Musicfest NW 2008 Recap-Friday

Before I recount the details of Musicfest from Friday evening, I wanted to let you know that I finally created a podcast on podomatic.com. Thanks to those of you who have already subscribed to it, and for those of you who haven't- What are you waiting for? I have it featured just below the "About Me" section on my blog. You can listen online by clicking the play button or click on "Visit this podcast" and it will take you to a page where you can subscribe to the podcast. This is a convenient way to keep up on when the podcast has been updated.

It is my first official foray in podcasting- a mix featuring my commentary and insights about the artists featured on the program. Here is a description of the first episode taken from my podcast page which can be found here. Please support my cause by subscribing to the podcast and offering constructive feedback about the show. If you have any questions, please let me know.

This episode was directly inspired by the Sonic Youth biography Goodbye 20th Century. It contains music from bands that Sonic Youth was influenced by, friends of the band and bands that were undoubtedly influenced by Sonic Youth. Then, I close the set out with several songs that seem to fit the eclectic format of the show. Besides Sonic Youth, this episode features Nick Cave, Captain Beefheart, P.I.L., John Coltrane, etc. For those of you searching for something a little left of the dial, this show will be right up your alley.

September 5, 2008- Friday

Built to Spill-Wonder Ballroom- 6:00- 8:00




















My plans changed since I was recovering from a late night out on Thursday. So, instead of getting to the Wonder Ballroom early to catch Britt Daniel, I got there around 6:00 to see Built to Spill's "Perfect From Now On" performance. I just didn't have the energy to start my day off at 3:00, because I needed to reserve my energy for the jam-packed night of shows I had planned. My plan was ill fated at best since there was no parking by the time I got to the Wonder Ballroom. I searched around for about 15 minutes until I found a spot about 8 blocks away from the venue. I gathered my water, slammed the door to the car and dashed off to the show with a quickness. But, as I got my place in line, the concert organizer told me that the show was at capacity and they weren't letting anyone else in. My hopes were dashed and I felt like the air was let out of my tires. Finally, I reasoned that I had seen BTS several times before, and that it just wasn't in the cards this time. Also, I took my chances in getting there late, despite my own advice urging people to arrive at the venues well in advance of the starting time. Oh well, I guess you live and learn. By the way, this photo came from the OPB Music site.

Now, I found myself with a wealth of time to waste and nowhere to go except Rontoms. They were the only venue featuring bands at this time, so I headed over to 6th and East Burnside for the Bladen County Records showcase. I saw the tail end of The Skinnyz' set and the whole sets from Invisible Rockets and Little Pieces. While there was little to rave about amongst these three bands, I did learn that Little Pieces was the latest project from ex-Sunset Valley front man Herman Jolly. Sunset Valley was an indie rock/power-pop outfit from Portland that released a couple records and then quickly vanished from the scene. Another notable thing worth mentioning is that I think Britt Daniel, the front man for Spoon, was standing right in front of me during this performance. Apparently Britt had heard enough of Built to Spill's performance at the Wonder Ballroom to garner leaving the show to check out Little Pieces. It wasn't too exciting to my ears, but to each his own.

Rapids & TK Webb & The Visions- 8:00- 8:45

By the time I got across the Burnside Bridge, I started searching for a parking place that was somewhere between the venues I planned on checking out. It turned out that the closest place I could find was on Park and Glisan, so I parked and headed towards Dantes to check out Rapids. This was one of the bands that I decided to check out based on the description in the Willamette's Musicfest NW Guide. They likened the band to the tuneful, heavy rock sound of Husker Du and the stop-on the-dime dynamic noise of avant popsters Deerhoof. With these two bands being favorites of mine, I thought I would give Rapids a listen. No offense, but the Willamette's description couldn't have been more misleading. I heard nothing that even closely resembled the sound of Deerhoof and the Husker Du description was only accurate if you are going by the level of volume at the show. I gave them two songs, and then decided to take my chances with TK Webb & the Visions at Ash Street Saloon. Willamette said that TK Webb sounded like "White Stripes with John Bonham sitting in for Meg". Because of this description, I was prepared to see a better version of the White Stripes, but what I got was a muddled mess of sound that sounded like your standard bar-band rock.

Eat Skull- Satyricon- 9:00













So far, this has been a very uneventful night of music, but I have been excited to see Portland's Eat Skull ever since I laid ears on their debut record Sick to Death on Siltbreeze. Eat Skull features not only two former members of the noise band The Hospitals, but the manager of Exiled Records, Scott Simmons, on bass. When I first heard this noise-damaged assault on the ears, I thought to myself, this is what Guided By Voices would have sounded like if they listened to more garage rock than classic rock.

Since most of the band's songs are under two minutes, they could essentially play their entire album and still be well under the slotted time given to acts at MFNW. What transpired was one of the grittiest, compact sets of lo-fi garage psychedelia that I have ever witnessed. I believe they played close to ten songs in an intoxicating, sweat-drenched twenty minute set. An unbelievable feat in today's climate of bands focusing on extended improvisational freakouts such as Yellow Swans, Cexfucx and Comets on Fire.

There was some idiot who bought an order of fries and then proceeded to throw them at the band. He was no doubt used to seeing bands that are much more professional sounding, but why the hell would you come to Satyricon if you were looking for that type of show. The lead singer was obviously pissed about the kid's antics, so he proceeded to throw the fries back at the kid shouting "F--k you fry guy, Why don't you go back to high school". The rest of the band played on as he fervently tossed fries out into the crowd. Hey, this is what rock music is all about, right?

I heard a rumor that even MTV was taking notice of Eat Skull. Maybe we'll see a live video of the band hurling french fries into an unsuspecting crowd in between re-runs of the Real World Season 23. One thing I know is that I will definitely keep my eye out for their next live show after their current tour wraps up. If you like noise-strangled lo-fi garage rock, then you should do the same.

Trio Subtonic- Jimmy Mak's- 10:00

After hearing the songs on Trio Subtonic's Myspace page, I was mildly interested in seeing them play live. Since the Eat Skull show was over in twenty minutes, I ended up waiting quite awhile for the three-piece jazz-funk trio to take the stage. While I waited, I ordered a Heineken and chilled out in the back of the bar. I knew the Cubs were playing the Reds, but since they weren't playing very well at the time, I was nervous about checking the score. As my evening was not going as planned, I felt susceptible to falling into a dark hole, and after I read the score across the screen- Cincinatti-10 Cubs-2, I really felt depressed.

Since DJ Santo went over the time slotted for his set, Trio Subtonic came on about fifteen minutes later than the scheduled time. At this point, my patience was running out. As the band took the stage they started to play a type of generic jazz-funk that didn't do anything for me except induce sleepiness. I endured their set for three songs, as I waited for something magical to happen, but to no avail. I decided to go for the surefire crowd-pleaser Alela Diane, since I had seen Old Time Relijun several times before and was looking for something to lift my spirits.

Alela Diane- Berbati's- 11:00














I wasn't completely sure that seeing Alela Diane at Berbati's was the right choice, but what did I have to lose. I had seen Alela a couple years back at the first Helleluwah Festival, and was instantly taken by her amazing voice and stage presence. She was a resident of Portland for most of 2006, but she left the environs of Portland for Nevada City in the middle of 2007. Since she hadn't played in Portland for awhile, this was a can't-miss show.

Unfortunately, the crowds at Berbati's are known for their incessant yammering during shows, which is especially annoying when the musician on stage is of the acoustic variety. I found that Alela maintained her composure and kept her cool, despite the distracting buzz emanating from the crowd during her set. It was clear to me, however, that a good percentage of the crowd was leaning on her every word. It doesn't hurt that she has a set of pipes that could raise the spirits of the darkest soul.

At one point in the show, she played this song called "Tatted Lace", which is the type of song that sends chills up my spine and brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. I'm not kidding you! There was a part at the end of the song where she reached back into the depths of her soul and delivered a heartfelt yodel that would make even the most emotionally guarded person well up in tears. Seeing Alela Diane was one of the highlights of this year's Musicfest for me, and I will be keeping my eye out for her next performance in Portland. Since I didn't have access to a camera, I borrowed this image from the great folks over at OPB Music.

Rupa & the April Fishes- Jimmy Mak's- 12:00















I would have loved to see Alela play a longer set, primarily because when I reached Jimmy Mak's at 11:45, the previous band was still playing their set. They were a dance-party funk band made up of freshly-scrubbed college students from Seattle called Velella Velella. After coming from such a mellow show, I wasn't prepared to be assaulted by the deep pulsations of their generic disco-tinged funk. I just kept wondering when is their set going to be over. I seemed to be in the minority though, because almost everyone was dancing to the music.

I didn't look at the clock, but it was probably about 12:20 when San Francisco's Rupa & the April Fishes took the stage. Willamette Week described them as the real thing when it comes to Gypsy music, but I think the real thing is more like Taraf De'Haiduks or Fanfare Ciocarlia. Call me a purist, but a six-piece band with one member raised partially in India, doesn't qualify as the "real thing".

This was the perfect way to wrap up my Friday evening at Musicfest. I wasn't completely sure that this was going to be up my alley from the first song, but the next song's undulating rhythms and handclaps transported me to a remote village in Eastern Europe. Throughout their set, the lead singer, Rupa, explained the origin of the songs to the audience so that we were more in tune to the emotions behind the songs. There is no denying the power and the beauty of this music. It reminds me of Lhasa mixed with the rapid-fire marching band rhythms of Fanfare Ciocarlia. If you have listened to bands like Beirut, Gogol Bordello and Devotchka, and you want something with a little more authenticity, then this is your best bet. This concludes my adventures from Musicfest on Friday night. Please stay tuned for the final episode in this series.

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