PDX Pop Now! 2012 Day 1
Portland’s Annual DIY Music Celebration Kicks Off
All-free and all-ages, the PDX Pop Now! summer festival is Portland’s best DIY music celebration, and maybe, just maybe, Portland’s best festival altogether. Featuring 44 Portland-based bands, over three nights and two days, this fest separates itself from the rest by being totally DIY. Let me explain.
When the Portland based listserv by the name of PDX Pop Now! started in 1998, that early group of musicians, fans and writers had no idea how big it’d get. Devoted to “stimulating and expanding participation in Portland music” PDX Pop Now! holds cooperation over competition. PDX Pop Now! is devoted to advocacy and outreach, and hosts a number of events throughout the year. While the Festival of the same name was not born until 2004, it is now a lasting Portland legacy, with a volunteer force some 200 strong, and relationships with the most varied and talented musicians Portland has to offer.
The ninth PDX Pop Now! Festival started Friday night at six on the outside stage at Refuge PDX. It was a collaboration of literally hundreds of PDX Pop Now! volunteers, the PDX Pop Now! board of directors, 44 excellent bands, a host of big and small name sponsors, Refuge PDX, and the great city of Portland, Oregon. Night one set the tone for a weekend of free, engaging, great and local music. The show is streaming all weekend
The Parson Redheads
The Parson Redheads kicked off the night with the layered vocal harmonies and bright guitars they’ve become well known for east of the Willamette. Regulars at the Silver Lake Lounge, The Echo and Spaceland, make sure to see the Redheads before they leave to tour California in May.
Next up was 1939 Ensemble, a duo who play drums, a noise machine and a vibraphone. Members Jose Medeles and David Coniglio use noise as a backdrop against which they weave together huge beats from the kickdrum and ephemeral melodies from the vibes.
Post-punk power-pop duo Old Wars played next, with Jen Moon on vocals and a bass that is just as much distorted guitar, Kathy Mendonca providing the pounding drum backgrounds. Pick up their record Broken Bones out on Cassingle and Loving it Records.
Next up on the indoor stage was Arohan, the electro-dance-pop creation of Taylor Gehrts. From experimenting with ambient electronic, to dance to techno to industrial pop, Gherts’ music is always moving forward. From playing shows in Germany to up and down the West Coast, expect to see more of Arohan to come.
Portland’s Darkwave surgeons, Litanic Mask carefully skewer gothic and industrial electronics. Vocals the likes of Zola Jesus or Lana Del Rey, Kenna Jean creates beautiful and dark effervescences, while the electronic transmissions from Mark Burden astound with creativity and listenability.
Lord Dying rained screaming thrash rock on the mosh pit in front of the Refuge’s indoor stage Friday night. While at least one person was treated for a facial wound, when asked for a comment they said “it was worth it, bitch.” The sludge was abundant, with screaming death howls emanating from somewhere behind the beard of lead singer and guitarist E. Olson.
Jumping on the main stage for the first time with the lights up, TxE killed it as always, unforgettable show. Pronounced T&E, this trio brings high energy and quick lyrics to every show. Consisting of producer Calvin Valentine, (aka G Force), and rappers Epp and Tope, the three had the crowd shouting at their loudest one song into their set. G Force is a beast producer, and Tope and Epp’s energy and lyrics compliment his beats perfectly. Look for a drop later this summer.
“Grunge is dead. Psych is back.” Psychedelic, Vancouver, Washington based rock band The Shivas are not prone to miss an indie occasion such as this. Having formed an LLC in order to self publish, these DIY ninjas also do all their own recording, booking and touring on their own label, Gnar Tapes + Shit. Expect a lot more from these young virtuosos.
The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Luke Wyland, experimental pop group AU followed up next. Featuring an ever-changing roster of additional band mates, AU’s live show Friday was backed up by an extremely solid drummer, saxophonist and back-up vocalist. With soaring vocals from Wylan, the recent release of AU’s fourth record Both Lights brings a cross-country tour for the many-faceted musician. Pick up the record now on Hometapes.
Not having already been familiar with them, I was told all night about Radiation City. Let’s just say, they lived up to the hype. The night ended with the crowd calling for an encore after they played out on an epic cover of Etta James’ “At Last.” This trip-hop inspired indie-pop Portland favorite takes influence from girl group pop and 60s Bossa Nova. With influences as broad as Astrud Gilberto and House music, Radiation makes great syntheses of old and new. Pick up The Hands That Take You off Apes Tapes.