For us here at WW, the run-up to MusicfestNW can be stressful. Because this publication is behind MFNW, we see a bit too much of its inner workings: There’s MFNW director Trevor Solomon screaming into the telephone; publisher Richard Meeker obsessing over Weather.com; the endless string of emails asking us for free wristbands. We’re always stoked—and amazed, really—to see this thing come together. So, because we’re too exhausted to give you a complete festival rundown, here’s WW’s partial list of things to look out for. We also asked Solomon and Thermals frontman Hutch Harris to share their picks for the best five-day weekend of the year. CASEY JARMAN.
Best place to drink your sorrows away: Dante’s, Thursday night with the Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit
There’s nothing remotely happy about the Twilight Sad’s new album, Forget the Night Ahead. The Scottish rockers’ follow-up to 2007’s Fourteen Autumns Fifteen Winters is a bleak, myopic run through the mind of singer James Graham, all swirling distortion and thunderous drums that hit you straight in the gut. Graham makes no attempt to hide his thick, brute accent, which just heightens the inherent tension in the band’s sound: a mix of Mogwai’s loudest moments and the tuneful, anthemic drive of Echo and the Bunnymen. Who doesn’t want to get filthy drunk with a bunch of Scots who think they sound like U2 but end up just making you more miserable? MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Band most likely to make you cry: Beach House (Midnight, Saturday, Berbati’s Pan)
Baltimore’s finest swoon-pop duo Beach House just signed to Sub Pop records, which means it’s now even more likely to melt your heart. Riding on the crest of Victoria Legrand’s sultry, comforting voice, the band does late-night pop right: 2008’s Devotion is like Mazzy Star if it were best bros with Grizzly Bear; a lush, elegant collection of songs that never gets old. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Best pop single that’s not even out yet: Finn Riggins, “Wake (Keep This Town Alive)” (Midnight, Saturday, East End)
Finn Riggins sure knows how to rep its hometown. The trio, which hails from podunk Hailey, Idaho (population 7, er, 7,844), says just as much in the instantly catchy “Wake (Keep This Town Alive),” the first single from new joint Vs. Wilderness. It’s an uptempo, swirling affirmation of life, complete with “wah ah ah ooh ooh” harmonies, galloping drums, and a plea to never forget your roots. The entire Tender Loving Empire set is filled with personal favorites, but nothing beats this track for pure pop fun. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Best opportunity to take your shirt off: Girl Talk (11 pm, Thursday, Roseland)
I’ll admit that seeing Greg Gillis—the laptop God known as Girl Talk—mix his set live is incredibly boring. But that’s not why you attend a Girl Talk show. You go to get wasted and pretend like you’re 19 again. Say what you will about his postmodern (post-CD?) compositions, but when dude drops a few bars of Biggie over Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” or layers ESG’s “UFO” beat with, like, AC/DC and Dem Franchize Boyz, you just wanna take your clothes off. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Most likely to feel like a high-school reunion: Sunny Day Real Estate (10 pm, Friday, Crystal Ballroom)
I don’t know about you, but when I was 17 I was depressed and crazy, filling up entire journals with feelings and rants against adults. It was terrible, except for the fact Sunny Day Real Estate soundtracked my misery. In retrospect, its early albums—the fittingly titled Diaryand self-titled follow-up—still sound stellar. If that analysis holds up for every other late twentysomething who was a sad sack in high school, I bet I’ll look around the room and see a lot of familiar faces. Heck, the kids who used to beat me up will probably be there, too. CASEY JARMAN.
Set most likely to involve a Spinal Tap-style drummer death: The Long Winters (Midnight, Friday, Berbati’s)
John Roderick, the gorgeous beast of a man who leads gleefully wordy Seattle popsters the Long Winters, recently auditioned 45 drummers to replace longtime band member Nabil Ayers. By this Friday he will presumably have chosen one. But with 45 candidates, we worry Roderick—with his flair for beardy, charismatic dramatics—will see his new percussionist as expendable and cause some terrible accident. And, worse, the crowd will be so entranced by the band’s tight hooks and hilariously sly lyrics that we won’t even notice. It’s a cruel world, when you’re a drummer. BEN WATERHOUSE.
Arctic Monkeys (7 pm, Friday, Wonder Ballroom)
I avoided this band like the plague at first, due to massive over-hype. When I finally heard it, I kicked myself for waiting so long.
Bad Brains (11 pm, Friday, Roseland)
This show should be on everyone’s must-see list for the fest. Apparently it’s the original lineup. Should be dope.
Beyonda (10:30 pm, Saturday, Holocene)
Portland’s best DJ, hands down. ’Nuff said.
Cymbals Eat Guitars (10 pm, Thursday, Doug Fir)
Caught these guys at this year’s Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago. Dynamic, emotional, and reminiscent of the ’90s. Needless to say, right up my alley.
Erase Errata (11 pm, Saturday, Rotture)
Very cool that these ladies are making an appearance at MFNW this year. Embarrassed to say I’ve never seen them live. I can say, however, that their records KICK ASS.
Explode Into Colors (11 pm, Friday, Holocene)
Yes, it really is Portland’s best new band. Good job, Willamette Week, for getting it right.
Nurses (11 pm, Friday, Doug Fir)
Portland’s other best new band. Great new record; really awesome guys.
Point Juncture, WA (10 pm, Saturday, Mississippi Studios)
We took them out on tour earlier this year, for six weeks, around this whole great country of ours. Never regretted it for a second. PJWA started out great and keeps getting better.
Team Dresch (Midnight, Saturday, Rotture)
In 1996 I saw Bikini Kill and Team Dresch play Gilman Street in Berkeley, Calif. To say the show was awesome is a massive understatement. Feel free to be insanely jealous.
Y La Bamba (7:30 pm, Saturday, Rontoms)
I caught Y La Bamba accidentally at Mississippi Pizza a few years ago, before it was a full band. It was fantastic, and I look forward to seeing the songs “fleshed out,” as they say.
Best inside cover of a record. A Cadillac, 3 Aussies.
Best NW record ever, Lonesome Crowded West.
One bong rip, a beer, and my cell phone off for an hour.
Minneapolis punk rock!!! Carrying the torch for some great bands.
SEE IT: MusicfestNW is this Wednesday through Sunday at venues throughout Portland. See musicfestnw.com for info regarding wristband sales, show times and other details.