Mark Baumgarten, ex-WW
music editor (this photo is from that era) and current Seattle Sound
editor, was kind enough to share his all-time top three MFNW shows with us. It is the first in a slew of MFNW-related posts to go up this week. To read more on MFNW, see this week's WW cover story
1. Crackerbash at the Crystal Ballroom, 2005
I spent the better part of two months constructing an oral history of the bands that made the Portland music scene in the early-90s and were reuniting for MusicfestNW. By the time the fest came along I was burnt out, and all the praise I had heard about Hazel, Sprinkler, Pond and Crackerbash had, I thought, set the bar too high for the bands to be anything more than a novelty. As Crackerbash launched into "Lon Mabon," though it was clear that this was a band whose greatness exceeded any chronology. As Croghan put on a display of sweat arcs, guitar abuse and musical hooliganism, the crowd shouted along making up for a man who had lost his voice already (the only sign of any rust).
2. Captured! By Robots at Dante's, 2003
A mere month after I arrived in Portland, after four weeks of working on a Musicfest guide that no one told me about when I took the job (thanks Zusman!), I was privy to a performance that reinvigorated my love of music and reminded me of the greatness of live performance. The key: swearing, audience-threatening robots, driving guitars and lots and lots of sweat. And whiskey.
3. Laura Gibson at the Towne Lounge, 2006
My final MusicfestNW as music editor of Willamette Week
was definitely the quietest and most low-key. Generally irritated by the loud crowds hording the streets and clubs, I stuck largely to the confines of smaller shows featuring Portland's then-burgeoning, now flourishing folk movement. The Local Cut showcase at Towne Lounge I had booked was the safest of respites and Laura Gibson was the greatest of guests. Quiet and soul-shattering, her set had the entire crowd at Towne Lounge (which I remember as being packed) still in their silence. She played so sweetly and serenly that noise seemed to become non-existence. After playing "Hands in Pockets" from her then-upcoming debut, she said, "I have nothing to sell you. I wish I had baked cookies or something." The crowd laughed and the spell was briefly broken.