Walking down to where the mounted police keep their horses the other day, we had to wait for a train to pass. As it did, we waved out to the train engineer. I'm not sure who I expected to see driving that train, but when a man who looked like he could be our parents' age waved out, I suddenly wondered to myself who would replace him somewhere down the line. Are young people still getting into train engineering?
Thankfully, young people are still getting into playing the kind of music their parents' parents might have grown up listening to—this is a fact so obvious that it can start to sound redundant each time it's pointed out. Some of Portland's best, and yes, youngest, practitioners of the art graced the stage of the Crystal Ballroom on last night when Nelson Kempf and Keeley Boyle of the Old Believers joined Eskimo & Sons for the evening, lending their rich voices to the mix.
Kempf and Boyle's voices—descendants of a line that includes Thursday's Crystal headliner M. Ward as well as Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, and others—were kind enough to manifest their enthusiasm for their fellow Portland musicians by picking their temporary bandmates Eskimo & Sons to cover for the MFNW covers project. In a festival that can feel a little overwrought with bureaucracy, lines, and corporate sponsors, it's easy to forget we're all just fans here. In the Old Believers' cover of "The Blizzard,” you can hear all the love, affection, and adoration of one band for another. That was one of the points of the MusicFest NW cover project.
Kempf handed me the following note at the Crystal Ballroom on Thursday night:
We recorded “The Blizzard” on our friend's sailboat in L.A. because that song is fucking tight. We essentially programmed some samples that I gots and set a mic on the boat, turned the gain really high (we didn't have a mic stand) and screamed a lot. We used a balalaika and a guitar. Owwwww! There was more we wanted to do to the song, but there wasn't more time. I love you.
The Old BelieverSpace
Photo by Jason Quigley