(Thanks to a busy schedule, it’s been a month since MusicfestNW took over Portland and I still haven’t published daily recaps of my experience. My bad. Still, I think seeing 20 of the coolest bands going over three days is worth documenting, even belatedly. So below, you’ll find Day 3. Day 1 is here and Day 2 is here. And if you’d like to read my overview of the festival’s highlights that ran in print, click here.)
One of the great things about events like Portland’s MusicfestNW is the shoulder-to-shoulder variety. You can see a funk legend and then a futuristic electro-pop duo and then a throwback ’90s indie rock band like I did on Day 1 of this year’s festival. Or you can see a local pop-rock band followed by a white-hot hip-hop artist followed by a quiet, heart-wringing female singer-songwriter like I did on Day 2. (And that’s without venturing out to the venues that focused on electronic, metal, jazz and country!)
Or you can do what I did on Saturday night of MusicfestNW 2011 and see seven bands that all fall somewhere on the post/punk/psych/rock/metal/drone spectrum.
The part of me that digs that particular musical spectrum has been growing over the past few years; after a lifetime of pop-rock, twang and hip-hop, I have found myself increasingly attracted to the sludgy, spacey, squealy sounds of good ol’ psychedelic rock bands. So I was excited for Saturday’s lineup.
That excitement was tempered, perhaps, by two things. 1) I was tired. By Saturday afternoon, I’d grown cranky and indecisive; I skipped a bunch of sweet day parties with free music and food in favor of shopping for records and sitting, quietly, in a Big Town Hero with a Diet Coke and an alt-weekly in an effort to chill. I am not proud. And 2) That night’s headliner at the Doug Fir, the fine British pop band The Vaccines, canceled just days before the festival because of health issues. There are a lot of great acts at MusicfestNW, but that cancellation took out one of the bands I was most excited to see.
Anyway, Saturday began at 4 p.m. at Pioneer Courthouse Square, “Portland’s living room,” as it’s known, in the middle of downtown. There, one of my favorite artists ever — Matthew Cooper, aka Eluvium — had the unenviable task of playing ambient music for a mid-afternoon crowd on what might have been the hottest day of the year. I loved every second of it, but I can certainly understand how passers-by (and even many folks who showed up early to get a good spot for the evening’s headliner, Explosions in the Sky) might’ve thought, “What the hell is this noise?” Well, that noise is some of the most mind-bendingly beautiful music being made these days by one of the most inventive musicians of the past decade. Here’s a long sample; please note that all I did for most of the time was hang the camera from my wrist while filming. Whatever you see here was the intent.