Thoughts From Last Night...

Posts from May 2014

Sasquatch 2014 ::: Gorge Amphitheatre
Sasquatch Music Festival is the ultimate NW Music Festival. Several genres of music, performed on five stages within 3 days. The main Sasquatch stage, built seemingly upon a canvas of painted scenery, which in fact is just the very real, very beautiful Gorge of George, Washington.  The combination of the nature and the coverage of so many different types of music make this festival one for every human to enjoy.  Below are some of the acts I believed to be highlights of my 2014 Sasquatch Music Festival. I wish it was humanly possible to see and hear each band and artist perform. However, I suppose that’s the beauty of a festival—every individual has a unique experience to share.

KONGOS | The Kongos brothers gave the crowd a joyful set before transitioning into what most didn’t expect -- a beat-bumping performance from their respected friend Moe’z Art, who rapped over their instrumental mix to Come Together by The Beatles and Nuthin’ But A G Thang by Dr. Dre. The band transitioned back to their more predictable style, but the crowd’s energy level stayed high as they played Come With Me Now

THE NAKED AND FAMOUS | Being at Sasquatch stage level of the amphitheater (or as some refer to as the pit) for this performance I got to observe the chemistry the five band mates had together. Although they were clad in all black, The Naked and Famous colored the stage with their excitement of performing for a full main stage crowd. 

FOALS | True to the electric and interactive nature of their performances, lead man Yannis Philippakis crowd surfed, electric guitar in hand while he and his band continued to play their set on Sasquatch on the first day. The band covered songs from all albums, including Inhaler and My Number.

FOSTER THE PEOPLE | Foster The People delivered a high energy sunset performance on the Sasquatch stage, playing majority of their Supermodel album, along with Houdini, a clear audience favorite. It was hard to tell if the crowd was feeding off the band’s energy, or the band was feeding off the crowd’s, but the vibe was incredible all around the amphitheater.

FIRST AID KIT | This was folk music done so right. These ladies brought a crowd-pleasing, soothing energy to Sasquatch. The two sisters performed their original songs, including tracks from their new album Stay Gold, along with covers of Paul Simon and Johnny Cash on the main stage. It was a perfect vibe for a mid-afternoon on the hill. Their voices complimented the vast Gorge scenery in a way that was enchanting.

CITY AND COLOUR | This was also an awesome set for sitting on the hill during the day time, looking outwards to the gorgeous view. Sasquatch attracts a large amount of people from Canada, and being a Canadian band, it seemed to me that the crowd consisted of many fans from the home land. As I looked around, many sung along to Hello, I’m In Delaware.

WASHED OUT | Performing on the Bigfoot stage on the second day, Washed Out played All I Know, a harmonious song that was placed beautifully in their set at so close to sundown. This set turned out to be one of the most buzzed-about of the weekend.

M.I.A. | It was fun seeing M.I.A. live, since she tours so infrequently. As to be expected, M.I.A. brought the fire performing favorites Paper Planes (which she cut with Lorde’s Royals) Bad Girls, Galang, and Boyz, all the while two dancers powerfully danced along-side her on stage. Her colorful lightshow was wonderfully stimulating, in view of the Gorge’s late-sunset canvas.

BANKS | What an utterly captivating performance by this woman. Her voice is alluring and sultry, and even more beautiful than the artist herself. Performing This Is What It Feels Like, Goddess, and her acoustic rendition of Aaliyah’s early ‘90s R&B hit Are U That Somebody?, this performance was one I stumbled on by chance, and turned out to be a highlight of my festival experience. 

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Foster The People :: Roseland Theater :: 05.22.14
These are the times that try men's souls. Or rather last night was one of those times - when Portlanders were forced to choose between Foster The People at the Roseland Theater and the Foals / Cage The Elephant double-header at Crystal Ballroom. That said, by all accounts, it doesn't sound like there was anyone that regretted being at the Crystal... and I can speak with certainty that there weren't any cases of concert-goers' remorse at the Roseland, either.

Following her recent appearance in support of Broods, Meg Myers returned to a Portland stage for the second time in as many weeks. Clad entirely in black - along with her entire band - Meg presented a slightly more somber, reigned-in appearance than she did at Mississippi Studios, but her singing was no less intense. After rocking out through songs like "Adelaide" and her most recent single, "Desire" (which prompted a concert-goer next to me to remark, "Uh... this song sounds like a threat. But I like it."), the singer ended her set with a howling rendition of "Heart Heart Head."

I've seen a handful of bands that have enthusiastic followings - Lorde, Chvrches, even Foster The People in a more intimate setting like Doug Fir. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer power and energy of the sold-out crowd that packed into the Roseland Theater to see Mark Foster and the gang on Thursday night. When the group started the show off with "Miss You", they were met with a deafening cheer, and the noise level never dipped below a dull roar for the entirety of the show. Although the band saved most of their more iconic songs for the second half of their set ("Coming of Age", "Houdini", "Pumped Up Kicks" and "Helena Beat" all came in relatively short order, at the end), it didn't matter, because the crowd seemed to know every song by heart.

Although the band is supremely talented as a whole, much of Foster The People's crowd appeal comes from lead singer Mark Foster's knack for showmanship and raw charisma. Mark has arguably become the Justin Timberlake of indie rock, and he's a fairly reflective guy, as well. Shortly before launching into the last song of the night ("Don't Stop"), he paused to share a final thought with the crowd: "The enemy of our generation is isolation, and apathy is its friend." Pretty deep stuff, there - but fortunately for the crowd at the Roseland, neither isolation nor apathy were to be found, that evening.

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Broods :: Mississippi Studios :: 05.11.14
Misssissippi Studios played host to an impressive showcase of artists on Sunday night as Holiday Friends, Meg Myers, and Broods packed into the North Portland venue for the most recent installment in 94/7’s “I Saw Them When” concert series.

Much like Hustle & Drone last week, Astoria band Holiday Friends is another PetAid alumni who has gone on fame and fortune as an I Saw Them When opener... and much like Hustle & Drone, these guys did not disappoint, either. Combining crisp vocals with catchy hooks and innovative percussion, the band gave an impressive performance that served as an apt reminder of why they're a consistent fixture at 94/7 shows.

Second opener Meg Myers' performance was equally impressive. It was also a little scary. The Los Angeles singer-songwriter has a magnetic presence and a powerful voice that evokes comparisons to Fiona Apple or Nico Vega's Aja Volkman. On stage, though, she sings with an intensity that occasionally borders on frightening - howling into the mic, rolling her eyes in the back of her head, and staring unblinkingly into the crowd for long stretches of time.

If there's one word that I'd use to describe New Zealand duo Broods, I think "enrapturing" would be most apt. There are many bands that boast enthusiastic crowds at their shows (we recently talked about how impressive the crowd response was at The Colourist and Chvrches), but I've never seen a band with the capacity to create instant fans the way Broods does. Quite a few people I ran into on Sunday hadn't heard more than a couple of the duo's songs at the start of the evening - but singer Georgia Nott's piercing voice and energetic stage presence quickly made believers out of the crowd. Although the Kiwi duo had received a warm reception at the start of the show, by the time they started the first few bars of "Bridges" they were greeted a roar from the crowd that was almost deafening. 

In "Bridges", Georgia poses the question, "Can we forget about it?" If you were at Mississippi Studios on Sunday night, I don't think it's possible - nor would we want to.

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Lo-Fang :: Crystal Ballroom :: 05.08.14
The latest installment in 94/7’s “I Saw Them When” concert series started off on Thursday night with a great opening set by local artists Hustle and Drone. The band, fronted by ex-Portugal The Man keyboardist Ryan Neighbors, has come a long way since they played PetAid last summer. Although they were fun to listen to back then, over the past ten months, the band has become a frequent (and increasingly in-demand) fixture on Portland’s small venue circuit, honing their combination of tight electronica beats and slick harmonies into a polished act that seems ready for national exposure.

Not to be outdone, Matthew Hemerlein aka Lo-Fang (sometimes stylized as L0-Fang), started off his set with an improvised live-looping number that featured all three of the instruments he plays – violin, cello, and guitar. This initial confluence of instruments is perhaps an apt metaphor for Lo-Fang’s overall sound, which plays electronic influences against Hemerlein’s classical training and mixes moody, sometimes brooding lyrics with dreamy, ethereal vocals. There were also several classical-meets-Johnny-Cash moments, when Hemerlein swaggered around on-stage, playing his violin with his guitar slung over his back. There were several surprises throughout the set, as well – mid-way through the show, musician/entertainer Reggie Watts joined Lo-Fang onstage for a loop-heavy duet, and at the end of the night, Hemerlein put on a bathrobe to sing “When We’re Fire” before launching into an unexpected and hilariously entertaining cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony.”

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Modest Mouse :: Crystal Ballroom :: 05.02.14

Two epic but very different series came to an end on Friday night, as Modest Mouse ended their two-night concert set at the Crystal Ballroom amdist the final playoff game of the Portland Trailblazers' match-up against the Houston Rockets.

After an opening set by post-hardcore band Survival Knife (a talented act, but perhaps a slightly unusual choice given the crowd), Modest Mouse came on stage with as much fanfare and crowd adulation as you would expect at a sold-out show featuring a band whose next album has been eagerly awaited by fans since George W was still in office. But there was also a certain degree of uncertainty in the air - would they preview new material? Has time robbed them of their edge? You never really know until the lights dim.

I had never seen Modest Mouse live, before, so I have nothing to gauge Friday night's performance against, but I'm told by veteran fans that it was pretty much par for the course. To the uninitiated, however, that course can seem pretty unusual, at times.

The band played several of their most recognizable songs (including "Ocean Breathes Salty" and "Dashboard") right out of the gate, leaving the remainder of their two hour show (punctuated by weird, rambling asides from Isaac Brock and a twenty minute interval before the encore) devoted to their less well-known - and sometimes less accessible - material. For the fans packed up at the front, every song was a crowd favorite, but for more casual listeners milling in the back, the concert had some slow moments, and you could see a lot of concert-goers surreptitiously checking the Blazers score on their phones. (In fact, when news of their last-second win hit social media, a ripple of cheers went through the back half of the Crystal, temporarily threatening to drown out the music.)

While Modest Mouse's "comeback" may not have had the same populist appeal as the Blazers win, for fans of either group, Friday night definitely proved itself to be a long-awaited victory.

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