Friday, May 02, 2014

Modest Mouse, You Can Do Better

Modest Mouse show at the Crystal Ballroom. Opening band: Survival Knife. Hubby and I are sitting here trading fables about how this suburban, amateur aggro-Sabbath wannabe disaster ended up opening for MM.

Hubby: It's who you know.
Me:  Maybe it's their punishment for not finishing the album that was promised over a year ago?  "If the album isn't on my desk by March 1, you get Survival Knife, and don't try calling my bluff because god help me, I'll do it."
Hubby: This smacks of something the label saddled them with.
Me: They totally forgot they needed an opening band, and told their agent, "oh, crap, anyone, whoever, just make sure they make us look good."  Or better yet!  "We're still hardcore, right?" "Isaac, you were never hardcore. You're a word nerd." "No way, we were totally hardcore. I mean are, we are! Totally aggro!" "Dude, you wrote a song about what an ass Bukowski was. A poet. Total nerd." Isaac then goes out and finds a band he thinks is hardcore, proving his nerddom.

Ohmygod it's finally over.  Somebody owes me that awful 45 minutes of my life back.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Home Alone

I'm home alone this week, and I had all these shows I wanted to see.  There was a good show every night...well, since Wednesday, so I've only missed two.  Wednesday night, though, was Nick Jaina, who just doesn't play shows in town anymore.  What a shitty time to be sick.  It's probably allergies, but I suppose it doesn't matter what it is.  I just have to wait it out either way.  But tonight, not only was I feeling better (maybe, a little), but I already had a ticket.  So I was going for sure.  Low, dammit!  I'm pretty sure the last time I saw Low live was in something like 2002, at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.

For those of you who aren't familiar, Low is a band out of Duluth, MN, who have been around for 20+ years.  They told a story tonight about  being on tour 19 years ago tonight, driving home to northern MN from Louisiana overnight, and as the sun rose, they drove into range of Radio K (I can only assume, based on how the story ends), and heard that Kurt Cobain had died...followed by the first time they heard themselves on the radio.  They're the band that was first called "slowcore".  Even though the lovely fiance was out of town for tonight's show, he knew I'd want to go, and when he was at BarBar for happy hour one evening, he picked up a ticket for me.  (P.S.  Dear lovely fiance, you know how I hate Christmas music?  There's one Christmas album I'll listen to...here it is:  Low Christmas...it's the only one, though.)

Anyhow, I'm still a bit under the weather, and I get to the show and I'm wondering how I'll hold up.  I get there late, as is my style when left to my own devices and I don't know the opener.  First, I get to the ticket-taker stand, and she explains, "I need to stamp the back of your right hand.  This stamp will allow you re-entry, so you can come and go."  Why are you telling me this...oh.  It's amateur night, isn't it?  So I walk into the venue, and it's astoundingly crowded.  The signs say the show is sold out, but I had no idea Mississippi Studios had enough exits for this many people.  My next thought...oh, thank god I was late.  This Thalia Z...omebody (I forget the last name, there was a Z and a d and...oh, whatever) looked like she was 60 years old and had done some hard living, with years of needle drugs and a lengthy stay in prison on drug-related murder charges, and had cleaned up her act...now touring as the female Johnny Cash, if he were a total hack instead of a musical genius.  She was even wearing black jeans and a black button-up shirt, though the shirt was made for someone three times her size, and she looked more like she had recently raided the state prison you're-going-to-be-released clothes closet and couldn't find anything that fit.  You have no idea how glad I am that I missed all but 1.5 songs from this woman.  But then, between sets, I'm stuck in this tight-packed crowd.  What's the word for claustrophobia, but instead of anxious, you're irritable?  That's what I get at sold-out shows.  No matter the size of the room, the crowd reaches this tipping point at shows that sell out in advance, I don't know how to describe it, but it's a different crowd than at shows where you know you'll be able to buy a ticket at the door.  To my right is the contingent that is sitting crosslegged on the floor.  To their right is an obese woman in a black crushed-velvet dress that might have been fashionable some time contemporaneous with Low's first album, with a mohawk that's been slicked back into what I can only describe as an inch-wide mullet, held in place (why?  it seems pretty well subdued already...) by a butterfly clip.  I'm pretty much going to have nightmares about that miserable, greasy, handcuffed mohawk that must dream about spiking free.  To my left is some woman monologuing in an irritated but surprised way about how her husband is selfish, and won't put money in the joint account to pay the bills, as if she's just discovering this personality trait and is amazed, trying to figure out what to do.  This is, like, 20 minutes of going on about this, as if there's any detail to be shared beyond what I just summarized.  Um...first promise yourself you'll never pair up with anyone again before you know (and are comfortable with) how they handle money, and then buy a plane ticket to far, far away and change your name.  He's clearly too lazy to find you, and you said yourself there's nothing in the joint account, so...no loss, right?  And right in front of me is this overdressed woman, also monologuing, to this younger woman who looks barely old enough to get in.  They've both got drinks in their hands, as the older woman (clearly with some paraprofessional knowledge) goes on, and on, and on...and on...about how inpatient alcohol treatment works, and how to talk to this friend of hers about treatment without scaring him off, working up to all her professional horror stories, overdoses and bad drug combinations and bizarre stories of half-remembered sexual encounters and half-overdose-remembered-sexual...I'M NOT LISTENING!  SHUT UP!  Low has got this countdown projected behind the stage, and there is approximately a minute a half before they start to play...and I have to get away from all these people.  Remember that condition I've got, claustro-fuck-you-all?  Where I get all pissed off in a crowd of people who are elbowing me and talking about self-absorbed bullshit that doesn't belong in a music venue when a band's about to play who should stop you from even whispering, and absorb all your attention?  I was about seven feet from the stage, and could see all the musicians' faces, and I couldn't take it anymore.  I fled for the back of the room, next to the bar.

Whew.  Apparently the people who like music are taking refuge back there with me.  Larry Crane and a couple of his friends, for one.  Crane doesn't remember having met me, but when a friend of his asked, "Where are these guys from?" I was the one who gave them the right answer, and they all seemed impressed.  I also ran into a friend of a friend who we regularly see at the semi-annual house-show "recital-bacchanal" events this friend puts on.  The show starts, and at first, many in the crowd have a hard time figuring out when the band is just making noise between songs and when a song has started.  They begin with the only song from the new album that I've heard (thanks to OPB music).  There's blurry found-footage montage stuff projected behind the band.  Alan doesn't talk to the crowd at all.  It looks to be Zak Sally playing bass and keys again.  They play for about an hour before they play anything else I know (i.e., anything more than 10 years old).  But it doesn't matter.  Their catologue is so consistent.  Alan and Mimi trading the low and high parts (Alan must have a range like Ritchie Young, from baritone to a high, clear soprano-like tone with no hint of falsetto), such slow bpm yet building to such intensity.  It all felt like home.  Driving through some empty territory between towns, heat cranked up to high and the windshield still freezing, knowing that wherever I'm headed, there will be joyful people with good beer and a roaring fire when I get there.  But that cold space between, when I'm driving, is full of slow, intense drama to try to keep the cold at bay.

I got home and looked through the box of all my oldest CDs, the ones that have never been committed to computer.  Is it true that I only have two Low CDs?  And that they're Long Division, their second album, from (holy shit, I'm old...) 1995, and OWL (Low remixes) from 1998?  It's been over eight years since the person who got referred to here in this blog as the Evil Ex raided my CD collection when he left (fuck you, I'm kicking you out instead...and I paid for the CDs!).  That's far, far too long to go without Things I Lost In The Fire.  Dinosaur Act is still stuck in my head from tonight's show.  If I have anything to say about it, it will never leave. 

P.S.  The Pink Floyd cover they played tonight is something they've been playing since 2002; it was the B-side for the 7-inch single of Canada, which competes hard for my favorite Low song ever.  I actually know Fearless better as a Low song than as a Pink Floyd song.  And this whole aside makes me think that I must have Trust (2002) in another box somewhere that is also not committed to computer.  Damn you, iTunes, for demanding that I put a physical CD in the computer or find some recorded track somewhere, rather than being able to download my faintest memories, the things that most need preserving.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Last Days Of Pompeii

Grant Hart played the East End last night.  Grant Hart!  I'd never been to the East End, and it seems they cater a lot to hardcore and punk bands.  First, I want to describe the venue a bit.  It's been a number of things over the years, with a ton of '90s and early 2000s Portland bands having fond memories of the place under various monikers (The Rabbit Hole is the only one I can remember).  I expected a grungy, dirty hole along the lines of the (now defunct) most recent incarnation of Satyricon, Rotture, or the bathrooms at Backspace.  Instead, it was rather a nice little place.  A small upstairs room with really nice wood floors and vintage 1960s touches like Danish wood-framed mirrors and a padded-vinyl black portable bar (that's probably the dj stand).  Big open stairs take up a lot of the upstairs room, and go down to another room full of nice vintage furniture and candles on the table, plus a foosball table.  Not nearly enough bars have foosball.  A hallway heads off to the bathrooms (these are the as-expected incredibly gross and dingy ugliness, the only place that met that expectation), and strangely, passes a little vintage clothes-records-and-stuff shop that is only open 4 pm-midnight Thursday to Sunday (timed to coincide with when people are downstairs in the East End, I guess).  I bought a green and yellow polyester dress for a dollar, and if I had a few hundred dollars to spare I could have gone nuts there.  Finally, there's a small room downstairs with another bar that's the show venue, with an eight-inch-high platform as the stage.  Dark, but not dirty.  

Drunk Ladies opened up.  From down the hall in the vintage shop (man, they had some great stuff!), it didn't sound like my thing.  Heavy and maybe a little proggy.  Cheap Meats was next.  They were actually a lot of fun, all classic early shouty punk done pretty well (if appropriately sloppy).  Then, surprisingly, much of the crowd cleared out.  The 20 or so people that were left were there for the same reason I was.  Grant Hart is a fucking legend.  One of the two songwriters in Husker Du, and later made a little (very little) splash with his band Nova Mob, Grant's been pretty much just covering his Husker Du and Nova Mob songs, alone with a guitar, for twenty years or so.  Almost every song was familiar, and I haven't seen him in at least ten years.  I'm not sure I can even say he's a great musician or anything anymore, but the songs still make me all warm and happy.  He's a weird guy, I didn't understand any of his stage banter, but I sang along with all the songs.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dancing In The Dark

Pretty great show tonight at Backspace.  Forbidden Friends opened up, their first show ever.  It's sorta a Thermals side project, if they all just stood up one day and moved one instrument to their left (except that Maggie Vail sits in, too).  Not surprisingly, very much like The Thermals, but slightly lower key, sometimes a little poppier, and with a little less vitriol.  I liked it.  They played four songs.  

Ted Leo (solo, no Pharmacists) headlined this show.  One of the Lovely Boyfriend's favorite bands.  I started thinking a lot about how I integrate bands into my favorites, and why I have such a hard time embracing other people's favorite bands.  Because this is clearly something I should love.  Typically, when I come at a band on my own, I hear a song or two.  And I like that song or two, sometimes right away and sometimes after many listenings.  Then I buy a CD.  I listen to it in order.  It has a flow, and one song cues the next in my mind.  Then I buy another CD, and I integrate that into my mind and my music life.  Then another.  Sometimes this is at the pace of the artist's creation, like Menomena.  I learn their music catalog in their order, at their pace, starting at the beginning.  Sometimes it's in my own order, at my pace.  I'll reluctantly admit that I came to Spoon really late to the party.  I knew a bunch of songs, but didn't realize what they were, and then one day, I just took a leap and bought...oh, where did I start?  Gimme Fiction, or Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, whichever came first.  And then the other one.  Then another, and another, until I had integrated it all.  When someone else loves a band, the music comes at me all disorganized.  It's like what I hate about poorly-done college radio. You don't know what it is, you don't hear it very often, and you may never hear it again.

All this is a long, meandering way of saying that I think I really like Ted Leo.  As often as the punk moniker gets attached to him (as often by himself as by anyone else, from what I can tell), my impression all along was that it wasn't the right primary descriptor.  The solo show made it confirmed for me this impression I've never been able to fully articulate...he's a singer-songwriter at heart (but not in a bad way!), but with a higher average BPM. Charming lyrics of moderate-to-high complexity, filled with clever turns of phrase, mostly major key...heck, my mom would have loved this stuff.  The closest punk comparison is mid- to late Replacements without so many ballads (no Here Comes A Regular), but he's way smarter.  He fires off lyrics like Elvis Costello, so many words fit into a line that there's no reason to put the rhyming words on the downbeats.  Oh...and he was really nice about bumping into me and almost, but not quite, making me spill my beer.  A couple of fun covers, The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues and Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark, and references all over the place.  I heard The Jam, Neil Young, the aforementioned Elvis Costello, and things probably too obscure to call a reference but made sense in my head, like John Vanderslice.  It was a pretty good show.

Monday, January 31, 2011

What Have I Been Doing Lately?

This time of year, just when I most need some excitement, it gets hard to drag my ass out to shows.  By the time I would leave the house, it's been dark for four hours already, and getting off the couch seems like work.  I've been to a couple of things over the last month or so.  A friend's party with some good music.  New Year's Eve at Mississippi Studios with Dirty Mittens (great!), Ramona Falls (one of my favorites), and Heliosequence (good). 

A recent theme that is not making this project any easier is shows starting totally late.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Wild Flag at Bunk Bar.  We got there way early, figuring the place would be packed, and knowing that Bunk Bar sandwiches are better than anything we could have concocted at home for dinner.  I'm a pretty good cook, but damn.  Those are good sandwiches.  I got a grilled cheese, because I had eaten something and wasn't very hungry.  The grilled cheese was pretty ordinary, but the lovely boyfriend got a squash sandwich with bacon, and it was amazing.  I actually went back the next day for a sandwich because I was so disappointed that I hadn't been hungry enough for one of their real, serious creations.  We got there at 7:30, figuring people would be lined up, or at least start pouring in shortly thereafter.  No, it was pretty sparse there.  Glad we misestimated that way, rather than the other way, I guess.  The first band didn't start until after 10:00!  Late.  Drew Grow and the Pastors' Wives were supposed to open, but Drew Grow had apparently been in a pretty bad car accident (everyone who mentioned it said he'd be fine but had broken a bone or two), so Ramona Falls had stepped in to replace them.  Their NYE show was a bit more dynamic, but Brent Knopf is always awesome.  I loved that the stage was lit only by a utility light (you know, a bare bulb at the end of an extension cord, with a plastic cage and a hook) that was just laid on the floor of the stage.  This was Ramona Falls' first show since Brent announced he was leaving Menomena, or in other words, their first show as Brent's main project.  Wild Flag spent a lot of time setting up, and hung the utility light from the rafters.  So damn bright!  I guess they had someone filming.  I have to admit, my first thought about WF was, "Gee, another band that wants to sound like Sleater-Kinney....oh, wait..."  As the set went on, they became tighter and just looked like they were all having lots of fun.  Even Janet Weiss had this big, genuine grin on her face.  By the end, I was really enjoying it.

A couple of nights ago, I went to see a show at Branx.  Not normally a venue I would go to, but it was to see The Thermals.  I don't get that opportunity nearly enough!  The show had been changed from the 20th to the 28th, and the door time on the website had been changed from 8 to 7.  We got there at 7, and there was a line.  Doors weren't open.  We waited a few minutes, got bored and cold, and went to Produce Row for a beer.  We went back to Branx about 8, and the line had gotten really really long.  But about 8:20, it was clear that doors weren't at 8, either.  I'm a huge proponent of all-ages music in theory, but I have to say, I'm not always a fan of hanging out with high school kids, especially as they stand in line, showing off for each other and practicing smoking cigarettes (they weren't very good at it).  So we went off to La Merde for another drink and some Trivial Pursuit questions.  We were back at 9, and they were just starting to let people in.  We got in line, and slowly moved inside.  Guidance Counselor was just starting to set up.  I love Guidance Counselor.  As much fun as they were when they were messy nerd-punk wildness, as the band gets tighter, it's just as fun and maybe even more so.  Ian's got this total art-school-rock Devo/early Talking Heads thing going on now, which is just amazing.  They finish up, and I start listening to some of the chatter around us.  "Did you see Wampire?"  "No, did they play already?"  "I heard they played at 9, were you in yet?"  What the fucking fuck?  The first band played before the audience was in the venue?

I understand why all-ages music isn't doing well in this town, if that's how shit gets run.

I was terribly disappointed I missed Wampire!  I've only seen them once, and it was a super-short set at PDX Pop Now! this past summer.  Not that this set was much longer (and on the same stage, actually). 

Last up, The Thermals.  They've got marvelous energy, and it seems to emanate from Kathy Foster's hair.  Sorry, Paul Alcott, but your hair is maybe only #2 in town for most amazing to watch during a set.  They may not have been as into their set as I've seen them, but they don't put on a bad show.  They've got really good and great, and this show was really, really good.

On a side note, the place has been cleaned up a bit.  a few new "walls" (framing and drywall that goes partway to the ceiling), a small bar area for the 21-and-up crowd, a nicer stage with an enclosed backstage area.  Oh, and some spray-insulation on the ceiling, perhaps to minimize noise from Rotture upstairs.  The bathrooms looked kinda clean, too, at least upstairs in Rotture, with some of the graffiti covered up and real locks on the (still handmade plywood) stall doors.  Things that still need to be fixed:  Doors at 7 should not mean doors at 9.  Doors at 9 should not mean first band starts the second the doors open.  The ventilation system is still all closed off, and I'm not sure if that really means there is genuinely no ventilation in the place...how could that be legal?  Yet the ventilation system has cool air running through it, even though the vents have metal plates bolted over them, because after an hour of sweaty kids dancing, water starts to condense on them and drip onto the crowd below. 

I'm not sure it's the best this town can do for all-ages music.  I could rant and rave all day about the closure of Berbati's (occasionally all-ages), The Artistery, and Satyricon all within a month or so, but cripes, is this the kind of place we want carrying the torch?  Long live Backspace, and I'll even give some props to the split-floor arrangements at the Crystal Ballroom and the Wonder Ballroom.  I just wish there was another way.  More ways.  More places.  I was a sixteen-year-old kid hopping in my (thanks, dad!) 1975 Volkswagen Beetle as soon as I was old enough and driving into Minneapolis to go to all-ages shows at First Avenue, but that place is on the same circuit as the Crystal.  It's not like other towns have it that much better, those all-ages venues on a smaller scale in other places don't survive either.  Is it because I want a beer with my show?  Is it because kids are ghettoized in this country and adults don't want to hang out with them? 

What is this better way?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

But Wait! There's More!

Look at me, blogging before I forget what I've seen and heard! [edit: clearly I started this post quite a while ago, and I'll cover most of August.] I'm the queen of the blogosphere! (Yep, I'm picturing me standing on the prow of the internet, all Titanic-style, bits and bytes and letters spraying in my face in the wind...). I've had plenty in the past couple of weeks to describe in weird and wonderful and nonsensical post-literary flourishes. Was that a bit grandiose? Or maybe a bit dismissive and self-ridiculing? Whatever; as long as it's some of both I'm good with it.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the all-B show. This show was at Mississippi Studios, and it appears that the cool goes where Alicia Rose books. There's almost nothing I want to see anymore at Doug Fir since she left, and I go to MS all the damn time. Breakfast Mountain opened, and I got there partway through their set. It was excruciatingly loud power-synth-and-drums electro-something. The Beauty, whom I've described before, haven't changed a bit except that there were three of them instead of two. This time, it was a big ol' bear, a tattooed skinny punk, and a gangly, kind of dorky guy doing Prince-influenced ipod-driven dancepop. Then Brainstorm, whose PPN Festival description still fits just as accurately. It was awesome watching people try to dance, including this one guy who I wished I could put on Youtube for his dorky, over-the-top hippie-meets-fourth-grade-dance-class (jazz hands!) weirdness.

Last week was four shows in six days. Tuesday, I saw Blue Giant at Mississippi Studios for a free, supposedly secret show for them to tune up and pull shit together before they go out on tour. Delorean (there are two Deloreans, spelled differently, one's from Spain and one's from Portland...my spelling may be wrong but I know I have the right city) opened with some fairly bland mid-tempo folk-pop. Seemed like a good opportunity to hang out in the new BarBar space next door, MS's new resto-bar (oh, shit...I hate that non-word, sorry about that) that's there to subsidize the music. Then Blue Giant rocked the house, explained away the flags (something about how Portland is the best place on earth, so they needed to figure out what they had in common with their fellow Americans before they went out on tour into the midst of them, and what they came up with is that they're all Americans, so they're bringing some flags), amazed and awed. When My Love Is Gone, It's Gone For Good. But I still adore BG.

Thursday: Dragging An Ox Through A Waterfountain...uh...or Dragging an Ox Through Water at the Lovejoy Fountain. No Opener or anything, tiny shoebox-sized amps, big steel pot-lids as windchime-like hanging percussion. Fascinating stuff.

Saturday, I saw The Angry Orts at Doug Fir for their CD Release show. Nucular Aminals opened up, and I thought I liked them, and I might be wrong. I didn't like this set much, nerdy and weird on purpose (and I like nerdy...but I have issues with weird-on-purpose). The Ascetic Junkies followed. Why one of them said hi to me, by name, good-to-see-you-again, baffled me...gotta be work-related. These guys are far too cute, a nearly square-dance-ready froth of gingham and ukelele and sorta-bluegrass. Then the Orts just blew me away. I've seen them a bunch of times and loved them, but this was just the next level. Sara was kind of trashed, but just put on an even better show, all Blondie and Sleater-Kinney...then covering Joan Jett. In a corset. Great band, astounding songs, and then Sara's just such a dynamic and fun performer.

Then Sunday there was just an unbelievable show at Rontoms. I got there for part of Monarques, who do such throwback 1950s and early 1960s stuff...it strikes me as simplistic and boring (and oh how glad I am I didn't have to live through that era of music, for such straight and straightforward stuff to be considered revolutionary and rock-and-roll). But then The Dirty Mittens did their thing. Power-yelping, playful, charming, high-energy, hooky, and so undeniably talented. Ramona Falls up last...Brent of Menomena looking like the most understated but also the one with the true, subtle emotional depth. And then he launches into "I Say Fever," and...wow. Not so understated. You want smoke machines and strobe lights. And yet still emotional depth. There are times when he's my favorite voice in Menomena, and Ramona Falls totally highlights what I love about Brent. (Of course, the other side projects make them all my favorites in turn...)

Huh...I can't even remember when this show was that I'm reading my notes from. Oh! This was a couple of weeks before the festival, at Mississippi Studios. Gregory Miles Harris up first. He's supposed to have been in town for years, playing very rare, unappreciated shows for the privileged few. He did this more-Half-Japanese-than-Half-Japanese high-pitched squeaky weirdness that had some hints of brilliance to it and a lot of silliness. Sometimes charming and sometimes tiresome. Alan Singley and Pants Machine next. I'd seen them a couple of times recently at parties, so the "world premiere" songs weren't really world premieres to me. Good set, moderately together, and always fun. IOA (or ioa) finished up. Damn, Amanda's got an astounding voice and I'll go see anything she does. Warm, chanteuse-y, songwriter-y stories. Papi Fimbres adding some complexity. But it doesn't have the otherworldly, anti-pop qualities I love so much about Point Juncture, WA. I bought an IOA (or ioa?) CD, and I can't get the Boxcar Children song out of my head, but some part of me is just sitting there, crosslegged, defiant, pouting, waiting for the next PJWA disc.

Okay, that will have to cover it for now. I saw a few lovely, short, acoustic sets in someone's backyard and still have the blisters to show for it (it's a long story...and then I got companion blisters the next weekend commercial-amateur-rafting on the Deschutes), and probably some other stuff, but no more looking back! Onward to September!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

PDX Pop Then!

Here's where I put the requisite apologetic groveling for not writing more often. Yes, I've seen lots of shows. No, I haven't blogged about them. No, I don't remember the details or my snarky observations. This is like my scrapbook, so it kills me when I don't have the time to document where I've been and what I've seen...how am I supposed to remember what to tell my grandchildren?

Last weekend was PDX Pop Now! This was my fifth year attending the festival, I think, and my fourth year having something to say on the interwebs about it. My third year as a volunteer. It's kinda become my thing. I know how things work, I know what to eat and what to avoid in the green room (don't eat more than one Voodoo Doughnut per day...it's not good for you; get in on the dried fruit on day one, because it will be gone by Saturday morning), I know the people and some of the bands.

Friday started with Blue Horns. They are a reliable, failsafe power trio that is always on...and never impresses me as something terribly interesting. They started things off with a bang, absolutely, but my rush to get there to see Band One was probably unnecessary. Ylang Ylang was next...a new-ish portlandy hot...well, in any other town they'd be called a supergroup, but around here it's just a really good side project. Power trio plus viola, with Charlie Salas-Humara of Panther on guitar/vox and Jake Morris of The Joggers on drums. They've gotten all sorts of tighter since I last saw them, their debut show at Jackpot Records, though they're still a bit goofy. Some goth-pop references from the early 80s plus plenty of rawk to go around. I'm loving them. Kusikia was next, a lot of noise but some melody too. Bits of prog-math, some dark stuff, and great at what they did without really grabbing me. Ages and Ages next...first of all, I loved their conceit of selling one single t-shirt for $50 instead of lots of t-shirts at eight or twelve bucks apiece, and I wish someone had bought it (it was written in Sharpie). The music, though, was amazing, a big sing-along onstage but with perfect songs and harmonies, a bouncy campfire-y group of many. So very fun, and their track on this year's PDX Pop Now! compilation is one of my favorites. Rollerball followed, and this is a band I find nearly impossible to describe. But, of course, I'll try. Some trio of prog-gothy, occasionally metal-tinged, occasionally charmingly melodic complexity and, at times, conceit. Impressive, if not always successful. AndAndAnd was crazy-shouty and wild with some Americana undertones, a great time if perhaps a bit overrated. Not that I'm knocking them, I just heard a few people say that was the set they were most looking forward to all weekend, and I gotta say, there's no way they trump The Joggers. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Witch Mountain was...well, I hate metal, so it was a beer set. I wandered down the street to La Merde, my typical Festival hangout (Produce Row gets too crowded), and came back in time for the last bit of Jackie O-Motherfucker. They've been in town for ever and ever, and I can't believe I've never seen them. Well, now I can say I've seen them. Based on what I'd listened to before the fest, I expected to be totally bored, and I wasn't, but that's really the best I can say. Tu Fawning does beautiful stuff, and this late at night after working all day, I was itching for more rock. The headliner for the night was AU, playing with some outfit out of Idaho or Colorado or something they had picked up called Dovekins. I think it kinda ruined them. This brilliant, complicated high-energy experimental duo ended up devolving into aimless hippie-ish jams. There was facepaint. And one of Dovekins seemed rather rude to me in the green room before the set.

Saturday, I was there nice and early. Things started out low-key with Shoeshine Blue doing lovely, folky Americana stuff, nothing overwhelming, but a nice way to ease into the day as I had my first cup of coffee. And that peaceful start was shattered by Tiny Knives, an all-female punk-metal trio of the big-snarly-hair sort. It was...um...a lot. Soup Purse was described to me, repeatedly, as Harsh Noise. And when I described them as Noise, I was repeatedly corrected. Harsh Noise. My attempt to check them out in advance led me to think, if this is harsh noise, how can it be so boring? Lots of clicks and taps with little in the way of notes. It was more interesting live, with some stories and some weird stuff, and yes, some notes. I've gotta at least appreciate a noise band (Harsh noise!) with a horn section. The purses full of soup were a bit much. And more than a bit messy. And got left behind, smelling like split pea. Guantanamo Baywatch was next, and was (appropriately) outside. Tongue-firmly-in-cheek surfpunk, but really well-done. More fun than the song names (Cum Fart Food) would suggest. A total party, but not one where someone barfs on your shoes before the night is over. The Tumblers were up next. They were the closest to a country band the fest had, though in a throwback traditional-country-western sort of way, not a modern pop-stars-with-twang-and-jingoism way. Cute without inviting condescension. O Bruxo, a late addition to the lineup, was another "yawn, we are so used to supergroups in this town we barely bat an eye," supergroup-with-pseudonyms conflagration. Amazing stuff mostly in Spanish, as if world-beat-dance stuff didn't suck and instead overwhelmed with awesome. Led by "Papi Chulo" (David Fimbres, to appear later during the fest playing flute). Grey Anne is always lovely, and since I've seen her a bunch of times, I have to admit, I wandered off to find a snack and sit down for a bit. Fear No Music is a modern/experimental classical collective, made up during this set of a violinist, a keyboardist, a laptop synth player, and a multi-percussionist playing vibraphones and homemade instruments. Dynamic and fascinating, and they seemed to love playing for a baffled rock audience on their feet instead of a baffled classical audience crossing and uncrossing their legs in uncomfortable symphony hall seats. Operative had some of the elements of music, including rhythm and notes. I'm not so sure it was music. It had a driving beat at times, but it got old quick.

Time for an arbitrary new paragraph, I think. Brainstorm was next. I love this band. They're like the train wreck that would result from a DC mathcore band playing folk songs with a tuba. Yes, there's a tuba. Not to get ahead of myself again, but this may be the first two-tuba PPN fest! Moby Dick references, barbershop quartet sounds, vocals like slave-spirituals, 80s electro-casio bleep-pop, and crunching metal guitar all overlap in a way that sounds like it should be awful, but much like a peanut-butter-and-soy-sauce sauce for noodles, ends up kinda transcendent instead. Asss...uh...okay, I have to admit, I couldn't pay attention all the time. I don't totally remember Asss. They played a very, very short set, on the sidewalk instead of the stage, and it was kinda drone-y and I think it was supposed to be experimental. Da'Rel Junior was stellar, brainy, self-conscious (as opposed to conscious?) hip-hop, funny and earnest. He's staff at a local social service agency, working with "troubled" youth, and he told a few stories about his job. He also covered The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire, which was kick-ass. Wampire up next...a total party in which not every single member of the band took their pants off, but they got close. And the music was pretty fun, too. Bouncy, joyful, utterly lacking in pretension, and probably well-stocked with cassette tapes.

Defect Defect and Eternal Tapestry was the Saturday-evening beer set for me. Uncomplicated thrash-punk (DD) doesn't do much for me. And...well, I saw ET once, and when I described how much I abhorred them, I think I was blunt enough that I made some people uncomfortable. Let's just leave it at that. Okay, fine...I said, "Sitting through that set, I thought I'd rather relive my mother's funeral." I saw them at Mississippi Studios opening for The Joggers last April, and they riffed for 26 minutes straight on one chord. The sax player played the same note in the same rhythm for six solid minutes without alteration. I really began to ponder the possibility of literally dying of boredom. It was physically painful. I was told repeatedly that, while the performance I saw was not necessarily out of character for them, it was not typical, but I just didn't think I could chance it. So I skipped 'em and headed back down to La Merde for some delicious beer. But I rushed back to ensure that I didn't miss Blue Cranes. And they didn't disappoint. They have never failed to exceed my expectations, and my expectations for them these days are pretty sky-high. They not only blew me away, but impressed the 19-year-old boys surrounding me, eagerly awaiting Hockey. The memorable quotes from these kids: "That was so good I almost cried." (And about the boy who said that: "He's a musician, he knows this stuff.") Followed by, "Wow...I've never seen live jazz before!" They set up this amazing, yet frustrating deal at the merch table whereby one could only buy their brand-new, not-yet-released disc if under 21, with ID (they are huge supporters of all-ages music and venues, and their upcoming CD release party, I believe, is at a 21-and-up venue). Diabolically brilliant. Hosannas (formerly Church, whom I believe I've discussed at least once in the past, and maybe more than that) was down to two members from four, with very little notice (they announced their breakup shortly before the festival, actually), and weren't as compelling or dynamic as they've been in the past. i sure hope they get their shit together and re-form as a new band with either some new members or some material built for two. But despite Hosannas not quite being up to par, this closing Saturday set was my favorite of the festival. Joggers were up next...and they knocked that shit right out of the park. They've traded in some of their laid-back 70s influences for more plain-ol' crushing rock. And then, incongruously, there was a digeridoo. And a bear suit (sans head) and a one-piece coverall. Somehow their power-rock and these rhythms you can't really dance to still end up catchy and fun as all hell. Hockey finished up. Suburbanites and little kids with their dads and...oh, hell, I danced too. They took forever to set up, and they were reportedly total divas about the whole thing, and they pulled icky, creepy greshamites up on stage to dance...but they still rocked the house.

Saturday night faded out with this rollicking solo drum set that was sorta a guerrilla set. There were a few guerrilla sets, but I ignored most of them, because even I need ten or fifteen minutes of rest here or there. But this one sounded like it would be unimaginably cool. The drummer from the next day's first band, Why I Must Be Careful, played all. fucking. night. And then played WIMBC the next day, which looks exhausting even if he's gotten a good eight hours of sleep. Of all the things I missed or didn't totally pay attention to, this one kills me the most...I arrived for the day just a few minutes after WIMBC ended. Did I describe them earlier this year? So amazing. Overwhelming, confusing, inexplicable. Probably the two smartest musical minds in this city playing jazz-based freak-outs that sometimes sound like just pounding (on drums and keys), but is really more like the musical equivalent of bio-chemo-neuro-nano-rocket science that is so far beyond your comprehension that all you hear sometimes is noise, with little glimpses here and there of what amazement you'd be privy to if you were 60 IQ points smarter, spent 15 years studying music theory, had an advanced degree in calculus, spent a couple of decades on small Pacific islands with Margaret Mead, then spent years learning extreme kung fu at one of those impossibly isolated mountain Buddhist monasteries devoted to ass-kicking that only exist in kung fu movies. But, having arrived late, I can only imagine such mathematical biochemical primordial jazz ass-kicking as it was at the festival. I did arrive for Michael The Blind, whose folky, floaty yet sturdy, flute- and oboe-like voice mesmerizes me. The only other time I've seen him was at the PDX Pop Now! CD release show in...2006? It was at Berbati's, and it must have been '06 because I remember the poster was the one with the bicycle. Joey Casio, up next, was pure, unadulterated electronic dance thump. Thump, thump, thump...I'll be back later. I missed Cloudy October, Atriarch, and Lewi Longmire due to my responsibilities as a volunteer this year. Cloudy October is supposed to be awesome hip-hop, and I'm sorry I missed him. Atriarch is crunching, earsplitting metal that I don't mind having missed. Lewi Longmire is folk-country-rootsy twang that I probably wouldn't have hated despite my frequent anti-twang bias, and is supposed to be one of the nicest guys around. Krebsic Orkestar was an amazing, awe-inspiring 14(?)-piece gypsy brass band doing this fascinating yet accessible eastern-european stuff that got people bobbing heads and even shaking hips. And they brought the other tuba of the weekend. Autistic Youth was...loud. Punk. Loud. Billygoat (damn, this was an incongruous set) showed 45 minutes of the most amazing stop-motion animation, mostly paper-cut stuff of excruciating and dazzling detail, accompanied by buzzing, swelling, and swirling electronica meant to highlight and showcase the animation. It was the beautiful, awe-inspiring, charming, constantly-changing animation that kept amazing me and making me smile. Please Step Out Of The Vehicle played their supposed last show ever, as Travis Wiggins is moving to Hawaii to accompany his girlfriend who is starting graduate school or something. A bunch of familiar songs, "Papi" Fimbres making his flute hoot and holler in ever-more weird and wonderful ways, I am indescribably glad to have been there for this. I sang along. I sat down behind the stage for I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House, but still heard clearly the actually pretty engaging and enjoyable roadhouse-blues-countrypunkrawk. Like Jackie O-Motherfucker, they've played in town for a decade or something, and I'm glad I've gotten to see them. Unlike JOM, I actually had some fun seeing/hearing them. Ben Darwish was next. I couldn't decide whether he played crowd-pleasing stuff less complex than he's capable of, or whether he defied the crowd by remaining somewhat low-key. Or both. His drummer was amazing, though. I dubbed Get Hustle (prog-funk-metal-psych-party-rawk-experimental-huh?-core) my beer set for the night, and I was off to La Merde again. Is it awful that I can't remember if I came back for part of AAN, whom I remember liking after having heard them online? I do remember I heard Reporter, whose dance-electronica (with fog machine and light bracelets tossed into the audience) was kinda...meh. Whatever. Luck-One hip-hop led off the Sunday headlining outdoor set, but I couldn't hear him well enough to distinguish the lyrics, so I got some Koi Fusion and just tried to hang out and listen. Parenthetical Girls...well, I believe I've described them in the past as Colin Meloy's literary theatricality filtered through Morrissey's personality disorder (I love both Meloy and Morrissey, though I do see the downsides of each), but I forgot to mention that Zac Pennington can't actually sing, which makes things even worse. Typhoon blew a few fuses and led to a long delay, then once they got going seemed to be rollicking...and by then I was tired and wanted to get things taken care of and go home, so I helped with picking up inside and whatever else. Skeletron, at the end, should have been terribly exciting, but I have to admit, I wasn't feeling much of anything at all, even their ("they" being Starfucker as a two-piece, really) super-party-indie-dance-electro-dance-party-indie-andsoforth. It was fun, but it wasn't like Menomena last year or anything.

I think I saw more of the bands this year than ever before. I think I got to the end a bit emotionally exhausted, but my feet were still pretty intact even during the closing set on Sunday. I think I don't know what I'd do without a free three-day festival devoted to the current in local music.