If you’ve suddenly developed an interest in the racket being made in your backyard, there’s no easier way to orient yourself with the Portland music scene circa right now than PDX Pop Now. This might be the most stylistically diverse lineup in the free, all-local music festival’s 11-year history, so your best course of action, really, is just to show up and ping between the two alternating stages. But here are 10 relatively under-the-radar acts you should make sure not to miss.
6:45 pm Friday, Outdoor Stage
A descendant of legendary Portland jam orchestra Five Fingers of Funk, Tezeta Band blends jazz and soul with African polyrhythms and melodies derived from Ethiopian pop, creating hypnotic dance music that—around these parts, at least—is a rarefied commodity.
9:45 pm Friday, Outdoor Stage
Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating through an episode of Cosmos. Cambrian Explosion is Portland’s spaciest band, in that its heavy, ’70s-style astral prog conjures images of supernovas and exploding nebulae. Tune in, turn on, beam up.
11:15 pm Friday, Outdoor Stage
A double-threat producer and MC, Villain has been
everywhere the past year, contributing to records by heavy spitters both
local and national and dropping his own trap-flavored mixtape, No Manners.
Noon Saturday, Indoor Stage
Are you missing Nurses? Try Erick Crosby, who crafts a similar brand of homemade psych pop as Hands In. Crosby paints the edges of his music with lysergic effects but does not lean on them, allowing the songs to shine through the strangeness.
3:30 pm Saturday, Outdoor Stage
Psychomagic write children’s music for those kids old enough to spike their brains with the substance of their choosing. Don’t let the good-natured goofiness fool you, though: Behind singer Steve Fusco’s silly accents is a tight psych band that can do whimsical as well as it does rollicking.
4 pm Saturday, Indoor Stage
The bearded Viking cousins of Zirakzigil have figured out a better way to LARP: Don’t just play it—slay it! The trio’s sludgy prog metal is filled with Tolkien-inspired imagery, and its self-titled Battle of the Peak EP was packaged like a Super Nintendo cartridge.
3:15 pm Sunday, Indoor Stage
With Natasha Kmeto going national, fellow Dropping Gems
associates Philip Grass are likely to be the next Portland electronic
act to blow up. The duo’s smooth, chilled-out, sometimes even tropical
productions are particularly well-suited to a midafternoon set.
5:15 pm Sunday, Outdoor Stage
Portland’s best new punk band taps the veins of Wire, the
Buzzcocks and the Gun Club, detonating in short, hooky bursts with
8:30 pm Sunday, Outdoor Stage
You can go ahead and reserve Sama Dams a spot on next year’s Best New Band list. Its oddly shaped indie rock nearly got it there this year, and there’s a reportedly even more knotty record on the way.
Myke Bogan (pictured at top)
10 pm Sunday, Outdoor Stage
Bogan is a rapper after Portland’s heart, penning laid-back summer jams hazy with weed smoke and tinged with the sort of regret one can only experience the morning after passing out on Sauvie Island next to a pile of PBR cans.
SEE IT: PDX Pop Now is at Audio Cinema, 226 SE Madison St., on Friday-Sunday, July 18-20. Free. All ages. See pdxpopnow.com for complete schedule.