10 Under-the-Radar MusicfestNW Acts You Must See

Skip the big names for these amazing underground artists. (Plus, win tickets to a dance party!)

By Jonathan Frochtzwajg August 29, 2013

MusicfestNW is all about decisions.

Because Portland’s biggest music event, which kicks off Tuesday night and continues through September 8, spreads its more than 150 acts over sixteen venues and often schedules shows to be concurrent, MFNW attendees are forced to make more choices than they might have to at a single-site fest like, say, Sasquatch. And because the fest features so many amazing, but easy-to-miss lesser-known acts—including an unusual amount of hometown talent—alongside big names, those choices can be tough ones.

Sep 3–8 
Our advice (which we got from this one poem): take the road less traveled. In Robert Frost’s spirit, here are 10 under-the-radar MusicfestNW acts worth skipping better-known bands for. (To make the decision easier, we're giving away two tickets to the Chromatics/Glass Candy show/dance-party. You can enter for a chance to win at the bottom of this post.)

Thursday, Sep 5

Skip: Orange County rockers Young the Giant (Pioneer Courthouse Square, 8)
See: Like a Villain, a.k.a. Portland multi-instrumentalist Holland Andrews, who uses clarinet, looping pedals, and her operatic voice to create you-have-to-be-there experimental performances of raw beauty (The Old Church, 8:30)


Skip: Indie-famous folkie Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Aladdin Theater, 10)
See: Midwestern trio On An On, whose debut record of distorted rock, released in January, had by March made them a South by Southwest must-see (Roseland Theater, 10)

Skip: Dance-punk exaggerators !!! (Branx, 11)
See: Local duo Magic Fades; all the Portland music scene is talking about their vaporous R&B and internet-inspired aesthetic (Holocene, 11)

Skip: Chamber-pop ensemble Ra Ra Riot (Mississippi Studios, midnight)
See: Tobacco, Black Moth Super Rainbow front man Thomas Fec’s solo project. Fec utilizes analog gear to produce dark, even disturbing, hip-hop–influenced beats. (Holocene, midnight)   

Friday, Sep 6

Skip: Psychedelic experimentalists Animal Collective (Pioneer Courthouse Square, 8:30)
See: Neal Morgan, a Portland percussionist who, when not playing with Joanna Newsom and Bill Callahan, makes truly unique music consisting of nothing but drums and vocals (The Old Church, 8:30)

Skip: Post-rock fixtures Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Roseland Theater, 10)
See: AgesandAges; despite being from here, the many-membered, bright-eyed choir seldom plays Portland (Star Theater, 10)

Skip: Indie-rock statesmen Superchunk (Crystal Ballroom, 10:30)
See: Local R&B producer-vocalist Natasha Kmeto’s sleek, refreshingly un-Portland stylings (Holocene, 11:15

Skip: Chillwave producer Washed Out (Mississippi Studios, midnight)
See: Australian electronic-music producer Flume, whose beats have the imprimatur of XLR8R, Pitchfork, and Aussie music buyers. (His debut album reached number one on Australia’s music charts.) (Wonder Ballroom, midnight)

Saturday, Sep 7      

Skip: Folksy Seattleites the Head and the Heart (Pioneer Courthouse Square, 10)
See: Morning Ritual, the nom de stage under which musician-about-town Ben Darwish dreams up conceptual, genre-defying song cycles such as last year’s “fantasy folk-step epic” The Clear Blue Pearl (Crystal Ballroom, 8)

Skip: one Portland success story, the Helio Sequence (Aladdin Theater, 10)
See: another Portland success story, influential local producer Johnny Jewel’s glossy synthpop band Chromatics (Wonder Ballroom, 10). Then stick around for Jewel's other electronic dance project, Glass Candy. This is sure to be MFNW's most stylish dance party.

The ticket contest is now over.


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