Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MusicFest NW Live Review

MusicFestNW 2010: The Year of the Mustache and Crowdsurfers

I've been to a lot of shows lately, and a lot of hipster shows, but I don't recall seeing this many mustaches in such a short period of time, ever? The crowd surfing was at an all-time high as well. I guess this should be attributed to the youth of the crowds, eager to get as much music as their relatively cheap wristband would allow.

This post represents some highlights and memorable moments, not a review of every band I caught.

Panda Bear

One of the best parts of this show was how loud it was. I've seen drunken MusicfestNW fans completely ruin shows at the same venue (mainly M. Ward a couple years ago) due to lack of interest in the music, and an obsessive interest in getting drunk and bullshitting loudly with their friends. Even the mentality of these drunksters were thrown a curveball by the amazing graphics appearing on the screen behind Panda Bear. It's like watching TV, but with loud mellow melodic tunes, accompanying images of a couple fucking on a ferris wheel and other oddities. I wasn't even on drugs, but found the visuals breathtaking at times.

Panda Bear played two Animal Collective songs from Merriweather Post Pavillion (well, at least part of one song), and another Animal Collective song from their recent EP Fall Be Kind. Panda's "Comfy in Nautica" was easily the song causing the largest smiles, which makes me smile just thinking about it. The new songs off his forthcoming album Tomboy seemed more beat driven. I'm thinking Tomboy will be much different than his 2008 classic Person Pitch, and probably in an amazingly good way.

Wonder Ballroom Staff - Classless/Mentally Challenged/Pricks

Is it believable that the Wonder Ballroom staff would incorrectly turn away half the people waiting in line when the doors opened? It happened.

I showed up early to guarantee entrance. The line was pretty short, only about 20 people in front of me. After waiting for 20 minutes for the doors to officially open, the Wonder Ballroom staff came out and notified everyone that entry with a white (general) wristband would not be allowed. One now ex-patron asked, "since when?" "It's always been like that," was the staff reply. How could I have blatantly misread the MusicFestNW website and overlook this rule?

Since there was less than 100 people there (half already turned away), and the show didn't start for an hour, I took off on foot hoping to find a bus to take me downtown. I had left my car at home knowing I was going to be drinking, so my options getting to Jackpot Records and back were limited. Long story short, it took me a little over an hour to get downtown and back, free Jackpot Records ticket in hand. Upon re-entry, I noticed they were allowing people in with white wristbands. I asked why I was turned away, and was belligerently told, "there was confusion earlier."

Look, I respect the fact you choose to employ workers who are mentally challenged, I even find it admirable to give them such an opportunity. But allowing these same mentally challenged employees to decide who is allowed in is ludicrous.

It's not over; the concept of a stamp at a concert is not new. Typically, when your ticket is torn or scanned, you are offered a stamp, which allows you re-entry. When I went outside for some fresh air after the first act, I was assured by the stamp guy I would get back in with the stamp. Ten minutes later, I walk up to the entrance, flash my stamp, and was pointed to the line. I said, "really, I asked the guy up there before I left, he said the stamp guarantees re-entry. "Well I guess you got lucky then," was the reply, (referring to the lack of line). Yes , luck is definitely on my side this afternoon.

Dude, I get it, you've worked hard in your life to put yourself in a position where you can work the front door of a venue, and be prick to patrons. It boosts your low self esteem, and makes you feel empowered. Since the line ended up being empty, he was basically telling me to walk 30 feet away from the front door, around a couple people smoking cigarettes by a tree, and back the same 30 feet to get in. Should I pat my head and rub my belly while I'm at it? At this point, I'm willing to play dead as well, as long as you pat me on the head and say, "good boy."

I don't think I've ever issued a formal complaint to a business regarding anything, but I felt the need to voice my concern over this experience. I sent an email that night. Do you think they ever replied? Next time you are at the Wonder Ballroom, and you see a relatively tall guy wearing a tee shirt that says, "The Wonder Ballroom Blows" in big block letters on the back, come introduce yourself to me.


The reason I showed up to the Wonder Ballroom so early. I can't say enough good things about this duo. The last time they were through town, I reviewed their performance here. Their show on this evening was a couple songs longer, which made me a bit giddy. You have another chance to see them live Wednesday, October 13th, at the Mississippi Studios. It's only $13, and I guarantee you'll enjoy the show. Just go.

Setlist (I did this from memory after the show, so it might not be 100%, but it's very close):

1. As Far As I Can See
2. Let Me Go
3. Mouthful Of Diamonds
4. Running From the Cops
5. You Are The Ocean
6. Make A Fist (New Song)
7. Turn It Off
8. Bloody Palms
9. All Dried Up
10. When I'm Small

Ra Ra Riot

If a tree falls in the forest, and the lead singer of Ra Ra Riot switched places with Ezra Koenig, would anyone notice? I'm going to keep this rated PG by saying cellist Alexandra Lawn looked like she was "dancing with" her instrument.

The Leaders

Note to guitar player, you were shredding the shit out of that guitar. Internet high five. Do you guys really play at the Double Dribble, or was that a joke?

Major Lazer

Part dance party, part nudity, part stunt, part sexual assault, part gymnastics, part drug induced energy, part sweaty mess, and complete insanity. Diplo ran the music wearing a dapper suit, while cheerleader dude and his dancing partner ran around stage singing, leading chants, and performing acrobatic dance moves, which occasionally included pelvic thrusts, violent sex acts, and a ladder to jump off of just for fun. This was one of the liveliest crowds I've ever seen. It was really tough to find more than two or three people standing still, and I'm including the balcony. I also must congratulate the Roseland for not allowing an extra couple hundred fans over capacity like they've done at MusicFestNW in the past. By the time the show started, they were no longer allowing regular wristband entry, yet the venue was not at capacity. Simply awesome.

I have to give props to the crowd surfer who continually did somersaults back and forth. I've seen some cool crowd surfers, but this guy takes the cake. He must have gotten in eight somersaults before hitting the ground. I also witnessed a rather hilarious exchange between a staff member and a patron who was holding two beers standing on the stairs (leading up to the over 21 balcony). He was asked to move, and when he wouldn't, the Roseland employee grabbed both of the guy's beers throwing them to the ground on the stairs (while our favorite ID checker lady was left to towel up the mess?) I felt a bit bad for the guy having $10 worth of beer yanked from his hand, but seriously, what were you doing there in the first place? Beer is only allowed upstairs. You can't stand on the stairs in a fire-lane with two full beers? It's either up or down, and beers are not allowed down.

One highlight was when "about six" women from the crowd were asked to dance on stage. There were more like 25 half naked sweaty females bumpin', a couple looking way too hofessional to be random audience members. Then there was the scantily dressed heavy-set woman who was immediately picked up my the male cheerleader, with her legs wrapped around his waist. Enter your own stereotypical joke here.


The lead singer doesn't fit the mold of metal front man, looking more like the friendly comedic big guy every knows. Then he started singing, and his intense glare while screaming was enough to insight nightmares. I guess I don't go to enough metal shows anymore, which needs to change, but I thought the 80s hair metal hairdo was no longer in style? The other guitar player and bass player were both rocking the Dave Mustaine flowing mane.

Tallest Man on Earth

The only excuse for missing this free 2:30 p.m. live radio show at the Doug Fir is having a job (with no time off). The Fir was completely full, with a conglomerate of people standing in the stairwell trying to get in. He put on a great performance, as usual, playing two news songs, plus immediate classics, "The Gardner" and "King Of Spain." Another classic "Love Is All" was the opener. His hand slipped off the guitar halfway through the song, leading to him flashing the "shoosh" sign to the crowd, and starting up the song about seven seconds later. It was obviously not planned, since this is one of his more sentimental songs, but he pulled off it off, turning this mistake into a highlight of the show.

He has always been a quick witted character performing live, so this was nothing new. He continually joked about how embarrassing that moment was. He also joked about encouraging the crowd to make noise by saying, "this is live radio, here's your chance." 30 minutes is never enough time to catch Kristian Mattson doing his thing, but it served as enough of a reminder why I wouldn't recommend missing his next show in town. Live review to his spring show in Portland here.

Surfer Blood

While the band looked like a couple nerds and frat boys (and one hippie), I was impressed by the dual percussion and the lead singers talent and stage presence. He may have looked a bit strange constantly swinging his shoulders back and forth like a Disney "It's A Small World," robot, but we're not scoring dance movements here. It's always intriguing seeing a somewhat mellow indie rock band for the first time, and how their performance translates live. What got me is the power behind the vocals, and occasional screams which rarely occurred on their album. His voice is really strong, the type of guy you don't want to live next door to at a cheap apartment.

They finished the set with two of my favorites, "Swim" and an extended version of "Anchorage" with a jam at the end featuring massive reverb, while the rest of the band slowly exited the stage. The song ended with the lead singer/guitar player laying on his back in the middle of the stage still playing the guitar. I'm still a bit curious how he was able to put on such a lively performance while wearing a rather thick jacket?

These guys are apparently pretty big these days. After the show, most of the nearly packed house exited, and the venue was at half capacity for the Black Lips show. I definitely was impressed, and look forward to catching them again in the future.

Morning Teleportation

A messy entertaining set, featuring extensive movements by the band members. I was amazed by the crowd energy, making me wonder if this band is completely blowing up, or if everyone was high as shit thinking they were watching Man Man?

Man Man

I'm not going to even attempt to explain how talented and entertaining this band is, or how ridiculously hot this venue was. I left soaked.

The Gories

One of my favorite sets of the weekend. What a contrast in styles between the two singers, but their energetic guitar playing unified the effort regardless of who was singing. Watching Mick Collins light gray tee shirt gradually turn to sweat covered dark gray throughout the night was a tribute to the effort put forth.

I do wonder about the drummer though. She played the exact same beat for 98% of the show, playing back to back songs without mixing it up once. It was a very remedial beat as well. I guess that's her style? Had she yawned a couple times , it wouldn't have surprised me one bit.

I guess I'm being picky though. Collins and Dan Kroha could have been backed by a flautist with a cow bell, and the show would have been just as great.

The Builders & The Butchers

The B&Bs are just fun live, that's all there is to it. Their songs/lyrics are cool, their antics are cool, they are extremely appreciative of each fan/attendee, and they play well. The best part, no one sounds remotely like the B&Bs. They own their sound. Thanks for playing until 2:30 a.m., that made for the perfect ending to a long day.

The Walkmen

While some vocalists make singing look easy, Hamilton Leithauser looks like he is bench pressing double his weight when pounding out his lyrics. The band's music is pretty mellow, focusing on Hamilton's voice as the life of the party, but it works. While my favorites "The Rat" and "In the New Year" stood out as highlights, their new songs were outstanding, especially "Victory." And it was.

The National

Live review of the Marymoor Park and Pioneer Square shows coming soon. For now, here is their Pioneer Square setlist, closing out MusicFestNW.

1. Runaway
2. Anyone's Ghost
3. Mistaken For Strangers
4. Bloodbuzz Ohio
5. Slow Show
6. Squalor Victoria
7. Afraid of Everyone
8. Available (with extended ending)
9. Conversation 16
10. Apartment Story
11. Abel
12. Daughters of the Soho Riots
13. England
14. Fake Empire


15. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
16. Secret Meeting
17. Mr. November
18. Terrible Love

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