Boy, I really let this fall by the wayside, didn’t I? Long time readers will find no surprise in that.
Friday night started late again; Paul and I were determined to get some sleep before we headed out to a very long night of music. I ended up taking a two hour nap, but Paul wasn’t as fortunate (this totally makes us sound gay, like we were sleeping in the same bed or something. We weren’t, but if it makes you feel better to imagine that we were, that’s fine.), so I was nice and refreshed and he was still a little bleh. We found ourselves getting food instead of seeing the 8pm bands (we hadn’t heard of any of them). Food was sushi. A quick tangent[1. They’re never quick, are they?] about sushi: I love it. I grew up hating seafood. I still do, really. In landlocked states, fish is smelly and disgusting, having been frozen for some time. Once you get over the cascades, it generally tastes better. I can eat salmon, because there is fresh salmon in Idaho, but other than that, get it away from me. Lobsters, shrimp, etc? No way, dudes. I don’t want to eat ocean bugs.
My first experience with sushi was with an ex girlfriend and a platter from Fred Meyer[2. Fred Meyer is like a mini-Walmart, except older than Walmart and generally better.]. It tasted awful, but since I didn’t know what sushi tasted like, nor did I want to look stupid, I said it tasted good. After that, I didn’t eat sushi again until I moved to Portland, and it was with another ex girlfriend, and it was at Dragonfish, and it was a lot better. I hate, hate, HATE tuna fish in the can; I think it smells awful, tastes awful, and I pitied my cat when he got some, but the tuna sashimi I had at Dragonfish was great. Probably because it didn’t taste like fish, which is the number one comment about good fish, something that strikes me odd — let’s eat something that doesn’t taste like what it is!
After sushi we traveled to a place I’d never been before — Jimmy Mak’s. We went to listen to M64, a band I’d never heard of. At first I figured it was an older build of M83, but then I got wind that it was a jazz club, so I figured it was jazz.
We got in and the place was packed enough to force us to stand. The lady in M64 (it’s a lady and a guy who is a DJ, I think? I wasn’t paying attention) was singing and doing that jazzy shit that jazz singers do, and to be honest I wasn’t that impressed. Where’s the muted trumpet? Where’s the oboe? All jazz bands require an oboe, I think it’s in the Jazz Constitution[3. Article VI, Section 4, subsection 1.]. The venue was great — small and dimly lit, bright sexy red everywhere. It truly was one of the few places where hazy cigarette smoke would’ve really just made it perfect. We ended up going upstairs into a narrow balcony overlooking the stage. There were a few seats and tables, and the seats were all taken. We might’ve stayed anyway, but there was only one problem — our feet. As in, they were hurting from the previous two nights. So we decided to leave.
Off, off, off we went to Holocene! Another place I hadn’t visited yet. My hipster cred is low; right now I’m at Level Two: Unironic Eyeglasses, well past Level One: Still Shops at Walmart. Only a few more XP before I level up to Level Three: Heard of Sonic Youth, But Don’t Like Them[4. Level Four: Radiohead? Whatever. Level Five: Knitted Own Gloves. Level Six: Vest + Jeans = Awesome. Level Seven: Beard Upgrade. Level Eight: Might As Well Paint Jeans On. Level Nine: Hello Kitty Scarf. And of course, Level Ten: This Guy.].
Holocene is a bar (obviously). I find that I’m not describing these locations as much as I should be, but I don’t really know how to describe Holocene. It’s a bar, there’s a hallway and an offshoot room where the bands play. That’s about it. Really, when you’ve seen one bar, you’ve seen them all, even the trendy ones. Bars are broken down into three easy categories: dive, sports, and trendy. Sometimes the trendy ones are called “clubs.” Remember this when you turn 21, young readers. The mystery of bars is solved.
Really, turning 21 is fun for about a weekend. Then you drink too much, then you realize that the best reason for being 21 is having a beer with your buddies, not going nuts every weekend.
Anyway, the band that was up when we got there was the Prids. The picture here isn’t quite accurate — there was a girl playing keyboards, but I can’t find a picture of her. The Prids have actually been quite a mainstay in the Portland scene. They formed in Missouri in 1995 but moved here soon after and have been kicking ass since 1998. They play bass-driven “dark-pop” music, and it’s very good. They were also involved in a pretty heavy car accident in 2008, where everyone was injured to some degree and their equipment was destroyed. Pretty nasty stuff. Fortunately they looked good and rocked at Holocene. This weekend was a lot of new bands being awesome, and the Prids were no exception.
I should mention at this point that some girls were handing out Red Bulls, and I took one, and I hadn’t drank a Red Bull (or similar energy drink) in about two years. So I was pretty intense for the rest of the night.
Next up was Explode into Colors, three hot girls playing hot rhythmic dance rock music stuff. I don’t know how to explain them (use the photo for reference): the girl on the far right was short, played a simple bass line on a regular guitar (and sometimes some scales), made a lot of “OOOHHH” noises into a microphone, and seemed upset because her sample pedal wasn’t working. The girl on the far left was probably one of the most proficient drummers I’ve ever seen, playing beats that looked impossible with flawless precision. The girl in the middle was playing some toms and cowbells and whatnot, and sometimes a keyboard, and sometimes a melodica, and was also whooping rhythmically whenever possible. It had a raw energy to it that I haven’t heard replicated on any tracks of theirs I heard (a similar issue I had with Finn Riggins — I’ll write about this in general tomorrow). I tried to explain them to my coworkers that Monday. One of them took a listen to their stuff and didn’t get it, and the other said, “Oh yeah, I made out with 2/3rds of that band.” Go figure.
Anyway, I really enjoyed them, and their grand syncopation. It takes a lot to sound that good, rhythmically. I think they could’ve benefited with some extra instrumentation — it was kind of weird to just listen to a bass line and a lot of drums — but overall, really cool stuff, and, in a way, my introduction into this kind of dance/rhythm indie rock (live, at least).
We quickly ditched the Holocene after Explode into Colors, because part one of my whole reason to go to MFNW was about to happen at Berbati’s — THE LONG WINTERS! I can’t say how much I love John Roderick and his cryptically-honest lyrics and pop sensibilities.
The last time I got to see the Long Winters was when they opened for the Decemberists back in … 2005? 06? Something like that. I remember them rocking my face off[5. A common occurrence.], and then buying their albums and saying, “Hmm, these don’t rock as much on CD.” But they quickly grew on me regardless, Mr. Roderick’s lyrics being heart-wrenchingly honest at times, yet still behind a haze of obscurity — like listening in on someone telling stories of past loves: names you don’t understand, places you’ve never been, jokes beyond inside.
So you can imagine my glee at seeing them play again, after three (or four) years. I had been watching the 13 Songs With John videos on YouTube, so I was aware of A) his long classic rock hair, B) his broken front tooth, and C) his love of Air Supply. I won’t get into it, but the set was awesome — and the crowd was not nearly as packed as it should’ve been. I mean, I understand. John hasn’t released an album since 2006’s “Putting the Days to Bed” (a wonderful album), and he hasn’t really toured that much since then, so I can see why his popularity would wane. Fortunately, those in the crowd were pretty hardcore fans and knew all the lyrics (even me, having them be sucked from my brain and popped into my mouth without even realizing it), and John and crew seemed to be having a great time.
They played their last song, got a raucous round of applause, and then came back on for their encore. For some reason Paul and I weren’t expecting it so we started to leave. The encore was “Nora,” which was really cool, except that it started becoming a jam session. Now, I love you Long Winters, but I do not like jam sessions, and also we had a VIP party to go to, so we left before you were finished. My apologies, but it was worth it because we got to the party just in time to see…
Arguably the best band in Portland (who doesn’t play Portland a lot because they’re constantly touring) was the band playing at the VIP after party, which started long before the Long Winters start, but didn’t have the Thermals until we arrived. We walked in, they started playing, and we rocked out for about an hour or so. When I say “rocked out” I mean I haven’t danced that much since I graduated college, where I was taking dance classes all day. The after party was held at BodyVox dance studio, which is definitely the largest dance studio I’ve been in, so that helped. The Thermals played in front of the giant rehearsal mirrors that lined the far wall of the studio. We were very close and just to the right of the speakers (saving our ears). Close enough to see the sweat fleck off of Hutch’s hair. The Thermals are such a good band because they have fun, but are tight and play each song just the way we want to hear it. They’re loud, simple, and fucking awesome. I danced like a maniac, that’s all I’m saying.
It’s really hard to encompass the sheer sense of … home that I felt at MFNW that night. I finally felt like I was in Portland, and not just a really far borough of Boise.
Tomorrow I promise promise promise that I will write about our final day of Musicfest (yes, final — we didn’t see Modest Mouse on Sunday. I’ll write about that, too).
Also, mix CD! Yes. I have to find good tracks for you. All in good time.