Welcome to the fourth and final installment of our coverage of MusicFestNW 2013!
With a slightly heavy heart, I headed to Pioneer Courthouse Square on Sunday afternoon for the final night of MusicFestNW. After six days of concerts, I was exhausted but slightly sad to see the festival come to an end.
Such maudlin thoughts were quickly banished when Seattle band Pickwick came on stage, however. Pickwick has a distinctive style (I'm pretty sure lead singer Michael Parker may have the same hairdresser as the dude from Motion City Soundtrack) and catchy, bluesy sound that really got the crowd going as they waited for Neko Case to take the stage later that night. Musically, Pickwick has a soulful vibe to them that sounds a lot like if the Cold War Kids "found religion", so to speak. Although I hadn't heard Pickwick prior to MFNW, this show quickly made me a believer - in particular, I can't get enough of "Lady Luck," their collaboration with singer Sharon Van Etten. The band sounded amazing in the 'Square, so I can only imagine how much better they probably sound in a more intimate club-type setting.
Not long after Pickwick finished their set, indie/folk singer Neko Case took to the stage, playing to a packed Pioneer Courthouse Square on the evening of her 43rd birthday. Despite being plagued by frequent monitor problems early in her performance, Neko played a dynamic set that was equal parts sung Americana and stand-up. During one particularly long technical delay, Neko demonstrated her dance moves and talked about stalking Adam Ant around Portland (he was in town that weekend for a show at the Roseland). Throughout the show, she frequently cracked wise about her songs ("This song is about a homicidal picnic, so...") and about visiting Portland ("It's an honor and a privilege to sup upon your fine bacons") - although a lot of her remarks aren't repeatable on a family radio station (or said radio station's live music blog). Towards the end of her show, the crowd turned the tables and broke into a spontaneous rendition of "Happy Birthday," which just goes to show you that Portland's a pretty fine place to spend your birthday.
(She sings! She dances! She tells jokes! She occasionally plays folk music! - Neko Case)
Following Neko Case's concert, some of the most die-hard festival attendees headed over to the Crystal Ballroom for the final show of MusicFestNW, featuring livetronica act Big Gigantic. While making the trek to the Crystal, was pretty easy to tell who had been at the festival all week: almost every green VIP or blue All-Show wristband holder I ran into was an almost comic allegory of fatigue - drenched in sweat, clothes rumpled, and plodding down Burnside with looks of determination on their faces - these were people committed to seeing As Many Shows As Possible.
Once they arrived, however, the dedicated remnant was treated a fittingly epic send-off for MFNW: a super-sweaty, high-energy show featuring electronica beats accompanied by live drums and saxophone jams. Although I don't listen to a lot of EDM, it's hard to argue with it when it's accompanied by a dude wailing on a sax. (I also found it equally hard not to think of the Jon Hamm's "Sexy Saxophone Guy" skit from Saturday Night Live, but maybe that's just me).
And with that, MusicFestNW 2013 drew to a close. Portland had a good run, this year. Some years, the lineup for MusicFestNW is overshadowed Bumbershoot, which wraps up just before the start of MFNW - but this year, Portland held their own with six days of great concerts, great venues, and great people.
Now all we have to do is wait for December 2 Remember, am I right?