Any self-respecting town these days has a music festival. In Seattle, they have Bumbershoot. In Southern California, they have Coachella. In Austin, they have SXSW. In the Gorge, we have Sasquatch. And here in The City of Roses, we have MusicFestNW (MFNW), Portland's own tribute to all forms of sonic goodness. Over the last six days, 16 Portland venues have played host to over a 160 acts and countless screaming fans.
Obviously, no one can make it to all of those shows, so we're only going to share our highlights from the festival - and even just limiting ourselves to the highlights, there's more than one post's-worth of material here, so stayed tuned throughout the week as we recap our faves from MFNW 2013!
While many MNFW patrons were no doubt waiting for the festival headliners to roll into town later in the week (or attending the non-MFNW Alt-J show at The Crystal Ballroom), Dante's was a sea of wristbands on Tuesday night, as dedicated festival-goers turned out in full force to see some up-and-coming artists.
Local Portland group Summer Cannibals kicked off Dante's portion of MFNW with their own brand of Bridgetown garage rock, and they did so with style. However, while their record boasts surprisingly good vocals, live it was hard to hear vocalist Jessica Boudreaux over the wail of her axe. Still, a solid set from a relatively new Portland band - and they'll be back in town at the Hawthorne Theater on September 20, so you still have a chance to check them out!
Also playing at Dante's on Tuesday was Black Bananas. Fronted by former Royal Trux singer Jennnifer Herrema, their brand of funky psych-rock was a little heavier than what I usually listen to, but the crowd ate it up!
An early highlight of MusicFestNW was definitely was definitely Scottish electropop trio Chvrches (yes, that's Chvrches with a V - deal with it). Chvrches played the MFNW launch party in May, so it was fitting that they would be one of the first headlining acts of the festival itself - and they didn't disappoint. Even in the three months since they were last in town, they've improved quite a bit on the eve of their album release (set to drop September 23) - their sound is tighter, and their already impressive light show has gone from cool to what I heard one concert goer call "almost seizure inducing... but in a good way."
While elfin lead singer Lauren Mayberry may look adorable, don't underestimate her or her band. Chvrches lays down fierce, independent lyrics over wicked tracks from bandmates Iain Cook & Martin Doherty, and Mayberry's vocals have a sweet, lilting quality that can make your heart ache, especially on songs like "Gun" and "Recover."
After hearing Chvrches at The Roseland, I wandered across the street to hear Larry & His Flask and Murder By Death. The two acts are technically from different genres - Larry & His Flask rock a banjo for their brand of folk punk/punk rock (like Central Oregon's answer to Dropkick Murphys or Gogol Bordello), while Bloomington natives Murder By Death's version of indie folk/alt country feature a cellist and vocals that are reminiscent (to me, at least) of Social D's Mike Ness - but on Wednesday night, such academic differences mattered not; the end result was a seamless two-hour spree of sweaty, shirtless, rock-your-face-off goodness.
Check back soon as we continue our recap of the best shows from MusicFestNW!