We gave Our Town Could Be Your Life columnist Cary Clarke the week off to recover from PDX Pop Now! Filling in for him is Music Editor Ezra Ace Caraeff.
You were there, right? I'd surely hope so. The fifth year of PDX Pop Now! was a grand affair that seized a few Southeast industrial blocks with an inspiring crowd of show-hungry music connoisseurs, 48 unique bands, bicycles locked to every imaginable surface, and even a trio of guerilla performances. It's useless to rank this year's festival against previous incarnations of the free local music event, but if anything, PDX Pop Now! 2008 was the most organized of any previous years. The performers primarily stuck to their assigned set times, schedules were posted everywhere, and the volunteer staff (including Cary Clarke, the man usually behind this column) was wired with embarrassing-looking—yet, I'm sure very efficient—headsets. Plus the attendance, which is impossible to gauge at a free event where the audience comes and goes as they please, was estimated to be in the 800-1,000 person range each night. It was enough to make you damn proud to be a Portlander.
It's hard to point to any one performance from the vast array at the festival—this includes a bombastic hiphop set from Sleep and Josh Martinez, and the stunning beauty that was Tu Fawning's dark cabaret music soundtracking the setting evening sun—but if I was to pick just one band that stood out the most, it would be the buzzing energy of Saturday's set from Blind Pilot. The indie-roots band (who are probably best known for touring via bicycle) swelled to nine members onstage and showed why their buzzed-about recording 3 Rounds and a Sound has shockingly charted on the Billboard charts (#149 on the Top 200 chart, #22 on the Top Independent Albums chart, and #13 on the Top Digital Albums chart) despite being released by small local label Expunged Records. If you want to see what all the chatter is about, the band is joining an impressive local lineup (DoublePlusGood, Boy Eats Drum Machine, Tea for Julie) in celebrating the sixth anniversary of KPSU's That Sound, the excellent radio program hosted by Dave Cusick. So devoted to the cause is Cusick that in his six-year run he has kept the show going despite a move to Canada—where he broadcasted remotely—only recently relocating back to Portland in May. The show is this Friday, August 1, at PSU's the Modern Age (1825 SW Broadway), and is open to all ages.
In other local release news, the Valiant Arms, the new project from Rob Jones of Jealous Butcher Records (you might best know them for their gorgeous thick slabs of vinyl that they release for everyone from the Decemberists to M. Ward, plus their previous decade-plus of releases from various local acts) has just released the bouncy full-length Blue Skies and a Clean Getaway. Their upbeat, guitar-rich sound is a delicate combination of the urgency of early Superchunk with a mighty dose of localized charm. The CD release is this Friday, August 1, at Ground Kontrol (511 NW Couch).