Sunday, September 7, 2008

MusicFest Northwest 2008!

Well, friends, it has to be said: I punted this year. I didn't buy the MusicFest wrist band. I just had too much else going on this weekend, and couldn't commit. But I did make it out for one show over the weekend, this evening's Kill Rock Stars showcase at Holocene. I'd been poring over the MFNW schedule for a few weeks, and this was one of the shows that I really had my eye on, and as it turns out, the only one I attended. First up were Horse Feathers:

Horse Feathers produce the sort of indie folk that works well as background music for the first time you invite that girl you're into back to your house to cook dinner for her. It could even serve as background music later on in the evening... Sort of like Iron & Wine, except that Iron & Wine actually stands on its own merits in situations that don't involve cooking or sex. A little harsh? Maybe... but while Horse Feathers were pleasant enough, they weren't exactly working the crowd. Not tonight, anyway.

Next up was Panther (check out the mesmerizing Rob McConnaughy directed video for "You Don't Want Yr Nails Done" here; my colleague Richard is friends with the people who made the cardboard props, and is currently in possession of the cardboard laptop). Also known as Charlie Salas-Humara (singer, guitarist, powerbook pilot) and Joe Faustin Kelly (drummer), Panther serve up a sort of weirdo performance art madness - somewhat akin to Yacht - that really has to be experienced live. And they rocked it pretty hard tonight. Here's a shot of Salas-Humara, on bended knee, dealing with a microphone stand failure:

It's difficult to tell from the photo, but that wall behind them is actually white. Next up were the Shaky Hands. I don't really know what to say about these guys. They've been called Portland's greatest rock band, by the Mercury I believe, but I could have that wrong. At any rate, I'm not buying it. Don't get me wrong, they're a good band, but Portland's musical pool is pretty deep these days, and there are plenty of bands in town that have it all over the Shaky Hands. A couple posts back, I heralded Tango Alpha Tango as (possibly) Portland's best band. That's my story and I'm sticking to it...

The evening's headliners were Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, whose video I posted up top. This band, along with Panther, was the reason I was at Holocene this evening. A couple of friends of mine caught them a while back and tipped me off to 'em. I've been getting a lot of mileage out of their CD We Brave Bee Stings and All (which is nothing short of astounding - see the Pitchfork review here) in the past few weeks, and was really looking forward to seeing 'em live. Did they measure up? Unfortunately, no, for one reason: they were missing one of their members. Given that the bass player and drummer remained, the missing member would presumably be Frank Stewart, who's credited in their Wikipedia article as lead guitarist and producer. Guitar and banjo parts were conspicuously absent throughout the set, and while the three of them did their best to carry the load on their own, well, you just can't fake a missing limb. All of this of course begs the question, what happened to Frank? Did he die? Did he go back to school? Did he resign to spend time with his family like so many in the Bush administration? Who knows... Was I disappointed? Well, I hesitate to say yes. I'm more than willing to give these guys a second chance, but only once they've worked out their line-up issues.

So that was my MusicFest experience for this year, what there was of it, anyway. To those of you here in Portland, I hope you got out and saw more of it than I did. Hopefully, next year I'll be able to devote myself to it a little more fully and give a proper report.

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