July 31st, 2006 5:33 pm | by MARK BAUMGARTEN Music | Posted In: Columns, Columns

PDX Pop: Now is Not a Good Time

Horse FeathersSometimes life gets in the way of life's most important moments. An enormous zit appears the day of the big dance. A parental notification law is passed the day before your abortion. An airplane flies into a skyscraper on your 21st birthday. Or, maybe, you experience a nervous breakdown the day one of the most amazing music festivals in Portland, PDX Pop Now! kicks off.

I could see it coming on. The emails were piling up in my inbox, the laundry was piling up at home, and the "to do" list in my head wasn't even legible anymore. Between updating this web site, editing the music section of Willamette Week and coordinating the production of the MusicfestNW guide—which will be coming out Aug. 17 this year—I was on the road to complete burnout going into last weekend's PDX Pop Now! Festival.

We had big plans for the festival. There were going to be updates from the Local Cut writers throughout the entire weekend, telling all the readers what was going on, who was wowing crowd and who was driving festival goers to Produce Row for a drink and a chat amongst the throng of musicians and fans. There would be photos. We would be keeping you up to date. We would be, what's the word. Working. That's it. And we weren't the only ones.

Urban Honking did a fine job of live blogging the festivities, complete with photos, interesting observations and friendly observations. Thanks to the Urban Honking folks and the people at Tables Turned, there were plenty of Wi-Fi signals pulsing through Loveland, and I, my iBook pulling on my satcheled shoulder, was ready to grab that signal and send my thoughts on the festivities out to the wider world. This only 3 hours after openly weeping in front of my boss after sitting in front of a blank screen for 30 minutes, attempting to come to grips with the fact that I really know very little about popular R&B saxophonists. If nothing else, I am a trooper.

I walked into the Loveland at 7 pm, as Horse Feathers, the acoustic duo featuring Justin Ringle and Peter Broderick, was beginning its set. Surrounded by 150 friends and strangers in the dark confines of the Loveland, nestled in Portland's inner eastside industrial area. I witnessed two brilliant musicians play to a silent, attentive, eager crowd. This is what I love about PDX Pop Now!, which marked it's third anniversary this year. Last year and the year before I recall witnessing the collective jaw-drop that occurs when a relatively unknown local act takes the stage and delivers. That just what Horse Feathers did when it performed the dizzyingly beautiful ballad, "Finch on Saturday." Ringle and Broderick wrapped up their set and then I was off, to the nearby Office Depot to get a new wireless adapter for my laptop, my built-in antennae long since shot from general laptop abuse or a manufacturing malfunction or some mix of the two. I bought the small black piece of techno-plastic and sat on the concrete steps in the alley behind Loveland. Time and again I tried to install the software as the sounds of Small Sails pulsed from the concrete walls. Error. Error. Error was all my computer would say. With that, I slammed the computer shut and walked over to Produce Row where my friend Wilson, seeing that I was distraught, bought me a whiskey.

There is a time in life, Wilson told me, when you must give up the idea that serving a purpose in life is going to be enough. At some point, every person runs into a point where they realize that they are only doing things for other people in the world, whether they be family, co-workers or the community. When someone gets to that breaking point, they have two choices they can make. Take the yolk of purpose upon your shoulders and continue to pull it for the rest of your life, or break away and do something for yourself.

I trust Wilson, and so I took his lead and left the Pop Fest behind for the weekend, leaving live blogging, editing and reporting to everyone else with a computer and a need to serve a purpose for a little while. I barely even went back as a fan, only showing my face for a little of Siren's Echo of Friday and then Evolutionary Jass Band and White Rainbow on Sunday. For three days the local music scene celebrated without one of its main servants. And all reports indicate that as I wandered in parks, went grocery shopping, bought records, cleaned my apartment, talked to my mom and regained my sanity, the music went on. Whew!

Urban Honking: urbanhonking.com
PDX Pop Now!: pdxpopnow.com
Tables Turned: tablesturned.com
Horse Feathers: myspace.com/horsefeathers

Photo: Horse Feathers won't jump. Photo from MySpace.
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