It would have been as long as Friday night was, with six bands at four different venues. But what’s messed up is that I missed one of the bands that I wanted to see.
See? I’m crazy.
The night started again at the Wonder Ballroom with Male Bonding, the English noise pop trio, with their lo-fi, hook-heavy songs. They were an unexpected find for me, but they were quite fun, and a nice lead-in to Surfer Blood, with a similar vibe. One of the tracks off Male Bonding’s critically acclaimed Nothing Hurts was “Year’s Not Long,” which was a fun live track, with bassist Kevin Hendrick sidestep jiving on stage with his floppy bleach-blonde hair swaying to the beat.
From there, the baby-faced Surfer Blood took the stage for a rousing hour of their upbeat brand of surf-punk songs, including a good number of songs off their debut Astro Coast as well as some new, less familiar songs.
“Portland, where you can always get the best haircut,” front man John Paul Pitts exclaimed to the crowd as they jumped into “Fast Jabroni,” which I’m still unsure of it got its name. It was weird being at a show inside a building while it was still daylight outside, but Surfer Blood managed to get the energy up in the crowded room at 5:30 in the afternoon. My favorite track of their set was the catchy “Twin Peaks” with Pitts’ goofy grooving around the stage. Plus, it really made me want to go rent the whole series of DVD. But once Pitts announced, “this next one’s pretty big on college radio,” and started off the riff to the hugely successful “Swim,” the throngs of young people surrounding me responded appropriately and sang along loudly – “swim, to reach the end!”
I’ll admit that this was the third time I’d seen Surfer Blood that week. The first time was at a Bumbershoot after party in Seattle the weekend before, then actually at Bumbershoot the next day, and this was my favorite performance of the week.
I was completely aware of any sort of stage antics of what was to come with Black Lips coming up, and my expectations were met when I felt spit fall on my head. Bassist Jared Swilley had indeed let out an inaugural spit on the crowd through his golden grill. Yes, I just said grill. I’ll admit that I was expecting more in terms of on-stage antics, but the music spoke for itself, making for an uproarious room. A few people standing behind me actually mentioned how tame it was during Surfer Blood, and people better get crazy during Black Lips, “because this is a punk show!” People certainly did, thrashing around in the mosh pit while Black Lips played the heavy hitters like the “Bad Kids,” which people overwhelmingly requested.
At one point, Cole Alexander said something about wanting some alcohol at 8 p.m. Apparently they start early, but as soon as Alexander made the hypothetical request, some guy in the front row broke out a flask and offered it to the band. Naturally, they gladly accepted. And may I remind you – this was at around 8 p.m.
Shortly after, I managed to make my way to my second venue of the night – Mississippi Studios for a reasonably calmer show. It was Seattle’s own People Eating People – what’s come out of the demise of Nouela Johnston’s old band Mon Frere. I could describe People Eating People as dark, sassy piano pop, and it carried incredibly well in the musician-built Mississippi Studios. Sadly enough, there wasn’t nearly a large enough crowd for how talented Nouela is. And apparently they almost didn’t make it to Portland, as Johnston explained.
“There was a drill at McChord [Air Force Base]…I think it was McChord. It took us four hours to get here!” To clarify – there’s always traffic on I-5 around McChord and Fort Lewis Air Force Bases, not matter what time of day, but when there’s a drill it’s impossible to get through the corridor.
But the scarcely populated room still got to enjoy the undeniably catchy pop songs like the fiery “I Hate All My Friends,” the almost waltzy “On And On,” and my favorite, “Darling.” Not that many had the chance to enjoy People Eating People, which is understandable because Mississippi Studios was by far one of the most out-of-the-way venues on the list of the MFNW venues. But I strongly suggest you seek out their music, because it’s really good.
From there I had to rush to the Hawthorne Theater to catch Morning Teleportation. Well, I rushed to get to Fred Meyer so I could park in their parking lot when walk to the Hawthorne, but anyway. With the band being local, I should have expected it to be as how and crowded as it was, but I had to be pretty shifty with my maneuvering to front area of the stage. These guys’ wacko brand of psychedelic jam band is sometimes other-worldly like the frantic horns and hand claps-driven “Snow frog vs Motor Cobra,” which is a trip to listen to, but even more a trip to see live with a room of adoring local fans. There were at least six people on stage playing various instruments, which could have equaled some muddled cluster of sounds, but it worked in the sweaty Hawthorne Theater at 10 p.m. Isaac Brock recently produced their debut album on his Glacial Pace Recordings, and I really hope the label’s moniker doesn’t attest to the rate at which the album comes out.
I mean, Morning Teleportation employs a Theremin in their music. A THEREMIN. Who does that? Well Morning Teleportation does, as well as a talk box and a whole slew of brass instruments. And with Brock backing them, this band is going to do big things.
I was going to go to the Doug Fir for the Tallest Man on Earth at midnight next, but even getting there 45 minutes early, the line spread all through the parking lot. The Doug Fir is small. And the guy at the door was letting one person in at a time as one person left at a time because it was so packed. So I bagged the Tallest Man on Earth and went to venue into the Friday night downtown nightlife along Burnside for the Builders and the Butchers at Berbati’s Pan. Needless to say, finding parking on a Friday night was horrendous, but I eventually found some in time to get into the tiny bar/venue ten minutes before the band was scheduled to start at 1 a.m. Settling behind an obvious drunk man that brought his own tambourine, I enjoyed the Builders and the Butchers heavy energetic folk rock all the way until 2:30 a.m. This had been their fourth year n a row playing Musicfest Northwest, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
“If you all stick around with us until 2:30, we’ll make out with all of you!” Lead singer Ryan Sollee shouted to the audience, which was met with a resounding “woooo!”
Each member of this band has so many talents that you don’t realize when any one of them switches instruments. At one point Brandon Hafer and Ray Rude had both sat at a drum kit and tag teamed this awesome drum sequence during the epic “Golden and Green.” However, my favorite was during “Vampire Lake,” where Sollee cleverly preempted it.
“This next song is about vampires. And we realize that vampires have gotten really trendy lately, but these are more like True Blood vampires rather than Twilight vampires, if you get the reference.”
I got the reference.
And after that, myself and the large number of inebriated people filling Berbati’s Pan sang along to songs about Barcelona, the Devil, and of course vampires until 2:30 a.m.