ARE YOU A WELL-ESTABLISHED Portland musician with a new CD and a new band, hunting for exposure and a record label relationship? Have you shown years of dedication to your musical career? Aren't you exactly the sort of artist NXNW is here to help?

Well, yes and no. Joe Blow (not his real name) of the Portland outfit Joe Blow and the Armbands (not his band's real name) related to this reporter how he carefully completed his application form, enclosed glossy band photo and promo-pak, paid the application fee, and then experienced that all-too-Portland feeling of rejection. The NXNW organizing committee felt his music was lacking that certain, special, undefinable whatever-the-hell-it-is-they're- looking-for. Joe and his bandmates sighed, wept, drank, and made plans to go fishing that weekend.

But all was not lost. One of Joe's many fans, Max Feeler (not his real name), the owner of Anonymous Records (no, not real either), invited Joe to play a set at his yearly NXNW-themed band and beer bash. No armbands are required at this event, just a nod from Max. And yet, when Max learned that Joe had not been inducted into the ranks of the Westies, he was shocked. Max told Joe that nobody who had ever played his party wasn't offered a NXNW showcase. He'd see what he could do with a few phone calls.

Days later, Joe Blow and the Armbands were on the NXNW A-list. Apparently, the NXNW committee squinted a little bit harder and found that certain special something after all. Maybe they listened to his CD. At any rate, three more Armbands appearances were booked on the same night, changing Joe Blow's NXNW survival strategy from "hide under bed with drink," to "drive drunk all over town."

Although Joe is as bitter as the rest of us about the arbitrary cruelty of the NXNW selection process, he's also broke, and work is work, and Max is his good friend, and music is still a better job than 24-hour mobile coloscopy (not his real career). He hopes that nobody will get mad at him for talking to reporters.