August: A Month of Concerts in 20 Songs

From the frankenfestival that is MusicfestNW Presents Project Pabst to a cozy Emily King set, there’s something for everyone this August.

By Lisa Dunn and Rebecca Jacobson July 28, 2016

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AlunaGeorge brings electro-sweetness to Portland in August. 

Image: Interscope

Heads up, typecasters: Portland’s music scene goes far beyond the clichéd indie associations—and what’s on offer for August live music fans makes that clear. While you suffer through (or revel in) the hottest month of the year, dance to aggressive surf-electronica outfit Wavves or nod along to George Colligan’s dizzying free-form sound at the Montavilla Jazz Fest.

August 2: AlunaGeorge, “Mean What I Mean”: The London-based electronic duo has a sultry sound ripe for head-nodding and self-conscious arm wiggling.

August 5: Brigitte Fassbaender,“Il Trovatore, Act 2: Stride la vampa!”: Since 2003, Portland SummerFest has extricated opera from the concert hall and plunked it, for free, in the lush and green Washington Park Amphitheatre. In this year’s Opera in the Park: an abridged version of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, with all-star soprano and SummerFest mainstay Angela Meade atop the bill.

August 5: Emily King, “Distance”: The Grammy-nominated R&B singer has a voice that’s by turns soulful, funky, and wispy.

August 5: Kacey Musgraves, “Follow Your Arrow”: Some country musicians sing about pickup trucks and ‘Murica. Musgraves sings about marriage equality and lighting up a joint. In other words, the singer-songwriter, with her shimmering voice and witty lyrics, is a country star for the rest of us.

August 5: Wavves, “Green Eyes”: The Southern California electronica rock band has a sound that niggles and grates, and yet it’s just so damn catchy. With elements of garage rock, avant garde electronica, and the wailing vocals of shoegaze, there’s something for everyone.

August 5–6: Pink Martini, “Sympathique”: It wouldn’t be summer without a Pink Martini concert at the zoo: seeing the genre-crossing little orchestra in close proximity to trumpeting elephants and rotating lions is practically a Portland rite of passage.

August 5–7: Yo La Tengo, “Cherry Chapstick”: If there’s one festival that typifies all that’s good, odd, barely functional, and utterly enjoyable about this town, it’s Pickathon, held on a rolling farm in Happy Valley. Banning plastic beer cups, giving out free water, composting waste, running lights on solar power—all that, and a killer music lineup that this year includes Yo La Tengo, Jeff Tweedy, Blossom, Chanti Darling, Myke Bogan, and Irish alt-country outfit I Draw Slow. On your bikes, Portlanders.

August 5–20: Cantores in Ecclesia, “Asperges Me”: For the 19th year, Portland liturgical choir Cantores in Ecclesia celebrate the work of the English Renaissance composer, William Byrd, with choral concerts, organ music, lectures, and more.

August 8: Gregory Alan Isakov, “The Stable Song”: Isakov’s folksy sound is like the end of summer: sad, slow, and a little sweet.

August 9: Lil Yachty, “One Night”: Associated with the likes of Chance the Rapper, Lil Yachty is new on the scene. Like, brand-new. His mixtape dropped only a few months ago, and he’s already garnering tons of attention. And no wonder: his sound is sticky-slow and cerebral.

August 13: Sarah Jarosz, “House of Mercy”: Jarosz’s guitar-and-vocals sound channels the wild west, dusty Clint Eastwood films, and that time you drove by yourself to the Painted Hills just to get away.

August 14: Ampersan, “El Compromiso”: This duo, hailing from Mexico City, blends traditional Mexican acoustic guitar, rap, and electronica seamlessly.

August 18: The Builders and the Butchers, “Black Dresses”: The twangy Portland folk-rockers manage to shirk aw-shucks earnestness, thanks to their penchant for apocalyptic lyrics and front man Ryan Sollee’s nasal yowl.

August 19: People Under the Stairs, “Alleys (Bada)”: Since breaking onto the scene in the late ‘90s, the Los Angeles hip-hop duo has taken their DIY ethic seriously: they’re devoted crate diggers, sampling everything from jazz to funk to psych rock.

August 19: Los Tigres Del Norte, “La Puerta Negra”: The legendary Norteño band—they’ve logged nearly 40 years of accordion squeezing and bajo sexto plucking—is known for energetic audience interaction and potent political messages. At the Latin Grammy Awards last November, the San Jose, California-based ensemble appeared alongside Guadalajara pop-rock band Maná to protest Donald Trump, with a sign that read (in Spanish), “Latinos united. Don’t vote for racists.”

August 20: Federale, “Sir, You Realize…”: The Portland band’s darkly vampy, atmospheric anthems have found their way into films from Iranian noir A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night to The Lego Movie. Tonight’s gig promises the stories of how these songs ended up onscreen, as well as a preview of new material from a promised fourth studio album.

August 20-21: George Colligan, “Amidst a Yesteday’s Presence”: In its third year, the Montavilla Jazz Fest puts the spotlight on Portland-based artists, including vocalist Jeff Baker, pianist Darrell Grant, and guitarist Dan Balmer. They’re joined by a handful of out-of-towners—most notably composer and multi-instrumentalist George Colligan, who’ll headline both evenings.

August 26: Real Estate, “Beach Comber”: The surf rock band recently experienced a shakeup, with the announcement that guitarist and founding member Matt Mondanile would be leaving to pursue a side project. But with the teasing release of a few new songs, it seems like Real Estate will keep on movin’.

August 27-28: Tame Impala, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”: Holy frankenfestival! Willamette Week’s long-running MFNW joins forces with the fledgling Project Pabst for shows at the waterfront and indoor venues around town. The lineup balances throwbacks—Duran Duran, Ice Cube, Ween—with these Aussie psych rockers Tame Impala, plus shut-up-and-listen hip hop queen Lizzo, and the hooky punk of Sheer Mag.

August 28: Peter Bjorn and John, “Dominos”: We’re trying really hard not to hold the deathless appeal of whistle-crazed, coffee-shop earworm “Young Folks” against the Swedish indie trio. Really, really hard. Hence, "Dominos."

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