At MusicfestNW, the feedback permanently humming in the Pacific Northwest air turns into a tangible object wrapped around our wrists. In the daylight hours, when the noise is replaced by quiet anticipation, you'll see those wristbands everywhere, at a food cart or coffee shop or on the MAX, and the magnetic rush of shared experience will compel you to swap stories of the previous night—the artist who exceeded your expectations, the one who disappointed and the one you never saw coming.

That's what makes MFNW Portland's biggest community event. Sure, the bands are awesome, and yes, this is the city's largest and best music festival, but it isn't just about the music. After all, in this town, great shows aren't hard to come by. The essence of the festival is found between sets, when you glance at your friends and realize you're enjoying the best week of the year.

All that said, the bands really are awesome, particularly this year. This is your guide to all 168 of them, from the teenage rap prodigy to the rediscovered 59-year-old soul genius, the rail-riding folk vagabond to the Australian EDM maverick, the resilient metal sluggers to the veteran psychedelic sound wizards. You'll sit in on a conversation between two of most affecting female voices in music and have a chat with a suspiciously familiar-looking Brit-punk legend. We'll also show you where to grab a drink before each set and meet for a bite after, and give you tips for how to survive it all.  

You'll also get a primer on the second annual TechfestNW, a summit meeting of the digital gurus shaping the culture at large, which this year includes a free-to-the-public cage match between aerial drones and an interactive display showing a heat map of MFNW bands. It might seem like two different audiences, but I'm sure we'll see some of those technophiles out there, too, zipping from club to theater to the Old Church. We may not be going to the same shows. But all of us are going to MusicfestNW. Matthew Singer, WW music editor.

MFNW show previews: Tuesday-Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday-Sunday

Tickets and official site:

HEAR IT: Musicfest NW is Sept. 3-8, 2013. Tickets and wristbands are still available. See for information. Download the official MusicfestNW app at the App Store and Google Play.