Review of Musicfest Northwest
- by Brandy Crowe, Colin Hudson and Benjamin Toledo
Last week crowds of music enthusiasts roamed the streets of Portland, running between crowded venues and enjoying a wide variety of bands taking part in the festival known as Musicfest Northwest. The week was full of so much great music that it took three members of The Deli's Portland team to properly document it. We've divided up our finding into the categories that follow, enjoy!
Best Musical Discovery
Brandy: I almost had Crushed Out written off as a neo-White Stripes, “heres a guy trying to rock out, and look! A girl on drums” pair. Aaaaand since I love that shit, I went. They are a talented duo from Brooklyn playing surf-a-billy, often laying off the vocals to dig through flawless guitar and bouncing beats, and man, that girl has some drumkit dance moves
Colin: I’ve been a fan of Black Moth Super Rainbow ever since I started doing psychedelic drugs (a long time) but I had no idea that there was a well-known side project until I did my MFNW homework. To make this discovery even better, it was one of the greatest DJ sets that I’ve ever seen.
Ben: I’m so glad I stuck around after Mount Eerie’s set at the Aladdin to see Bonnie “Prince” Billy, I can’t believe I’d never heard of him before. I was blown away by his voice and heartbreakingly honest lyricism. I’ll definitely be at his next show.
Most Difficult Show to Get Into
Brandy: I went from Crushed Out at Doug Fir Lounge to Washed Out at Mississippi Studios. The guy at the door told me there was no way I was going to get in, wristband or not. Photo access DENIED. I also missed out on Deerhunter because the line at the Crystal Ballroom was around the corner to Scooters, so I had tacos instead.
Colin: The toughest thing to get into was the upper-deck during Chvrches. The line for boozer wrapped all the way around the venue and to the front of the stage. I noticed it wasn’t moving and my alcoholic bones somehow convinced my brain that it wasn’t even worth it.
Ben: Godspeed You! Black Emperor played two nights at the Roseland Theater, and both night were packed with lines extending around the block. If I hadn’t shown up an hour early on Saturday there’s no way I would have gotten in.
Brandy: Joey Bada$$ was just that. That crowd was from stage to door, bouncing and pushing with hands in the air like they just didn’t fucking care.
Colin: Thursday night at Holocene had a rather strange lineup, and I think this weighed heavily on the crowd. By the time Tobacco came on stage everyone was ready to let loose, and they did. Rarely will you see moshing at an electronic show, but this wasn’t an ordinary show. Tobacco is led by former Black Moth front man and brings that super psychedelic sound into a DJ set and more specifically, a raging dance party. Even for a normal city I would have thought there were a lot of people dancing, this was a whole new level for Portland. I even saw a homeboy crowd-surf right into the arms of an overly testosteroned security guard who immediately through the guy onto the wet street.
Ben: Overall I kept it pretty tame this musicfest, but the rowdiest crowd I experienced was brought on by the riotous rock of Sons of Huns. Even as the opening act in a comedy show they were able to get the house on their feet, headbanging and rocking out like they were at a Sabbath show. Even Brian Posehn, the comedic warlord they were opening for, was banging his head in the back of the room.
Brandy: Probably the brief images of Freddy Krueger receiving fellacio on Tobacco’s LED light board at Holocene. And getting an invite to a kick-off party with free shwag and cocktails named after bands: The Superchunk = Captain Morgan and Iced Tea.
Colin: When XXYYXX stopped his entire set and called out the Portland audience for “looking bored” and that we just need to “have fun, it’s easy.” Actually, this wasn’t surprising at all, but was way too funny not to include in my review.
Ben: Seeing the guitarist of Earth, an ambient-drone music icon covered in tattoos and wearing a patched jacket, playing a guitar adorned with a Hello Kitty bumper sticker. It seemed a tad out of place.
Best Jonah Hill Look Alike
Brandy: “Omg, is that Jonah Hill?! OMG Jonah Hill is in a rap group?!” That was the buzz at Hawthorne theatre on Saturday Evening, and I wonder if Christopher Tofoya, otherwise known as Sleep for Portland based hip hop outfit The Chicharones, hears it a lot. These guys have some sick hooks, crazy antics (hello Mario and Luigi cosplay), and previously put together their own music festival, Chicharoni Fest, where they tirelessly played multiple shows in venues across the city.
Best Dance Party
Brandy: I wish I could have made it to Dan Deacon or Animal Collective, but I chose the late night electronic glam of Chromatics and Glass Candy at The Wonder Ballroom.
Colin: If you’ve heard anything about Friday’s show at Pioneer Square you probably heard about the character known as Dan Deacon. He placed his decks right in the thick of the audience and began his set by having us put our hands in the air and pretend to be Daffy Duck. Then he really took control of the party by having us form a giant circle within Pioneer Square and have two people face off you-got-served style. And that wasn’t even the most unique part of the show. Him separating the audience and having us interpretive dance to a line leader took the cake.
Ben: The Wonder Ballroom was packed for Diplo’s set, with wall to wall dancing the entire time. If this wasn’t the best dance party, it was surely one of the biggest ones.
Colin: Unknown Mortal Orchestra warned the audience that they were getting ready to play their last song which felt like it was coming too early and then played for twenty more minutes filling a spaced out jam with Ruban Nielson using the feedback and wah peddle to fill his guitar solo while Riley Geare went to town on his drum set.
Ben: Godspeed You! Black Emperor provided their ambient, instrumental post-rock for nearly 2 epic hours, starting their set just after ten and ending it at midnight. That was, by far, the longest four song set I’ve ever experienced.
Best Acoustic Act
Brandy: Fred and Toody Cole, these Portland punk pioneers played a stompy, intimate performance knee to knee on the Doug Fir stage Wednesday night. Later in the week Bonnie “Prince” Billy was joined by Mount Eerie for a two night engagement at The Aladdin. Phil Elverum as Mount Eerie arranges harmonies that are chill inducing, I really just want him to take me to his town and ferry me around through the mist. Will Oldham as Bonnie “Prince” Billy sings simple verse, using metaphor as a tool for comedy and raw emotion.
Colin: After swimming through a sea of sweat at the Roseland I needed to refresh with some whiskey at Dante’s and catch whatever was happening there. Local bluegrass punkers known as Larry and His Flask had just hit the stage upon arrival. My typical acoustic show I’ll seek out involves something a little laid back, Larry and His Flask was not that at all. They had more energy than Miley Cyrus at the VMAs as they moved around staged and captured their audience with their bluegrass based music that was played with punk intensity sang like a group of Irish fisherman with a few pints down.
Ben: Mount Eerie was amazing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much done with such a minimal setup. The interplay between the guitar and vocal melodies was beautiful, and the enchanting three part vocal harmonies throughout were executed flawlessly.
Most Difficult Choice
Brandy: There seem to be a lot of hard hitting shows rivaling each other, and it is really hard to make the call. Go with what you know and love or take a chance on something that you haven’t heard yet? Or maybe you leave half way through one show to run to another. My hardest decision was Thursday nights face-off between Diplo and Tobacco. I went with Tobacco, where I ran into friends and ended up staying all night.
Colin: Friday night was packed full of good music, meaning that a few tough decisions would need to be made. Decision time came immediately after Animal Collective if I wanted to cease the risk of waiting in line for the remainder of the night. I had to choose between surf rockers, Crushed Out at the Doug Fir, Washed Out at Miss Studios, or Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I went with the local psychedelic superheroes UMO since I missed their last show despite them playing at a venue build more for sweaty punk rockers. I also feared long lines and a packed crowd for Washed Out which turned out to be true.
Ben: Choosing between seeing what might have been the best local lineup of the year (The We Shared Milk, Wooden Indian Burial Ground and Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Branx) and seeing the always awesome Sons of Huns open for Brian Posehn at White Owl nearly gave me a brain aneurism. In the end, my love for heavy rock and stand up comedy got the best of me.
Colin: Typhoon, Crushed Out, Cody Chestnutt, Washed Out
Ben: Murder By Death, Wooden Indian Burial Ground, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Neko Case, Angel Olsen, Flume
Brandy: Lonnie Holley, Morning Ritual, Hott MT, Like a Villain, Typhoon, Dan Deacon, Animal Collective, and Blouse (who played a surprise Sunday show to open a new SE space called "Information" (411 SE 6th)).
Best Local Act
Brandy: All of them. ALL OF THEM! Minden, Magic Fades, UMO. OK, OK, i didn’t catch all their sets, but they are local, right? If local means Northwest-ish, I’m in love with the misty harmonies of Mt. Eerie, the sweeping electronics of Odezda and totally dug Fred and Toody Cole coming out to play
Colin: This prize goes to Onuinu, who has come a long way since he first broke into the forefronts of the local scene a year ago. There is now a three piece band that is heavily laced in electronic grooves but a live drum set channels the inner rawness and originality that Onuinu’s songs are derived from. Their Saturday night set opening for Radiation City was filled with notes of R&B, funk, and thrashing blues, but what stole the show was the bands ability to feel the audience and drive the energy of the show with their music.
Ben: It’s so hard to choose! I loved seeing Tiburones, the new project from Y La Bamba’s Elena Mendoza and Shaky Hand’s Nick Delfs outside at the Dr. Martin’s stage on Saturday afternoon. The band’s building percussion, backed a folk influence and unwavering vocal melodies had the eyes of entire crowd, and passing pedestrians, transfixed on the stage.