Wrapping Up MusicfestNW

Our team of showgoers recaps the six-day, 150-plus-act, 16-venue sonic extravaganza. Plus, the best fest photos.

By Jonathan Frochtzwajg, Marco España, and Nathan Tucker September 17, 2013

As the dust from Portland’s largest music event, MusicfestNW, settles, Culturephile’s team of showgoers recaps the six-day, 150-plus-act, 16-venue sonic extravaganza, from Typhoon’s triumphant record release to Neko Case’s birthday party in Pioneer Square. 

Like A Villain/Typhoon, Old Church, Thursday

Typhoon's string section

The first of Typhoon’s back-to-back record-release shows had the feel of a victory lap, as the Portland band played cuts from its newest album of meticulously arranged orchestral indie rock to a celebratory hometown crowd that filled the Old Church’s pews and packed into the back of the venue. The church’s arched ceilings and cozy interior made for the perfect setting for Typhoon’s intricate yet expansive songs, and its acoustics were perfect for opener Like a Villain, who has a gorgeous and arresting voice that completely consumed the room and the audience. (Nathan Tucker)

Dan Deacon/Animal Collective, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Friday

Dan Deacon

I showed up just in time to witness crowd control as imagined by Baltimore-based electronic guru Dan Deacon, which included some improvised and politically charged yoga, individual and team dance competitions, and a meet-and-greet between the standing and seated contingents of the Pioneer Courthouse Square population. Animal Collective came on late and stayed on late, throwing plenty of variety into its set—“What Would I Want? Sky” within the first 10 minutes—and somehow managing to make more noise than Deacon did. (Marco España)

Titus Andronicus/Superchunk, Crystal Ballroom, Friday

After Titus Andronicus worked the all-ages section of the Crystal Ballroom into a frenzy with its brand of energetic, irreverent, sing-along punk rock, Superchunk picked up right where the younger opening act left off. The indie veterans’ high-energy DIY guitar rock has aged about as gracefully as possible, but it was still the underage kids in the very front who were having the most fun. (NT)

Mt. Eerie/Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Aladdin Theater, Friday

Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Following a quiet opening set courtesy of Phil Elverum’s Mt. Eerie trio, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, a.k.a. Will Oldham, walked onstage alone to alternating shouts of “Will!” and “Bonnie!” and didn’t let go of the crowd for the duration of his hour-plus set and encore. He solicited requests from the audience throughout, and they happily—sometimes manically—obliged. Slightly unexpected takeaway: Oldham is funny as hell. (ME)

Brian Posehn, White Owl Social Club, Friday

Stand-up comic Brian Posehn’s relentless set covered all the essentials—Star Wars, metal, unwelcome biological developments—and added a few crucial Portland-themed customizations for an appreciative crowd. (ME)

Shuggie Otis/Charles Bradley, Crystal Ballroom, Saturday

Charles Bradley

Shuggie Otis may be best known for his 1977 hit “Strawberry Letter 23,” but his Musicfest set showcased a talented guitarist and singer with enough charisma to get away with dressing like some sort of R&B pirate. Charles Bradley had plenty of charisma himself, not to mention a seemingly bottomless well of energy and emotion to draw from onstage. Seeing a 64-year-old man and his much younger, commanding backing band play a marathon set like this convinced us soul isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. (NT)

Earth/Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Roseland Theater, Saturday

The Roseland didn’t start to feel claustrophobic until opening act Earth finished up and Godspeed You! Black Emperor took over for the next hour. Those who weren’t shaking by the time the post-rock outfit ambled into place with their instruments were compelled to do so once they got started. Everyone left the theater a little worn out. No one complained. (ME)

Pickwick/Neko Case, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Sunday

Neko Case

The gents of folk-turned-soul group Pickwick put their hearts into their crowd-pleasing set, singer Galen Disston wailing and flopping his curly brown mop around with the pathos of a heavy-metal balladeer, but by the end of the set, this viewer was bored: these six white boys from Seattle do soul well—but do they have anything to add to the tradition?

Actually, they could learn a thing or two from Neko Case: she has made of alt-country a sound all her own. The singer-songwriter closed out Musicfest at a dusky Pioneer Square on what was apparently her 43rd birthday (the adoring crowd, unsolicited, sang her “Happy Birthday”). Looking delightfully Lilith Fair and bantering boisterously between songs, the forceful vocalist’s long set mixed songs from her just-released album with plenty of old favorites. (Jonathan Frochtzwajg)

For more of Musicfest's best photos, click the photo below.

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