Navigating MusicfestNW can leave even lifelong Portlanders looking like common tourists, standing dazed on a street corner, trying to figure out which direction to head. Every night is a treacherous journey in which one bad decision can ruin the entire evening. Don't worry, though: WW is here to help. Plotting the perfect schedule can be overwhelming, but it's not impossible. Each night of the festival, check back here to read our music experts' suggestions for making your MFNW the best damn MFNW it can be. That way, you'll never be on the receiving end of that most painful of statements: "Oh, dude, you shoulda been there!"
8 pm, Branx
An adept remixer and distinctive artist and DJ, Copy, born Marius Libman, is anything but a facsimile. His sound, a DIY but complex and inventive electronic creation, has garnered him a sound fan base both in his native Portland and abroad. His most recent album, Hard Dream, is an exploration of different tempos and genres, from disco to soulful rock—all with an 8-bit aesthetic. Nerdy, yet satisfying. NORA EILEEN JONES.
9 pm, Backspace
Cheap Girls' bio states simply that it is a "rock band from Lansing, Michigan." We could leave it at that, but that doesn't quite capture what makes it a great band. The trio falls in line with some of the best acts from the Midwest—Soul Asylum, Son Volt, Bob Mould—by turning pain and misery into melodic, fist-pumping anthems. ROBERT HAM.
10 pm, Crystal Ballroom
When "Sleepyhead" came out in 2008 on Passion Pit's debut EP, Chunk of Change, it was a huge deal. It lifted the tenuous art of vocal sampling and manipulation out of its old haunts—mainly hip-hop and electronic music—and placed it squarely within a pop context. What's more, it did it well. From there, Passion Pit had an enormous task on its hands: to follow up "Sleepyhead," and to do it with the same amount of fiery finesse. Cue 2009's Manners, the band's first full-length album and the exact thing fans wanted from Passion Pit. Full of sparkly production and soaring, exultant melodies, Manners' positive sound belied its underlying introspective ambivalence. Gossamer, which came out July 24, follows effortlessly. On the album, singer Michael Angelakos explores a wider range of musical moods than he did on Manners, allowing some of the lyrical melancholy to seep into the production—and it is gorgeous. NORA EILEEN JONES.
Roseland Theater, 10:30 pm
Too Far to Care—the album Dallas-based Old 97's will be playing in its entirety at this year's MFNW—opens with "Time Bomb," a song about a doomed romance that 97's frontman Stewart Ransom Miller fears will destroy him. Soon enough, he's rebounding with one night stands and threatening to burn down a nightclub. It's a glorious descent told through Miller's twangy poetry, which in turn is set to jangly guitars. MARTIN CIZMAR.
You have heard the purple-drunk, stumbling beats of chopped-and-screwed hip-hop. You have heard the catchy hooks and pristine vocals of electro-pop. You have not, however, heard the two together—until you've heard Purity Ring. The duo, playing MFNW fresh off the release of its hotly anticipated (and, it turns out, hype-worthy) debut Shrines, is in the avant-garde of hip-hop's invigorating advance into pop music. Be there with it. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.
11:30 pm, Wonder Ballroom
Steven Ellison, commonly known as John Coltrane's nephew, even more commonly known as Flying Lotus, first made his name at the forefront of the fizzling L.A. beat scene in the late 2000s. His first album, Los Angeles, was an electrified, spaced-out take on the sample-based production made golden by hip-hop greats like J. Dilla. Since then, he's grown immensely, diving further into experimental jazz, funk and electronic fusion by blending together upright basses with cracked-out synths. To compare him to anyone today would be tough, but the heavy sound of jazz great Pharoah Sanders could be deemed a blueprint. REED JACKSON.
Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three
12 am, Mississippi Studios
Years before Jack White took Pokey LaFarge under his wing, LaFarge wowed audiences with his dapper looks, suave personality and old-time country-ragtime sound. But where revival music often seems out of place, his feels wholeheartedly sincere—as he is, to the bone, exactly who he presents himself as on stage. Joined by the solid South City Three, LaFarge's live show brims with talent and the splendor of a wandering man. EMILEE BOOHER.