THE SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL: a beast of many shapes, stripes, and substances. Some abhor outdoor music events, but what's not to love? You're outside on a sunny day, with not only a band but also a host of other curios to look at: the crowd, the clouds, the crap that people put into their bodies. It's a Bruegelesque tapestry of humanity, far more invigorating than some dark, crowded club where baseball-hatted bros fart in front of you all night and woo-girls spill their Fireball-and-Red-Bulls down the back of your neck.
Of course, not all festivals are created equal. Some are heavenly and some outright suck. Here's a quick rundown of some of the biggest and best festivals around town (and a couple outside of Portland, too).
This one's the gauntlet. If you can get through four days of Sasquatch!, you can get through anything. The scenery is gorgeous and the bands are by and large pretty great—2015's lineup includes Kendrick Lamar, Ryan Adams, Sleater-Kinney, and Courtney Barnett—so the real trial is enduring nearly 100 consecutive hours surrounded by thousands upon thousands of very fucked-up college kids. (To make things worse, many of them are Canadian.) The Gorge's campsite is a diabolical inferno of lunacy and terror, and the only thing protecting you is your tent's canvas flap, so steel yourself.
It helps a little if you rent an RV with some friends. An RV's metal walls provide a slightly better buffer from the rest of the
Canadians campers, but remember: It's a bad idea to drop deuces in your RV bathroom, so you'll still need to use the Honey Buckets. Better yet? Book a motel room in nearby Vantage, Washington, where you can shower and shit and sleep in peace.
Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA, May 22-25
Geared around electronic music of both the danceable and experimental varieties, WTF is the Burner equivalent of a jam-band hippie fest, only instead of lengthy instrumental funk-bass solos, there are lengthy instrumental squelches and squawks emitting from laptop software. Okay, that's an unfair characterization, but one similarity's for certain: There will be drugs. If that's your thing, knock yourself out. (Not literally. Do not literally do that.) If that's not your thing, WTF's got a ton of yoga and movement classes, so you can get high—the natural way! (OHHHH, you hippies.) Plus, you can still check out sets by the likes of Odesza, Keys N Krates, and Hustle and Drone, and some wicked-sweet lightshows.
Wolf Run Ranch, Dufur, OR, June 19-22
Portland's Best Refreshment got into the music-festival game last year, and this year returns for another round of diverse programming and very affordable lager. 2015's Project Pabst puts legitimately trailblazing acts like the Buzzcocks, TV on the Radio, Against Me!, Run the Jewels, and Blondie on a bill alongside popular favorites such as Weezer and Passion Pit, with some pretty rad up-and-comers thrown in the mix for good measure. Don't miss: Canada's Alvvays, who traffic in pop perfection with songs like "Archie, Marry Me" and the reunion of Terry Six and King Louie playing a set of Exploding Hearts tunes. Bonus! Nighttime club shows from rock 'n' roll legends like Roky Erickson, the Sonics, and the Mummies.
Zidell Yards, Portland, July 17-19
It's too easy to take this all-ages, all-local, totally free music festival for granted. Don't. In its 12th year, PDX Pop Now! has become a Portland summer mainstay, but it's still 100 percent miraculous: three days of local bands performing for free with no ID required. 2015's lineup hasn't been announced yet, but rest assured you'll see some of your favorites alongside something wonderful you've never heard of before.
AudioCinema, Portland, July 24-26
I'll just show my cards right now: Pickathon is magical. I first went in 2008, a little skeptical about what I thought was a stringy-jingy bluegrass fest. How wrong I was, and how wrong you are if you've been ignoring the growing diversity the festival's organizers have embraced over the years. They get all of the best music (this year includes King Tuff, Ty Segall, Langhorne Slim, Viet Cong, and tons more), put it all in the best setting (a bucolic, forest-fringed farm about 20 minutes outside of town), get rid of all the garbage (literally—no single-use items are anywhere to be found), sit back, and let you have the time of your life.
Pickathon is also the best place to see bands that will become your new favorites. Ever heard of Ryley Walker? Leon Bridges? The otherworldly and spectacular Wolf People? You'll see 'em this year at Pickathon, and you'll be obsessed with them for years to come.
Pendarvis Farm, Happy Valley, OR, July 31-Aug 2
It might appear as though Homiefest is trying to give PDX Pop Now! a run for its money, with a stacked bill of Portland-centric bands and an emphasis on community. Actually, the second annual Homiefest is a different fest entirely, as it's basically an out-of-town overnight camping party on a 30-acre farm, with a TON of great music.
Papi Fimbres, man of a thousand bands, is organizing the second Homiefest, which also serves as a farewell of sorts before he embarks on a year abroad in Germany. It's fitting that so many mind-blowing bands are coming together for this—names like Minden, the Ghost Ease, Talkative, and Bitch'n are just scratching the surface—as it sounds like it's going to be a grand high summit of Portland music (and beyond).
Newberg, OR, Aug 8
2014 was the first year of MFNW's new, two-day format at Waterfront Park, a launch that, while initially marked with controversy, turned out to be a pretty fun way to spend a summer's day by the river. Yet it looks like they've even made some improvements for this year, with a third night added, and bands like Belle and Sebastian, Title Fight, and the Tallest Man on Earth gracing the bill. Plus, the whole water bottle thing is behind us now. Let us never speak of it again.
Waterfront Park, Portland, Aug 21-23
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