Thanks to what they call their "carpetbagger image," the gargantuan dead weight of the North by Northwest Music Festival (NXNW) has finally been lifted from Portland's shoulders. According to a press release sent last Tuesday from its parent company, South by Southwest (SXSW), they're searching for another city to host the seven-year-old event, originally scheduled for September 2001. As an excuse for departure, SXSW director Roland Swenson says it "failed to garner the kind of across-the-board support from the music community required to make an event like NXNW succeed." He also cited Willamette Week's desire to sever their sponsorship of the event as the deciding factor to remove NXNW from Portland. Swenson claims that "pressure was mounting from many of the event's detractors, and the Willamette Week was tired of taking the heat." At the same time, though, Swenson states, "Even though we weren't making a profit we continued to do it because there were a lot of people in Portland who supported it."
Now. No one's exactly sure what kind of "heat" the Willamette Week was taking, because their editor, Mark Zusman, refused to answer any questions posed by The Mercury. But according to Swenson, the heat came from disgruntled bands, clubs, and media. He says, "Only last year, Kathleen Wilson in The Stranger called out for NXNW's demise." In response, Stranger Assistant Music Editor Kathleen Wilson says, "That's funny. But if I remember correctly, I've been decrying NXNW's presence for the past six years."
In reality, there was more than enough support for NXNW. Swenson cites NAIL, Music Millennium, Satyricon, and Berbati's Pan as instrumental in its success. They also garnered monetary support from hefty cover charges and advertising from sponsors like Spin and Willamette Week, plus support from other corporate entities. So why are they ditching an entire festival just because Willamette Week canned their sponsorship?
Swenson also decries the Portland music scene for not supporting NXNW. What he neglects to mention is that not only were most NXNW workers volunteers, but NXNW paid participating bands the paltry wage of $30-100. How much more help did they expect?
It appears that instead of being able to take criticism that would have made their festival better, NXNW has chosen to turn it around and blame the people who supported them the most. And with that attitude, we say who needs 'em?