Photographers aren't the only End Hits staff that got to go to MusicfestNW this year, but in between all the shows, the heat, and the beer, it's been tough to sit down and really portray what it's been like out there. And I don't even have any pictures!
I also meant to write this up yesterday but didn't because SEE ABOVE. Still, I have managed to see some bands and form opinions on the way they played this weekend so, here goes nothing. This is part one, where I talk about the shows I saw Thursday and Friday, with part two coming later. So who did I see? How did I like it? I'll let you know after the jump.
Like a lot of other people, I went to the massively nostalgic Archers of Loaf show at the Crystal Ballroom. Opening the events was husband and wife Portland duo Viva Voce. I've been a fan of theirs for years now, but I feel like this was the first time I've seen them live. And it was great! Kevin Robinson sat at the drums like some kind of zen rock and roller, complimenting the crowd on their civility. Anita Robinson deftly and effortlessly ran the gamut on her electric axe, playing a bluesy, Southern smitten brand of sleek indie rock. Hats off to both for starting the night on such a high note.
Sebadoh came next, as weirdly balanced and contrasted as ever. Comprised of Dinosaur Jr bassist Lou Barlow and Jason Lowenstein switching on songwriting, singing, and guitars, the set bounced back and forth from Barlow's sublimely sedated indie rock and Lowenstien's abrasive punk stylings. Half a dozen songs of one and then half a dozen songs of the other worked surprisingly well, not as jarring as I remember when I saw the band several years ago, when tensions in the act seemed high and songs appeared more sporadically. This time, Sebadoh was in complete control.
Also, side note: according to member Lou Barlow this show marked the first time that Sebadoh and Archers of Loaf, or as he called them "The Dough and The Loaf," shared the bill at a venue show in, well, ever. And I think that's pretty neat!
Now, on to Archers of Loaf, and it's kind of confession times you guys. Before last week I never heard an Archers of Loaf song. Not that I knew anyways. Maybe they popped up on a mix tape here and there, but the point is I didn't have cool friends until after the 90's so I'm still playing catch up on bands like Slint, or Superchunk, or Archers of Loaf. That said, I studied up on the band prior to the show and I. Am. Hooked. This band simply crafts a rock and roll for a disaffected 90's generation, never really settling for slacker chic or any distinctly dated sounds from the decade. Instead, front man Eric Bachmann and crew lunged headfirst into the world of hard lined riffs, melodic but intense vocals and a straightforward, no nonsense kick-em-in-the-ass sound that is as visceral today as it was 15 years ago. And their headlining set at the Crystal Ballroom confirmed all this to still be true. Suffice to say it was awesome and Archers of Loaf is now on their way to being discovered by a whole new generation of kids, and that's a-ok in my book.
Keeping the theme of rock and roll from Thursday going strong, I saw a couple different acts on Friday, starting with Seattle's BOAT at the Star Theater. This was my first time stepping into the historic venue, newly reopened this year, and it's a fine looking place alright, though the bar tucked in the back is hard to access and all these cocktail tables were sitting around everywhere. I've concluded that this venue is not used to rock shows. Maybe I'm wrong, but they sure didnt seem prepared or what they got on Friday night.
Did you see that photo from yesterday with BOAT playing and some folks throwing confetti in the air? Yea, that happened about 6,347 times during BOAT's 40 minute set. The band had an uber-dedicated throng of fans singing along to every word, lining up beeer bottles on the stage (best quote of the night was a BOAT member saying "it looks like a bowling alley in here") and generally causing a good old fashioned ruckus. The Star Theater was not happy. Security guys came up and told them to stop, sound guys asked the band to ask them to stop, I'm sure threats were made. But, the confetti NEVER stopped flying, it was brilliant. Oh, and BOAT was flipping fantastic too.
After that, I jaunted down to Dante's just in time to see songwriter Alex Zhung Hai, aka Dirty Beaches. With a minimal set up and lo-fi aesthetic, Dirty Beaches can be a pretty polarizing sound. How do I explain it? It's anti-pop. Pre-recorded beats and an utterly dissonant guitar accompany static vocals and screams. Hai seems like the kind of rock spirit, like a Chuck Berry/Nick Cave mindfuck shunning any and all pop sense that could come from his sound. A very surreal musical experience.
Ok, back to the Star Theater and headliner Thee Oh Sees. Now, remember when I said that the Star Theater seemed unprepared for a rock show? Once Thee Oh Sees, San Francisco pyche rockabilly madmen each and every one of them, took the stage all Hell broke loose. Crowds pushed to the front, started to swell, break, swell. It was a full on punk spectacle right there in front of me. Beer started flying around pretty quickly. At first, it was just cans shaking and splattering the good stuff all over everyone, making for a sticky pit of excess. Then cans started flying. I mean entire goddamn Tall Boys just launched into the air, with beer tailing out the end like a jet stream. Security guys were in the mix to, trying to do what I have no idea, just keep some sense of sanity I guess. They did not succeed. Soon enough there was crowd surfing, clothes tossing, cats and dogs living together! Mass Hysteria! I had a blast.
Ok, tomorrow I'll tell you about the fraction of action I saw this weekend at MFNW. To Be Continued...