Tonight in Music: MusicfestNW, Benjamin Booker, August Alsina & More
MUSICFESTNW: GIRL TALK, PHANTOGRAM, RUN THE JEWELS, FUTURE ISLANDS, MAN MAN, GARDENS AND VILLA, THUNDERCAT, SHY GIRLS, LANDLADY
(Tom McCall Waterfront Park, SW Yamhill & Naito) The changes to MusicfestNW taking effect this year are well documented: Instead of taking place at multiple venues over several days in September, this year's MFNW is a two-day August concert happening at Waterfront Park, and the number of bands performing has been slimmed down from well over 150 to a streamlined 18. (A handful of auxiliary events and shows are also happening in and around the festival; visit musicfestnw.com for full details.) While criticism of the change has been loud—and perhaps justified—it's also an opportunity for Portland to gain something new in its place, and the bill for both days has only a couple of weak patches. I'm excited for it. (I'm also, selfishly, excited about getting a hell of a lot more sleep during Musicfest week.) Tonight's headlined by mash-up artist/frat-party totem Girl Talk, who makes irritating music for people who like to pat themselves on the back for recognizing obvious samples of incredibly popular songs. For a set of real bumpers, though, don't miss Run the Jewels, the duo of El-P and rapper Killer Mike, who's one of the most charismatic emcees out there. This year's MFNW also marks the bittersweet departure of festival director Trevor Solomon, who's been a tremendous force in the Portland music scene and is now taking his talents to Boston. He'll be replaced by Monqui's Matthew McLean, who's no slouch in the booking department. NED LANNAMANN Also, read our article on Landlady.
BENJAMIN BOOKER (early show)
(Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside) Hail, hail the next big thing in soulful rock 'n' roll: Benjamin Booker, a NOLA singer, songwriter, and shredder whose new self-titled album is a furnace blast of fun. This dude has it all—classic guitar riffs and solos, the perfectly raspy voice, a powerful and primitive drummer. He puts it all together in a way that sounds plucked from a mythical 1960s Detroit in which the Funk Brothers and the Stooges merged into one smokin' super-band. Booker's not hurting for attention; he has already played late-night TV shows, signed with rootsy tastemaker ATO Records, and been tapped to open for Jack White. But on Saturday, he'll play a free, early evening patio show at the Doug Fir Lounge. Catch it while you can, because next time Booker comes to town, he'll play somewhere much bigger and tickets will cost a lot more than nothing. The guy is going places. BEN SALMON
AUGUST ALSINA, EASY MCCOY
(Alhambra Theatre, 4811 SE Hawthorne) "Testify," the opening track for August Alsina's debut album, Testimony, starts all kinds of wrong. With maudlin, "woe-is-me" piteousness, the New Orleans singer details a difficult upbringing, and in the process breaks the cardinal rule of making interesting art: conveying a personal experience without attempting to find a universal and worthwhile truth in it. But that's par for the course with a lot of current pop and R&B music (see also: the WTF-shitballs-bananas closing title track of Mariah Carey's recent Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse), and in spite of this "Dear Diary" setback, Alsina is able to transform "Testify" into something extraordinary—a moving, melancholy, modern R&B song that, eventually, reveals his rather remarkable talent. Other than a few further indulgences, the rest of Testimony is equally as compelling, pointing to Alsina as a major new R&B voice. He's already huge, and will only get bigger, and justifiably so. NL
FUTURE ISLANDS, OPERATORS (late show)
(Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside) Those lucky enough to have caught Operators (the new project from Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, and Divine Fits) at the most recent Pickathon festival may still be gently bouncing to their electronic love sounds, and ready to take things to more intimate confines. They're opening for Baltimore's beautifully brooding Future Islands, too: the more, the merrier. MARJORIE SKINNER
FESTICIDE: RABBITS, HONDURAN, DIESTO, TOWERS
(Slabtown, 1033 NW 16th) Read our article on Festicide.
FESTICIDE: NASALROD, TINY KNIVES, TYRANTS
(Club 21, 2035 NE Glisan) Read our article on Festicide.
FESTICIDE: THRONES, SEDAN, DISEMBALLERINA, ACRE
(High Water Mark, 6800 NE MLK) Sometimes it's cathartic to feel sad—especially when the catalyst is bleak, sorrowful music. When just the right tragic notes are woven together into a beautiful and dark tapestry of sound, that swelling in your chest as your heart breaks can be a powerful feeling. On their most recent long-player, Undertaker, Disemballerina have penned seven sweeping, emotional tracks that are as spiritually expansive as they are somber. Without vocals or percussion, the trio still speak volumes, with an arsenal of instruments that includes acoustic guitars, violas, violins, and mandolins. While the sonic equivalent to misery and death may seem like a real downer, it isn't when it's bellowing from talented individuals who have clearly poured their beings into their music—as Disemballerina has. ARIS WALES Also, read our article on Festicide.
TROMBONE SHORTY AND ORLEANS AVENUE, GALACTIC
(Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon) Troy Andrews came by the name Trombone Shorty simply enough: by being devastatingly good at the trombone at a very young age. But it's why he earned worldwide fame with that name that you want to head to the zoo tonight. Trombone Shorty exports the funky heart of New Orleans' famed Tremé neighborhood to the wider world, and forces us to dance unceasingly in the process. DIRK VANDERHART
FRINGE NIGHTS 2014: DR. AMAZON, ALTO!, CONSUMER, LAPSED BAPTIST & MORE
(Habesha, 801 NE Broadway) The tiny bar above the Habesha Ethiopian restaurant has long been a welcome home to experimental performers of all stripes. During this weekend of festival upon festival, Habesha's savvy booker Brandon Nikola and the gents behind Sonic Debris Multimedia celebrate this fact with two nights stuffed with sound. Highlights include Daniel Schultz's Lapsed Baptist, an exploration of his religious beliefs via ear-shredding noise; a collaboration between avant guitarist Doug Theriault and space-jazz trio Stochastic Mettle Union; Consumer's melding of hiphop into Hella-esque speed pop; and the instrumental trio Alto!, which takes the raw elements of Asian and African music and molds them into an awe-inspiring edifice of rhythm and Derek Monypeny's guitar mastery. ROBERT HAM
KAYLEE ROB, JASON LYTLE
(The Waypost, 3120 N Williams) The Waypost is the type of spot that makes all visitors truly feel part of the neighborhood. It's not the most professional stage or the most glorious sound quality, but there's always a community that shows up and the mood is always right—and those latter qualities trump the former in the makings of a good show. Soundtracking the space will be Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, who's got that smooth, nearly breathy vocal styling that's practically the sound of the '90s indie explosion. Sharing the evening is Kaylee Rob (AKA Kevin Robinson), with electronic tail-swaggering beats and soul-filled pop vocal melodies. You're bound to shake your shoulders a bit. ROBIN BACIOR
MONTAVILLA JAZZ FESTIVAL: RICH HALLEY QUARTET, RYAN MEAGHER, BLUE CRANES, TRIO FLUX, & MORE
(Milepost 5, 850 NE 81st) The jazz scene here is a great one, by anyone's reckoning. But it's also one that puts the spotlight on easily digestible acts that go down smooth during the dinner hour. The weekend-long Montavilla Jazz Festival, held inside the Milepost 5 art collective just off NE 82nd, brings the attention to the thriving underground, where Blue Cranes are kings and queen. Curated by the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, this little festival has drawn a wealth of local players and groups including headlining sets by the Cranes and Dave Friesen's trio Circle 3. Surrounding those are sets by Theoretical Planets, the post-bop trio led by drummer George Colligan; the Sun Ra-like sonic wanderings of Optic Nerve Trio; and a set by the PJCE's core sextet in collaboration with local treasure Darrell Grant. RH