MusicFest NW 2013- Recap- Fri-Sat-Sun

With the Halloween season creeping up on me once again, I will be presenting a more concise overview of my last three nights of Music Fest NW 201 to focus my energy on compiling a new Halloween mix over the next week. My hope is to have this year's mix posted within a week of Halloween so that everyone will have a sufficient amount of time to enjoy it.

Friday

La Luz- 9:00

Since I had already seen Mt. Eerie with Bonnie Prince Billy on Thursday, La Luz was definitely the best choice for the 9:00 time slot. I heard a few songs from their Damp Face ep that was released last year, and I was completely sold on their twisted surf noir sound that seemed to draw from influences as diverse as  Brenda Lee, David Lynch and The Ventures. After arriving at Dante's, the band started promptly at 9:00, and proceeded to deliver a fantastic set filled with seductive ballads, surf instrumentals and garage rock rave-ups. Their set was concise at 35 minutes, but filled with enough memorable moments to make me want to check them out the next time they come to town. 

Wooden Indian Burial Ground- 10:00

Up until the last minute, I had planned on checking out Godspeed You Black Emperor at 10:00, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Branx. With this show starting at 11:00, that would have meant that I had to leave the Godspeed show at about 10:30 to allow time to drive to Branx and find a parking spot. I decide to just head to Branx to check out Wooden Indian Burial Ground at 10:00. I had already seen these guys open up for Fuzz at Bunk Bar a few months ago, and I thought that they sounded like they were trying too hard to be Thee Oh Sees. This time around, even though the sound at Branx was mediocre at best, they performed a high-energy set of dynamic psych rock that demonstrated that they were much more than an Oh Sees knockoff. I would recommend that anyone interested in fuzzed-out psych check these guys out. 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- 11:00

So much has been said about these guys, that I can hardly do it justice with a condensed review, but all I can say is that Ruben and company delivered a commanding, mind-altering performance that will forever be imprinted on my brain. This is saying a lot considering that the sound was completely messed up throughout the set, with many of Ruben's blistering solos getting lost in the muddy mix. It seemed like the sound engineer was either inexperienced, or that the venue was experiencing technical difficulties that were beyond his control. Either way, towards the end of the set Ruben played an extended version of the catchiest song in the bands repertoire "Ffunny Ffrends" with a spiraling guitar solo that literally sent chills up and down my spine. He is easily one of the most exciting guitarists to check out live, and it's not a stretch to compare his talent and skill level to Jimi Hendrix. As the final shards of guitar shrapnel faded at the end of their second encore, I was standing there looking shell shocked as I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. This is my 3rd time seeing these guys, and they just keep getting better. Do yourself a favor and pick up both of their records, and catch them live every time you get a chance. You will thank me later. 

Ty Segall- 12:00

Unfortunately it was a night filled with tough decisions, as by choosing to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra's entire set I missed most of Ty Segall's performance at Dante's. First, it took me over 20 minutes to find parking, and then once I arrived at the venue they were at capacity. It seemed unlikely that I would be admitted into the show, especially since the bouncer came out and said to the entire group of people waiting "You guys aren't going to get into the show. Go home". While I thought he was a jerk, this action most likely resulted in my getting into the show for the last few songs as most of the people in line took the bouncer's advice and headed home. I could barely see the stage as the place was utterly packed, but this is what can be expected when a high profile artist like Segall is booked at a tiny venue like Dante's. One of the last songs he played was the utterly contagious "You Make the Sun Fry" from Goodbye Bread which had most of the crowd in front frantically running into each other in a frenzied manner. He came back out to play a couple songs for the encore, and then signed off for the night. I'm glad I got to catch a little bit of his set, but I was disappointed that I had to hear most of his performance while standing outside. 

Saturday

Angel Olsen- 8:30

I decided to check out Angel Olsen despite really only hearing a handful of songs from her debut album Half Way Home".  When I found out that she was playing The Old Church, that sealed the deal for me. I got here early to ensure that I would be able to sit during the performance, but I still wasn't able to secure a place closer to the stage. What unfolded before me during the next 35 minutes was an utterly transfixing performance that held my attention until the last note was plucked on her guitar. I had planned on leaving halfway through her performance, but it was so spellbinding that I couldn't fathom leaving until I heard everything that she was ready and willing to play. Add this to the ever-growing list of talented, haunting female folk artists that have been cropping up lately. 

Shuggie Otis and Charles Bradley- 9:00- 10:30 

I headed to the Crystal Ballroom to check out Shuggie Otis, but sadly was not able to get into this show. Instead, I waited in line throughout his entire set chatting with other people who had hoped to get into to see Shuggie Otis, but they also hadn't planned ahead. Thankfully, most of the people who were there to see Shuggie were not staying for Charles Bradley.

I had seen Charles Bradley at the Aladdin late last year, but he puts on such a great live show that I couldn't justify missing him this time around. I was able to get a pretty good spot in the middle of the Crystal Ballroom, and the crowd was quickly filling up to capacity. It was different band than I had seen the last time except for the bandleader and one of the horn players from Menahan Street Band, but once again the bandleader introduced Charles Bradley before he took the stage. For those of you who haven't seen Bradley live, it is really your only chance to see classic soul that personifies the best qualities from Otis Redding, James Brown and Marvin Gaye. He comes on stage wearing a garish black and gold outfit, soulfully singing his heart out while lamenting lost loves with a burning intensity that just has to be real. He split the performance up into two distinct sets, so this gave me the opportunity to check out one of the three bands I wanted to see who were playing at 11:00

The Dodos- 11:00

I had heard many great things about The Dodos live performance, so I decided to head to Star Theater to check them out. I have to admin that I had higher expectations for this performance, and I was let down. It was much more mellow and had an indie-pop sound that I really wasn't digging. I gave them about 10 minutes before I decided to head across the street to the Roseland in order to catch the end of Godspeed You Black Emperor's performance.

Godspeed You Black Emperor- 10:00

While the performance started at 10:00 this evening, I got there around 11:20. Believe it or not, even with showing up this late, I was able to see them play for about 40 minutes. There were about ten people on stage playing in pitch dark except for an 8 mm sepia-toned movie projected on the screen behind the band. I don't think that I would have been able to endure much more of their performance than I did as the entire band either stared at the floor, or were faced away from the audience as they played their epic dirges for the capacity crowd at the Roseland. I was glad that I checked them out, but I don't think that I will be spending any more money to check them out unless they play a seated venue like the Aladdin.

Sonny and the Sunsets- 12:00

This was the last show of the evening that I was interested in seeing, so I left the Roseland around 12:10, and then got to Bunk Bar in time to catch about half of Sonny's set.  I enjoyed the live performance a lot more than the records I have heard as they are usually lo-fi and don't begin to demonstrate how proficient Sonny is on lead guitar. Many of the songs I heard were upbeat and driving with the whole band looking like they were having the best time of their lives. I would definitely check these guys out again.

Sunday

Neko Case-8:00

I got to the show around 5:30 to meet some friends and check out the opener The Moondoggies, but I really wasn't paying much attention during their set. It sounded like they mainly had a classic rock vibe that evoked a cross between My Morning Jacket and Neil Young. The next band called Pickwick didn't really do anything for me as most of their songs sounded like they were lifted straight off a playlist from a generic Portland radio station.

After enduring the last band, I was ready for Case to come out and blow my mind, and she definitely didn't let me down. Even though she played a set that drew mostly from the new album, she did throw in a couple of classics from Blacklisted and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Case, along with Jon Rauhouse on steel guitar and Kelly Hogan on backing vocals commanded the crowd and infused her stage show with hilarious stage banter between her fellow band members. She played close to an 80 minute set, and at times I felt like I was listening to an angel sing from the heavens as her astonishing voice clearly touched each and every person in the audience. I couldn't think of a more fitting way to close out the festival than to witness the majesty of Neko Case's voice as it filled the open air of downtown Portland.

This closes out my recap of my experience at MusicFest 2013. Be on the lookout for my Halloween mix within the next week or so.

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