, Per Se and Mbilly at the Green House. I shed man-tears. No joke.)
- They also did an unbelievably moving version of Smog's "Ex Con", one of my favorite songs, period:
Alone in my room
I feel part
of the community.
But out on the street
I feel like a robot by the river
looking for a drink.
- I mean, fuck.
Right? But seriously, they were getting into this amazing 70s Bacharachian pop-jam place that just made me want to shake every part of my body and then they'd shift to a sunrise-over-the-rockies majestic group vocal that just made me want to throw my arms in the air like a Pentacostal being taken over by the Holy Spirit. I was shouting along the words I knew without knowing I was doing it. It was...revelatory.
And then it was over. They cleared the stage, the house music started, the lights came up. All around people were giving each-other the same "did you see what I just saw" look of amazement. Yes. It was that good.
But I couldn't stand being in the Crystal Ballroom any longer, so I rallied up a posse and headed down towards the river to catch the last half of
Love As Laughter @ Berbati's
Ok, so honestly I was never a big Love as Laughter fan during their late 90's heyday when they were often mentioned in the same breath with Modest Mouse and Built to Spill as part of the "indie rock" scene that was so popular with the kids. In fact, I've never really sat down with one of their albums, and couldn't name a song for you or hum a bar if pressed. But what I saw was pretty impressive. Obviously, when you've been together for 14 years you learn a thing or two about making rock music well. They banged back and forth between wiry, Television-esque guitar bits and full-throated Clashy choruses and found some ground in the middle all of their own.
Port O'Brien @ Berbati's
I wanted to see Port O'Brien because I helped set their album up on CD Baby and thus felt some sense of ownership over their success. Silly, I know, but what can you do. I also like the album pretty well and didn't really feel like fighting the crowds at the Roseland.
I've got to say, at first I was disappointed. Musically they were ok, but pretty bland and strummy. And as Casey said, the singer had the Los Angeles disheveled look down pat -- as if he walked into a high-end salon and said "make me look like shit". And he was playing a badly pickuped acoustic, which sounds worse to me than any other guitar sound. Tinny and abrasive. But about halfway through the set, he picked up a Tele and things really started to hum. They gave the lead guitarist more room to explore and he took it. He had really great, classic sounding tone. Reminded me of Forest Fire (who you must hear if you haven't). All of a sudden I was watching a foot-stomping southern-rock band tear the room apart, and I was loving it.
I stumbled out of Berbati's, sweaty but sated, and hailed a cab home. I would need to rest up for day two.
BONUS -- my plan for Friday night:
7 - Rainy States
8 - White Fang (not that I don't want to see Southern Belle, I just can't bear the thought of missing what is sure to be one of the highlights of the festival)
9 - Typhoon
9 - Eat Skull
10 - as much of Dolorean as I can manage to catch
11 - Death Vessel
12 - Crooked Fingers
1 - Explode Into Colors
I have to pick between Eat Skull and Typhoon, which is a choice I do not relish.