Calling all yacht-rockers, Big Floaters and hobo pirates: MusicfestNW is taking it to the river. Finally.
It’s a move several years in the making. The 15-year-old urban music festival—one of the largest of its kind in the country—has long wanted to move its outdoor location, which had previously been Pioneer Courthouse Square, to Tom McCall Waterfront Park. It just makes sense: The Willamette is what defines Portland, and no other event brings its people together like MFNW. Pioneer Square may be Portland’s living room, but the waterfront is its backyard. Where would you rather hang out on a warm summer night?
And so, this Saturday and Sunday, the entire city—even kids under 8, who get in free—is invited to the year’s greatest lawn party. The festival has never been more accessible. Wristband holders can come and go as they please (see nearby food and drink picks here). Or stay, because some of Portland’s best food trucks will be on hand to feed you. A headphone disco will be going all day, for those who want to dance the afternoon away. There will even be an onsite art show, where you can view album covers from this year’s performers reimagined by local artists—among other awesome, non-music-related features.
And about that music: Act for act, this is the biggest lineup in MFNW’s history. There’s Girl Talk, the visionary producer who transforms familiar songs from every corner of the pop world into new music that is at once undefinable and universal. There’s genius indie-rock vets Spoon, which just released its first album in four years. You’ll see the world’s favorite new sister act, Haim, and dream hip-hop tag team Run the Jewels. You’ll get whipped into a frenzy by Fucked Up’s epic hardcore and groove to Phantogram’s trip-hop noir, the dramatic synth-pop of Future Islands (get dance lessons here) and the worldly funk of Tune-Yards. Being at the waterfront this year, everyone with a ticket is guaranteed to get in. And with the bands spread across two alternating stages, you don’t have to worry about missing a moment.
That’s just the start, though. In the past, MFNW was defined by the experience of zipping across town, catching bands at clubs and theaters. Now, finally, we’re all meeting at the river. And, afterward, if you want to hang out in a more intimate setting, there are shows at Doug Fir Lounge, Star Theater and Bunk Bar, including some of the artists also playing at the waterfront.
The festival begins at the river. Where you go from there is up to you. Or just hang out on that big, beautiful lawn until it’s time for some shuteye. After Girl Talk, you might need some rest.
—Matthew Singer, Willamette Week music editor
SEE IT: MusicfestNW is at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Naito Parkway between the Morrison and Hawthorne bridges, on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-17. $65 per day, $100 for two-day pass. VIP tickets $175 per day, $300 for two-day pass. Free for children under 8. All ages. To purchase tickets, see musicfestnw.com/tickets.