Every year, the PDX Pop Now! festival offers a glimpse into the music that's moving Portland. And despite this city's recent reputation as a haven for confessional, tattooed singer-songwriters and beardy folk-pop bands, the past few years of PDX Pop Now! have shown a music scene moving away from the gentle sounds of yesteryear and in an entirely new direction. OK, maybe a dozen entirely new directions. This year's festival—all-ages, free and totally exhausting, as always—is devoid of local superstars but overflowing with genre diversity from house music to experimental skronk to hard-hitting hip-hop and smooth, '80s-inspired electropop. PDX Pop Now! is the only festival that brings all of these diverse local artists together. It feels a little bit like high school: The jocks, nerds and preps lumped together in one big, weekend-long experiment. Every high school deserves a document to call its own, so here's our fourth annual PDX Pop Now! yearbook.
Cutest Couple: The Parson Red Heads
The Red Heads' Evan Way and his wife, Brette Marie—who also plays in PDX Pop Now! act Houndstooth—were pretty adorable to begin with. But now that the little lady is pregnant, the Parson Red Heads are cuter than ever. We're guessing that having a baby slows a band down a bit, but there's been no evidence of that thus far. Maybe they'll draft the kid right into the band as the littlest Red Head.
Most Likely to Save the Day: Batmen
The punk-rock constituency might feel underserved by this year's PDX Pop Now! lineup, but any kids looking for a good moshing/slam-dancing/ground-punching opportunity need look no farther than Batmen. The quartet's frenetic rhythm section and near-constant drum fills provide a fine opportunity for throwing one's body around, while their catchy rhythms and lyrics give the old folks—the Wipers are a big influence here—something to nod along with.
Most Likely to Live Abroad: Dana Buoy
Between the African rhythms, summery south-of-the-border percussion and pulsing beats, Dana Buoy's Summer Bodies LP proves that the Akron/Family frontman's infectious songs would fly in just about any combination of latitude and longitude you can throw at him.
Best Vibes: 1939 Ensemble
Get it? Because there's a vibraphone player in the band!
Super Seniors: Smegma
How does one get to be notorious and unknown at the same time? Ask Smegma, the Portland-via-Pasadena experimental rock outfit that next year will celebrate its 40th anniversary (the vast majority of those years spent in Portland). Perhaps second only to Jandek on the obscure-and-acclaimed scale, Smegma will have some concertgoers scratching their heads and some scratching their chins. Either way, you are seeing history.
Class Clown: Cloudy October
An MC with a great sense of humor is hard to find. An MC with a great, avant-garde sense of humor and knack for lyrical investigative journalism is pretty much unheard of. Kizzy Yokomura is set to unleash some surprises alongside DJ Hostile Tapeover and Rasheed Jamal during his PDX Pop Now! performance, but every night is kind of a surprise. Hell, we'd pay just to see him banter for a half hour.
Most Mysterious: Shy Girls
No, seriously, we don't know anything about Shy Girls. The music—which nods toward Sade and Hall & Oates—sounds promising, though.
Best Hair: Pure Bathing Culture
When you make music this smooth and funky, you kind of have to have the hair for it. Like their music, Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille have 'dos that are subtle throwbacks to another era. Hindman sports a puff of Art Garfunkel-style curls and Versprille's sideswept bangs are the bees' knees. No need for mohawks or bright colors—PBC is just naturally cool.
Most Likely to Write a Sci-Fi Novel: JonnyX and the Groadies
Listen between the lines in JonnyX and the Groadies' scream-along electo-thrash, and you'll find themes of science experiments gone disastrously wrong and explosions in space. Or, at least, we think that's what these songs are about. Kind of hard to understand anything Groadies frontman JonnyX is screeching over those blast beats, but with song titles like "Larvae" and "Metal Brain Part 2," what else can these songs really be about?
Most Likely to Throw an Awesome House Party While Their Parents Are Out of Town: The Miracles Club
If kids these days just want to dance—isn't Skrillex proof positive of this?—then the Miracles Club just wants kids to learn a little music history while they're dancing. Made up of longtime fixtures from Portland's experimental-electronic scene, this Club has been widely credited for helping usher in a resurgence in back-to-basics house music.
Au makes some of the smartest, mathiest music being played in Portland. Dana Valatka's drumming is intricate and explosive, and singer-keyboardist Luke Wyland sings in a classical style and mans a table so cluttered with wires and switches that it's a miracle he ever figures out how to turn on his keyboard.
Most Likely to Test Your Knowledge of Spanish: Edna Vazquez
La pública internacional e hispanohablante comenzó conocer a Edna Vazquez cuando se presentó en Sábado Gigante, pero su música sería conocido incluso sin el concurso de canción del estilo de American Idol. Su música de mariachi tradicional, cantado en español, será un cambio de ritmo excelente para este festival de pop. Estamos casi seguro que Vazquez sea la contribuciÃ³n mejor de Vancouver, Wash., a PDX Pop Now!