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September 12th, 2012 WW MUSIC STAFF | Music Stories
 

The MusicfestNW Diaries, 2012

The sights, sounds and tweets of Portland’s biggest music festival.

mfnw_girltalk_3845FROM THE COURTHOUSE TO THE OUTHOUSE: Girl Talk’s toilet-paper cannons unload at Pioneer Square. - IMAGE: Nate Watters
We came. We saw. We went wild under the stars in Pioneer Courthouse Square, were nearly driven to tears inside the Old Church, got baptized in beer at Backspace and slipped on vomit in the Holocene bathroom. Some of us even danced. None of us slept much. For five straight days, MusicfestNW kicked our collective ass. And it was awesome. Here are some of the things WW’s music staff saw, heard and experienced:


WEDNESDAY

6:30 pm @ Instrument (Kickoff party)

“Here’s to Musicfest!” I exclaim with a mix of joy and regret as Bob Ham and I knock together plastic cups full of complimentary Heinekens. And we’re off! MATTHEW P. SINGER.


8:48 pm @ Roseland Theater

The terribly placed marquee at the Roseland has tonight’s headliner listed as “Hot Shakes.” A great name for a soul/R&B combo. Terrible idea for a dessert treat. ROBERT HAM.


9:25 pm @ Crystal Ballroom

A surprising amount of people are dancing to LP. None better than a short, shoeless man in the back, who has created a 10-foot radius around him by awkwardly rubbing his body against anyone who crosses his path. REED JACKSON.


10:18 pm @ Hawthorne Theater

Is it wrong of me to have thought Against Me! would sound different, considering the singer formerly known as Tom Gabel is now Laura Jane Grace? The band is still a punk powerhouse, ripping through anthem after anthem with no breaks and turning the Hawthorne into a humid swamp full of crowd-surfing teens with patchy facial hair. MPS. 


10:37 pm @ Crystal Ballroom

Passion Pit have a packed house taking full advantage of the Crystal Ballroom’s bouncing floor. I’ve made a lot of jokes about Passion Pit over the last several years, but I’m ready to take a break from that. ARYA IMIG.


11:20 pm @ Roseland Theater

Ever wonder why the Stooges’ reunion album was such a pile of shit? All the puckish punk energy available in the universe got sopped up by the men of Hot Snakes. They are tearing through their set with barely a second between each song. RH.


11:45 pm @ Roseland Theater

A spectacular piece of crowd surfing. The guy leapt—flew—2½ meters from the top of the crowd to the stage, sprinted through the band, and jumped straight back in. Security looked awestruck. RUTH BROWN.


THURSDAY

3:40 pm @ Leftbank Annex

Meanwhile, at Portland Digital eXperience: Gang of Four’s Dave Allen is onstage laying into a software engineer from Spotify over how little he makes as an artist from its streaming content. It is both awesome and super awkward. RB.


9:35 pm @ Aladdin Theater

The crowd just cheered on a guy who’s wearing a blinking neon green outline of Minnesota on the back of his jacket with the words “Let’s Party” written in sequins below it. He’s a true Trampled by Turtles fan. EMILEE BOOHER.


10:10 pm @ Backspace

The crowd for Ceremony finally opens up a bit when the mosh pit starts. I take two steps forward and am immediately doused with other people’s beers being knocked out of their hands by the flying bodies. Punk rock-style baptism. RH.


10:15 pm @ Holocene

The bathroom floor is blanketed by vomit. I’m ice-skating on it just to reach the sink. MARK STOCK.


11:15 pm @ Ted’s Berbati’s Pan

And Purity Ring said, “Let there be light: light-up electronic drums, a light-up bass drum, light-up decorative wasp’s-nest-looking things.” Looks like a quaint nighttime garden party up there. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.


11:17 pm @ Branx

Omar Souleyman isn’t a dynamic performer. But I get caught up in the rapid-fire beats and trills of his keyboardist, and the joy of the folks surrounding me. I clap along heartily and find myself dancing joyously. RH.


11:20 pm @ Star Theater

Brooklyn’s the Men are absolutely destroying this place right now with buzz-sawing, big-hearted throwback punk. The band is nothing but a blur of hair and flailing limbs onstage. And it’s loud in here! Gloriously, miraculously loud! MPS.


12:20 @ Wonder Ballroom

Flying Lotus is smoking joints with the audience and asking people what they want him to play. If it weren’t for the elaborate stage setup, this would seem more like a huge house party than a concert. RJ.


FRIDAY

8:15 pm @ Pioneer Courthouse Square

This year solidified it: Pioneer Courthouse Square is made for music. Beirut sounds rich. Seeing the MAX go by while onlookers from Departure clap makes me feel nostalgic, and I’m not sure why. MS.


9:05 pm @ Roseland Theater

What’s not to say about Danny Brown’s appearance? He’s got a haircut that resembles Donald Trump’s comb-over after a ride in a convertible and less teeth than my 2-year-old nephew. RJ.


10:15 pm @ Old Church

I’ve only ever cried at one show, but Mirrorring, the duo of Liz Harris (Grouper) and Jesy Fortino (Tiny Vipers), have me near tears. The music is so simple—Harris and Fortino laying ghostly vocals and delicate guitar lines over a bed of prerecorded ambient noise tracks—but so affecting. I know I’m not alone in my stunned awe as no one else can bring themselves to applaud between songs. RH.


10:35 pm @ Roseland Theater

The crowd is going absolutely berserk for Yelawolf. Tattoo-covered girls wearing booty shorts seem to be one of his main demographics. RJ.


11:29 pm @ Branx

The air in here is roughly the consistency of a milkshake. I have gone running in the middle of the dry season in Thailand, and this is worse. Future Islands is great, though. RB.


12:20 am @ Bunk Bar

Talkdemonic sounds rich through the windows, and it has the added support of a huge, shroomed-out guy chanting what sounds like Army shouts and throwing things at the bouncer. NORA EILEEN JONES.


DANTE’S COMES TO LIFE: Fucked Up rages on West Burnside.
IMAGE: Nate Watters

 

12:40 am @ Dante’s

It takes 10 minutes for Fucked Up’s frontman to strip down to his tighty-whities (well, saggy grays). I like a man who prioritizes comfort over fashion, but I think he would really benefit from something sweat-wicking and better fitting. RB.


SATURDAY

12:05 pm @ Doug Fir Lounge (KEXP session)

I didn’t attend any MFNW on Friday so I would be well-rested and awake early enough to see Dinosaur Jr. at noon in a small club. The legendary trio had no set list and welcomed shouted-out requests from the audience. AI.


8:45 pm @ Pioneer Courthouse Square

The Pioneer Courthouse Square shows have leaned understandably toward mellower fare in past years, but Girl Talk’s ability to instigate mayhem on a grand scale argues for a reversal of this policy. I’d feel pretty well-served if I paid the price of admission and was only able to see his light show and toilet-paper cannons, to say nothing of the courtyard-spanning dance party that sets everyone from pinnacle to pit into motion. SHANE DANAHER.


9:37 pm @ Hawthorne Theater

Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu is screaming about abortions while clawing at an autoharp and theremin simultaneously. A guy in the balcony yells, “It’ll be OK!” MPS.


10:10 pm @ Doug Fir Lounge

Kishi Bashi sports a suit and a coiffure as feathery as the actual feather in his jacket buttonhole. Dude’s got violin skills. Bashi is neither the headliner nor even the opener to the headliner, but Doug Fir is packed, and when he steps back from the mic, you can hear the crowd singing the words. JF.


10:58 pm @ Hawthorne Theater

Swans start tearing into the title track from its new album, The Seer. Nearly 40 minutes later, the band will end the song, riding waves of shuddering volume and dynamics, and enveloping tribal rhythms. For Swans, it looks like another sweaty day at the office; for everyone in the audience, it’s a religious experience. RH.


11:50 pm @ Branx

Rather than the booty-shaking contests or the rapid-fire onslaught of club bangers, the best part of Big Freedia’s set winds up being the string of hard-assed a cappella verses she delivers by way of a closer. SD.


12:30 am @ Doug Fir Lounge

Moonface is finally on, and Spencer Krug just announced that Doug Fir is concerned about time and the band is going to “muscle through” its set. Boo, Grandpa Doug Fir! NEJ.


12:30 am @ Dante’s

I haven’t seen any band having more fun onstage at this festival than Redd Kross. Jeff McDonald just has this giant goofy grin on his face the whole time, playing songs he wrote like two decades ago. I think this is my favorite show—just a bunch of weirdos on stage and in the crowd getting crazy. RB.


SUNDAY

7 pm @ Pioneer Courthouse Square

School of Seven Bells looks way more like rock stars/art-gallery personnel than anyone else at MFNW. MARTIN CIZMAR.


8 pm @ Rontoms

I have no interest in Silversun Pickups, so I’m closing out MFNW with Marmoset Music’s free, all-day showcase of local bands on the back patio at Rontoms. Although at this point of the weekend, the slow, gentle harmonizing of Pearly Gate Music is not what I want or need. I’m taking my burger home. Fare thee well, MFNW 2012! MPS. 


READ MORE: See the complete MFNW diaries and more photos at wweek.com/mfnw.

 
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