It's an odd feeling to see 27 bands perform in one weekend and still feel guilty because you didn't see the other 22 bands that played. It's abnormal actually, unhealthy even, but you wouldn't know it from the beaming, sweaty faces flowing in and out of Loveland all weekend for the second annual PDX Pop Now! music festival.
Thanks to my annoying need to eat and sleep, I missed some reportedly fantastic performances at the all-local festival by Nice Nice, Science of Yabra and Saturday night's surprise guest, Lifesavas. That last one hurt, since the Lifesavas were said to have turned a room full of exhausted fans into a thriving mass, feeding off the positivity and local pride that the hip-hop trio was pushing in the name of PDX Pop Now!
But I'm giving up any residual guilt. After all, there are only so many shows one person can go to-except for that green-haired kid who danced at every single performance of the fest.
The weekend started off with an early Friday set by Quiet Countries, the solo project of Leb Borgerson, who put on a blown-out set of Mack-truck vocals over beats and loops expertly manipulated to create moments of high drama worthy of both the psycho-histrionics in Ibsen's A Doll's House and the right-now teen angst on The O.C. Later, 31 Knots frontman Joe Haege let the spirit fill him, dashing from stage to crowd and climbing the speakers like a stumbling, possessed salamander. Viva Voce played an entrancing set to a capacity crowd of 600, which led to drummer Kevin Robinson's promise that "as long as you all put on this festival, we'll play it for free." Then the Thermals went on to a slightly less full room with a partial preview of their next album. In six months, "We Dissolve" will be your favorite song.
The rest of the weekend went in lock step, powerful performance after powerful performance, with Ms. Su'ad, Invisible, Lackthereof, the Kingdom, the Snuggle Ups, Alan Singley, Pom Pom Meltdown, The Planet The and Strength all wowing a good part of the crowd.
Then, about 15 minutes into the Wet Confetti set Sunday night, everything shifted slightly. As the ultra-mellow bridge hit in "Body of Marittima," a group of 16-year-olds stormed the front of the stage, knocking over anyone in their path. The kids, hair spiked or dyed red, outfitted in studs and torn jean jackets, followed the band's song with chants of "you suck, you suck," and mocked the people dancing during the rest of the set. "We went in there to fuck with the emo kids," said Gussie Speuce later, across the street from Loveland.
"It's because they cut themselves, cry, wear girls' jeans and they think they have it so hard," added Flea Pierce, 16, whose band, the Kreeps, will play Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Paris Theater. "They should try livin' on the streets."
I didn't see any self-mutilations, although there were a fair amount of women's jeans on men in the festival crowd. That aside, it's easy for local fans to bristle at the emo tag, but it's hard to deny that the music represented at the festival at least has an emotional core. You really can't get away from it, whether it's the earnest come-ons from the guys in the Snuggle Ups or the outright declarations in Strength's unwinking disco set, the uplifting words of Lifesavas or the glowing heart pulsing from behind Kevin O'Connor's drumkit as he and Lisa Molinaro closed out the festival Sunday night with a blissful Talkdemonic set of beats and beauty. That's right. There's love here. And anyone who can grab a hold of it, or define themselves against it-well, they're working with a powerful force.