Welcome to the third installment of our coverage of MusicFestNW 2013!
What you do at a music festival says a lot about you - do you only see headliners? Do you catch every obscure act out there? Does the music take a back seat to parties and beer tastings?
For MusicFestNW attendees, these differing priorities became most evident on Saturday, as the Monday-through-Friday crowd finally found themselves with an entire day at their disposal. Some of the people I met during the course of the festival parked themselves at the Doug Fir to catch daytime sets from bands like Titus Andronicus, The Dodos, and The Thermals. Others saved their energy for the evening shows. And at least one or two people I had met earlier in the week never made it further than the day parties at Mississippi Studios or Bunk Bar.
Given the focus of this blog, this writer decided to forgo the day parties in favor of making as timely an appearance as possible at Pioneer Courthouse Square to catch Saturday's headliner show with Thao & The Get Down Stay Down and The Head and The Heart.
(Thao & The Get Down Stay Down)
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down is not a band with an easily-defined style, although if I had to try, the closest description I can come up with would be "Asian Banjo Folk." While Thao Nguyen's music and lyrics could readily be categorized as folk music, her style of banjo-playing makes you think more of a Chinese zither than it does of the dueling banjos in Deliverance. Regardless of how you categorize them, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down delivered a rousing set to Pioneer Courthouse Square on Saturday as they opened for The Head and the Heart, and the crowd seemed to enjoy their music, even if they were a little bit unsure as to what exactly they were hearing.
(The Head and the Heart)
As dusk fell on Portland for Day Five of MFNW, The Head and the Heart took to the stage for what was arguably the best headliner show of the week. While there's nothing particularly groundbreaking about the Seattle band's folky sound, their music has a certain guilelessness that is rare in modern music. As the crowd swayed and sang along to songs like "Down In the Valley" and "Rivers and Roads", it was easy to see the band's appeal. One concert-goer told me that although she had seen the band play just one week earlier at the Gorge Amphitheater, when she found out they were playing at MFNW, she jumped on the opportunity to see them again. If you ever have the opportunity to hear them sing "Lost in My Mind" (one of their best known songs) live, you might find yourself looking up their future tour dates, yourself.
So while you aren't likely to hear much funk or R&B on 94/7, I included Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires in this article for three reasons: first, his music is AMAZING; second, few men in America can rock a jumpsuit or a purple pantsuit the way Charles Bradley can; and lastly, because acts that we do hear on alternative radio owe a huge debt to this genre - bands like Fitz & The Tantrums, Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and even Lauren Hill have all been heavily influenced by traditional soul and R&B. And few artists exemplify the legacy of Motown better than Daptone Records artist Charles Bradley, who played to a packed house at the Crystal Ballroom on Saturday night. With soulful ballads like "Strictly Reserved for You" and barn-burners like "The World is Going Up in the Flames," Mr. Bradley had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
Check back soon for the final installment of our coverage of MusicFestNW 2013!