Musicfest NW 2008 Recap- Saturday

September 6, 2008- Saturday

The Strange Boys- Satyricon- 8:00 p.m.

I hadn't heard of The Strange Boys before listening to their songs on Myspace a couple days before Musicfest 2008. I was so impressed with their brand of lo-fi garage tunes that I decided to check them out at the Satyricon on Saturday evening. It seemed to be the best bet for catching the band in all its retro-garage glory. I arrived about ten minutes before they were set to come on, and I think they started the show a little early to appease the eager crowd. My initial reaction was: "Damn, these kids weren't even thought of when I was born". But damn if they couldn't emulate the classic 60's garage rock like it's nobody's business.

Their stage show wasn't very exciting and they didn't have much of a stage presence, but the music packed a powerful punch and got the crowd moving. It featured mainly short bursts of adrenaline-fueled garage rock mixed with slow tunes that showcased the lead singer's bratty vocals. I would definitely check these guys out the next time they come to Portland.

Crystal Antlers- Satyricon- 9:00 p.m.

I decided to try to get in to the Blitzen Trapper show at the Crystal Ballroom, but there was no chance of that with the recent hype of the Fleet Foxes. Since the line was wrapped completely around the corner of the Crystal, I decided to head back to the Satyricon to catch Crystal Antlers. They are another band that has been receiving a lot of hype through the internet media such as Pitchfork and Prefix. The songs I previewed on their Myspace were not amazing, but I decided that they were at least worth checking out. Besides, they are on Touch and Go, the same label that was responsible for releasing great records by Shellac, Jesus Lizard and Don Caballero.

Crystal Antlers stage performance was impressive, but the sound at the Satyricon drowned out the vocals most of the time. Lead singer, Johnny Bell's histrionic screams aim right for the jugular, while the rest of the band has obviously been studying up on Comets on Fire's back catalog. Overall, the band's set was an uninspired mishmash of psychedelic and classic rock styles that never seemed to go anywhere. It was not only influenced by Comets on Fire, it was a direct rip-off of their amps-pushed-to-the-max, psychedelic noise rock. Needless to say, I was less than impressed with these guys. Now, it's on to Berbati's to check out The Joggers.

The Joggers- Berbati's Pan- 10:00 p.m.

I was really into the first The Jogger's record Solid Guild when it came out on Startime International in 2003. At the time I was working at Music Millennium and one of the people who worked there was friends with them and she told me to check out their record. I gave it some spins over the store speakers and it sounded like angular indie rock with chiming guitars and majestic four-part harmonies.

I was sold on the band, but I never got into their next record With a Cape and A Cane. It seemed like it was trying to be more aggressive, but it lacked the vocal harmonies that made the first record such a rich listening experience. Nevertheless, I was still interested in checking them out live, and this was my first opportunity. The band took the stage and broke into an energetic set filled with spirited sing-alongs and uptempo-raveups that inspired the crowd to jump up and down.

They played a few that I recognized from Solid Guild, but the set leaned mostly towards material from With a Cape and a Cane. Overall, I felt that they put on a exciting live show, but the sound left a little bit to be desired. It was overloaded and the vocals were washed out, which is an integral part to the sound of The Joggers. Aside from that, I just wish they had played more songs from the first record, especially "Same to You" and "Back to the Future". I will definitely keep my eye out for them when they play somewhere other than Berbati's. Can you tell that I hate this venue with a passion?

Trans Am- Berbati's- 11:00 p.m.

I ended up sticking it out at Berbati's, since the place was filling up fast and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see Polvo. I have a couple of Trans Am albums, but I haven't really listened to them that often. I recall liking their 2004 record Liberation, but aside from being slightly familiar with that one, I was kind of a novice when it came to Trans Am. They clearly had a strong following as the floor of Berbati's filled up in anticipation for their show.

From the opening chords, I could tell that they were a group of talented musicians who dabbled in everything from metal to synth-pop; electronic to dance. Some of the songs stretched out over ten minutes and others were quick bursts of fury. One of the songs was called "Eating", and ironically enough the synth player/vocalist ate an entire tenderloin on stage while playing the song. I was waiting for him to regurgitate the food right after he digested it. It was truly a sight to behold. Overall, even though I wasn't entirely into their schtick, they sounded great and knew how to work a crowd.

Polvo- Berbati's- 12:00 a.m.

My feet were a little worse for the wear, since I had been standing on a hard concrete floor for the past two hours. Polvo couldn't come on any sooner, as I was eager to play air guitar to their complex math-rock masterpieces from Today's Active Lifestyles and Exploded Drawing. I couldn't wait to hear songs like "Thermal Treasure", "Lazy Comet" and "Fast Canoe" finally come to life in a live setting.

Once they took the stage, I was so excited that I could hardly stand it. The adrenaline was pumping and my heart was beating so hard that I can barely recall what songs they played. One of the highlights for me was when they launched into a spirited cover of Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio". From this point on, they had the crowd in the palm of their hands. I remember people shouting out things for them to play, and this dude told them "Play whatever you want to play". Ash said thanks and shyly smiled, showing his appreciation to the guy for his comment.

I'm pretty sure they played "Thermal Treasure", "My Kimono", "Sure Shot", "Stinger" and "Tilebreaker from Today's Active Lifestyles as well as "Fast Canoe" and assorted others from Exploded Drawing and Eclipse. I would give anything for a recording of this show and a set list of what was played. At this point, I was so tired and fulfilled that I thought about heading home. But I wanted to check out the end of Flipper's set, so I hit my next destination right around the corner.

Flipper- Ash Street Saloon- 1:00 a.m

By the time I reached the Ash Street, it was about 1:35, so I was able to catch the last half-hour of their set. I was bound and determined to see Flipper, considering that Nirvana's very own bassist, Chris Novoselic was now a member of the touring band. Ever since I read this amazing book on unheard music called The Secret History Of Rock by Roni Sarig, Flipper's music has been a curiosity that I wanted to unlock. When I first heard Generic Flipper in 1998, I wasn't too sure what to make of it. It was championed by artists that I respected like Lou Barlow of Sebadoh and Novoselic himself who said "I listened to Generic Flipper and it was a revelation. It was art." Coming from someone like Novoselic, I didn't take this comment lightly. It turned out that it just wasn't the right time for me to appreciate the sound of Flipper yet.

When I got there, the front man for Flipper was shirtless and sweating so profusely that he requested a new towel to wipe the sweat from his body. Novoselic was standing stoically, barely moving his body at all, while lead singer, Bruce Lose, flailed about like a mental patient receiving shock treatment. I was completely enthralled with the stage show, as the wall-of-sound sludge vibrated through my body. I stayed for the entire show, despite being incredibly tired, because this was a performance for the ages. Flipper are alive and well in 2008, so make sure you check them out when they come to your town.

Sorry it took me so long to get these reviews up, but I hope you guys can still get something useful out of them. The only show that I have on my radar at this point is Deerhoof's October 6th show at the Wonder Ballroom. Besides that, be on the lookout for a new podcast featuring the music that I saw at Musicfest NW 2008. I should have that up here soon as it would be a good companion to this concert journal. Think of it as a play-by play of my sojourns throughout the weekend.

Let me know what you guys thought of the shows if you went to Musicfest. If you didn't get a chance to go to Musicfest, what do you think of the bands that I have profiled in this series?


I was at this flipper show. bruce loose poured some of his guiness into my mouth!

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