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!"
6:30 pm, Pioneer Courthouse Square
Menomena looks a bit different than it did when the trio-turned-duo-turned-quartet hit the MusicfestNW stage back in 2010 with since-departed multiinstrumentalist Brett Knopf. Though the band’s a bit more emotive and harder rocking these days, what hasn’t changed is the Portland outfit’s smarts and painstaking attention to detail—both of which help make new record Moms a Portland standout. CASEY JARMAN.
8 pm, Star Theater
That Aan’s talent for conflating psychedelic flourishes, alt-rock muscle and pop irresistibility sounds effortless is itself part of the trick. Since 2007, the Portland-based quartet has used the songwriting of guitarist-vocalist Bud Wilson as a foundation for its meticulously constructed pop-rock skyscraper. The group’s Amor Ad Nauseum LP, due later this year, is likely to be among the sonic highlights of the next 12 months. SHANE DANAHER.
9 pm, Roseland Theater
It wasn’t until last year’s tantalizingly (and accurately) titled XXX album that Danny Brown won a Best New Music nod from Pitchfork and began enjoying the sort of widespread popularity that follows such an anointment. But in the few years leading up to his lionization, the Detroit rapper released a string of consistently thrilling mixtapes nearly on a par with the bizarre brilliance of XXX. Which isn’t to say Brown hasn’t matured or progressed over the years—XXX found him laying down rhymes cleverer than ever—but his shape-shifting, dexterous talent seemed almost already fully formed on Detroit State of Mind, the mixtape that kicked off his solo career in 2007. So the guy did not come out of nowhere in the middle of last year. But Brown’s lyrical eclecticism and Promethean vocal attack aimed for slightly more baroque derangement and desire on XXX, and the result felt like an apotheosis, if such a lofty concept can coexist with multiple tunes devoted to cunnilingus—and why shouldn’t it? CHRIS STAMM.
Trampled By Turtles
10 pm, Aladdin Theater
A certain justice is served with Trampled by Turtles’ music. The Duluth, Minn., quintet comes from a genre and a city that shared prosperity in the late 1800s. Bluegrass provided the soundtrack for the port town’s many thriving steel mills and copper mines. Like ghosts from a bygone era, Trampled by Turtles’ familiar rootsy sounds and hard-charging four-part harmonies are turning heads toward the Midwest. New album Stars and Satellites, the band’s finest work since its 2003 inception, demonstrates a group in top form. In a log cabin on Lake Superior, Trampled by Turtles set out to create a single living organism. This was new territory for a band that typically banks on re-creating its animated live approach in the studio. Many of the band members share a punk-rock past, so naturally, there’s pace and freneticism to much of the new record (“Risk” and “Walt Whitman”). But like wise old men, frontman Dave Simonett and his troops slow before the aches set in. And it’s that kind of natural awareness that makes Trampled by Turtles so irresistible. MARK STOCK.
10:30 pm, Hawthorne Theater
Formed in rural Washington in 1983, the Melvins have defined independent, uncompromised success. Originally damaged by Black Flag and Black Sabbath, the group has gone on to major-label heights thanks to its own influence on Nirvana. Eventually leaving the corporate world unscathed and ever more popular 30 years later, the band now tours and albums spewing out at an alarming rate. Melvins are thriving with souls intact and no lousy day jobs. NATHAN CARSON.
11 pm, Branx
Samuel Herring’s voice, a theatrical and growling mega-instrument in itself, is the defining characteristic that will make or break one’s relationship with Future Islands. It soars, hurdles and croaks its way across the Baltimore band’s saturated synth-pop landscape, creating a conflicting sound that’s often epically cathartic. In concert, it’s not uncommon for Herring to slap himself or peer at the crowd with madness in his eyes. EMILEE BOOHER.
12:30 am, Dante’s
Damian Abraham’s lithe energy is infectious, probably because it comes from a dude of such formidable stature. As the frontman of a band called Fucked Up, though, it shouldn’t be surprising; Abraham’s tuneful screaming meshes very well with his nude stage dives and angry, cynical, symbolist lyrics. Tonight the band performs its full album David Comes to Life. NORA EILEEN JONES.