A Casual Music Lover's Take on Project Pabst
I went. I listened. I drank beer.
Words by Danielle Mrkvicka
Two days of cheap beer, music that spanned multiple generations and genres, gravel, and more cheap beer. Oh, and it was really hot—in fact, the weather was probably the #1 topic of conversation amongst volunteers, artists and attendees. After the music, obviously. Here are the highlights from day two:
Beck: Worst hat
I will never apologize for hating Beck’s hat, but I will apologize for underestimating him. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I just never got into his stuff. Or more accurately, I liked a lot of his songs but thought they were sung by someone else. Yep, and I deign to call myself a music fan. Anyways, I wasn’t expecting his show to rock as hard as it did. His set turned out to be a huge, energetic performance, giving the crowd exactly what they wanted—all the hits, an LED lightshow, and a cover of “Raspberry Beret.” He opened strong with a loud, rollicking version of “Devil’s Haircut,” and kept the hits coming with “Black Tambourine,” “New Pollution,” “Think I’m in Love,” “Loser” and “E-Pro.” True to himself, Beck called all the shots—despite the crowd’s energy, inebriation and obvious desire to dance, he made us quite down and sober up with the heart-wrenching melodies of “Lost Cause.” To make a long story short, Beck was good—so good that I’m left with a deep regret that it took me so long to figure this out.
Nas: God of the golden age of rap
As I waited for Nas, a rumor started circulating that Damian Lillard was there, and was going to join the rap legend on stage. I knew if that happened, I would black the eff out. And while Lillard never showed his sweet angel face, Nas delivered a performance so stellar that I nearly blacked out regardless. He opened his show with startling force and precision, launching straight into hits like “N.Y. State of Mind” and “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That).” Indeed, his whole set extremely nostalgic—he performed a good mix of songs from both God's Son and Illmatic, enrapturing the crowd with his pinpoint accuracy and lyrical dexterity. Nas tours are few and far between, so the enormous crowd gathered to see him came as no surprise. Folks were even hanging off the bridge, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the man himself. Near the end of the show, the crowd was so raucous and inebriated, Nas broke out laughing: “Y’all in a Portland state of mind, aren’t you?” Yep, we certainly do know how to get weird.
Spoon: Most swoon-worthy performance
Here's a fact that might make you feel old: Spoon has been making music for 24 freaking years. At this point, frontman Britt Daniel is a bonafide legend, but don’t for a minute think he’s washed up. He’s as charming, energetic and raspy-voiced as ever, and he really let his natural rock star charisma shine at Project Pabst. (And yes, I developed a serious crush on him.) I wasn’t expecting to go batshit for Spoon, because honestly, I sooooorta forgot the band existed. However, as soon as they launched into hits like “I Turn My Camera On,” “The Way We Get By” and “The Underdog,” I was overwhelmed with both nostalgia and… I don’t know what, maybe lust. Whatever the case, the band gave a lively and unforgettable performance. They played a strong selection of old faves and new (but awesome) songs, like “Do You” and “Inside Out,” with the crowd singing along to nearly every verse. And not to beat a dead horse or anything, but can we circle back to how cool Britt Daniel is? As my friend said, “He's one of the coolest people on the planet. He oozes cool.” Very true, and I promise to never, ever forget he exists again.
Noname: Vibiest act
Fatimah Warner, aka Noname, is first and foremost a poet, which makes you want to listen very closely to her every word. That’s what made her performance so gripping—it wasn’t loud or showy, but I was enraptured, trying to catch everything she threw at me. She threw out a lot, too, her offbeat flow sounding more like spoken word than traditional rap. In terms of modern hip-hop, Noname is the definition of fresh—her songs are complex and beautiful, and her live backing gave me some serious MF Doom of the Special Herbs era vibes. And while I wouldn’t call Noname a natural born performer—she’s a little awkward at times and doesn’t possess the incandescent star power of say, Lizzo—she demands attention in her own quiet way. The crowd gathered to see her was huge, but uncharacteristically silent. Everyone just… listened, their eyes on her. Noname managed to take a rowdy group of Pabst-soaked Portlanders and transport them to a gentler, more peaceful place. And that’s impressive as hell.
Lithics: Portland's best band of the year
I’m not sure how Lithics were conceived, but think I can guess: A bunch of music nerds met and decided to start a band, right? After a lost set list and a slightly awkward introduction, they started their show with a bang. (Or more accurately, with a jarring, dissonant screech.) Indeed, their brand of hyper-aggressive, post-post-punk is not for the faint of heart—it’s jarring, violent and expressionistic. It creeps under your skin and makes you feel, among other things, slightly uncomfortable. Oh, and I absolutely loved it. Lithics played through their set with a quiet intensity and an almost unnerving precision. Each member looked hyper-focused on what they were doing, and almost completely unaware of the crowd. As for frontwoman Aubrey Hornor’s now famous “death stare”? Oh, she brought it.