It's been a lifetime since PDX Pop Now! burst forth from its electronic roots—a seemingly harmless email list thread—and grew to a full-blown music festival that captures the fevered pulse of Portland's musical community. Back in 2004, stretching for three long summer days at "Portland's premier all-ages venue the Meow Meow," the festival seemed doomed to be crushed under the weight of its own wishful thinking. There was no evidence that the demand would be there—one day, maybe, but not three—plus nothing illustrates the backward economics of underground music like the words "free" and "all ages." But people came then, and more importantly, they still are coming, more and more every year.
The thousands that have attended PDX Pop Now! have witnessed a near utopian glimpse of every single thing that is good and true about Portland music. It's inspirational to the point of being overwhelming, and as the spotlight on this town's music scene only intensifies on a national—if not global—level, the festival gracefully rolls with the punches, expanding with each passing year.
In the years following PPN!'s humble beginning, the always-evolving music scene (for example, all three of 2004's headliners have since joined Meow Meow in that great local music graveyard in the sky) has used the festival to groom and anoint tomorrow's headliners today. Each year seems to bring a new breakout act, a sort of coming-out party for youthful bands to cross over to bigger and brighter things in front of your very eyes. Last year, Blind Pilot went from "that one bicycle band," to something far greater in the course of their 30-minute set.
Of course, PPN! itself is not immune to change. This year marks a monumental transition for the nonprofit group: Once the dust settles on this year's festival, the final three founding board members (Ross Beach, Greg Borenstein, and Mercury columnist Cary Clarke) will step down from the organization. The last vestiges of the festival's initial development, they anchored the organization, were invaluable components in all aspects of planning, acted as spokesmen, and conducted countless other tasks in the name of PPN!
To depart at the peak of their popularity is not an easy task, as Borenstein explains: "It's definitely scary walking away from a project that I—and many others—have worked so hard on, put so much time into, and watched do so much good. That said, I'm really excited about the people that are staying on and the possible new additions." He adds, "It's not like any of us old board members are moving to Antarctica; we'll still be around to answer questions and help out with advice if they need it. Most of all, I'm excited to see how PDX Pop mutates and improves as the new board members make it their own."