July: A Month of Concerts in 20 Songs

From a Portland Cello Project tribute to Prince to the free, all-ages extravaganza of PDX Pop Now, July promises a stellar lineup of live music.

By Lisa Dunn, Rebecca Jacobson, and Fiona McCann July 5, 2016

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Nu Shooz hits Marylhurst for a free, al fresco concert.

Image: Hiroshi Iwaya 

With Juneuary long forgotten, summer in Portland has officially begun. Celebrate the dubiously sunny season by attending outdoor shows that nod to your early 2000s normcore upbringing, listening to heady hip-hop at the Hawthorne, and grooving to a Portland Cello Project tribute to Prince.  

July 1: Diana Ross, “I’m Coming Out”: Ain’t no mountain high enough to keep us from seeing this Motown legend. Fingers crossed for lots of sequins, frothy tulle, crystalline vocals, and maybe even a DJ Khaled cover. (It’s happened before.)

July 1–4: Leo “Bud” Welch, “Girl in the Holler”: The venerable Waterfront Blues Festival, which launched in 1987, welcomes another packed lineup to the banks of the Willamette. This year features powerfully piped songstress Liz Vice, Femi Kuti (son of Afrobeat icon Fela Kuti), blue rocker ZZ War, funky saxophonist Maceo Parker, and, of course, the comparable octogenarian blues mainstay Leo “Bud” Welch.

July 2: case/lang/veirs, “Atomic Number”: Deal of the summer: three kick-ass musicians with stellar solo careers for the price of one, touring on the back of their eponymous new record. For more, check out our story on the group's Portland-made 

July 2: The Slants, “Sakura, Sakura”: The Portland-based band, which refers to itself as “Chinatown Dance Rock” and recently won a long legal battle to trademark their name, is back with its latest album, Something Slanted This Way Comes. The synth-y rock band’s latest sounds like a track straight from an off-kilter coming-of-age teenage caper movie.

July 7: Deerhoof, “The Devil and his Anarchic Surrealist Retinue”: From their new album The Magic, this track is subdued but theatrical. The foursome is hard to pin down, but it works for them. The album is unexpected in all the right ways.

July 8: Azealia Banks, “The Big Big Beat”: The undeniably controversial rapper just released another catchy track. The banger combines elements of dancehall and house music with, of course, a nod to Notorious B.I.G.’s brassy baritone vocals. 

July 11: We Are Scientists, “Headlights”: Perhaps best known for an upbeat pop punk sound that somehow survived the early 2000s, We Are Scientists is back with much of the same sound: catchy, if predictable.

July 12: Margaret Glaspy, “Emotions and Math”: The title track of Glaspy’s first album is throaty—almost frog-in-your-throaty—and heavy on the blues guitar and thoughtful lyrics.

July 12: Vienna Teng, “Level Up”: Teng, who is best known for her simple piano-and-vocals sound, has started to branch out with her latest: playing around with polyrhythmic sound and frantic vocals. The lovely lyrical content, however, is much the same.

July 14: SassyBlack, “New Boo”: Space-age R&B? Yes please. The Seattle-based vocalist will play Holocene with Portland’s own Chanti Darling. 

July 14-17: Yonder Mountain String Band, “40 Miles from Denver”: Beyond headliners (and Northwest String Summit organizers) Yonder Mountain String Band, the annual roots festival hosts the always haunting Shook Twins, bluegrass staple Railroad Earth, Grammy-nominated quintet Infamous Stringdusters, and all-female supergroup Sideboob (which has nothing to do with the band on Orange Is the New Black).

July 15: Nu Shooz, “Way Outside”: Thirty years ago, this jazz-funk-R&B outfit put Portland on the musical map with massive hit “I Can’t Wait.” After a 27-year-hiatus, husband-wife duo John Smith and Valerie Day are back with a funktastic new album, Bagtown, and are hitting the road with a full band. You’ll have to haul out to the Marylhurst University campus, but the alfresco show is free. For more, check out our Q&A with Smith and

July 15-16: Portland Cello Project, “Hey Ya!”: Every year, Portland Cello Project puts on an “extreme dance party,” which takes large string instruments to places you’ve never dreamed possible—or is, y’know, just another excuse for the beloved, genre-bending orchestra to bust out some pop hit. This installment pays tribute to Prince, so dust off your best purple suit.

July 16-17: M. Ward, “Confession”: Our resident rich-toned singer-songwriter returns with More Rain, a layered, moody ode to staying indoors in a damp climate. With cameos from Neko Case, k.d. lang, and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, this ninth album from M. Ward opens with the sound of actual rainfall and includes a suitably sunshine-stripped Beach Boys cover. So July is clearly the perfect time for him to hit his hometown with two Revolution Hall shows.

July 17:  Barenaked Ladies, “One Week”: Because you still know all the lyrics to “One Week,” and you really, really want to holler them on the Edgefield lawn while chugging Ruby Ale.

July 21: Crystal Castles, “Year of Silence”: Aggressively lo-res, high-energy duo Crystal Castles is back. The last time they came through town singer Alice Glass sang, punched, and danced her way through their set—all while on crutches.

July 22-24: Wooden Indian Burial Ground, “Helicopter”: PDX Pop Now, the long-running, all-ages, always-free fest is one of Portland’s absolute best. The monster lineup (more than 40 artists) includes dreamy, lo-fi pop experimentalists the Lavender Flu, instrumental troupe 1939 Ensemble, fuzz-pop outfit Tender Age, punk-meets-country band Jenny Don’t & The Spurs, and rapper Maze Koroma, among others. 

July 26: Ghostface Killah, “Sour Soul”: One of the original (and arguably one of the most beloved) members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface makes regular appearances in Portland. Catch him before he goes into hiding with the rest of Wu-Tang to make a new album—which Ghostface will be in charge of producing. 

July 30: Weezer, “King of the World”: Early 2000s emo kids rejoice. Not only is Weezer still pumping out albums, they’re coming to Edgefield this summer—with support from Panic! At the Disco (for your young, naive scene friends). Relive your sweater-and-black-frame-glasses glory days (or keep livin’ em?) while enjoying the sun set.

July 31: Modest Mouse, “Lampshades on Fire”: Last summer, Modest Mouse front man Isaac Brock told the Polish press that Portland is “a collection of human turds.” This summer, thank him for doing his part to stem the flow of transplants to our fair city.

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