I have mixed feelings about this newly wedded couple.
On one hand, I had a blast. On the other hand, it reminded me of my buddy who recently got divorced. His marriage was based on convenience and mismatched. In the end, I wish they stayed separate, so I could still be friends with both of them, and I could have continued to partied hard with my buddy.
▶ Unlike MusicfestNW last year, this festival was 21-and-over so no teenagers on molly
▶ The free ‘80s arcade, quite possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to a music festival
▶ PBR tall boys were a dollar cheaper than last year’s Project Pabst—only 3 bucks!
▶ Unlike MusicfestNW last year, security wasn’t ravenously sniffing out pot smoke and ripping joints out of people’s mouths and stomping them out (probably because there were no children at this year’s festival)
▶ Free large samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
▶ A decent lineup, albeit at times endearingly confusing
▶ The current Waterfront Park location had less places to take breaks from the crowds than Project Pabst’s location last year, Zidell Yards
▶ The location was also narrow, so it felt more like cattle being herded from one end of the park to the other after each act
▶ Unlike Project Pabst the past two years, security constantly asked people to stop smoking (c’mon, it’s a music festival!)
▶ Here’s the big one: Portland now only has one large popular music festival each summer, and even though I personally prefer to party without the fear of blowing smoke in a baby’s face, it's only accessible to those 21-and-over
After abandoning the multi-venue model, this year MusicfestNW joined forces with Project Pabst to form a single, large, weekend music festival on August 27 and 28. This means less competition, less music, less venues and less summer fun. On the upside, MusicfestNW kept a majority of the good aspects from Project Pabst. Maybe I’m just a spoiled rotten Portlander.
Anyhoo, here's what went down on day one—by Ollie Collins.
This guy has more energy than a black labrador with the mind of a chihuahua. Whipping some sick kung fu and circling torso dance moves with a huge grin, how can you not enjoy an Andrew W.K. show?
The audience was doing one of two things: thrashing or smiling. Like the kind of smile you make when you see an over-excited kid and you remember how you used to be like that—all stupid and naive, but awesomely happy. “This next song, I want you to go nuts. You’ve never let me down, Portland!” Andrew W.K. shouted before going into his closing song “Party Hard.” And in the middle of the day on the waterfront, Portlanders refused to let him down once again.
I was originally stoked to see this rapper, as I have partied and danced to a good couple of his songs (“Shabba” and “Hungry Ham”); however, A$AP Ferg's live show lacked the creativity and anecdotal nature of these two tracks. The performance was flat and cliché. For instance, the recurring gunshot sample throughout the show—Ferg is not Public Enemy, and this is not 1991.
Also, I’m exhausted with rappers relying on lyrics that talk about having sex with other people’s partners. I just don’t get it. It’s boring, overdone and I don’t understand how the audience relates to it or wants to listen to it. Unfortunately, 80 percent of his performed songs relied solely on this recurring motif. But, it was drop dead hilarious when the crowd of 23-year-old girls next to me sang along to his lyrics, on repeat: “I fucked your bitch! I fucked your bitch! She suck my dick! She suck my dick!” Sometimes I feel like rappers are more like clowns these days, along with some of their fans.
Undoubtedly, hands down, the best show of the day was Portland’s very own Starfucker. Ever since I saw Starfucker at Holocene in 2008, their shows have only gotten better with more theatrics and thematic energy, and this show was no different. A throng of astronauts in full spacesuits and helmets came out on stage first—the backup dancers. Then, wearing spacesuits without helmets, the band took the stage to man each of their stations. After that, the Portland waterfront became a spaceship with frontman Josh Hodges at the helm. There is simply no other band in the city that sums up all of the emotions and themes of Portland: life, death, love, humor, philosophy, space and dance, dance, dance. It was the highlight of the 2016 summer to see Starfucker perform in Portland for the first time in years.
After all the blow-up animals and clown-shaped beach balls, after all of the confetti cannons, an astronaut dancer got on top of a giant flamingo blow-up raft and crowd surfed the audience as if it was an intergalactic beach party. Starfucker performed songs from every single one of their albums with high energy throughout the entire show. There is only one thing left for them to do—move back to Portland and resume their role as our generation’s electropop space captains.
At 47 years old, Ice Cube was the strongest rapper at Project Pabst, especially alongside his rustier N.W.A cohorts MC Ren and DJ Yella who joined him for a throwback set. Also, Ice Cube closed with the best, and most obvious, song choice, “It Was A Good Day.” With images of a Lakers jersey (Kobe specifically, on his son O'Shea Jackson Jr.), a Raiders hat, DJ Yella decked out in L.A. Rams gear, screen projections of beaches and downtown L.A., it made me nostalgic for a state I've never lived in.
Who’s Duran Duran? I remember the name and I’m sure I’ve heard their singles on the radio, but who are they? All I’ve heard about them is from Gen Xers: “Ice Cube and Duran Duran playing together? Wow, that’s crazy!” As someone who grew up with Ice Cube’s Westside Connection, I was interested in the dichotomy. Employing all of the elements of the ‘80s that I missed, like asking the audience to “make the stars come out” by holding up their lighters (now phones) and blasting the saxophone breakdowns, they finally got to a song I kind of remember: ”Rio.”
Last year on the first day of Project Pabst for the closing act, Captain Pabst engaged the Borg enclaves for Blondie. This year, he gave us Duran Duran’s British crumpet to Ice Cube’s glock. Thank you Captain, for not only bridging the gap between Gen Xers and Millennials so we don’t have children running around the festival, but also for having a good sense of humor.
After a hot and raucous Saturday filled with dance parties, hip-hop, soul shaking, and ‘80s legends, Sunday’s rock-centric lineup was poised to unleash the six strings—and it did just that. Day two by Roddy Jasa.
Those that weren’t too hungover from the night before braved the tolerable heat and re-entered the grounds through the wide-mouth can in the early afternoon to catch some lively punk rock by Wisconsin-based Tenement and Nashville’s heavily buzzed about Diarrhea Planet. As most of the ticketholders were slowly streaming in, the four guitarists for Diarrhea Planet were busy blitzing attendees with heavy riffs and crunchy power pop. There were plenty of power chords, and if you made eye contact at the right time, you could have sworn that one of the two dozen guitar solos was just for you.
Hop Along and Sheer Mag
In between the thrashing of punks, the crowds steadily grew and the aura turned from shred to shrill as back-to-back bands boasted female leads with piercing vocals. Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan gave off a Courtney Love-esque vibe as she spit poetic lyrics with brute force while her band rattled eardrums, and Sheer Mag’s Christina Halladay cast demons out with earsplitting legitimacy. If you weren’t too busy cowering in the shade on the sidelines you were treated to an all out exorcism of bleeding passion.
Opening up their set with some fresh foliage and one of their more aggressive tracks, “Ducking & Dodging,” Parquet Courts came out with a bang and proved once again why they are the new frontrunners in the most recent post-punk reemergence. Track after track, Andrew Savage’s voice vented frustration while being swarmed by angular riffs and clever structuring. With a handful of incredible albums filled with intellectual ramblings and blown-out fuzz, it isn’t hard for Parquet Courts to fill a set list with solid material, but their latest release, Human Performance, supplied some of their best material for Sunday’s enjoyment. Tracks like “Dust,” “One Man No City” and “Paraphrased” got the crowd singing along, but the real treat hit when they launched into a sonic spiral of psychedelic wandering on the title track “Human Performance.” Overall, they may have just been the highlight of the whole evening.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
As always, Portland-based band Unknown Mortal Orchestra was greeted with an enthusiastic roar as Ruban Nielson came out donning his Blazers hat just minutes after Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown took a cheap jab with a Greg Oden joke. The early praise didn’t seem to phase UMO as they funked out on song after song, starting a decent dance party as the sun fell below the treeline. A recent addition on keys, Quincy McCrary was given ample opportunity to let his jazz fingers roam the ivories and he delivered beautifully, taking listeners for a jagged ride.
Drive Like Jehu
One of this year’s most unexpected announcements was a slot for the somewhat recently reunited ‘90s punk band Drive Like Jehu. For the better part of two decades, they were relatively quiet but have been seen popping up a handful of times in the past year or so, and given the current uprising in Portland’s punk scene, it was a fitting addition. True fans huddled near the stage bashing about while most of the crowd headed toward the Unicorn stage.
The reason, of course, could have been considered Sunday night’s main draw. Taking the stage second to last was the also recently reunited ‘90s alt-rock band Ween. Throughout the day, murmurs of excitement could be heard coming from the mouths of fans of every age, while Ween concert shirts flooded the waterfront and stickers sporting their Boognish logo were found tattooed on everything standing upright. With a mind-boggling amount of genre-bending tunes, Dean and Gene Ween threw down and turned it brown. Items were crossed of fan’s wish lists as Ween broke out hits like “Fluffy,” “Object” and even a megaphoned “The Stallion.” Hardcores and newbies alike basked in the twilight and begged for more as it seemed the 17-song set list just wasn’t enough.
It was a tad strange that Ween weren’t given the headlining spot considering the hearty and dedicated fanbase they generally draw, but this year’s spot was reserved for current Australian psych rockers Tame Impala. After their very poppy and very successful release Currents last year, heartthrob Kevin Parker and his Aussie hooligans have gained global fame and are now atop the bill at most large-scale music festivals. With swirling guitars and modulated synths timed with psychedelic lights, the crowd easily became entranced. In fact, they may have been too zonked out to realise how un-experimental Tame Impala have recently become during their live sets. It seems that the festival touring life has taken the energy and creativeness out of Parker leaving their set lists a little bland and void of any real jams. Luckily, they packed a few cannons full of confetti to dazzle the audience’s eyeballs, distracting enough to keep the fanboys and girls singing along.
All in all, the wedding reception to MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst was very fun. With ‘80s video games, cheap beer, great weather and good music, we don’t know what else we could have asked for. Well, maybe a divorce.