AU Beirut Crystal Ballroom Gardens and Villa Imaginary Scoop J. Mascis Jason Isbell and the 400 Units Live Show Review LP Menomena Old 97s Passion Pit Pioneer Courthouse Square Reignwolf Starfucker Tallest Man on Earth The Helio Sequence The Roseland Theatre Those Darlins

Musicfest NW 2012: a perfect way to end the summer

I'm still recovering from the long week of bands, venues, and seemingly endless late-night photo edits, however: I wouldn't change one thing about my stay in Portland. Musicfest NW is the stamp at the end of a summer of festivals and they packed their lineup with some amazing bands. My schedule kept changing up until the day of shows, so I just decided that I was going to see bands I hadn't seen before and that worked out pretty well. The weather was perfect, if not a little on the hot side — but for the last festival before fall, I didn't mind having to stand in the sun for the two or so hours before it set. So, without further ado: here are my highs from the shows I was able to catch during MFNW 2012.

I had to keep it pretty low key for Wednesday. After a day of bus travel and running around after arriving in Portland, I decided to stick to the Crystal Ballroom (my hotel was across the street) and I absolutely made the right choice. LP was brilliant, her voice alone cuts through the room with as much emotion as one could possibly imagine, and in every conceivable way produced one of those amazing, uplifting sets where all you want to do when you get home is listen to the album over and over again.

Headlining the night was Passion Pit, and I thought to myself, what better way to get introduced to this band than to see them live? It was high energy, Michael Angelakos running from one side of the stage to the other; the crowd was phenomenal: jumping, dancing, singing. Passion Pit was the perfect electro-dance heavy-pop band I needed to kickstart me into the fest.

Thursday was the toughest day to decide whom to see. Do I venue hop? Don't I? It was a tough call. I finally decided that after missing every possible chance to see him in Seattle, my only certainty that day was to catch Reignwolf play the Roseland Theater. Every review I read up until this show had one thing in common: that the performance was absolutely mindblowing, and they are all telling the truth. My mind was blown from that first puff of fog from the fog machine to the last guitar solo. I was complete putty in the hands of Reignwolf! And as if it wasn't enough to play drums and guitar simultaneously, he then gives us a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain". Geez!

I stuck to the Roseland to check out the garage rock/punk/pop band Those Darlins.

Showcasing some insane lyrical talent, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit was a good transition from the more punk-y garage rock influence of Those Darlins before heading into the rock of Old 97's

The Old 97's crowd was literally hanging over the barrier as they pounded through the first songs of their set. It was absoluely a party atmosphere, and having only heard maybe a handful of their songs in my time, it was a huge treat to witness this band give everything they had that night. The crowd completely ate it up!

Looking back at my plans, I was probably the most excited for Friday's lineup. I was seeing three of my favorite bands, two of them for the first time, and it was the first night at the Pioneer Courthouse Square mainstage. Gardens & Villa opened the night with their dreamy synth-rock.

Saying that I love Menomena might be an understatement, I listen to Mines at least once a day, so yes, I was extremely excited to see their set. The band played mostly new songs, and it definitely left me anticipating listening to the new album Moms. Also hearing some of my favorites off of Mines left me pretty happy going into the rest of the shows for the night.

I could literally write far too much about how long I have been waiting to see Beirut, so here is the shortened version: Zach Condon's voice is easily the most addicting thing I have ever heard. Add to that the array of horns, various other instruments, and a seamless series of arrangements, and I'm pretty sure the whole crowd was swooning along just as much as me.

I saw Helio Sequence (PS, the only band from the whole week that I had seen before MFNW) in 2008, but thinking back that seems like so long ago. Yet, as I type this listening to their new album Negotiations I am feeling the nostalgia of Friday night blow over me like a ton of bricks. From singing along to every song they played from Hallelujah to dancing around all by myself in the back of the room their show last Friday made my list of best shows I have seen… ever. And yes, I could totally fangirl over Helio Sequence just as much as I fangirl over Beirut.

Saturday was my final day in Portland and the second to the last day of the festival, so naturally I wanted to run around and try to catch as many bands as I could. First up was the horn heavy, experimental rock band AU. Their sound is layered with keys, horns, vocals, synths, and drums, all building in intensity as the set rolled on, creating what can only be described as a pretty addictive sound.

I stuck around at the mainstage to check out an easygoing set from Starfucker before heading to the Roseland Theater.

Saturday was the night that had the triple threat from J. Mascis, Sebadoh, and Dinosaur Jr. and and there was definitely a buzz about the room in anticipation. If there is one person that makes playing guitar look like the easiest thing ever, it's J. Mascis. From his wickedly awesome neon teddy bear shoes to his mellowed-out set of acoustic songs (and the occasional fuzzed out rock selections) it was all a win.

I really wanted to catch The Tallest Man on Earth's sold out show at The Crystal Ballroom and when I got there the place was completely packed. I happened to catch the last couple of songs from Strand of Oaks, a folk band that are currently touring with TTMoE. After 30 minutes of waiting, I was standing in the photo pit as Kristian Matsson walked up on stage, referenced to the crowd, and picked up his guitar. It was at that moment I realized that he had the strongest stage presence of anyone I had seen that week. It was his brand of intensity, coupled with that raspy-clear voice and gut-wrenching lyrics that perfectly ended my stay in Portland, and my last day of the fest.

Thanks, Portland. Can't wait to see you again next year!

{All photos by Beth Crook.}

AU Backspace Beirut Bobby Bare Jr. Crystal Ballroom Doug Fir Gardens and Villa Imaginary Scoop J. Mascis Lake Lemolo LP Mbilly Menomena Mississippi Studios Moonface Passion Pit Pioneer Courthouse Square Reignwolf Tallest Man on Earth The Hawthorne Theatre The Helio Sequence The Melvins The Roseland Theatre Those Darlins Young Turks

Must-see picks for Musicfest NW {9/5 – 9/9}

As you wind down from Bumbershoot weekend next week, don't forget that a mere 48 hours later (yep, we're talking about next Wednesday, folks) there is whole 'nother festival getting underway midweek: Portland's own Musicfest Northwest. Boasting an impressive lineup of both local and national headliners, it's difficult to decide who to see — we feel like we've changed our schedules a million times already! So, pack some walking shoes and check out some of our picks to help keep the venue-hopping as easy as possible. Make sure to check out the MFNW site to get exact set times and to make your own customized schedule.


The first night of the fest is seems decidedly easygoing: open your night with a passion-filled set of powerful vocals from LP before catching the first night of dance-heavy pop at Passion Pit's two-night stint at the Crystal Ballroom. If you are thinking you need something to do before 9pm, head to the Mission Theater and see Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost): A Film about Bobby Bare Jr. at 7pm, then catch the man himself playing the Doug Fir at 10:40pm.

7:00p :: Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost): A Film About Bobby Bare Jr., Mission Theater
9:00p :: LP, Crystal Ballroom
10:00p :: Passion Pit, Crystal Ballroom
10:40p :: Bobby Bare Jr., Doug Fir

Runners up: The Minus 5 {Doug Fir @ 9:00p}, Sloan {Doug Fir @ 11:00p}.


Thusday is really the first full day of shows, and man, is it packed. If you're following our lead, we think there's really no excuse not to miss Reignwolf since he's the first show of the night — those screaming guitar solos and blues-laden vocals are a great way to start! Stick around and hear high-energy punk from Those Darlins before heading up to Mississippi Studios, where you can check out Portland's Mbilly before you are utterly mesmerized by the dreamy pop sounds of Lemolo. That's where we'll be!

7:15p :: Reignwolf, Roseland Theater
8:00p :: Those Darlins, Roseland Theater
9:00p :: Mbilly, Mississippi Studios
10:00p :: Lemolo, Mississippi Studios

Honorable mentions: These United States {9:00p @ Aladdin Theater}, Quasi {10:00p @ Hawthorne Theater}, Old 97's {10:30p @ Roseland Theater}.


The trifecta of seeing Menomena, Beirut, and The Helio Sequence in one night really can't be topped. Menomena and The Helio Sequence are both coming out with new albums in the near future, and Beirut's spectacular 2011 album The Rip Tide is still on heavy rotation — can there be a reason not to go? If there is, we can't find it. Make sure to get to Pioneer Courthouse Square early for Gardens & Villa, who are sure to please with their synthy sounds. If you have a gap in your schedule between 8pm and 11pm, catch the sweet dreamlike sounds of Lake or the latest lineup change-edition of the Melvins, Melvins Lite at Backspace and the Hawthorne Theater respectively.

5:30pm :: Gardens & Villa, Pioneer Courthouse Square
6:30pm :: Menomena, Pioneer Courthouse Square
8:00pm :: Beirut, Pioneer Courthouse Square
9:00pm :: Lake, Backspace
10:30pm :: Melvins Lite, Hawthorne Theater
11:00pm :: The Helio Sequence, Crystal Ballroom

You might want to also make room for: These United States (if you missed 'em the first time) {9p @ Aladdin Theater} and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart {11p, Star Theater}.


Here's our take: kick off the formal start of the weekend with AU and their spacey, multi-instrumental tunes at the mainstage, and then make sure to catch Young Turks for some hardcore rock before heading to the Roseland Theater for J. Mascis and his beautifully constructed guitar melodies. Then, close out your night with Tallest Man on Earth's sparse folky tunes at the Crystal Ballroom before you head to the Doug Fir for some indie rock with Moonface. Pow!

6:00pm :: AU, Pioneer Courthouse Square
8:00pm :: Young Turks, Backspace
9:00pm :: J. Mascis, Roseland Theater
10:30pm :: Tallest Man on Earth, Crystal Ballroom
12:00pm :: Moonface, Doug Fir

See also(s): Girl Talk {8:00p @ Pioneer Courthouse Square}, Typhoon {10:00p @ Aladdin Theater}, Sebadoh {10:00p @ Roseland Theater}, Big Freedia {11:00p, Branx}, Milo Greene {11:00p, Mississippi Studios}, and The Builders and the Butchers {12:00a @ Bunk Bar}.


Finally, an easy night of choices: the only place to be of the last day of the fest is Pioneer Courthouse Square to see Atlas Genius, followed by School of Seven Bells showing off their synth-pop tunes before the final act of the night (and of the fest itself), Silversun Pickups

5:30pm :: Atlas Genius, Pioneer Courthouse Square
6:30pm :: School of Seven Bells, Pioneer Courthouse Square
8:00pm :: Silversun Pickups, Pioneer Courthouse Square

Tickets are still available for purchase, and you can read all about your options here.

We'll see you down in Portland!

Fitz and the Tantrums Florence and the Machine Imaginary Scoop Sharon van Etten Tallest Man on Earth The Head and the Heart The Walkmen Wild Flag

Live at KEXP vol. 7: on sale now!

{Live at KEXP volume 7 is here!}

Welcome to Rocktober, everybody! And what better way to start the month than with a celebration of what makes the Seattle music scene so great? Yep, we're talking about KEXP. The fall pledge drive is on, and it needs your pledge off support!

You can call anytime this week {locals call 206.903.KEXP, toll free is 866.903.KEXP}, log in online and do an electronic pledge, or walk yourself on over to the station and give. There's tons of great thank-you gifts — shirts, totes, lunchbags, 500 Club memberships — nothing is too small to count. Whether you can give five dollars, five dollars a month, five hundred dollars, or five hundred dollars a month, everything makes a difference and everything is appreciated. We've given to the station at varying states of financial gain (and diress), we've been one-time donors and Amplifier Club members, and year after year we remain in good standing in whatever capacity we can, giving our hard-earned money (and time, when we can!) to support a cause that's near and dear to our hearts for so many reasons.

One thing that's particularly exciting about this year's slew of thank-you gifts is the most recent version of Live at KEXP Volume Seven. Since the Live at… series began back in 2005, every release has been good — but none have ever really reached the level of awesome that Volume One came to bring upon our ears. With tracks from bands like the Shins, The Stills, Alexi Murdoch, Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, Snow Patrol, Rilo Kiley, and Ben Gibbard, it quickly went to heavy rotation in our headphones and cars, accompanying us as part of our everyday soundtrack. And this year, both the bands {and sweet design!*} have sent us running to pick up a copy. Check out this track listing!

1. Florence and the Machine – Rabbit Heart
2. My Goodness – C'mon Doll
3. Wire – Moreover
4. Fitz & the Tantrums – Breaking the Chains of Love
5. Mad Rad – Underwater
6. Destroyer – Song for America
7. James Blake – Limit To Your Love
8. Jonsi – Boy Lillikoi
9. Susana Baca – Bendiceme
10. The Walkmen – Juveniles
11. Wild Flag – Romance
12. Capsula – Magnetic Brain
13. Steve Wynn & The Miracle Three – Amphetamine
14. Aurelio – Laru Beya
15. The Head and the Heart – Lost in my Mind
16. The Tallest Man On Earth – A Field of Birds
17. Sharon Van Etten – One Day

If you act now, you can get it with a donation and/or pick it up at selected local retailers. But whichever method you choose, don't wait! Once the drive as over and the copies sell out, it's done for and unavailable.

What are you waiting for? Take a moment and give back a little bit to help the station that gives so much to you.

{*This year's release includes, among other things, some radtacular photography from our friend Christopher Nelson. Nice work, Chris!}

Imaginary Scoop Live Show Review Tallest Man on Earth Ted Leo & the Pharmacists The Thermals

Photo essay: more MFNW! The Thermals, The Tallest Man on Earth, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

The goodness just keeps on coming! Check out these Musicfest Northwest photos from our most excellent imaginary photographers:

The Tallest Man on Earth

The Tallest Man on Earth / by Nate Watters

The Tallest Man on Earth / by Nate Watters

The Thermals

The Thermals / by Bobby McHugh

The Thermals / by Bobby McHugh

Death by Stereo

Death by Stereo / by Nate Watters

Death by Stereo / by Nate Watters

Death by Stereo / by Nate Watters


Wampire / by Bobby McHugh

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists / by Bobby McHugh

Broadway Calls

Broadway Calls / by Nate Watters

{Tallest Man On Earth, Death By Stereo, and Broadway Calls photos courtesy of Nate Watters. Thermals, Wampire, and Ted Leo photos courtesy of Bobby McHugh. As always, you can check out more MFNW photos and the rest of what’s new in the imaginary flickr pool!}


Bobby Bare Jr. Crystal Ballroom Doug Fir Imaginary Scoop Okkervil River On The Road Tallest Man on Earth The Builders and the Butchers The Cave Singers Thee Oh Sees

MFNW recap: the pre-weekend edition, part II — Okkervil River, Tallest Man On Earth, Bobby Bare Jr.

Okkervil River / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Day two at MFNW: also known as Friday, September 10th. With tons of shows all over the city to choose from, we chose to spend our imaginary day with the folks over at KEXP for a series of kick-ass in-studios, and to focus on the highly anticipated Okkervil River / Bobby Bare Jr. and Tallest Man On Earth / Cave Singers sets that night.

Friday morning at the Doug Fir, with Bobby McHugh:

Doug Fir / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Bobby McHugh / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Doug Fir / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Bobby Bare Jr. and his de-lovely band, in-studio for KEXP:

Bobby Bare, Jr. / by Victoria VanBruinisse

The Tallest Man On Earth, in-studio for KEXP:

Doug Fir / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Tallest Man On Earth / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Underslept and over-caffeinated, we took to the Doug Fir for early performances by Bobby Bare Jr., The Tallest Man on Earth, and Thee Oh Sees. BBJ’s big-guitar, Americana-ized indie rock (as in indie.rock ‘n roll) jangled our insides awake, giving us a glimpse of what we could expect at the opening set later that evening over at the Crystal Ballroom. The Tallest Man On Earth’s power mini set — a good six songs or so — followed shortly thereafter with an entire band’s worth of sound, crippling our wide-awake hearts with sad stories and achy chords. And Thee Oh Sees’ jangly, yeller.surfcore antics took us out on a high note — their mega-upbeat songs with a little bit of noise and a little bit of B52’s-esque male / female counterpart vocals had us bouncing out the door looking forward to the rest of the night.

Bobby Bare Jr., live at the Crystal Ballroom:

Bobby Bare, Jr. / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Bobby Bare, Jr. / by Victoria VanBruinisse

By the time the Okkervil River show rolled around, we were coming out of our skin with excitement. Good as it was, Bobby Bare Jr.’s set earlier in the day proved to be only a mild, pared-down morning version of everything he was capable of bringing — as he started up the last song of his pre-OKR set, we were dancing along saddened, hoping that it wasn’t time to end his performance yet. His guitar work was enormous, the songs were fluid and transitioned well from one to the next, and the stage presence of the entire group translated fantastically. According to the chatter around me in the pit, there’s a documentary on BBJ in the works — so fans of his world will definitely want to stay tuned.

Okkervil River’s headlining set at the Crystal Ballroom:

Okkervil River / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Okkervil River / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Okkervil River / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Okkervil River / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Okkervil River / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Will Sheff and company finally took the stage after another twenty minutes or so passed, and proceeded to put forth one of their best performances we’ve seen to date. Happy — and actually enthusiastic — about performing, they had it up at 11 for the whole show, playing songs that were better than any hand-crafted fantasy set list we could have come up with on our own. They opened their slice of the night up with “Black” (a traditional closer / end-of-set song on the 2008 tour) and managed to keep the momentum up for about ninety minutes straight — songs like “Red,” “Plus Ones,” “Lost Coastlines,” “Black Sheep Boy,” “A Girl in Port,” “A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene,” and “Unless It’s Kicks” literally had the room bouncing along and / or standing stick-straight in reverent silence, depending on what the tone called for. It was hands-down the best performance of the weekend — so much so that if we were to see no other shows until rOctober, we would have done so fully satisfied.

The Crystal Ballroom / by Victoria VanBruinisse

There’s so much more to tell about Friday, like the stellar Tallest Man On Earth / Cave Singers set at the Doug Fir, the late-night Builders and the Butchers show, and all the amazingness that went on during David Bazan and Rocky Votolato’s performances on Thursday. You can read all about the latter (and everything else that went on throughout Thursday’s sets) here.

{We’ll have more photos and commentary from Friday — including shots from the Tallest Man On Earth’s Doug Fir nighttime show — up soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, check out the imaginary flickr pool for more of Thursday’s and Friday’s photos.}

Bobby Bare Jr. Crystal Ballroom David Bazan Doug Fir Imaginary Scoop Okkervil River On The Road Rocky Votolato Tallest Man on Earth

MFNW recap: the pre-weekend edition, part I — David Bazan, Rocky Votolato, and more!

David Bazan / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Musicfest, Musicfest Northwest, M-F-N-Dubs, Baby SouthBy — whatever you want to call it, this past weekend’s slew of shows down in Portland were nothing short of an absolute blast. We ran rampant through the quadrants for four days straight, shooting every show we could get our hands on, swooning exponentially more as each night passed. Here’s just a fraction of what went on for the first half of the fest, during Thursday’s and Friday’s sets.

Rocky Votolato at the Doug Fir:

Rocky Votolato / by Victoria VanBruinisse

The big knock-it-out-of-the-park set on Thursday was David Bazan / Rocky Votolato set over at the Doug Fir. After the stage was properly warmed up all day with KEXP in-studios from the likes of the Cave Singers and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Rocky took the spotlight (after what was likely a gorgous set by Joshua Morrison, that we hit town a little too late to catch) and the room over for a good forty minutes, with a set that pleased both rabid forever-fans and fringe-fans alike. There was something almost infectious about his performance, as he surpassed the standard singer/songwriter storyteller vibe and instead delivered each song with a repectful, earnest, homage-y vibe that struck the major chords of our very own indie-lovin’ heartstrings.

The forever-fans sang along gleefully, word-for-word, elbowing each other during standout lines, chatting about summers past and how his songs had composed the very soundtracks that they’d lived by. The newer fans and never-heard-of-hims in attendance couldn’t help but get caught up in all the love, smiling from ear-to-ear at the energy the fans and Rocky seemed to be co-generating, helping to fill up the room with goodness. Much more than just an opening set for Bazan, Rocky Votolato’s slot was a standalone performance in it’s own right, and with endless choices on the dance card that evening, very much worthy of the time given.

David Bazan + Band at the Doug Fir:

David Bazan / by Victoria VanBruinisse

David Bazan / by Victoria VanBruinisse

David Bazan / by Victoria VanBruinisse

David Bazan / by Victoria VanBruinisse

As previously stated, it would seem as though the most recent incarnation of David Bazan (+ Band) can do no wrong. Every set that passes seems to get more cohesive, songs off of the newest album (Curse Your Branches) get better and better with each live listen, and any older, unearthed pre-solo Bazan work gets more polished and evolved-sounding every time the band takes a pass at it. Case in point: seeing something like “When They Really Get To Know You, They Will Run” on a non-Pedro the Lion setlist would invoke a fearful cringe from any number of long-standing PtL fans, as no cover version or reworked lineup could possibly do the original a fair amount of justice. However, it’s appearance on the DB+B setlist brought nothing but waves of joy to the imaginary camp in attendance, especially for those post-touring PtL fans present who thought they’d never hear it performed live in their lifetime.

That solid perfomance, coupled with Bazan’s signature anthematic chord progressions and a packed house, made the DB+B set the best of the night.

condiment heaven / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Thermals, kinda / by Victoria VanBruinisse

toasty / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Low-key mayhem ensued after the Doug Fir set, including (but not limited to) band sightings at one of the many Portland food-cart compounds, and much late-night geek-out-ery about the evening’s performances and everything that was coming up for Friday — most notably, Okkervil River’s headlining set at the Crystal Ballroom. Read all about that (and everything else that went on throughout Friday’s sets) here.

{We’ll have more photos from Thursday — including shots from the Thermals’ Crystal Ballroom show — up soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, check out the imaginary flickr pool for more of Thursday’s and Friday’s photos.}

Bobby Bare Jr. David Bazan Imaginary Scoop Joshua Morrison Laura Veirs Menomena Okkervil River On The Road Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside Tallest Man on Earth The Cave Singers The Decemberists The Head and the Heart The Helio Sequence The National The Thermals The Walkmen

Countdown to Musicfest Northwest in 3… 2…

Technically, you can get your Musicfest Northwest (MFNW) on starting tonight — there will be a few gigs going on around town down in Portland to warm up the masses — but our imaginary coverage will officially begin tomorrow and we can’t hardly wait!  There’s quite a few acts and sorta-showcases that we’re espcially stoked to see… so without further ado, here are some of our picks for the best-of-the-fest shows for the next four days.

Please note: the approximate start times are listed for the first band only and are subject to change — always check your internets before heading out!

Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside
Thursday, 10p @ Berbati’s Pan

[sallie ford and the sound outside]

Having seen and heard a lot about these darlings since their 2009 blip on our Seattle radar, it’s going to be quite a treat to catch them at a hometown show. Full of good ol’ fashioned big-bodied electric sound and a pair of lungs that just won’t quit, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside are as swoon-tastic as it gets!

David Bazan + band / Joshua Morrison
Thursday, 9p @ the Doug Fir

[david bazan / by hot avocados photography]

Does this even need an explanation? Hot on the heels of two stellar performances at Bumbershoot, David Bazan (along with the current installment of his band) have fine tuned their sound to some true indie rock perfection. Achy and anthematic to the core, we’re super-stoked to catch them at a venue like the ‘Fir. Add in local favorite-home-safe Joshua Morrison, and you’ve got a night on your hands to remember.

The Thermals
Thursday, 10:30p @ the Crystal Ballroom

[the thermals]

The Thermals killed Bumbershoot, the new album rules, and we’ll be there with bells on. ’nuff said.

Okkervil River / Bobby Bare, Jr.
Friday, 10p @ the Crystal Ballroom

[okkervil river]

One of those lineups that makes you grateful that the bookers are playing close attention: a headlining set with OKR and a warmup by local favorite Bobby Bare, Jr. sounds like the next best thing since sliced bread. The boys of Okkervil have been hard at work, following up their last album with some amazing work next to the great Roky Erickson, and judging by the sound of the twitterverse, on to the next recording of something beautiful.

The Tallest Man On Earth / The Cave Singers
Friday, 11p @ the Doug Fir

[cave singers / by victoria vanbruinisse]

Talk about a pity party. In the best of ways, we mean. With the sweet, haunted, fill-the-room-up sound that both of these acts generate, we’ll be lucky if anyone is left standing at the end of the night. Gorgeous, powerful, goosebumpy times are a-comin’.

The Decemberists / Laura Veirs
Saturday, 6p @ Pioneer Courthouse Square

[colin meloy / the decemberists / by victoria vanbruinisse]

Well, duh. If you didn’t get to hit the mainstage this past weekend in Seattle, make sure you get yourself over to this show to get your night started right.

The Head and the Heart
Saturday, 9p @ Berbati’s Pan

[the head and the heart / victoria vanbruinisse]

Yay! Seattle, represent! Deemed by Seattle Weekly as “the best band that didn’t exist twelve months ago,” our very own Head and the Heart will be taking Portland by storm on Saturday night. We’re excited to hit the town with them and watch our friends in sister-city PDX take in everything they’ve got to give. It’s gonna be Blissfest 2010, for sure.

Shabazz Palaces / Champagne Champagne / THEESatisfaction
Saturday, 9p @ Jimmy Mak’s

[theesatisfaction / by victoria vanbruinisse]

Another no-brainer. Three fantastic cuts that showcase the best of the PacNW’s specific flavor of, with well-delivered lines and thoughtful beats crafted to match. The perfect antithesis to any one of the achier lineups of the weekend.

Saturday, 11p @ the Crystal Ballroom

[menomena / laura musselman]

Menomena. Crystal Ballroom. Saturday. Be there. (Seriously.)

The National / The Walkmen / Helio Sequence
Sunday, 5p @ Pioneer Courthouse Square

[the walkmen / by victoria vanbruinisse]

Deemed the big headline show of the weekend, we can’t wait to get our elbows into the crowd for this one and all the amazing it has to deliver. Between the solid freakout that the National brings and the feel-it-in-your-back-teeth loud of the Walkmen, we’re pretty sure we might disintegrate on the spot as we close out the ‘Fest with this mega-show.

Phew. That’s a lot of music. Tickets are still available on the MFNW website, where you can also make your own handy-dandy schedule in an attempt to make it to every show on your but-all-of-these-are-a-must-see list! We’ll be splitting ourselves into quadruplets, covering everything we can get our happy hands on, and sending in reports as we’re able.

See you in PDX!

{Big thanks to Laura Musselman for the Menomena photo, and to the TIG flickr pool for the stellar Thermals shot!}

Berbati's Pan Bobby Bare Jr. Crystal Ballroom David Bazan Imaginary Scoop Menomena Okkervil River Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside Tallest Man on Earth The Cave Singers The Decemberists The Thermals The Walkmen Wonder Ballroom

It's time to prefunk! Music Fest Northwest is coming, September 8-12


While everyone is prefunking Bumbershoot, we’d like to take a moment to officially get the prefunk to the prefunk for Music Fest Northwest going. Starting today.

If you’ve never been, MFNW is like a crazier, spread-out-ier Bumbershoot — spanning four days and venues all over town — or a tinier, cleaner SXSW. Minus the industry hoo-ha and power-showcases and seminars. Beginning on Wednesday, September 8th, our sweet sister-city will be hosting a veritable slew of amazing bands all over town. Acts like Okkervil River, Menomena, the Decemberists, the Cave Singers, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, the Thermals, Dave Bazan, Bobby Bare, Jr., the Walkmen, the National, and the Tallest Man On Earth — among many, many others — will be bringing an extended weekend of bliss to Portland for our listening and viewing pleasure.

We’ll be featuring more of the bands we’re excited to see play this year over the next week, and posting our recommendations on which shows we think you’d like to catch, day-by-day. Until then, however, please enjoy the official MFNW commercial — and when that’s done, take a minute to swing over to the MFNW website and get started on your schedule. Tickets (may) still be available by the time this posts — you can check here to see what’s left, although the three-day VIP tickets have already sold out.

Stay tuned for more prefunk!

Avi Buffalo Band of Horses Booka Shade Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Fruit Bats Gorge Amphitheater Laura Marling Live Show Review Local Natives Massive Attack Mayer Hawthorne Miike Snow Mumford and Sons New Pornographers Passion Pit Pavement She and Him Tallest Man on Earth Temper Trap The Middle East The National Vampire Weekend

Weekend recap – Sasquatch! Festival 2010

Every Memorial Day Weekend, scruffy hipsters and hippies alike who lack the cash to drop on a desert jaunt — complete with $5 bottles of water and scorching heat — descend upon the Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA (yes, that’s really the name) for the 3-day Sasquatch! Music Festival.  There are considerably less stages and less big names, but the views are gorge-ous (har har), and you can easily find all of the previous year’s blogworthy acts and at least a couple legendary ones before the weekend is through.  And since this is Washington, the festival organizers provide a free water bottle refill station to save plastic.  And did I mention it’s beautiful out there?

This year my Concert Companion (hereafter known as the CC) and I packed the car full of hoagies, Coronas, yogurt, fiber bars and a nice sturdy tent, and set out Friday night on the 2 1/2-hour trip from Seattle to George.  In the morning we woke up to sunny skies and a slew of young, unwashed, bleary-eyed yet still really attractive festivalgoers.  Everyone was friendly and out to have a good time.  Some entrepreunerial folks set up a grill with hot dogs, tacos and breakfast burritos in preparation for the drunk munchies.  Once you’ve all shared the same lineup of Portapotties, had a few beers, and brushed your teeth together in a makeshift sink, the camaraderie pretty much starts a-flowin’.

And now, here’s a breakdown of noteworthy events, day-by-day…

Laura Marling – I was really curious about the woman who had served as Charlie Fink’s breakup muse on the latest Noah And The Whale album.  She turned out to be a charming 20-year-old (contrary to the brochure which listed her as 17, for some reason) UK singer/songwriter who played mostly acoustic folk tunes, and the audience seemed to enjoy it from their various positions lying on the grass basking in the sun, or clumped up by the stage.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros –  Living in LA I’ve probably overlooked a handful of chances to see these guys, with no good reason.  We stood on the guard rails in front of the soundbooth and watched Alex Ebert (former member of Ima Robot, though you wouldn’t know just by listening to Ed Sharpe) dressed in white and lookin’ as Jesus as ever, traipse around the stage with fellow singer Jade Castrino and 8 other musicians.  First festival high point: the entire crowd bursting out into “Home is wherever I’m with you!”

Mumford & Sons — Lots of people recommended we check out this band, including some of our neighbors with the U-Haul rig next door.  The CC liked the set a lot more than I did, but if you like your folk music with a healthy dose of banjo, here’s a good place to look.  Some of the bluegrass-tinged songs were dancier than others, and lots of people got down with their flip-flopped feet. 

The National – Say what you will about Matt Berninger’s lack of vocal range, but “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is one of the best songs of the year so far.  These New Yorkers’ performance on the main stage was awesome, even though Berninger looked troubled and pained, closing his eyes and gripping the mic stand through every song.  Halfway through the set we realized that the guitarist and bassist were twins! (“Hey, how’d he change his clothes so fast?”)   This was our introduction to the second tier of the pit area, and we were glad to be so close during the terrific performance of “Bloodbuzz” — though it would’ve been cool to have been in the real pit when Berninger walked through the crowd.

Vampire Weekend – No alarms and no surprises here, people!  Not like anyone expected anything different, but the Columbia prepsters delivered a mega-energetic set of new and old material to a pit full of folks frantically dancing and fist pumping.  Unfortunately Ezra Koenig busted out the autotune on “California English,” but the band all but made up for that with singalongs “A-Punk,” “Cousins” and “Walcott.”   I’m not a big fan of their records but this was the most downright balls-to-the-wall fun set (of the ones we made it to) of all 3 days.

SUNDAY, May 30
Local Natives — After waiting in the entry line for half an hour, we sprinted to the Honda Bigfoot Solar Stage to see one of my favorite LA acts.  I’ve been following them since spring 2009 and watching them grow has been amazing.  Apparently everyone else outside of LA has caught on as well, because the huge crowd seemed to know all the words to songs like “Sun Hands,” “Camera Talk,” and “Wide Eyes.”  The 3 and 4-part harmonies were spot-on as always, and I may’ve teared up during “World News” and “Who Knows Who Cares” (dedicated to guitarist Taylor Rice’s girlfriend on her birthday).  3-way tie with The National and Vampire Weekend as my favorite set.

Avi Buffalo — Recent SubPop signees and another LA act — the city really represented this year!  They played on the smaller Yetti Stage and the crowd wasn’t as big as it could’ve been, but they just seemed really happy to be there — ever since breaking out of the Long Beach/LA scene, Avi, Rebecca, Sheridan and Arin have gone around with this endearing bewilderment at their rising success, and totally enjoyed the hell out of the ride.  The girl standing next to me had never been to an Avi show and belted out the words to every song, to her friend’s either dismay or enjoyment, I couldn’t really tell.  There were some awkward tuning pauses in between, but nothing that couldn’t be saved.   The outro to “Remember Last Time” killed, and I’m continually impressed by Avi’s mad guitar skillz. 

The Tallest Man On Earth — Another point of discrepancy for me and the CC.  I’m usually all for the one-guy-with-a-guitar thing if he can command a stage (see: Bon Iver, AA Bondy, Jose Gonzalez, Conor Oberst, and the list goes on), but everything started to sound the same after awhile — that is, up until closer “King Of Spain.”  Kristian Matsson does have one of the most unique voices in folk these days, though.

Pavement — It was his birthday and all, but I’m not sure if Stephen Malkmus was really drunk, or if this was just Pavement being Pavement.  We camped out on the lawn high above the mainstage and kept exchanging “what the hell’s going on??” glances as the band started and stopped, ostensibly out of tune and just not really keeping the set in line.  Massive Attack was up next so we moved down to the pit, and towards the final 3 or 4 songs they seemed to hit their stride, but it didn’t really salvage the performance.

Massive Attack — A few months ago one of my co-workers mentioned Massive Attack, totally taken aback that I wasn’t familiar.  And now I can see why.  They played an hour and a half of trance-inducing music with the best light show of the weekend, and if you were sitting anywhere too far away you wouldn’t be able to see the LED messages scrolling across the board behind the band — everything from celebrity newsbits to political commentary and words of wisdom.  Everyone we talked to that night agreed it was mindblowing.  

Booka Shade (DJ set) — The first 2 nights closed out with “late-night” DJ sets on the Honda Bigfoot Stage following the headlin
ing act; after Massive Attack we joined the huge dance party on the grass for more light show, pumping synths, beach balls like your college graduation and a mass of happy youth getting it all out.  It was like being at a warehouse party, but out in the open air…after having your mind blown by Massive Attack.  Awesome end to the day.

As the weekend progressed the energy grew and the cleanliness quotient dwindled just as quickly — notably, the line for beer at the general store was consistently longer every morning than the line for showers.  The food was pretty much what you’d expect for a weekend festival, except one of the happiest small moments for the CC and I was stumbling upon a pizza stand Monday morning and walking to the grounds with a slice and a coffee.  Perfecto.

MONDAY, June 1
We stayed pretty close to the main stage on Monday, mostly because we were tired and always agreed that if in doubt, just sprawl out on the lawn and take a nap.  This was also the day of the long-awaited 1-2-3-4 punch of Passion Pit, She & Him, Band of Horses and MGMT slated for the 4-8 pm slots.  

Mayer Hawthorne and The County
— I told the CC he might like this Michigan-bred white dude playing soul music.  The band looked sharp in their white suits, and it kind of reminded me of Marvin Berry & The Starlighters (even though they wore blue).  They played a few bars of Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend” before seguing into single “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” (both songs use the same beat).  Overall it sounded as good as the record – no more, no less.  

The Temper Trap — You might know them as that band with that song on the 500 Days Of Summer soundtrack — the part where Tom and Summer meet on the Amtrak to San Diego, wedding montage, and so on.  We came into this set only knowing “Sweet Disposition,” but came out of it with a newfound interest in these Aussies.

Passion Pit — When we finally moseyed into the pit, the party vibe was in full force — Michael Angelakos sang the synthpop dance hits that made these guys a buzz band, while the audience turned into a dancing mob of neon shorts, face paint, beer bottles and fratty Abercrombie-looking dudes pumping their fists and singing along to “The Reeling,” “Make Light” and “Little Secrets.”  Someone brought a huge blow-up whale.  It looked like MTV Spring Break.  Apparently bros love Passion Pit!

She & Him — No one expected this to be epic, but it was upbeat and entertaining and the backing guitarist/bassist/drummer were all solid musicians.  The Chapin Sisters came out on the 2nd or 3rd song and stood awkwardly at stage right, singing backup and hitting a triangle that no one could really hear.  All the predicted comments apply here — Zooey Deschanel was beautiful, though not with the most engaging voice in indie music, and M. Ward is still the effin’ man.  He rocks those shades like no one’s business, too.  Every time he played a solo, or the few times he contributed vocals, the crowd went nuts.  Apparently bros love She & Him!

Band Of Horses — Everyone expected this to be epic.  “Factory” (from the new album) and “No One’s Gonna Love You” were definite set highlights, and then we were all anxiously awaiting “The Funeral.”  Lead singer Ben Bridwell had to pause to grab his pick between verses and choruses, putting a bit of a splinter in the song, but still a strong set.

Stomachs full of hot dogs and fries, we hightailed it out of the festival grounds 2 songs into MGMT’s set — the CC was bent on avoiding the crush of cars we’d encountered Friday night, and we both agreed that we weren’t going to be missing much after 2 songs.  When we got back to the site it was eerily still and quiet like a zombie flick — except instead of the undead there were huge piles of trash bags, a lonely line of Portapotties under the fading sunset, deserted tents in the foreground, the opening line of “Kids” somewhere among the mountains in the distance.  

While there were definitely some artists we didn’t catch due to time constraints — Phantogram, Camera Obscura, New Pornographers, Miike Snow and The Middle East among them — we drove back to Seattle listening to a mix of the best Sasquatch artists, and reveled in another Memorial Day Weekend made good!

Laura Marling (Courtesy: Adam Forslund)


Pavement (Courtesy: Victoria Vanbruinisse for City Arts Magazine)

Tallest Man on Earth (Courtesy: Adam Forslund)


New Pornographers (Courtesy: Adam Forslund)


The Middle East (Courtesy: Victoria Vanbruinisse for City Arts Magazine)


Miike Snow (Courtesy: Adam Forslund)

Fruit Bats (Courtesy: Adam Forslund)


(Courtesy: Victoria Vanbruinisse for City Arts Magazine)

(Courtesy: Victoria Vanbruinisse for City Arts Magazine)

Live Show Review Tallest Man on Earth The Triple Door

The Tallest Man On Earth at the Triple Door

The most obvious thing to say about The Tallest Man on Earth would be that he channels Bob Dylan, as so many others have said before. But to do so would totally dismiss the fact that Kristian Mattson is superbly talented in his own right. As he took the stage alone Tuesday night at the Triple Door, he did so with unassuming self-confidence and immediately burst into his opening song, "I Won't Be Found." Indeed, his voice does have a Dylanesque quality, but it's got more of a laryngal howl than a nasal whine.

The Triple Door was uncharacteristically full for a Monday night, owing to Mattson's prior appearances in Seattle having been so successful. He moved around the stage with an ease that can only come from having constantly performed over the past year. Although there's not a lot of showmanship in his performance, he prowled effortlessly around the stage, playing first to the right then to the left. Before he was finished with his first song, he had the whole audience in his front pocket, me included. I watched the skinny man in rapt adoration throughout his whole set.

He moved from "I Won't Be Found" to a scaled-back, lazier version of "Honey Won't You Let Me In" from the album version, finishing with a little moan. He progressed quickly to the gravelly, country-infused "Shallow Grave," also very unlike the album cut. I guess the difference between Tallest Man live and recorded is that there is no banjo present, only three accoustic guitars laid to his right onstage, each patiently waiting her turn to be played. He is indeed a very talented guitarist.

One of my favorites was up next, "Pistol Dreams". I'm not usually a lyrics person, but this one does get to me a little bit. Mattson has the same effect on me as Iron & Wine in that the lyrics seem particularly vivid. His performance was simple, but hypnotic. The guitar work isn't overly technical but more a vehicle for that throaty, smoky voice. You could see the audience experiencing a big, collective chill as he closed the song.

The Triple Door is a perfect venue for this performer. Seeming perfectly comfortable alone onstage, Mattson exuded a sexy stage presence that was captivating. He finally addressed the audience after finishing "Over the Hills" with a simple "Thanks" although he couldn't be heard over the roar of appreciative "whoops" coming from the crowd. Switching guitars, he began the morose "It Will Follow The Rain" which had a real "Grapes of Wrath" sepia-tone to it, speaking of locust plagues and lonely, desperate campfires. I'm wondering at this point, how does he do it? How does this kid from Sweden emanate such a southern-fried sound and speak to us in America so clearly on a level that belongs more to us than him? Where did he learn this, and how?

Shifting back to the more simple and upbeat "The Gardener", this is The Tallest Man On Earth's most recognizable song. In fact, it's what drew me to this musician in the first place, having heard it on KEXP only last week. Now this song cannot be called anything but "Dylanesque" in it's down-home folkiness. I love the lyrics, which speak of all the murder he has committed to ensure his girl doesn't discover his fraud, and bringing her to dance in the garden which is fertilized by all the bodies he's buried there. Hell yeah. He did quite a bit of stage roaming on this one, really stretching out the finale of the song, to huge crowd response. He followed this by a song that he seemed to enjoy playing quite a bit, as he became much more animated while singing. Not on any studio album, I believe the song is called "A Lie in His Heart" and contained some fast, complex guitar work and perfect twang. I didn't want to be anywhere other than where I was at that moment.

Next up was a haunting and empassioned version of "Where Do My Bluebird Fly" which made me want to be camping, really badly. After another song, The Tallest Man On Earth finally addressed his audience, actually apologizing for talking too little and explaining that he just doesn't ever know what to say, and indicating that it was hard to be so far from home. After an hour of listening to this hoarse country/blues twang, to finally hear a Swedish accent coming from the shy boy with the Elvis-bedhead was very endearing.

He followed this with "Steal Tomorrow" and "King of Spain", showing us more of his crazy talent on guitar with even an element of Tom Waits in his vocals. "King of Spain" is a fantastic song that I wish I could have a recording of, but alas it also isn't on any album. Mattson has a good time with this one, showing no hesitation and ending with a little OTT showmanship, which was nice. The man is beautiful – wild, but restrained.

In a way I found very Swedish, he apologized for his enthusiasm: "That's not a very polite way to say goodbye like that…" and launched into his final song, another memory-maker, with lyrics like "I will sleep just in the glad beneath the wild tree." He ended very graciously to a wild crowd response and promptly left the stage, but quickly returned for our encore after a little sustained hooting from the audience.

Somehow he made one guitar sound like three on the Guthrie-inspired song, which made me sigh wisfully with my chin planted in my hand. We were all totally enraptured. For his final tune, Mattson explained that it wasn't his song and that he "stole it" and proceeded to totally murder "Death Letter" by the White Stripes. He became very involved on this tune, playing with an urgent howl. The audience lost it and even he seemed to become totally swept away by it all, playing with the stage backdrop of twinkling stars and breaking into a huge smile. He thanked us and left the stage. As we left the venue, my friend turned to me and said "That was the best one-man band I've ever seen".