With two of Sub Pop Records’ most ballyhooed road warriors—King Tuff and Jaill—under the same log cabin-like roof Monday night, the chances that a small weekday crowd would show up with a whimper were put to rest early. With PDX Pop Now! all of 22 hours in the rear-view mirror, faithful fans of sugary, explosive rock converged at Doug Fir to see if they were Tuff enough. (Editor's note: Dave Chappelle was spotted lurking in the corner in between sets.) Before any kind of validation could be approached, however, newish Portland smarm-pop quartet the Memories took the stage.

Full review after the jump!

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the snotty punk rock pedigree of the White Fang contingent of the Memories managed to pull off their sardonic, slow-jam surf-pop to hilarious perfection. Raking in a sizable early-set crowd, the Memories’ half-baked, jangly tunes moved like molasses through a crazy straw, allowing songs about oral sex (“I Know What to Do”), drugs (“Higher”), girls who don’t speak Spanish (“She Don’t Speak Spanish”), girls who return drawings (“Silly Little Picture”), and… oral sex (“Down on You”) to mature—incredibly—into strangely great pop tracks. If the idea is for the band is to be some kind of inside joke for their built-in following, we get it. If it’s just a better way to get laid, it’s pretty fail-proof that way, too. Ultimately, it was a primer for the tongue-in-cheek rock block on tap for the evening.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Jaill brought a decidedly more intricate game to a teeming audience. Jaill’s unbelievably great new album Traps is a sticky stew of manic pop abandon, and wily, lyrical whipcracks of brainy rock. The quintet not only pulled off their remarkable melodic interplay live, but make it look easy to boot. Vocalist/guitarist Vincent Kircher spewed multi-syllabic cadences in and out of crafty rockers like “Everyone’s a Bitch,” “Perfect Ten” and “Ten Teardrops,” all the while conjuring the visage, sneer, and slightly detached attitude of a young Gordon Gano or David Byrne.
Likely the only common thread between Jaill’s slicker, more polished set and those of the Memories and King Tuff was the group’s obvious sense of humor, which eventually won over a crowd growing only more anxious for the evening’s headliner.

Sporting a two-tone football cap, black mesh jersey, and stringy long hair, King Tuff looked every bit the pseudo-dangerous caricature his reputation alludes to. The rest of the band looked like my dad’s friends from a poker party in 1983, with bassist Magic Jake donning a white tanktop, blonde mustache, Dorothy Hamill hairdo, and Macho Man Randy Savage wrist-streamers; their guitarist looked like an extra from Rad. So rarely does an image fit the sound, as King Tuff’s crew barked furiously paced, riff-heavy hard rock with punk rock sass right out of the gate on the excellent “Anthem” from their new self-titled LP. King Tuff (AKA Kyle Thomas) emerged a potent shredder, strangling wild solos out of the neck of his Gibson SG, just within arms reach of a gurgling slam pit.

King Tuff devotees turned Doug Fir’s ordinarily demure dance floor into a disco-ball-pocked punk house, replete with the requisite windmilling of half-full beer bottles, and ill-fated attempts at crowd surfing. Nowhere was this more prevalent than on the goofy rock cut “Keep on Movin’,” a tune so compellingly dorky you can’t help but grin at how brilliant it is. And so I did.