By now, Portland being famed for it’s ‘indie cred’ is old hat – everyone knows about the smart growth initiatives, all the bike lanes, Portlandia, etc. One of the most sterling examples of this is Music Fest NW, when bands play across the city’s many venues, with big name acts and small up-and-comers, Pacific Northwest locals and acts from around the world.
So QRO headed (north)West, Tuesday to Sunday, September 3rd to 8th.
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Young the Giant
It’s a little comical that – whoever the responsible party was – would have a show in Portland, Oregon and not come adequately prepared for rain. Even if it is still technically summer, rain can come at a moment’s notice in a place like this. As such, as a result of inclement weather, Young the Giant’s Music Fest NW’s headlining slot on Thursday evening in Pioneer Courthouse Square was delayed for over twenty minutes while stagehands hurriedly scrambled to and fro to get sensitive equipment adequately covered with black plastic. And even then, there was still a myriad of cords running right through puddles of water. Hopefully no one got jolted.
But that didn’t deter the crowd from being excited when the group finally took the stage. Young the Giant have gotten lots of radio airplay here in the Rose City where they are also no strangers to playing shows. Ripping through many tracks from their debut and self-titled 2011 album such as “My Body” and “Cough Syrup”, it was a set packed with energy and the rain and city atmosphere almost made it even better.
It may sound odd, but let’s hope that Young the Giant takes some of that energy off the road and put it toward a new studio album one of these days. Young bands like them can only go so far on a successful debut album before the public wonders what’s next.
Music Fest NW continued with a bang at the Crystal Ballroom on Thursday night with a ridiculously cool opening performance by Ian Rubbish (if you don’t know who that is, YouTube it) and his backing band, which was continued and ended by Fred Armisen (with many special guests).
There were two distinct highlights of Armisen’s half music/half stand-up comedy set. The first was when none other than Bob Mould came out to perform a song with Rubbish and the backing band, after which they all left the stage so he could perform his famed Hüsker Dü (QRO spotlight on) piece, “Makes No Sense At All”. The other highlight had to be – oddly enough – when Armisen and his band played a cover of “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer and, believe it or not, lead singer Leigh Nash herself actually came on stage to sing the song. Like the song or not, that is just random and cool.
Attendees were also treated to Portlandia outtake videos as well as an impromptu Emmy Awards announcement filming where Armisen and Portlandia director Jonathan Krisel invited up four random audience members to announce the names of the four people up for Emmy Awards for the show.
The Joy Formidable
Plain and simple, few live bands exhibit as much energy and charisma as The Joy Formidable. Despite that their set helped mark only the halfway point of Music Fest NW, it would have been and extremely fitting one to end the entire festival with their performance.
Comprised of only three members, Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Davies (QRO interview), and Matthew Thomas, The Joy Formidable sound like they could easily be a six-piece group. It’s hard to believe that such and awesome and huge guitar sound can come out of such a small lady as Bryan, and let’s not forget the absolute powerhouse drummer that is Thomas.
The trio played an amazing set including songs from both of their albums (The Big Roar – QRO review – and Wolf’s Law – QRO review) such as “Austere”, “I Don’t Want To See You Like This”, “This Ladder Is Ours”, “Maw Maw Song” and, of course, the set-ending rendition of “Whirring”, which, when performed in its entire non-radio-edit version is nothing short of breathtaking.
Lucky for us Portlanders, Bryan actually stated at one point that the group will be staying on in our fair city for about the next week while they write their next album.
The Joy Formidable will be doing some dates opening for Passion Pit (QRO live review) next month so if they come to a city near you then do yourself a favor and go see the show.