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September 14th, 2005 MARK BAUMGARTEN | Featured Stories
 

MusicfestNW Diaries '05

Where we were, who played, what happened, and sometimes why.

     
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Thursday sept 8

10:23 pm Robyn Hitchcock, Crystal Ballroom

Prolific oddball Brit Robyn Hitchcock brings curious listeners and die-hards together with a little Pac Northwest flavor on his chant-along, "Viva! Sea-Tac." It takes about one warm-up chorus and the line "They've got the best computers and coffee and smack," before the crowd erupts: "Viva! Seattle-Tacoma! Viva, viva! Sea-Tac!" AMY MCCULLOUGH.

11:30 pm Medusa, Berbati's Pan

Medusa, clad in a police-issue jumpsuit and a sheriff's hat, is the drill sergeant, and the crowd has just been drafted into her hip-hop bootcamp. "You in the back, get your muthafuckin' hands in the air!" Not even the DJ is spared after dropping a beat too early: "Don't you start that muthafuckin' shit right now! I'm rockin' it a cappella!" THOMAS COBB.

11:37 pm Colin Meloy, Crystal Ballroom

Colin Meloy, here separated from his Decemberists bandmates, boyishly admits to the crowd that hanging out backstage with opener Robyn Hitchcock and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck-who accompanied Hitchcock's set-was like "reliving my 15-year-old wet dream." AMY MCCULLOUGH.

1:05 am Jean Grae, Berbati's Pan

Jean Grae stops her DJ after the first few bars and threatens to make fun of the people in the front if they didn't "keep it live." "This isn't a folk show," she reminds the crowd, which follows her commands religiously for the remainder of the explosive set. DAVID MULLER.

Friday sept 9

8:30 pm Northwest Hip-Hop Talent Show, Roseland Theater

Husband-wife crew Peer Pressure are pushing some taffy-sweet, melodic throwback hooks on the baby-faced emcees who make up most of the crowd. "Get yo' ass up off the wall," they keep repeating. CASEY JARMAN.

9:57 pm The Minders, Berbati's Pan

Right before the final song of the Minders' deafening set, someone next to me announces, "This is best show so far!" Then the band breaks into a dead-on, super-high-energy cover of Electric Light Orchestra's "Don't Bring Me Down" to close out the set. Bodies bounce, voices sing and all is merry in the tightly packed Pan. AMY MCCULLOUGH.

10:15 pm Potluck, Roseland Theater

Potluck's 1-ton takes on a serious tone and asks the crowd to donate whatever money they can spare to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. "George Bush sat back and watched mo'fuckas die," he says with anger and conviction. "Hip-hop don't sit back and watch mo'fuckas die." CASEY JARMAN.

11:25 pm Viva Voce, Doug Fir

As Viva Voce takes the stage in front of a screen that will soon host a three-dimensional rock-'n'-roll projection, some fans are filled with disappointment and anxiety to find there aren't enough 3-D glasses to go around. But just as the husband-and-wife duo lead into "Alive with Pleasure" with Anita Robinson's heavily distorted guitar riffage, a fellow rocker shares the love by letting me and my entire group of friends pass around their 3-D shades and take part in the psychedelic lovefest that is Viva Voce. AMY MCCULLOUGH.

1:03 am Bobby Bare Jr., Dante's

Showcase organizer Trevor Solomon sneaks up on stage behind Bobby Bare Jr. and dumps a full bottle of water over his bushy bird's nest of hair. The sousing ignites an unhinged stream of honking bass saxophone and machine-gun drum lines tethered to country-toned odes to dead Valentines and dusty, lost souls. Bare's dissonant guitar solos are matched only by the feverish dance party that soon springs up. KELLY CLARKE.

1:35 am Portland General Electro, Doug Fir

A pack of clean-cut hooligans, freshly purchased drinks in hand, stands behind the velvet rope that blocks the entrance to the lounge at Doug Fir, booing. Portland General Electro is downstairs pumping out its lovely electro funk to an empty room, because the Doug Fir has decided to shut down the MusicfestNW afterparty spot an hour-and-a-half before the schedule's 3 am promise, just like the club did last night. No one can tell us why, and the drunks keep booing. MARK BAUMGARTEN.

1:52 am The Kitchen Syncopators, White Eagle

It's closing time on the second night of MusicfestNW, and the festers are rightfully spent. The White Eagle staff scurries to clean up the remains of the well-pickled audience as Syncopators guitarist and vocalist Frank Lemon is beckoned by the crowd to rise from his seat on stage. "Oh, should I stand up now?" he asks. The answer is clear as tired listeners set down their beers and rise with him to join the furious dance that ensues as the band plows through "That'll Never Happen No More" with enough energy to raise the dead. AMY MCCULLOUGH.

Saturday sept 10

8:18 pm Liv Warfield, Doug Fir

It was early, but Liv Warfield, along with her groove-equipped backing band, is summoning the musical spirits to emotional effect. "Inspiration's a motherfucker, ain't it?" she asks. That might not sound like it means anything, unless you're one of the bands playing later in the night who will have to top her early set. DAVID MULLER.

9:32 pm Hawthorne Theatre

A middle-aged man walks into the theater wearing a threadbare Hazel T-shirt. Why isn't he at the big reunion show at the Crystal tonight? I ask him. He squints, annoyed. "Pete gave me this shirt. He's my friend. I don't pay to see my fucking friends play," he snaps, referring to Hazel guitarist Pete Krebs. "Plus, you never go to a show wearing a fucking T-shirt with the band's name on it. That's the first rule." ADRIAN CHEN.

10:12 pm Corrina Repp, Acme

It's so quiet that you can hear the barkeep pouring beers. "These chimes are from my neighbor's porch," purrs Repp as she brushes those trademark blond bangs out of her eyes and prepares to slice through another one of her arresting low-key compositions. "I steal them for every show, and then I put them back up the next morning." KELLY CLARKE.

10:55 pm Alan Singley and Pants Machine, Lola's Room

An argument erupts between two concertgoers attempting to describe Singley's songs, which varied from a solo acoustic tune about his father to a rollicking sing-along featuring tambourine and bicycle wheel. "It's too eclectic-where's the thread? What are you coming to see?" one says, ignoring the consistently upbeat, folksy guitar-based sounds. "They're wearing colorful clothes," counters the other. KARLA STARR.

11:11 pm Dykeritz, Lola's Room

"We found him out on the street and asked him if he wanted to play tambourine," says one of Dykeritz's vocalists, referring to a character with a giant blue spherical head in the back shuffling about, tambourine in hand, while the band plays its twisted summertime pop. MARK BAUMGARTEN.

11:15 pm MarchFourth Marching Band, the street

Police lights flash in front of the Shanghai Tunnel after the MarchFourth Marching Band has set up camp there. The police are asking the ragtag crew of performers to move on while the band and a crowd of drunk dancers wail through the alley between Berbati's Pan and Dan and Louis Oyster Bar to try and find refuge near Voodoo Doughnut. The alley is a fitting locale to hear a New Orleans-style marching band. CASEY JARMAN.

2:13 am Sexton Blake, Mississippi Studios

"God, I'm tired," says Sexton Blake's Josh Hodges while attempting to fix his guitar after an ill-tuned rendition of "Emma." This lack of energy transforms Sexton Blake's beautifully crafted, focused set into a cracking, struggling, sloppy set of songs. Just as all hope is dangerously close to lost, the band embraces its loss of control to produce phenomenal renditions of its last three songs. KARLA STARR.

2:35 am Ray Frazier with the Blacknotes, Bitter End

Just off the MusicfestNW shuttle bus, a crowd of rowdies rolls into the Bitter End, appropriately. Ray Frazier and the Blacknotes are on stage, capping off the night with a set that somehow pairs Tracy Chapman with the likes of Radiohead. The rowdies immediately mellow at the hands of Frazier, and yet another Musicfest comes to an exhausted, sated close. BYRON BECK.

Hazel, Pond, Crackerbash and Sprinkler

At the Crystal Ballroom, 1:10 am Saturday

"People have been asking what it's like to grow old," said Jody Bleyle from behind her drumkit Saturday, before answering that question in front of a full Crystal Ballroom: "When I dance to Crackerbash now, I pee a little." It wouldn't have been an authentic Hazel set without Bleyle cracking us up, and in most every way imaginable, this evening of bands harkening back to Portland's 1992 heyday was authentic.

Jody might have peed her pants during Crackerbash's set early Saturday night, but I wet my trousers at my home in Philadelphia when this lineup was announced. My Beaverton High class reunion couldn't persuade me to return to my hometown, but I would've broken out of prison for this show. Though it's 2005-vocalist Charlie Campbell from Pond didn't wear a funny hat and Crackerbash leadman Sean Croghan didn't break into tears or a tirade-the bands still played with unrivaled passion when they easily could've half-assed it.

Sprinkler began by announcing they were "very old" before their monstrous dual guitars ripped into "Wide Zero." The epic "Personality Doll" was nailed, indicating some serious rehearsal time. Even more surprisingly polished was Crackerbash. Croghan managed to actually play most of the set until finally losing it during "Bandages" and hurtling his axe skyward. Pond's inclusion of "Grinned," a song I once covered in my high-school band, was my highlight. Hazel could easily have gotten by on charm alone, but, despite being the most geographically displaced of the bands (Bleyle lives in L.A., bassist Brady Smith in New York), the members' rapport remains the linchpin of a still unparalleled live show. Their inclusion of "Truly" was a thrill to many who thought they might never play it again, and their set was almost entirely from "Toreador of Love." More than satisfying, this night reinforced my belief that the early-'90s Portland local scene was truly the best I have ever witnessed. Now, I'm just crossing my fingers for 30.06, the Spinanes, Hitting Birth and Drunk at Abi's to do this next year. BEN MORGAN.

Ben Morgan lives in Philadelphia, where he plays bass in the band Be Careful Little Hands, books concerts and does live sound. He has never grown up, and that's mainly the fault of the bands who played this show.

 
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