"from toothpaste to orange juice"

Slideshow: PDX Pop Now! 2011

Despite a new venue and a few new fashions, the Portland institution held true to form, promoting new acts and old favorites across genre and generation.

By Griffin Funk July 26, 2011


As Lovers had just finished their set on Friday, a girl in a floral print romper and a boy with a Jedi rat-tail and jorts strode by holding hands. A woman whose pants might best be described as “mom jeans” commented to her friend: “It’s just interesting to see what the kids are wearing these days.”

Like the many fleeting fashion trends it hosted, the 8th annual PDX Pop Now came and went. The all-ages crowd (estimated to be mostly under the age of 24, and reportedly numbering more than 5,000) enjoyed 44 local acts spread across three days and two stages. Almost unbelievably, they got it all for free, thanks to dedicated PPN volunteerism, donated performances from bands, and sponsorship from the likes of RACC, KNRK, and OPB. Portlandia’s own Fred Armisen even made a cameo, respectfully taking pictures with fans before ducking away into the background.

The all-volunteer PDX Pop Now festival first graced the city in 2004, and became a qualifying non-profit in 2008. Since its inception, PDX Pop Now has grown to include an outreach program which works with Portland schools, its compilation CD has picked up enough cred to receive an astounding 790 submissions this year, and the festival itself just finished up its 8th year with a whirlwind of color and noise. Media Coordinator Benna Gottfried sums up the journey, “Our goal is to promote the local music community, and represent as many genres as possible.”

This admirable, ambitious creed can result in some jarring juxtapositions. Listening to classical and metal back-to-back, for instance, can feel like going straight from toothpaste to orange juice.“This whole festival is like an iPod shuffle," said one attendee, "But that’s why I come. The randomness.” Gottfried agreed, saying her favorite part of PPN is being surprised by bands she doesn’t know.

When PPN started, rolled-up jeans, white belts, tight tee shirts and thick glasses were de rigueur, whereas these days “the kids" are apparently sporting rompers, tights and tunics, name-checking a supposedly new genre dubbed “chillwave,” and thinking people who say “hipsters” sound old. But one trademark aspect of the festival remains the same: an eager crowd dances until they’re drenched with sweat to infectious anthems from Portland’s prolific music scene.

Check out McKenna Johnson’s slideshow of the event, featuring Guidance Counselor’s celebretory final performance, the African drumming of Dusu Mali, and the newly-minted punk bravado of erstwhile torch singer Kelli Schaefer.

For more about Portland arts events, visit PoMo’s Arts & Entertainment Calendar, stream content with an RSS feed, or sign up for our weekly On The Town Newsletter!

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