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MusicfestNW Picks & Video Buffet

Overwhelmed by the 165 bands playing Musicfest next week? Here are eight shows you shouldn't miss, along with a delicious video smorgasbord.

By Aaron Scott, Kit Mauldin, and Stephen Person With Riley Stevenson August 30, 2012

Beginning next Wednesday, some 165 bands will flood Portland's rock clubs, alleys ways, secret shows, and collective brainwaves for the sonic feast that is MusicfestNW. From big name to completely obscure, from hard core to old-timey country to cutting edge electronica, they run the full musical gamut, and it's simply impossible to catch them all. Meaning you have to plan ahead. Here are some of the shows we're most excited about, and their most recent music videos so you can make up your own mind (or for the agoraphobic among us, enjoy the music without the crowds).

Against Me!
Wednesday at 10, Hawthorne Theatre

Against Me! has made a name for itself as one of today’s leading punk bands—its music laced through and through with politics (just watch the below video that makes almost a dance from police brutality), but also with enough pop sensibility that it’s most recent album, 2010’s White Crosses, hit #34 on Billboard. Earlier this year, the band showed it’s more than just singing its message of personal liberation when bandleader Tom Gabel made music history by coming out as transgender. We can’t wait to see what frontwoman Laura Jane Grace does with the band, but we’ve no fear she’ll have any newfound shyness, given the next album is called Transgender Dysphoria Blues and is a concept record about a transgender prostitute. Fierce doesn’t even being to explain it, at least according to Grace’s comment to MTV.com: "However fierce our band was in the past, imagine me, six-foot-two, in heels, f**king screaming into someone's face." —Aaron Scott

Thursday at 7:15, Roseland Theatre

Jordan Cook, AKA Reignwolf, might be a relative newcomer to the Seattle music scene, having recently relocated from Saskatoon, Canada, but he’s quickly and loudly making a name for himself as the best live show in Seattle. Shredding the guitar one-handed and pounding the drums with the other, Cook delivers a beautifully raw and gritty, distortion-laced blues explosion that you wouldn’t think possible from one man (wolf?).  Despite his ability to blow minds without accompaniment, don’t be surprised if a pack of musicians tag along to make the already mind-melting performance that much harder to fathom. —Stephen Person

Flying Lotus
Thursday at 11:30, Wonder Ballroom
Flying Lotus is a psychotropic drug loving Warp Records recording artist, revered regular at LA’s long-running Low End Theory club night, and ringleader of the cutting edge Brainfeeder record label. While his recordings tend towards woozy, experimental instrumentals (though he’s got a collab with Erykah Badu due out in October), his live performances are full-sensory immersion experiences with enveloping visuals and layered synths, beats, and samples that move listeners from a trance to a headbang, and tend to attract regular blokes like, y'know, Thom Yorke. —Kit Mauldin

King Khan & the Shrines
Thursday at midnight, Dante's
Often scantily clad and always over-the-top, King Khan leads the Shrines, an eclectic and eccentric mix of musicians, to bring a doo-wop and punk infusion to the dance floor. King Khan is a cross between James Brown and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – quite the combination, especially when coupled with a full band that can reach upwards of 15 members. Horns, rhythm, screaming vocals, and go-go dancers are sure to energize the crowd into an irresistible sweat-drenched frenzy. —SP


Friday at 8, Pioneer Courthouse Square

Like Beirut’s music, this video for the title song from the recent album, The Rip Tide, fills you with a deep longing ache for a world somehow more beautifully majestic than our modern world. Artfully shot, the vid is mostly atmospheric to start, but get a little over halfway through and all of a sudden the world explodes into something so stunningly gorgeous, it takes my breath away. Just like Beirut’s concert at the Crystal Ballroom last August. —AS


Friday at 6:30, Pioneer Courthouse Square

MusicFest is serving as the hotly anticipated record release concerts for not one, but two local sonic powerhouses. First up is Menomena, releasing its fifth album, but its first as a duo, now that Brent Knopf has departed for his own project, Ramona Falls. Read our profile of the creative process between the remaining members, Justin Harris and Danny Seim, in our Fall Arts Guide, as well as an exclusive extended interview with the two. The listening party for their new album, Moms, took place at the OMSI Planetarium to the Pink Floyd laser light show (cleverly called Dark Side of the Moms) and was exquisitely psychedelic, endlessly smart, and rockingly awesome, much like most of their music and the following video. We got to witness their first live rehearsal with touring members Paul Alcott and Matt Dabrowiak (both from Dat'r), as well as folk troubadour Holcombe Waller, and we couldn’t be more excited to see how it comes together on stage. —AS

The Helio Sequence

Friday at 11, Crystal Ballroom

With four years since the Helio Sequence’s last album, the breakout Keep Your Eyes Ahead, and its new album coming out on Sept. 11, the duo is the other hometown hero to catch. Their new album, Negotations, seems just that—a perfect negotiation between the two seemingly dissonant styles the band has explored: nerdy, cerebrally pulsating, psychedelic explosions and more organic, grounded, folk pop. In other words, they’ve finally got their heart beating in tune with their brains. Read our review of the new album, and check out one of the videos from Eyes Ahead below. —AS

Julia Holter
Saturday at 10, The Old Church
Julia Holter returns to Portland for only the third time in one year, following a modest debut at Holocene in May (read our review) and as a warm-up to the cool isolationism of Sigur Ros at Edgefield earlier in August. No doubt she and her minimalist accompanists will find the ultimate setting for their unsettling, arch experimentalism at the Old Church in downtown’s West End district. You can expect her daring mix of lyrical archaism, droning dissonance, and unexpectedly pert popiness to fill the vaulted ceilings of this former Presbyterian church in high style. —KM

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