Pabst shook the Portland music world in July with the announcement that it would crack open a new festival called Project Pabst. Coming on the heels of Musicfest NW's announcement that it was paring down to a single weekend waterfront festival, Project Pabst suddenly looked like it was stepping into the running as the city's biggest music fest.
Anchored around a weekend at Zidell Yards with evening shows around town at local music venues, the first-of-its-kind PBR-sponsored event features a well-curated lineup of 42 bands, including headliners Modest Mouse, Tears For Fears, and Violent Femmes, at incredibly low ticket prices (half the price of MFNW).
Scroll down for a chance to win passes. You can also read our picks for 5 must-see bands.
We spoke with Pabst's man behind-the-scenes, Matt Slessler, about the inception of the festival, taking a similar format to MFNW, and whether it will be an annual affair.
PoMo: First off, why Portland and why now?
Matt Slessler: Portland is ground zero for the resurgence of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Going back to the mid-90s, the company noticed that for some reason Portland was consuming Pabst at a higher rate than any market in the rest of the country. This is a big thank you to the city—a love letter to Portland for being with us for so long and being so good to our brand.
How’d you come up with the idea that this “love letter” would be a music festival?
Pabst has been involved in music all over the country for a long time now. Quite frankly, a lot of musicians consume Pabst—they are some of our biggest consumers.
We started looking at music festivals across the country and some were good and some were not good, but we were always saying, “God, I wish they did this” or “I wish they did that.” And so it kind of turned into us being like, “Well, maybe we should try to throw our own music festival and do it the way we would want to do it."
Who developed the format as a two-day outdoor waterfront festival with various night shows at
venues around the city?
It was a combination of letting Superfly [the company that organizes Bonnaroo and other festivals] know what we thought the consumers in Portland would want. We wanted to do this big outdoor thing—that’s what Superfly’s good at—but we thought that we’d be missing an opportunity. We let Superfly know we should try to have as many bands as possible in as many places as possible.
Zidell Yards and various other venues
A lot of people are saying you just ripped that page out of Musicfest Northwest’s playbook?
I will say this upfront, I do think it’s been unfair to Musicfest. Obviously we are two festivals in the same town, and it feels like that was the first comparison because of the night shows. I get it. But I think that both festivals—and along with Pickathon and PDX Pop Now and the others—can exist in Portland. We tried to take the good things from other festivals and hopefully put our unique Pabst spin on it.
What makes Zidell Yards the perfect venue for this kind of festival?
We wanted something in town, and there you have the backdrop of the Ross Island Bridge on one side and the Tilikum Bridge, that new walking bridge, on the other. It’s a beautiful spot, and there hasn’t been anything done there before on this scale as far as a music festival. So we were pretty smitten with it the minute we walked on the land.
Was location involved when deciding the lineup, because many of the bands are local Pacific Northwesterners?
We’ve got some great bands in the Northwest and we wanted to celebrate that. Whether it’s Modest Mouse or Red Fang or the Thermals or Summer Cannibals or Pure Country Gold, we wanted to celebrate those bands for sure.
At the same time, we didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves. We wanted bands from all over. The Tears For Fears things we felt was a major coup, and that’s probably the band we’ve got the most people curious about because it is kind of a left-turn from some of the other bands.
Enter to win Saturday and Sunday passes to Project Pabst.
Contest closes Friday morning.News of Guided By Voices breaking up and subsequently cancelling all their remaining tour dates just broke. What does that mean for Project Pabst? Is there a replacement?
You know, we found out literally 24 hours ago, kind of with the rest of the world. It caught everybody by surprise. We’re just rolling with it. We have a couple of options that we’re looking at.
[Ed. Note: Project Pabst announced that due to the Guided By Voices cancelation, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks and Pure Country Gold's Friday night show has been moved from the Crystal Ballroom to Lola's Room.]
Is the plan to make this an annual thing?
In a perfect world, yeah. We wanted to do this first festival and see how it turned out. I think if everything goes right from a logistical standpoint, there’s a really good chance. We haven’t committed to that yet, but with what the response has been, which is 100 percent positive, I can’t imagine a scenario where we wouldn’t want to do it again next year.