PDX POP NOW!'S 2016 lineup gives us all a lot of reasons to be stoked. As usual, Portland’s premier all-ages festival is treating the audience to a handful of genres. Here are a few bands I’m excited to see, but regardless of music preference, come ready to jam—all three days are stacked with sweet tunes for everybody.
OLD GRAPE GOD
Old Grape God’s slithering, drawling vocals exist somewhere between the more traditional DJ Screw rap formula and a fresh-faced warbling style that favors rhythmic onomatopoeias. Like the heavyweights of the latter genre (Young Thug, Future), OGG uses his voice as a melodic instrument that hypnotizes. But unlike Thugger, OGG has a slam-poet-like articulation that vibes prophetic. With each unexpected pregnant pause we become further enveloped in the words of Old Grape God. Like a slowed-down, vaped-out Gil Scott-Heron equipped with a King Krule vocal range and the charismatic cadence of a hip-hop cult leader, it’s easy to drink the Old Grape God Kool-Aid. Sat 4:40 pm
For a city filled with minimalist coffee shops and rad women who don’t give a fuck, I’m shocked there aren’t more Portland bands like Lithics. Their twangy, blunt guitar playing has a clean-cut neuroticism that, paired with lead singer Aubrey Hornor’s deadpan and disassociated vocals, is uptight but still way cooler than most of us will ever hope to be. Taking a chic approach to art-punk, Hornor sounds like she could be the demure younger sister of one of the Delta 5 girls. Lithics is less angry, tidier, and more focused on simplicity than their proto-punk predecessors—but their sterile, new-new wave is intriguing. Sat 4 pm
Even though the word “gentrification” has entered mainstream Portland rhetoric, the groups affected by it are often glossed over in conversation, along with the city’s historical and contemporary racism. Enter Mic Capes, who’s not just an exquisite rapper and verse writer, but one of the most important artists in town. He refuses to gloss or be glossed. His style is honest and straightforward, his booming voice the perfect transmitter of information many Portlanders don’t want to hear, as he recites lyrics about living in the margins as a person of color in a city known for its whiteness. Constantly featuring and being featured by other Portland rappers and working with a variety of local producers, Mic Capes is consistent, always impressive, and an active and crucial member of Portland’s hip-hop scene. Fri midnight
No matter where one listens to Blowout, visions of cheap beer and brown grass are sure to linger. They’re a summer band: incredibly infectious, catchy, and fun—all things a pop-punk band should be. There’s something to be said for a band that always seems to have a good time, and Blowout oozes positivity. Their charming presence as a live band very much affirms their first EP’s success, and based on their newest single, “Indiana,” off their soon-to-be released debut full-length, No Beer, No Dad, the band will continue to be Portland’s choice pop-punk confection. Sun 1:20 pm
Sleeping Beauties have emerged from somewhere dark, taking time to gnarl between their former musical ventures (the Hunches, Eat Skull, and the Hospitals—all great, angry, and underappreciated local garage rock groups). The result is a beautiful, grungy self-titled album that reeks of a Lower East Side bathroom. The lyrical content is dark to the point of occasional silliness, with topics ranging from meth use to tampons, but the album feels encouraging. Upbeat tracks are amplified by Hart Gledhill’s staccato punk singing that morphs into throaty harmonies on slower songs. Maintaining vocal and personal tension throughout the album, Gledhill and the rest of the dudes seem to be trying to figure some shit out on a personal level, but Sleeping Beauties’ sound is fully realized. Sat 7:20 pm
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