Tickets and official site: musicfestnw.com
[MUTANT DISCO] Emerging in the late '90s from Sacramento of all places, and playing music rooted equally in the jagged funk of post-punk and the rubbery rhythms of actual funk, !!!—whose name is most commonly pronounced "chk chk chk"—felt like it was doing something radical, if not downright revolutionary. With fifth album Thr!!!er, the group has finally achieved its ultimate goal: to transcend "dance punk" and become, simply, a great dance band. (MPS) Branx, 11 pm.
[ELECTRO-GOTH] Austra employs ice-cold vocals and pulsing synths to create a ghostly world of its own, one that feels both modern and retro in tandem. Feel It Break rightfully landed on the top of many best-of lists in 2011 thanks to the Toronto group's careful marriage of retro bass plunks, panoramic sine-wave swells and the haunting melodies of singer-keyboardist Katie Stelmanis. Follow-up Olympia follows suit with a chilly, beat-heavy tunefulness that will satisfy fans of Björk, the Knife and Eurythmics in equal measure. (PC) Star Theater, 11 pm.
[BEACH POP] With Ride Your Heart, Bleached's Jennifer and Jessica Clavin have just about mastered the California pop-punk formula. Hazy girl-group melodies, strummy guitars and wounded-heart lyrics are the soundtrack to a punk-rock beach party, which actually happens in the 7-Eleven parking lot across the street. (MPS) Dante's, 11 pm.
[FUZZY PUNK] Bob Mould looks like your grandpa, because he kind of is your grandpa. From the legendary Hüsker Dü in the '80s to Sugar in the '90s to his current return-to-form solo album, The Descent, his personal brand of noisy, splintery pop punk counts its change to the penny, and it never tells a lie. (MK) Doug Fir Lounge, 11 pm.
Bonnie Prince Billy
[FOLK] If Will Oldham cared in any obvious way about money, he'd be a whore. He is treated as saintly in some circles, of course. His song "I See a Darkness" [though not jaunty cover version of his own song below] reverberates through funerals, "New Partner" through the ends of relationships. Oldham's quavering voice, over his 20-year career, has been considered the kindhearted carrier of some deep essence of country and folk and indie Southern America. The fact that he's looked essentially the same since the age of 23—just as bald, just as sad-eyed, both jester and ascetic at once—speaks to the endurance of this America.
He doesn't want to be America, though. He wants to fuck America. When he said he'd fuck that mountain on the Palace Music album Viva Lost Blues, goddamn if he didn't mean it. His voice turns up on everybody's albums, from BjÃ¶rk to Papa M to Johnny freaking Cash.
Oldham's albums, whether Bonnie, Palace or otherwise, are perplexing and funny and dirty as all hell, often blazingly inconsistent and often some of the most soulful and beautiful music we have. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. Aladdin Theater, 10 pm.
[PUNK ROCK] With grungy fast-paced vigor, Oklahoma's Broncho calls on the youthful aggression of classic punk on its 2013 debut, Can't Get Past the Lips, 10 quick tracks of crunchy guitar, pulsing bass and scrappy vocals that, in the typical punk form, blaze past in less than 20 minutes. (EB) Dante's, 9 pm.
[WITCHSTEP] Bruxa is the most appropriate choice to lead occultish electronic music away from the contrived witch-house genre that blew up in 2010. The music's just as creepy, but easier to dance to. Most tracks on 2012's Victimeyez are bona fide dubstep, but some find influence from IDM and hip-hop. All would work well in a strobe-lit warehouse. (ML) Holocene, 9 pm.
[SHOEGAZE] Indie trio Diana, formed at the University of Toronto, released its self-titled debut only a few weeks ago, but that hasn't stopped the band from gaining a considerable amount of attention this past summer playing its shoegaze-tastic sounds at music festivals throughout Canada. In a genre in which every band risks sounding identical, Diana distinguishes itself through the sugary lead vocals of Carmen Elle. (JD) Star Theater, 10 pm.
[WORLD PARTY] When M.I.A. first heard Diplo in a London club, she thought his sound was "homeless." Appropriate for a producer who slurps up exploding dance beats from Brazilian favelas, reggaeton clubs and practically the entire Internet, and who's now worked with everyone from Justin Bieber to South African candy-rappers Die Antwoord. (ML) Wonder Ballroom, midnight.
[COMEDY] See interview here. Crystal Ballroom, 9 pm.
[DANCE ROCK] Having freshly released Synesthesia through powerhouse PDX label Kill Rock Stars, Hands is destined for firm footing in the arena of danceable rock. Like fellow L.A. compatriots White Arrows, the quartet injects searing guitars and electronic bleeps with heightened pop sensibility, making for a brand of music that is both cascading and catchy. (MAS) Mississippi Studios, 11 pm.
[POST-HARDCORE] The late '90s were simpler times for post-hardcore. Back then, you had vans full of dudes flitting across the country, engaging in minor-chord bloodletting in any basement or bar that would have them. Portland's Hausu inhabits the same world as Hot Water Music and Title Fight, a place where gruff vocals and jagged guitars supersede the aesthetic choices of "post-hardcore" bands associated with the Warped Tour. These guys are ready to let their anthemic revivalist punk do the talking. (PC) Dante's, 10 pm.
[PSYCHEDELIC DREAMLAND] One of HOTT MT's most notable forays involved a pilgrimage to Oklahoma City to lay its musical soul bare at the feet of the Flaming Lips' frontman, Wayne Coyne, which scored the group a collaboration with the reigning king of freak rock, the bouncy, breathy single "Never Hate Again." The L.A.-based collective's debut full-length, I Made This, hit sizzling psychedelic brainpans in May, reaffirming the group's Coyne-esque space-indie style. (GS) Mississippi Studios, 9 pm.
[SUNSHINE BLUES] Ride Out the Dark, the debut album from Portland quintet Houndstooth, couldn't have a more apt title: Katie Bernstein's crooning vocals, layered over guitarist John Gnorski's twangy surf-rock riffs, are a suitable soundtrack for Oregon's three glorious months of summer sun. Bernstein sings with a slight drawl, likening her to the '60s pinup archetype crystallized by Zooey Deschanel in She & Him, but Houndstooth avoids road-trip indie homogeneity through distorted guitar reminiscent of Wilco's more experimental songs. (GS) Bunk Bar, 11 pm.
[PO-MO POP ROCK] On 2011 epic White Wilderness, prolific indie figure John Vanderslice teamed with the Magik*Magik Orchestra for a three-day live recording session, a departure for the founder of San Francisco's Tiny Telephone studio. The result was a lush, uniquely experimental effort informed as much by its classical instrumentation as by J.V.'s smart post-modern songcraft. This summer's Dagger Beach continues his evolution, with a piercingly organic work that's all delicate loveliness and heartbreak. (AS) Doug Fir Lounge, 10 pm.
The Joy Formidable
[HEAVY ART POP] Taking the bombastic sound that marked its staggering and surprising debut, The Big Roar, and ratcheting up the musicianship and explosiveness, Welsh trio the Joy Formidable's sophomore release, Wolf's Law, sets a new bar. Here, double-bass pedals hammer down like thunder over wailing guitar hooks guided home by Ritzy Bryan's ethereal vocals. The trio proves there's no limit to the amount of sound a sparse outfit can emit, veering into Zeppelin territory even when grounded in sure-footed art pop. (APK) Roseland Theater, 11 pm.
[FOLK POP] Singer-songwriter Kris Orlowski must've felt vulnerable enough before having his band's touring equipment stolen for the third time. The Seattle musician's latest five-song EP and collaboration with composer Andrew Joslyn, Pieces We Are, draws breath from lush orchestral arrangements and Orlowski's sweetly affable croon. It's as intimate as an open mic, clad in a sea of waving strings and shaken lyrics about love and longing. Now, if he can only learn how to keep his stuff secure. (BW) Doug Fir Lounge, 9 pm.
Like A Villain
[EXPERIMENTAL MUSICAL THEATER] Since 2010, under the name Like a Villain, Portland multi-instrumentalist Holland Andrews has been using her jazzy clarinet, looping pedals and musical theater-trained voice—along with a musical theater-cultivated flair for the dramatic—to make experimental music that revels in the dichotomy between pretty and provocative. Her recordings don't come close to capturing Andrews' sprawling live pieces—to say nothing of her bright-eyed, steady-handed stage presence. (JF) The Old Church, 8:30 pm.
[SPRAWLING POP] Matt Sheehy and company engineered one of the best Northwest records of 2012 with DRRT. The Brent Knopf-produced project is free-range rock at its finest, ebbing with choirlike simplicity and flowing with the highly percussive and piano-driven explosiveness of Menomena. It's going to be tough to outdo a record that includes a build-your-own planetarium, but I like Sheehy's chances. (MAS) Roseland Theater, 9 pm.
The Love Language
[ANTHEMIC INDIE POP] Spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist Stuart McLamb, the Love Language is a project originally sparked from a breakup. What started as emotional, holed-up demos written for an ex-girlfriend has, over the course of three albums, evolved into a more spacious, anthemic sound, composed of big drums, bouncy synthesizers and lo-fi energy. McLamb's third album, Ruby Red, is his most expansive and production-heavy record yet. (EB) Bunk Bar, midnight.
[R&BLOG] Musically, Magic Fades can be geo-located somewhere in the bloggy, foggy Bermuda Triangle between "new alternative" dreamy R&B and the emerging microgenre referred to as "vaporwave." Lyrically, its songs ooze with romance, swagger and sex. Although currently relegated to opening slots in Portland, the duo of Mike Grabarek and Jeremy Scott has made a lot of fans on the Web: A few months ago, the group performed on the live video-streaming site Tinychat, and attracted so many viewers that the site crashed. (ML) Holocene, 11 pm.
[BACKWOODS PUNK] When you transplant a punk band from New York City into the Catskills, something's gotta give. For Brooklyn quartet the Men, what gave was the piercing hard rock of which we've grown accustomed. Newest record New Moon shows the band dabbling in alt-country, Americana and even Southern rock elements without completely forfeiting the bracing musical persona that's brought the group success. (MAS) Dante's, midnight.
[DISCO POP] Keyboard-centric on the verge of smooth-jazz territory, the sound of Portland-via-Missouri transplant Minden is a polished glass stiletto, clean and towering. On 2012's Exotic Cakes and recent EP What's More Than Appropriate, frontman Casey Burge's near-whispered vocals wind in and around crystalline keys and round melodies. And while Minden occasionally strays down more experimental paths, it always boomerangs back to its sugarcoated pop core. (MAS) Branx, 9 pm.
[COUNTRY DARKNESS] Mount Eerie's 2009 effort, Wind's Poem, attracted songwriter and sole static member Phil Elverum a new level of attention. Inspired by black metal and the coastal Washington landscape, it raised expectations for Elverum's follow-up. In many ways, last year's Clear Moon (the first part of a two-album set, the second of which, Pre-Human Ideas, drops in the fall) exceeds those expectations: It's a gentle, masterfully constructed album that is mesmerizing where it's not downright trance-inducing. (CJ) Aladdin Theater, 9 pm.
On An On
[DREAM POP] On An On comprises three-fifths of the former band Scattered Trees, and despite popping up seemingly overnight and out of thin air last year, the group is making quite an impression, through a pleasing combination of electro-beats, synth-pop hooks and rock bravado. Diverse debut Give In is a moody, ethereal treat. (BP) Roseland Theater, 10 pm.
[NEW AGE ELECTRO-POP] Brothers Ryan and Taylor Lawhon aren't ashamed to admit in interviews that their musical taste comes from their mother, who must be a big fan of Enya and Deep Forest. Mixing the ambient synth textures of New Age with smooth vocals and driving percussion, the band's sound is as entrancing as it is catchy. (EB) Pioneer Courthouse Square, 5:30 pm.
[DANCE] You might think someone slipped something in your drink at Portia's show. Latin-influenced cumbia beats are sped up to dizzying, though still danceable, speeds, with eerie giggles emerging from the sonic whirlwind. It might be a good idea to wear comfortable clothing and have your address pinned to your collar, just in case. (ML) Holocene, 10 pm.
[LAB ROCK] Already a candidate for most memorable performance at MusicfestNW before the festival even happens, Seattle's G Vandercrimp concocts a mean mix of howling vocals, ripping electric guitar and negative space as Prism Tats. The former member of garage-rockers Koko and the Sweetmeats has an affinity for post-punk and careful minimalism. He manages to come off as a rough-cut, avant-garde take on the Beach Boys, which is somewhat miraculous. (MAS) Bunk Bar, 10 pm.
Ra Ra Riot
[INDIE ROCK] Ra Ra Riot, the Syracuse, N.Y., band known for infusing its indie pop with heavy strings, has lightened up on the baroque, in favor of synthesizers, on its latest album, Beta Love. Since the departure of cellist Alexandra Lawn, the band has strayed from its roots, with lead vocalist Wes Miles now crooning his sci-fi inspired lyrics in a smooth falsetto over electronic beats, but the group still delivers an energetic show, more danceable than before. (HM) Mississippi Studios, midnight.
[TRAP] Twenty-two-year-old producer Henry Steinway became an EDM and hip-hop star last year with ubiquitous club anthem "Trap on Acid," and his remixes of Kanye's "Mercy" and Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction." The Los Angeles DJ's new High Beams EP keeps the beats thick, trippy and expectedly crunkified, enlisting much-hyped rapper Problem for auto-tuned earworm "Secondary." Grime's dense, dark soundscapes can turn straight-up odd, but fans will dance to it until the drugs wear off, regardless. (AS) Wonder Ballroom, 10:30 pm.
[ART POP] Counting two drummers, two keyboards, four vocalists and genres beyond number to drift among with a noble grandeur, Royal Canoe recently released its debut, Today We're Believers—unconnected with The Believer magazine, though the troupe first made waves via an elaboration of Beck's sheet music for the McSweeney's empire—and continues to paddle in unison along a direction very much its own. (JH) Branx, 10 pm.
[HEAVY ROCK] Miny Parsonz belts it out while wielding a mean bass guitar. Her Atlanta-based power trio rocks so hard its albums get shelved in the metal section, but Royal Thunder is that rare modern band that remains connected to pure Delta blues. Sometimes metal is more attitude than sound—even if that sound is pure rock 'n' roll. (NC) Hawthorne Theatre, 9 pm.
[PROG PUNK] Sun Angle's live shows are a full-frontal assault, as much rockslide as rock music. Drummer Papi Fimbres plays nearly untrackable polyrhythms, blazing cumbia patterns at the breakneck tempos of punk. Meanwhile, Charlie Salas-Humara lacquers layers of delay-pedaled, psych-prog guitar over the top. It's an experiment in chaos and control, the control being Marius Libman's fast, circular basslines. On record, though, they're somehow even better: Diamond Junk, the band's debut, is one the best damn rock albums I expect to hear this year. (MK) Mississippi Studios, 10 pm.
[DEMENTED DANCE] The music of Pennsylvania psych freaks Black Moth Super Rainbow is invariably described as "acid-fried," but on his own, principal songwriter Thomas "Tobacco" Fec prefers the harder stuff. Making severely warped analog dance music that sounds like chillwave being burned alive, the often creepily bemasked beatmaker orchestrates raves for the angel-dust set, replacing the glowsticks and pretty lights with some truly disturbing video projections. Come for the bowel-displacing bass, stay for the E.T. porn! (MPS) Holocene, midnight.
[ORCHESTRAL POP] See profile here. The Old Church, 9:30 pm.
[DARK SYNTHS] When Bobby Eagleson and Andrea K met around 2007, the two found themselves geeking out over then-obscure punk offshoots, like minimal synth music, German New Wave and coldwave. On the material they've released so far as Vice Device, the band deftly treads the line between New Wave pop and no-wave experimentalism, melding danceable rhythms with dissonant synths, noisy effects and at least one squalling sax solo. (JF) Star Theater, 9 pm.
Young The Giant
[INDIE ARENA ROCK] Video may have killed the radio stars of the early 1980s, but the radio stars of the new millennium have proven remarkably impervious to the rise of the blogosphere.
Take Young the Giant. A group of resolutely nice guys from Orange County, Calif., playing indie-ish rock big and earnest enough to fill stadiums, the band has never received much help from online kingmakers like Pitchfork and Stereogum. But that hasn't stopped them from scaling the Billboard charts, performing at the MTV Video Music Awards and winning the affections of Morrissey, who doesn't seem to like anything except Oscar Wilde and cattle. No one, aside from its record company, perhaps, was trying to make Young the Giant happen. Instead, it came by fame the increasingly old-fashioned way: Get a song on the radio, and let the public decide if they deserve it.
While the group borrows from the language of contemporary indie rock—lightly distorted guitar hooks, dreamy keyboard atmospherics, quiet-loud-quiet arrangements—it makes no bones about its arena-sized ambitions. These guys have visions of U2-style grandeur in their eyes, and no gesture is too sweeping. Every generation needs its tambourine-banging, lighter-swinging, heart-bleeding emotional juggernaut, and Coldplay is getting old. There are certainly worse options to fill that niche than a bunch of—again—nice dudes who all seem perfectly humble. And, well, geez, at least none of them plays the banjo. MATTHEW SINGER. Pioneer Courthouse Square, 8 pm.
[PSYCHEDELIC ROCK] Wondrous Bughouse, the latest release from Trevor Powers, aka Youth Lagoon, is a kooky mindjob. Half the tracks sound sprung from a bad acid trip, while the rest seem born of a collaboration of Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka and Thom Yorke at his craziest. Throughout, Powers contemplates the great mysteries of the universe and what really constitutes good and evil via a melting pot of rock, pop, synths and random sonic flourishes. (BP) Pioneer Courthouse Square, 6:30 pm.
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Emilee Booher, Ruth Brown, Nathan Carson, Pete Cottell, Joe Donovan, Jonathan Frochtzwajg, Robert Ham, Jay Horton, Reed Jackson, Matthew Korfhage, AP Kryza, Mitch Lillie, Haley Martin, Brian Palmer, Jeff Rosenberg, Amanda Schurr, Matthew P. Singer, Grace Stainback, Chris Stamm, Mark A. Stock, Brandon Widder.