Sorta Live from Portland’s Musicfest Northwest, Part 2

September 10, 2008

FADER executive editor Julianne Escobedo Shepherd reports from Musicfest Northwest, Portland's answer to the Olympics. This installment: TV on the Radio, Crooked Fingers, bacon, The Joggers, Sir Mix-A-Lot, the after-after-after-after-after-after-party.

TV on the Radio: Best Band EVER. Hard evidence: the two preternaturally funky hippie chicks in front of me, swaying enthusiastically yet unsteadily as though they have just scarfed a combo meal of meth and peyote, say so. "What's this band's name again?" the tall one asks her friend, her words blooping out half-formed as if she were drooling jello in the shape of letters. "TV Radio... no, TV onna Radio," the short one answers boozily. "They're the best band EVER!" They go back to dancing, which sucks for me because every time they sway I catch a whiff of their majorly forestral B.O. I feel like I am in the Waco cult compound. It doesn't keep me from agreeing with them, though. The way TVOTR have gelled as a crew has been awesome to witness; their old songs were great walls of light, their new ones twinkled with detail. They played "Dancing Choose," the single from Dear Science, and the intro to its encompassing rhythm felt like a Major Moment. Tunde thanked Portland for a good time, asked if everyone had gone to see Calvin Johnson and M. Ward play as part of Musicfest the night before. (I had not, preferring instead to indulge myself in Portland's only hip-hop dance party, The Fix with our aforementioned long lost fam DJ Shines.) After the show, buzzing about the new TVOTR, we walked to Voodoo Donut, a 24-hour donut shoppe, so I could take a photo of a maple donut with bacon on it and their infamous "Blazer Blunts": blunt-shaped donuts which refer to ye old Portland Trailblazers' penchant for partaking in the aforementioned Oregon trees... and getting caught. Holler at #30! You'll always be a Blazer in my heart, Sheed. STNR PWR. Outside the donut jam, we saw members of 42,000 famous local bands and remembered how every major indie dude moves to Portland eventually: Spoon, Crooked Fingers, the Shins, the Decemberists, Modest Mouse, Dave Allen from Gang of Four. It is a full-on mecca, but also a tiny, tiny town, which makes it super easy for a festival like this to happen. You call up your neighbors to play.

Speaking of bacon, and Crooked Fingers: the next morning, Crooked Fingers played an acoustic at a special brunch in an abandoned dry- cleaners (total rugged/quaint Portland style venue). "I always wanted to eat bacon between songs," said Eric Bachmann, though he was actually just sipping mimosas. I always think I am prejudiced against singer-songwriter music until I remember how much I love Bachmann's voice, which is low and cracks over his acoustic fingerpicking. Plus: his lyrics are pretty and wistful; he played "You Must Build a Fire" and I literally almost fell over into my organic yogurt tray on the line Tell me where are you love/ I will wait for you another night/ Cause I know you won't leave me behind/ Oh, where are you love?

The Joggers, one of my favorites from that city and generally overlooked despite having fully loaded-guitar melodies and excellent animated videos. Why? This night they were opening for Polvo (I saw two songs before deciding I didn't need to relive 10th grade) but completely blew all proggish bands out the water by performing a perfect, note-for-note cover of Yes' "Long Distance Runaround." All 42 minutes of it. It was off-the-charts nerdy, but also, you all are PWNED.

Obviously Sir Mix-a-Lot was a must: Swass was the first rap cassette I ever heard and having enjoyed his 2003 album Daddy's Home he may be the only old rapper who I don't think is making totally awful music into the second decade of his career, or at least making missteps. I think this is because he has no pressure on him, because no one cares. Mix emerged triumphant with the hat and performed "MILF HUNTER," a relatively straightforward new song about um, BEING A MILF HUNTER. Hype men wearing shirts that said "I'M SWASS B***TCH" [their censorship, not mine]. He popped out "Put 'Em on the Glass" after which he gamely acknowledged the fact that he is old (another reason to love!), then performed a surprisingly on point "My Posse's On Broadway." Rap nostalgia is absurd but it's good to know that track still holds up. Not wanting to see a thousand frat boys go beer-listic when he dropped "Baby Got Back" (cause you know that's who was in the audience, and what they were there to see), I bounced out to the afterparty, where ex-Memphis mafiosa DJ Beyonda played soul hits and, I think, Keith Sweat's "Twisted." Tracy Morgan was not there. Even still it was a lovely end to a freakin' weekend of extreme low-keyosity (for both NYC and a festival). I missed so many good bands—timing issues with seeing Monotonix, Crystal Antlers, and Thao with the Get Down Stay Down were particular regrets—but VERDICT: success. STATUS: Will come again.

Posted: September 10, 2008
Sorta Live from Portland’s Musicfest Northwest, Part 2