Project Pabst Pours Over Zidell Yards

Music lovers and beer guzzlers flocked to Zidell Yards for the debut of this PBR-soaked music fest to hear everybody from Tears For Fears to GZA to Modest Mouse.

By Matthew Schonfeld September 29, 2014

Portland's unwavering love of cheap beer and good music has finally paid off: this past weekend, Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery thanked the city for its love and support with Project Pabst, a stellar three-day festival that is hopefully the first of many to come. 

Organized by the folks who cook up Bonnaroo (Superfly), Project Pabst was the most substantial event yet to take over Zidell Yards, a post-industrial waterfront lot (read, a gravel parking lot) between the Ross Island Bridge and the soon-to-come Tilikum Crossing. Two stages—Captain Pabst and Blue Ribbon—were set on opposite ends of the Yards, framing a scattering of food vendors, a faux dive bar, lawn games, an arcade—rather, a PBRcade—and as many tall boys as you could shake a, well, tall boy at, complete with a special logo featuring a unicorn and the state of Oregon (did we also mention there was a giant unicorn statue with a glowing horn?).

For what was basically a test-run for a festival that Pabst might take on the road, everything went charmingly smooth. The performers were punctual, with a mere 15 minutes between opposing stage sets. The food lines were manageable with a variety of offerings from falafel to poutine to ramen to fried chicken. And the sun was beaming, with sweaters only necessary for the 7–9 pm main events. 

The 42-band lineup stretched across genres and generations, attracting everybody from balding baby-boomers there solely for Tears For Fears to afro-futurist hipsters hypnotized by the sounds of Shabazz Palaces. 

Both days boasted deep bills, and last week we broke down our five must-see picks, but in reality many bands proved worthy of that stamp with adrenaline-soaked sets as early as 3 pm. On Saturday that band was Red Fang, Portland's own metal outfit, moving a familiar crowd to one of the more mettlesome mosh pits of the weekend. Fellow Portland lo-fi punk trio the Thermals roared early on Sunday, with lead singer Hutch Harris cavorting all over the stage and joking with his hometown fans. 

Judging by the wealth of Wu-Tang Clan shirts in attendance on Sunday, GZA seemed the most anticipated set of the day. Equipped with a full band, the Brooklyn MC trucked through 1995's Liquid Swords, as promised on the bill, but also weaved in throwback Wu-Tang crowd-pleasers like Old Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and the timeless "C.R.E.A.M."

With two-hour time slots, the headliners of each day, Tears For Fears and Modest Mouse, had ample time to rip through reams of respective hits. The synthpop rockers' catalogue may be dated, but the music's still infectious, and irresistibly danceable. In an effort to prove relevance, Tears For Fears also broke into Radiohead's "Creep." But ultimately, they gave the crowd what they wanted—a grandiose 80s-indebted sound and, of course, an encore of "Shout."

Modest Mouse attracted a more festival-familiar crowd of 20-somethings looking to relive their adolescents with Issac Brock's wailing charm. After admitting to being severely sick all weekend, Brock dove into his deep bag of tracks from ruminative and philosophical to angsty and stubborn.  

All in all, Project Pabst was a triumph. It fulfilled its foremost intention to give back to Portland, allowing residents to walk, bike, and drive the easy distance to the Southwest waterfront to revel in free-flowing music and beer. 

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