A legitimate festival to rival MusicfestNW was bound to happen.
With MFNW abandoning local venues this year, someone had to throw down the gauntlet. Project Pabst, a new music festival sponsored by none other than Pabst Blue Ribbon, not only scheduled weekend shows at five venues across town, but it also planned a two-day festival at SW Portland’s rarely used Zidell Yards.
And Zidell Yards never looked so good.
The post-industrial gravel grounds were adorned with two sizable stages, dank local food vendors like Pine State Biscuits and Bunk Sandwiches, communal cornhole and giant Jenga, an '80s barcade with free credits on every game, and a massive white unicorn statue. Also, there was a very Portland design touch: Surrounding the main stage were two ginormous banners of an old, grey-haired Captain Pabst with a subliminal quote above him—”I'm very proud of you”—providing the crowd with the validation they never had.
To top it off, Pabst tall boys are just $4—by most festival's standards, that’s damn cheap. And with no children in sight, it’s a swashbucklin’ weekend in Portland Town.
The surfy Portland garbage rockers started off the festival at 12:45pm, joking on Instagram that they were about to "shred to nobody." It was early, but you wouldn’t of known it by drummer Chris Scott’s energetic headbanging. Guantanamo Baywatch’s early-day surf rock performance reminded me of a hungover beach party where all you need is a drink to keep the party from the night before going. That drink came in the form of lead singer Jason Powell’s machine gun wailing vocals. And obviously a PBR.
The early-bird crowd scored a treat from the set as the band played a new song onstage for the first time. I bumped into bassist Chevelle Wiseman afterwards, and she told me the name: “Do What You Want.” Now that’s a mantra to start off a new Portland music festival.
Saturday’s strongest performance came from San Francisco rapper K.Flay.
K.Flay’s wild despondency fit the cloudy Northwestern backdrop with all the partying and thrashing one would expect from one of underground hip-hop’s strongest rappers. With confidence, and sometimes a beer in hand, she rapped about getting fucked up, love, trying to pay the rent, and drug deals gone bad. Playing songs mostly from her first studio album—Life As A Dog, released in June—K.Flay not only rapped, but at times hit the keys and smashed on her own bass and snare drum. Backed by Nick Suhr on a full drum kit, it was a sweet spectacle.
Songs like “I’m Good” and “Can’t Sleep” (below) especially stuck out, and before going into “Wishing It Was You,” K.Flay addressed the audience: "Here's another love song. I have a lot of them because I’m sad.” In that tune, she made light of the sadness with lyrics like, “sucking on a bottle of Jim Beam, wishing it was you."
The sun came out near the end of the set, lighting up K.Flay’s black-on-black attire and illustrating that sometimes the darkest energies deserve to shine the most.
Hailing from Milwaukee, Wis., just like Pabst Blue Ribbon itself, '80s rockstars the Violent Femmes started off their set with the first four songs from their first album, 1983's self-titled hit record Violent Femmes. And with lead singer Gordon Gano’s vocals still in tip-top shape, the audience ate it up.
You pretty much forgot that most of the band was over 50 years old as the energetic Violent Femmes entertained the crowd. Drummer Brian Viglione stood up the entire set, and bassist Brian Ritchie joked: "My dad drank Pabst for 62 years. The doctor told him to stop drinking and then my dad croaked. The moral is: Drink Pabst or die."
The glorious echo of Portland heavy metal rang out from the stage underneath the Ross Island Bridge, instantly reminding me of my favorite neighbors in North Portland. Both were metalheads, moshy and loud—however, somehow they both always had an air of being super friendly.
Red Fang’s performance instigated Project Pabst’s first mosh pit and was the first time I smelled smoke that was not tobacco—the stoner metal connoisseurs were most definitely present. Also, bassist Aaron Beam told the audience about who he was most excited to see on Sunday: Shabazz Palaces. How Portland is it for a local heavy metal band to be the most excited to see a rap duo from Seattle?
Tears For Fears
Walking out in WWE fashion to Lorde’s version of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” '80s new wave legends Tears For Fears instigated every 30-plus couple in Zidell Yards to embrace. In addition to playing their hits like “Shout,” the English band also covered Radiohead’s “Creep” and Arcade Fire’s “Ready to Start” (listen below).
Marking the last stop on their tour, Tears For Fears closed out the first night of Project Pabst with nostalgia and a little bit of humor. Lead singer Roland Orzabal joked with the audience: “On this tour we’ve been everywhere... we’ve been all the way to Dallas!”
Sunday is the final day of the inaugural Project Pabst and I suggest you go. With anticipated performances from Shabazz Palaces (below), the GZA performing Liquid Swords in its entirety and headlining, it's going to be dope. And if you get there early enough, you’ll find me in the free arcade beating the high score on Pac-Man.