We talk a lot about Portland's music scene this issue, albeit one that is 20 years old. While interviewing scores of people from 1988, the one consistent comment I heard was that now—with a bustling scene that seduces national acts to relocate here, a secure reputation as a fertile breeding ground for the creative class, and an abundance of both bands and venues—things are better than they have ever been before. So while it remains to be seen if someone 20 years from now will turn the magnifying glass on Portland music circa 2008, it truly does feel like our local music scene is at, or nearing, an apex of sorts. This feeling is most evident over the upcoming glorious three-day stretch of PDX Pop Now!, wherein 48 of our hometown's finest acts perform for free and for fans of all ages.

Run by volunteers (our local music columnist, Cary Clarke, is a board member), the non-profit is now in its fifth year, and PDX Pop Now! has established itself as the high-water mark for local music, one dizzying weekend of endless performers that bind together to form an inspiring musical community. Instead of running through the lengthy list of performers, we asked the bands themselves to tell us about their experiences from the festival over the past few years. In lieu of onstage adventures, our panel of contributors talks about the people's perspective of the festival—stories from the crowd, not the stage. After all, while the performers might get the most attention, PDX Pop Now! exists solely for the fans.

Brian Garvey (Bark Hide and Horn)

Andy [Furgeson] and I moved to Portland right after college in the summer of 2005. Bark Hide and Horn didn't exist yet, and we were still trying to figure out how to play music without our old bandmates from school. PDX Pop Now! that year was essentially our introduction to the music scene, and we were hooked. I remember geekily approaching the Blow after her set, not having enough money to buy her record. She burned me a copy off her Macbook, and sold it for all I had in my wallet, $2. I think we all fell in love. The prospect of playing the festival is quite humbling for us all, especially given how hard it hit us the first time around.

Justin Fowler (Wooden Indian Burial Ground)

My dog died July 29th, 2006, during the festival. Somehow Please Step Out Of The Vehicle talked me into playing with them that night. I went to the festival depressed, shit-faced on wine, and I was pelted in the face by a water balloon and a shoe while playing lap steel. Watching from the audience I vaguely remember Old Time Relijun running around in tighty whities, but it's all a blur after that... but I think Viva Voce killed it.

Lou Thomas (A Weather)

I remember having recently moved to town—almost three years ago—and going to PDX Pop Now!, seeing Please Step Out of the Vehicle and Viva Voce, plus tons of other bands, and just being overwhelmed at how great it was to see all these well-known and lesser-known local bands playing together for free, and for it to be all ages. I was 27 at the time, but I stood there just imagining how great it must be to be a teenager in Portland during PDX Pop Now!, how my hometown sadly lacked any festival like it, and how happy I was to have finally come to Portland, even if only as an old man.

Dhani Rosa (Eskimo and Sons)

PDX Pop Now! is the only thing that happens in Portland every year that every motherfucker goes to. You don't even have to make plans to meet your friends because they're just already there. MusicFestNW is pretty tight, but it costs money, it's spread out over the whole city, and shit is not all ages. Vampire Weekend and Jedi Mind Tricks? What do they have to do with the Northwest? Starfucker, Dragging an Ox through Water, Sandpeople, Andy Combs, and Norfolk and Western? Yes, please.

Emily Katz (Love Menu)

I have stories about friends, lovers, tattoos, and fairytales. Drinks at Produce Row, bike rides, and wearing yellow dresses. About playing at KBOO, singing songs on the sidewalk, waking up late, and staying out later. We are really excited to be playing the fest, I feel like those three days the last few years have marked quintessential moments in my personal history, and I hope that our participation adds to the stories for other people as well.

Shawn Glassford (Starfucker)

PDX Pop Now! 2007 was a very exciting time for me. It's always a special time of the year, being the best all-local, all-ages, always free music festival, but this year was different. I saw so many good local bands play to hundreds of very different, but all smiling, people. One of those bands I'm now a part of. I had been talking to Josh Hodges of—then one-man band—Starfucker about playing music together. PDX Pop Now! was planned to be our first show, but being the socially inept person I am, it took me months to call Josh about playing, and when I finally did, there was no time to get it together. So I went like everyone else does, just to watch. There is such an amazing energy surrounding PDX Pop Now!, and there are a lot of "holy shit" moments that happen as well. The Starfucker set got crazy, and during the last song a full-on mosh pit broke out—I don't think I've seen that since the mid-'90s. It's just so much energy wrapped up into one weekend, it's hard not to get wild and let it all go.

Festival Schedule

Friday, July 25

(Inside Stage) 6:00–6:30: Love Menu
6:40–7:10: The Rainy States
7:20–7:50: Sleep

(Outside Stage)
8:05–8:35: Tu Fawning
8:45–9:15: Guidance Counselor
9:25–9:55: Dykeritz

(Inside Stage)
10:10–10:40: Panther
10:50–11:20: Nick Jaina
11:30–midnight: Devin Phillips Band
12:10–12:40: The Builders and the Butchers

Saturday, July 26

(Outside Stage)
Noon–12:30: The Revisions
12:40–1:10: Chris Robley and the Fear of Heights
1:20–1:50: Swim Swam Swum

(Inside Stage)
2:05–2:35: Y La Bamba
2:45–3:15: The Tenses
3:25–3:55: Andy Combs and the Moth

(Outside Stage)
4:10–4:40: Sweater!
4:50–5:20: Bodhi
5:30–6:00: A Ghost's Face Two Inches from Your Own Face

(Inside Stage)
6:15–6:45: Eskimo and Sons
6:55–7:25: The SubArachnoid Space
7:35–8:05: Reporter

(Outside Stage)
8:20–8:50: Nurses
9:00–9:30: Blind Pilot
9:40–10:10: Living Proof

(Inside Stage)
10:25–10:55: Portland Cello Project
11:05–11:35: Loch Lomond
11:45–12:15: Atole
12:25–12:55: Starfucker

Sunday, July 27

(Outside Stage)
Noon–12:30: Wooden Indian Burial Ground
12:40–1:10: World's Greatest Ghosts
1:20–1:50: Meth Teeth

(Inside Stage)
2:05–2:35: Podington Bear
2:45–3:15: Grouper
3:25–3:55: Mattress

(Outside Stage)
4:10–4:40: Cower
4:50–5:20: Experimental Dental School
5:30–6:00: Bark Hide and Horn

(Inside Stage)
6:15–6:45: A Weather
6:55–7:25: Dragging an Ox through Water
7:35–8:05: JonnyX and the Groadies

(Outside Stage)
8:20–8:50: Pure Country Gold
9:00–9:30: Eat Skull
9:40–10:10: White Fang

(Inside Stage)
10:25–10:55: The Warfield Experience
11:05–11:35: Sandpeople
11:45–12:15: Norfolk and Western
12:25–12:55: New Bloods