September 9th, 2011 | by WW MUSIC STAFF Music | Posted In: Local Cut

The MusicfestNW Diaries 2011: Thursday

Puke, Pancakes, and butthole sinkers

coffeyDennis Coffey at the Aladdin Theater - Photo by Jared Eberhardt
The fun continues in day two of our epic, five-day MFNW blogging. Today’s contributors, in order of appearance: Matthew Singer, Robert Ham, Devan Cook, Casey Jarman, Arya Imig, Mark Stock, Nathan Carson, Nikki Volpicelli, Ruth Brown.

10:50 am @ Doug Fir
Woke up late and just made it to Doug Fir in time to catch half a song from Little Dragon’s mini-show for awesome Seattle radio station KEXP. Singer Yukimi Nagano, who’s usually wearing something stylish, is dressed in a white shirt and pajama pants. In fact, the whole band looks as if it just had its sleep interrupted and rolled out of cots set up on the side of the stage. Still, Little Dragon is among the best live acts touring today, and sound that way even while half-awake. There’s a nice-sized crowd (which includes several little kids with their underemployed parents) for 10:30 am, which is surprising not because it’s a work day, but because I didn’t think people in Portland did anything before noon. (MPS)

12:38 pm @ Doug Fir
“I’m usually not awake this early,” says Ruban Nielson of Portland’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra. He then claims to be joking, but I don’t believe him. Regardless, he and the rest of the band are admirably fighting off that early afternoon haze, delivering a great, truncated set of its crooked, lo-fi bedroom funk for its KEXP broadcast. I had no idea Nielson was such a guitar hero: He plays almost like a jazz guitarist, his contorted hand crab-walking up and down the fretboard, and his occasional solos have an unhinged-yet-proficient quality that’s just fun to watch. (MPS)

2:42 pm @ Doug Fir
For a band that claims it hasn’t played together since coming off its European tour a few weeks ago, this is quite a shreddin’-ass warm-up set from Sebadoh. Lou Barlow—who plays guitar and bass the exact same way, with full arm extensions thwacking the strings—is rocking out so hard he just lost his glasses, and the 40-something dude air-guitaring behind me is losing his shit in increasing increments. BTW: Every old indie rock band has at least one member who looks like he could either be a friend of your dad’s or your dad’s pot dealer. In Sebadoh, it’s bassist-guitarist Jason Loewenstein, and it’s the latter. (MPS)

The Joy Formidable at Wonder Ballroom
Autumn Andel

6:24 pm @ Wonder Ballroom

The upstairs bar is packed to capacity for MFNW’s first free Nike show. Onstage, London buzz trio the Joy Formidable is bashing through a set of bombastic alt-rock. I feel like they should be blowing my wig back (so to speak), but the Wonder’s sound system isn’t allowing that to happen. (MPS)

7:52 @ Wonder Ballroom
Brand New is two steps from screamo and a half-step from Staind, yet they’re somehow not completely terrible—although to me, being terrible is better than being turgid and uninteresting, which is what this band is for the most part. Not that it matters what I think: The young adults here are ecstatic, singing along loudly to “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t,” whose lyrics I assume are an adaptation of singer Jesse Lacey’s Dick Tracy fan fiction. (MPS)

8:03 pm @ Branx
Dude from Breakfast Mountain (great music; terrible name) has immersed himself in enough dry ice smoke to put a black metal band to po’ faced shame. Amazed he can still see his equipment in all of that cover. (RH)

8:15 pm @ Wonder Ballroom
A woman well into her third trimester is headbanging and screaming every Brand New lyric. I watch in half awe/half terror that her water is going to break all over the ballroom floor any second now. Furthermore, I have the distinct impression that she would probably rather have the baby right there than miss any of the show. (DC)

8:27 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
Viva Voce is at its best when the Portland duo is rocking out. The last song didn't do that very well. This song, "The Future Will Destroy You," does it quite well. Repetitive, Pixies-esque weird pop with a bit of shoegaze and psychedelia thrown in for good measure. Anita has still yet to shred tonight, though, and I say "let that bird sing!" (CJ)

8:30 pm @ Wonder Ballroom
The sound engineer is wearing a Green Bay Packers shirt. Tonight the Packers beat the New Orleans Saints 42-34 to kick off the NFL season. Unfortunately, here at the Wonder, the vocals are buried in the mix. (AI)

8:35 pm @ Branx
I’ve packed my wristband with me and clasp it on slowly outside of Branx in some strange, ritualistic fashion. It happens in slow motion, to the tune of Wagner or Beethoven. My limbs feel stronger and there’s a lightness in my step. Then two teenagers bump into me in the midst of a conversation about the merits of Macklemore. Back to reality. (MS)

8:40 pm @ Branx
Off to a great start. Came expecting Pancake Breakfast and got Breakfast Mountain. I can’t keep this loaded fucking lineup straight. So be it: the smoke machine is tremendous and oddly invigorating. (MS)

9 pm @ Dante’s
Nether Regions just kicked off the metal portion of MFNW with a cover of “Anthem” by Rush. I could not be happier. (NC)

9:05 pm @ Branx
Initial questions about Suuns: Is the bass player the guy who plays the dog in that show Wilfred? Is this a side project from Ade Blackburn of Clinic? The frontman is using that same gritted teeth singing style. (RH)

White Arrows at the Doug Fir
Photo by Lana MacNaughton
9:05 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
Dirty Mittens open tonight's Hawthorne Theater show with "Secrets" and Chelsea Morrisey comes out punching in a glittery boxing robe. She looks like Sugar Ray Robinson, just smaller and whiter. (NV)

9:05 pm @ Aladdin Theater
Not two minutes into his first song, 70-year-old Detroit guitar god Dennis Coffey—he’s the guy who dosed the Temptations with psychedelia in the early ‘70s—has just murderized his axe. Dressed in all black, topped with a black Kangol and shades, he’s the coolest dude in the room. Then Portland’s own funk legend Ural Thomas —dressed, in contrast, in all white—joins in to sing a throbbing rendition of Funkadelic’s “I Bet You,” and if you’re not here you’re a fool...and most likely uncomfortably hot. Word to the wise: the Aladdin is air conditioned. (MPS)

9:08 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
Lou Barlow's glasses keep slipping off his nose. He looks like a snooty librarian. He should get one of those sport straps. Nice head of hair, though. Real nice head of hair. (CJ)

9:10 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
Doing the “dad rock duo” of Sebadoh and Archers of Loaf. Not that my dad knows who either of those bands are. He's really into world music. I think there are a lot of dads here, though. (RB)

9:15 pm @ Branx
Suuns does not suuck. But it ain’t blowing me away either. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!? (RH)

9:15 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
I want a drink and a front row spot but I can’t have both. I wish Hawthorne wasn’t segregating all of us drunks to the back of the venue. I'm not a fan of Hawthorne Theater’s set up. There are too many hallways and too many ID checkpoints. I can’t find the bathroom and just got yelled at for trying to pee in the employee break room. (NV)

9:20 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
The Jason Lowenstein-fronted Sebadoh songs makes Pavement look calm and melodic. This stuff sounds just as chaotic and nutty as they did in the '90s. I kind of thought I was going to “get it” this time around, but I’m still more in line with Lou Barlow’s tracks. Kids these days keep turning up the volume, but I think this is kind of more rebellious. Especially when Barlow takes five minutes to tune his guitar, saying “Wait! No! Almost got it! Hang on! Ahh! Damnit! Okay, wait. Okay, hang on! Here we go! Now I got it! No, not yet! Hold on!” all the while. Is that supposed to be performance art? (CJ)

Phantogram at the Doug Fir
Photo by Ro Tam

9:35 pm @ Dante’s
Made this comment to Nate Carson about Nether Regions bassist/vocalist Joe Wickstrom while they played: “He does Rush tributes and is wearing a Joy Division shirt? If I were a hot chick, I would totally hit that.” (RH)

9:37 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
"It used to be really racist here," Lou Barlow says, citing CB chatter back in the day. "And now it's such a nice place. So thank you all for coming here." Lowenstein adds: "I had the idea that you turned all the homeless people into bike racks." Collective groan, smattered applause. "The first time Dinosaur Jr. Played Portland there was one guy in the crowd,” Barlow continues. “His name was Eugene and he was a skinhead. And he was really angry." (CJ)

9:37 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
Whatever, Jarman. I laughed at the "bike rack" comment. (RB)

9:40 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
Dirty Mittens end its set with two new songs made special for the MFNW occasion and a couple of birthday shout outs to Chelsea Morrisey’s brother and best friend. (NV)

9:45 pm @ Branx
Damn, punctuality is king this year. Suuns is through, but they matched the hype that preceded them. While in line for the WC, the bassist told me they had been drinking “pretty heavily” before the set. The band’s composure suggests that either the beer was O’Doul’s or “heavily” in Canadian means “very little.” (MS)

10:00 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
“Let’s just get to the point and play ‘Brand New Love',” says Lou Barlow. They do, rocking the shit out of it. Barlow plays the final guitar solo with his glasses. Or maybe he’s just holding them in his solo-playing hand. I choose to believe the former. (RB)

10:04 pm @ Dante’s
I mention to my friends that someone should start a Heart cover band with Witch Mountain singer Uta Plotkin as Ann Wilson. We debate names for said band. My suggestion of Bad Animals falls on deaf ears. (RH)

10:06 pm@ Hawthorne Theater

Next Up: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the MFNW band I’m most excited to see. Yeah, I’m expecting to blow my load real early this weekend. (NV)

10:10 pm @ Branx
It’s so nice and cool here until I head up the hallway towards the crowd, where a blast of hot air feels like ten blow dryers. Talkdemonic’s Kevin O’Connor is in the crowd, playing the melodica to the 21 and up folks. He looks like Pan. Heads are nodding. Sweaty heads. The distortion on Lisa's viola is crushing and awesome. (CJ)

10:15 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
No lines! After a stellar Daytrotter set and plenty of praise, I expected quite a wait for Unknown Mortal Orchestra. But I glide in and watch the trio bounce around for forty minutes, jamming like youngsters in a basement band. They’re all sporting hats with flipped bills—like a shout out to Ninentendo’s Paperboy. (MS)

10:20 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
Update: Unknown Mortal Orchestra sounds different live, i.e. not as good. I’ll blame it on the sound guys. Whatever the case, my load was not blown. (NV)

Lou Barlow of Sebadoh at the Crystal Ballroom
Photo by Daniel Cronin

10:26 pm @ Roseland Theater
Good heavens...where is everybody? Haven’t seen it this empty in here in ages. All the old folks must be in bed already. They are missing Joe Preston’s tribute to “Macho Man” Randy Savage. (RH)

10:35 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
There is enough woolly facial hair in here to knit an entire wardrobe for a family of four. (RB)

10:40 pm @ Aladdin Theater
After about 10 minutes of tight instrumental jamming from the backing Menahan Street Band, Charles Bradley himself finally appears. He begins with “Heartache and Pain,” a song about the death of his brother. Maybe not the most joyous choice for an opener, but hot damn is it soulful. The only thing more amazing than his voice is his outfit: white suit, purple shirt half-unbuttoned, sparkly vest. It’s an outfit you know he’s had hanging in his closet since 1975, waiting to be worn in front of an adoring audience, and here it is: the aisles and dance floor of the Aladdin are packed with admirers from twentysomethings to middle-agers, and Bradley’s got all of ‘em enraptured. (MPS)

10:45 pm @ Aladdin Theater

Charles Bradley’s set is one big love fest; in between his pelvic thrusts and bone-rattling croons—the man is still a phenomenal singer—the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” stops singing and looks into the crowd with adoring eyes. He reminds us that “love is the only answer,” which, coming from anyone else, would be some bullshit, but Bradley’s 63-year-old smile melts our hearts. Then, he tells everyone to hug each other, and we do. Heart-felt music right here. (RJ)

10:50 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
Musicfest is on hold on account of there’s a burlesque-y stripper performing at the front bar. I dub it the “Miss Kennedy Halftime Show.” (NV)

10:50 pm @ Aladdin Theater
“I didn’t know I was going to get air-fucked at this show.” © My friend Dave, in response to Charles Bradley’s gyrations. Hey, it’s all about love here, Dave. (MPS)

10:50 pm @ Roseland Theater
Testing the projectors for the Butthole Surfers set, the techs keep playing the same clip: a dude cannonballing into a lake and expelling his bowels as he does it. (RH)

11:10 pm @ Roseland Theater
Here’s something I never thought I’d say at a Butthole Surfers show: I’m bored. Hell, the band looks bored. (RH)

11:15 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
It’s hot, I’m beyond sweaty, and they ran out of Tecate and Olympia, but Little Dragon’s on stage and all is right in the world. Plus they still have limes for my Bud Light. (NV)

11:19 pm @ Roseland Theater
What is more disturbing than the loops of horror film footage playing behind the Butthole Surfers? That drummer King Coffey is looking more and more like a combination of Jake Busey and the banjo playing hick from Deliverance. *shudder* (RH)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Hawthorne Theatre
Photo by Lana MacNaughton

11:21 pm @ Doug Fir
I love the sound guy at the Doug Fir. He’s so outstanding I don’t even want to know his real name, that would just make him more human and invite the possibility of imperfections. He’s practically a band member, reading every cue, finger and wink from White Arrows. And it sounds damn fine. (MS)

11:23 pm @ Branx
Handsome Furs are giving everything, and while people are clearly appreciative, no one past the fifth row of bodies is dancing because they can't hear the band well enough to move them. It’s crazy quiet in here for no reason I can think of. I don’t need earplugs, I need a hearing aid. Turn this shit up. The Furs’ sweet-and-sour Canadian banter helps soften my disappointment. Alexei Perry keeps telling the crowd she’s nervous because so many of her friends are in Portland and it’s one of her favorite cities. Then she eases up. "I'm glad we made it after all that bullshit at the border,” she says. “Fuck 9/11." (CJ)

11:27pm @ Roseland
Butthole Surfers are playing a much more sedate set than last year’s show at Crystal. At least they’re projecting footage from Begotten and a snapshot of a giant, hairy human asshole. (NC)

11:29pm @ Roseland
Hate to harp on Butthole Surfers’ use of films over their tunes, but seeing the first kill scene from Suspiria over & over is pretty awesome. (NC)

11:30 pm @ Roseland
Skipped the end of Archers of Loaf to see Butthole Surfers. I have buyer’s remorse.

11:30 pm @ Crystal Ballroom
Archers of Loaf close their encore with “Nostalgia” which is pretty perfect for a band on their reunion tour. A friend points out this winking self awareness is “so ’90s”. (AI)

11:31pm @ Roseland
And Gibby finally brings out the megaphone for a pulverizing version of “USSA” (at least I think it’s “USSA”). That song was pretty mutated in 1987. Still seems to be the case. (NC)

11:38pm @ Roseland
Nope. THIS is most definitely “USSA.” A super-fan beside me in the balcony identified the last song as “Edgar”. He also pointed out that crowds have become desensitized. Twenty years ago, people fled Butthole Surfers concerts in droves and puked in the street. I’ve only seen three or four stagger out tonight. (NC)

11:40 pm @ Doug Fir
The guy next to me is tending to what appears to be a sick girlfriend. He returns with a cocktail and says, “Drink this, it’ll make you feel better.” No. No it won’t. (MS)

Purity Ring at Doug Fir
Photo by Ro Tam

11:45 pm @ Holocene
How is Blouse so polished? This is the second time I’ve caught only the last song of a Blouse set and I’m kicking myself again, because it sounds incredible. I won’t always get to see this band in such intimate venues. (CJ)

11:47 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano is the new Tiffany—she’s bright, fluid, and her throwback to the ’80s sound could stop even the tardiest shopping soccer mom in her tracks. If all else fails (and it won’t) she could take mall promenades across the country by storm. (NV)

11:49pm @ Roseland
Now BHS are playing “Graveyard” over footage of From Beyond. Energy level is rising! (NC)

11:55 pm @ Hawthorne Theater
For the second time today, I catch the tail-end of Little Dragon’s set. They’ve turned the Hawthorne Theater into a sauna. I know I said I wouldn’t continue commenting on how hot every venue is, but it deserves mention here, as this place is one big sweatbox already and the Swedish electro-soul band has got the walls dripping far more than normal. Any band that can sound great at the Hawthorne is in a rarefied class; as far as I’ve seen, it’s pretty much just Little Dragon and Caribou. The crowd is stomping for an encore, but the neighborhood’s midnight curfew has forced the stage lights up. When my friend booked Little Dragon’s first Portland show at Holocene in 2008, 80 people showed up. I’m so happy for this band’s growing success. It’s well deserved. (MPS)

12:02 am @ Dante’s
Someone turns on a projector and a dozen interweaving black and white pinwheels are all over my visual field. I want some drugs so badly now. Should have dipped into my wife’s Vicodin prescription before I left the house. (RH)

12:08 am @ Dante’s
My new recipe for a perfect band includes a hot female guitarist, two drummers, and a Theremin. In other words, more bands need to be like Kylesa. (RH)

Butthole Surfers at Roseland
Photo by Inger Klekacz

12:09 am @ Roseland
One-sixth of the Butthole Surfers crowd is going nuts up the front. The other five-sixths are just staring motionless. They’re undeniably great musicians and the visuals are appropriately fucked up, but I keep having to check their guitarists’ hands to see if they’re actually playing, because they look bored. I think many of us are seeing this because we think we should. I’m mesmerized, but I’m not sure I’m enjoying it. I think I’d rather be seeing You Am I for the thousandth time. I have made poor choices tonight. (RB)

12:17 am @ Doug Fir
This might as well be a Levi’s ad. Phantogram is pretty, well-dressed and turning out club-ier versions of their sugary electro hits. There’s roughly fifteen pounds of denim on stage. Sound guy looks worried, there’s usually not this much bass here. It’s beginning to feel like sitting in the back of your pothead friend’s tricked-out Dodge Neon. (MS)

12:24 am @ Dante’s
Security dudes here are physically shoving young men out the door because they dared to do a little moshing to Kylesa’s set. Can you blame them? Even I want to start a circle pit because it is so god damn invigorating and intense. (RH)

12:25 pm @ Holocene
EMA is in a loose white t-shirt with a hand-drawn computer on it, the word "emptiness" across the screen. Said shirt is tucked into long underwear. It sounds ramshackle, but it’s amazingly stylish right down to the thick pink socks poking out of her sneakers. Her guitar starts to squeal, and a couple people hoot and holler. "You don't know this one," she says. "but thanks for your enthusiasm anyway!" (CJ)

12:23am @ Dante’s
Back to Dante’s and a perfect profile of Kylesa’s double-drummer attack. Over in the merch area, Nether Regions’ drummer is flanked by gorgeous women. Another WW scribe is texting me from the pit in search of weed. Rock & roll! (NC)

12:30 am @ Mississippi Studios
Don’t tell Tim Rogers that his band, Australian vets You Am I, isn’t famous in America. Dude is going HAM, windmilling his guitar in between using it to saw out some Jesus-level power-pop as if there were 10 times as many people in the room. The band has some great, subtly introspective stuff in its two-decade-long discography, but there’s no room for it here. Rogers–tall and rail-thin, in a white shirt and pants with mussed hair and a ‘stache, looking the part of the rock star that he is back home–teases covering Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine,” then says, “Fuck that, let’s dance,” and the band rips into another tight, clenched-fist jam as the small but enthusiastic crowd obliges his request. Now that’s how you tear the roof off the sucka. One of the first “you shoulda been there” gigs of the festival. (MPS)

12:35 am @ Holocene
A couple is trying to leave when EMA starts to sing, without her band, the Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up,” the strangest and most awesomely un-hip cover I’ve seen in awhile. "Day after day" she begins, sounding tortured (this after calling another of her songs a “grunge hit”). "We can't leave during this!" the boy yells to his girlfriend, grabbing her gently by the arm. The people have spoken. (CJ)

You Am I at Mississippi Studios.
Photo by Daniel Cronin

12:40 am @ Dante’s

Security guy standing just to my left. Fighting a strange urge to leap on his back like a chimp and see how he reacts. (RH)

12:53 am @ SE Division
Biking home, I wonder what MFNW 2021 will look like. I wonder if it will be so big—in the vein of SXSW—that a separate anti-MFNW festival is established. I wonder if peeps like Kanye will perform from larger venues like Portland Meadows. And I wonder if there will be enough hovercraft parking for all. (MS)

1:10 am @ NW 2nd & Davis
First casualty of MFNW I’ve seen all night. Young woman with red streaked hair sitting on a stoop, a puddle of water and vomit at her feet. Head between her knees. Her male companion looks like this happens a little too frequently. (RH)

1:50 am @ B-Side Tavern
To the owners and cleaning staff of this fine bar, I would like to apologize on behalf of my friend from Seattle who apparently sprayed puke all over your men’s room. He will be chastised verbally, and possibly physically, for the rest of the weekend for his actions. (RH)

 
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