Impressions of, reactions to and takes on action from the third night of MusicFest NW 2010, compiled by our can-do gang of musical savants.
If day two’s line-up at the Wonder Ballroom elicited a collective aura of summertime nostalgia, day three’s bill delivered a punch to wake us from our daydreams. Male Bonding opened with driving post-punk that set a virile tone for the evening. The English band played songs that were equal parts abrasive and melodic. Their set was deceptively well measured. They could push the fuzz-level to the extreme and subtly pull back into hook-laden guitar jangling, I will definitely be revisiting their Sub Pop debut, Nothing Hurts.
Male Bonding opened with driving post-punk that set a virile tone for the evening. The English band played songs that were equal parts abrasive and melodic. Their set was deceptively well measured. They could push the fuzz-level to the extreme and subtly pull back into hook-laden guitar jangling, I will definitely be revisiting their Sub Pop debut, Nothing Hurts.
Surfer Blood (who recently signed to Warner Bros.) and its baby faced band members followed with an amped-up performance that built on the energy of Male Bonding. Singer John Paul Pitts stood on various stage objects (monitors, kick drum) and everyone thought it was awesome. Surfer Blood’s large teenage girl audience was especially impressed by Pitt’s rock star stage moves. Not surprisingly, this crowd quickly cleared out before The Black Lips took the stage. The Atlanta punk band, known for their outrageous stage antics, utilized the act of projecting fluids from their mouths in creative ways. They also delivered their country punk sound to an adoring audience.
Two days, two good shows at the Wonder Ballroom. I only wish they would stop playing Vampire Weekend between sets.
Downtown Friday was the night to catch several up and coming bands playing to their hometown fans in venues like Backspace, where Wampire and their shirtless backup dancer were nearly obscured by audience members surrounding them and inevitably moving among them on stage during the set. Y La Bamba, with singer Luz Mendoza and a large band behind her, hushed a full crowd at Someday Lounge. This is a hard group to describe, by some measure chanteuse, folk singing, and something more dramatic along the lines of Fado. (They'll be at OPB this week to record a studio session, by the way.) Also at Someday Lounge, Typhoon played a dynamic but intimate set to close out the night, and the crowd sang along to songs like "White Liars."
Hand it to Trevor Solomon and the rest of the organizers of MusicFest NW: they bring the kind of diverse lineup that helps ensure an individualized experience for those attending. Are grooves your thing? Want your face melted? Desire a soundtrack for your sorrows and whiskey? Maybe some combination thereof? You can do that! The venues aren't always as close together as would be ideal, but one can generally craft a night of live music that suits their mood (or moodswings) with little trouble (and if you find yourself at a venue with little idea of what to expect from the band playing next, well, that's part of the fun, too). Case in point, my Friday night. Despite options like Let's Wrestle, Magic Kids, White Hinterland, Shonen Knife, et.al, I had the need for twang. Strange, maybe, given Pickathon's proximity, but these cravings are rarely explainable and usually come on without warning (periodically, I find myself at a 3am solo listening party after digging into the old cassette bag in search of "1992" or sometimes Falco 3 and/or Dream of the Blue Turtles. And I've said too much).
The point here is that I was able to craft MusicFest to suit my needs Friday night. While others were getting faces melted or what have you, I was starting off with Portlanders Old Light who, judging anecdotally from the people around me in the actual room (as well as those on Twitter), may have been the most pleasant surprise of the festival. I went in with some expectations, based solely on the track we've been playing on the stream ("C' Mon). Turns out there's a lot more where that came from as the band of clearly experienced players (including former Parson Redhead Charlie Hester) tore through a set of sit down, homespun numbers that seemed to place them somewhere between Harvest and the Cave Singers. The Dirty Future is their upcoming debut, out in early October on Arena Rock.
Next, to Austin! Or at least a 10 block hike up Burnside to the Crystal Ballroom, where Bobby Bare, Jr. was found being backed by Blue Giant for a set coming almost entirely from his new release, A Storm - A Tree - My Mother's Head. That's a big room, but his unique and familiar voice and songwriting persona were on full display (as was his denim leisure suit cut in retro style). Things got Austin for real after that when TexEmo originators Okkervil River took to the stage. A curiously apologetic Will Sheff (bearded and looking like an adjunct from UT's english department circa 1978, speaking of retro style) explained that they hadn't played a lot live lately so there was bound to be some rust. Sounded more than fine from where I stood, and the sold out Crystal Ballroom seemed to agree.
Then again, my Willy Vlautin man crush (there, I said it) required that I leave Okkervil's set after five songs in order to catch Richmond Fontaine at Berbati's (this after a three-song stop at a packed to the gills Someday Lounge for the aforementioned Y La Bamba). The long-running Portland band plays a rootsy brand of music, as you may know, but it sounds less like Portland (or Austin) than it does somewhere like Elko, Nevada. Theirs is Workingman's Blues, often with the same kinds of ordinary characters and struggles that fill Vlautin's novels in his second and emerging life as a writer. Though no less enjoyable for it, it might have been the most sincere and least ironic set of songs all festival (or tied for those, anyway, Barton Carroll and mBilly may also make claims).
The Builders & the Butchers would close out the night in their element, doing that thing they do so well to a well-lathered and raucous bunch that would have been more than happy to keep doing what they were doing until sunrise (lest you disbelieve). Ryan Solee and company finally said their goodbyes somewhere shortly past 2:30. There's two more nights of this to go, after all. Pacing is important.
Tagged: MFNW 2010