musicfest northwest, 9/11, the decemberists, pioneer courthouse square

That is a long title.

So I didn’t get a pass to MFNW this year.  I know that’s become a sort of big thing that I write about on this blog[1. I actually have a draft saved of my last day at MFNW last year, which I will probably never post.  Sorry about that.], but I was relatively broke and I only wanted to buy a VIP pass, considering how awesome it was to have a VIP pass last year.  But I couldn’t afford it and then they sold out of them so blah blah whatever.

But by various circumstances, I was lucky enough to snag my friend Lisa’s second ticket to the Decemberists show in Pioneer Square tonight, and in a word, it was excellent!  The show, not the ticket.  The ticket was quite average looking.

The lineup was Weinland, Blue Giant, Laura Veirs, and The D’s.  These are all bands that are local, and all great.  So let’s just start from the start, shall we?

the keyboard player was exceptionally weird

Actually, before I begin, I want to talk about something that I noticed.  Particularly with Weinland.  Now, Weinland is a pretty well known group locally.  They have a following, and they’re a lot of fun to watch live.  But at the show today, everyone around me seemed totally disinterested.  Sure, they would clap and hoot and holler after the songs, but during them?  Motionless.  I was like, what the fuck, Portland?  These are your homies!  They live here, they play music here all the time, why aren’t you enjoying yourselves?  Surely you haven’t succumbed to some Hipster Anti-Dance law so soon, have you?

Lisa and I were standing right towards the front of the stage and I looked around and realized that all these kids were underage.  They probably had never seen Weinland play before.  It’s a tough thing to think about, because I don’t think Weinland would ever play an all ages show, other than to open for the Decemberists tonight, of course.  But on their own?  Doubtful.  They clearly like beer.  And really 21+ shows are just awesome.  I’m sorry, kids, but it’s true.  You don’t think it’s true now, but one day you’ll be 21 and you’ll get into a 21+ show and you’ll thank the ever loving merciful music gods that you’re not in a room with annoying 16 year olds.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

So, not a lot of people who were up front had heard of Weinland.  And of course a lot of the kids up front were waiting for the Decemberists, and were thus being annoying during other acts.  Dear Kids Immediately to the Left of Me: Shut the fuck up.  Music is for listening to, not for talking louder than.

That being said, Weinland kicked ass.  I honestly hadn’t heard a lot of their stuff prior to this show, but they set a wonderfully high bar for the subsequent acts, a bar that was met and surpassed as the night progressed, in my opinion.  They were tight, the dobro player was excellent, it was lovely to see Rachel Blumberg playing drums (didn’t expect that), and the song structures were wonderful.  I couldn’t really hear what Adam was singing about, but I don’t really care too much about that.

The highlight was when they played a cover of Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son.”  It was excellent.  I really don’t know how else to describe it, other than I’m sure that if I had seen a Kansas concert in 1976 it would sound like that, just so full of energy and fun.

After Weinland, while Blue Giant was setting up, a guy wearing a yellow “I <3 America” t-shirt, some kind of windbreaker, and gray-colored spandex pants, began to dance and jump around to the changing music being played over the speakers.  He was behind us, the smallish group of people at the stage, and in front of the brick seating area of the Square.  So we didn’t even know he existed until the people sitting started clapping and cheering for him.  Then we turned around and were bathed in his half-assed glory.  He danced to the Rolling Stones and did awful somersaults and various ninja-esque moves, before becoming tired and sitting on the ground, which elicited another round of applause for the guy.  Then people started coming up to him, taking pictures and video[2. I don’t know why I didn’t snap a picture of him myself, now that I think about it.].  God I love Portland sometimes.

(Brief side note: So I’m looking up photos tagged “MFNW 2010” on Flickr, and apparently the appeal of Major Lazer is that they pretend to fuck onstage?  Or something?  That’s … awesome?)

(Side note #2:  I’m reading tweets on Twitter hashtagged #mfnw[3. Can we talk someday about how ridiculous that sentence looks?], and saw this gem: “JasonMGlover Smashing Pumpkins show was incredible. Billy Corgan is by far the best guitarist I’ve seen live. #mfnw”  Jason M Glover, you need to see more guitarists.)

Next up was Blue Giant:

Blue Giant
i felt like i should be chewing on a piece of wheat or something

I really, really like Viva Voce (the other Robinsons project), and Anita Robinson is just a sexy guitar player, but seeing the band come out looking like they had just time traveled from 1974 was a bit nuts.  I was kind of surprised.  The keyboard player looked like he literally used to be in Lynyrd Skynyrd, and, well, vests, and white jeans, and that bass player’s mustache, etc etc etc.  Little did I realize that Blue Giant was about to revive the southern rock genre — and do it right.  Sorry Toby Keith, or whoever the fuck is popular in country music right now.

Blue Giant 2
seriously, the guy on the left, pretty sure he was in skynyrd

Blue Giant’s stuff has always been kind of southern rock, but this time it was extended solos, rhythm changes a la Skynyrd, and some serious Rickenbacker slide guitar from Anita.  It was awesome.  Much like Weinland’s Kansas cover, I suddenly realized how fantastic it would be to see Skynyrd and other such bands during their heyday: there’s something just so American about the whole thing, something amped up and folksy and rootsy and loud and fun and everything.  I hadn’t seen Blue Giant live before this, but I had seen Viva Voce, which is a totally different sound, but regardless, this was a great set.  It started to make me wish I had bought a VIP pass anyway, damn the cost, because I have a feeling the entirety of MFNW was amazing this year.

They also did a cover, but I don’t know what it was, but it was good too.

Okay, so after that was Laura Veirs.  The I <3 America guy didn’t show up, unfortunately, between sets.

Oh, but before I continue, I want to showcase this amazing couple that just happened to be near me[4. Apologies to the lady in the blue top.]:

Touchy Feely
really? seriously?

Everyone in the crowd is enjoying themselves, and then you’ve got these two lovebirds.  I was enamored with them; they would stand like this and the guy would lightly caress his girlfriend’s arm or whatever, and they would just stand there, doing that.  I’d look back and they’d be normal.  Then, a minute later, Tactile Sensual Time again.  It was ridiculous.  Look, I’m all for women’s rights and all that, but I’m also getting kind of sick of dudes becoming all sensitive and shit[5. And I’m saying this as a reformed Sensitive Guy.].  These were obviously teenagers, and it was obvious that their love was transcending space and time at that very second, as though the heavens themselves were opening up above them, and god’s finger was  — oh, give me a break.  Just fuck, you two.  Just Fuck.  Stop acting like lightly caressing your lover with your fingertips is So Awesome.  It is pretty awesome, but it’s not like you talk about it the next day at the water cooler.  “Hey Jim, what’d you do last night?”  “Well, the lady and I rented Sleepless in Seattle and I gently caressed her shoulder with my fingertips for over an hour.”  “Oooooooh!  Sensual!”

Goddamn teenagers these days.

On the other hand, at the New Pornographers show a couple months back (which I totally should’ve blogged about, oh well), we all had the luxury of standing next to two lovers happily strung out on DMT or E or some other consonant, making out and touching each other and not paying attention to the music whatsoever.  And looking generally greasy and sweaty.  Like, drug sweaty, not “I”m dancing or exercising” sweaty.

Anyway, Laura Veirs.

Laura Veirs
karl blau. new favorite dude.

Laura’s band was herself, Alex Guy ( keys and viola, on right), Karl Blau (bass and guitar, on left), and Tucker Martine on drums in the back.  Tucker and Laura are a couple (and are married? I don’t know) and she somewhat recently had a baby, and she looks pretty good post-baby.  I know that’s a dumb thing to say after someone’s had a baby, but people talk about it all the time.  “You just had a baby?  I’d never know, you look so great!”  It’s not like people say, “You had a baby?  I can tell by your disgusting stretch marks!”  Cause that’s just rude.

Laura was amazing as always.  She really never disappoints.  She’s such a great guitar player and her songs are so rich and lyrically interesting.  I said this before on my Twitter and I still feel embarrassed by saying it, but I must: Alex Guy has pierced nipples, and I could tell cause you could see the barbell through her shirt.  I only mention this because it was kind of sexy, but at the same time, ouch.  You know?  Also, pierced tongue.  She’s from Seattle, it’s what they do there.  I guess it just strikes me because I don’t Laura Veirs doesn’t write very sexy music, nor does she exude sexiness (other than hot librarian sexiness), so seeing something like that was a little jarring, to be honest[6. And by “jarring” I don’t mean it jarred my penis into an erection.  Please people, this is a family fun blog.].

But anyway, I keep going off track because there’s not much more to say about Laura other than she’s fantastic.  I’m not sure if I enjoyed Tucker on the drums; he was a little overpowering at times and, I dunno, just didn’t sound right.  He sounded like a producer who wanted to play drums.  But he plays well at least.

My only wish is that she had played some Two Beers Veirs stuff.  All the right people were there: Nate Query, Chris Funk, and Annalisa Tornfelt.  It was a perfect moment for a hoedown, Laura!  Admit it!

Oh, but my favorite part of Laura’s set wasn’t her songs.  It was Karl singing.  He sang a song called “That’s How I Got to Memphis” and it was fantastic.  Tucker supplied this great floor tom rolling beat and Karl’s voice is pretty beautiful, really.  It was just a great song.  Catchy and simple.  It sounded like a song straight out of the 50s.  Really great stuff.  You can listen to a version of it on his Myspace page, but it pales in comparison to the version I heard live.  Seriously.

Alright alright alright, let’s talk about the Decemberists.

The Decemberists
this was probably before one of the many times colin knocked the mic stand over

I’ve seen the Decemberists many times.  Not as many as some[7. Lisa.], but enough to know their shenanigans.  But they really did play an excellent set tonight, with plenty of not-so-surprising surprises (1. Laura Veirs singing “Yankee Bayonet,” 2. Started “O Valencia!” without the annoying “Dracula’s Daughter” intro … good … good … oh shit he put it in the middle of the song!  Fuckin’ Colin!  God damn!  I just want to hear that song without the damn Dracula’s Daughter!).  Their new album is coming out somewhat soon and so they’re playing new songs, and they’re good, but they kind of lack the quirk and lyrical vocabulary that is classic Colin Meloy.  I don’t fault the guy for trying new stuff and taking on certain themes (the new album is probably going to be very rustic sounding), but I hope that there’s some kind of Always the Bridesmaid-esque EP series where they release the quirky songs.  Because to me the Decemberists are kind of quirky first and foremost.  I mean you don’t write a song about the ghost of a dead baby lying in a ditch without being a little quirky, you know?

But they’re nice songs, and it’s great to hear Funk use his pedal steel and Colin’s playing a harmonica with his guitar, so now he’s officially a singer-songwriter, right?

I’m sounding a little sarcastic, but it was a good show.  The D’s always put on a good show.  That’s just what they do.

Overall, A+ show for the day.  Really solid from beginning to end, and not one band or performance that sucked.  It was all amazing, and with beautiful weather and no rain or anything.  Couldn’t have asked for a better day.

By Josh

I'm the guy who owns this site, ya dummy.

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