Thursday saw an early start with Seattle-based radio station, KEXP, doing live broadcasting from the Douglas Fir Lounge with free shows for the public. Unfortunately Ceremony cancelled their daytime set and then Starfucker was replaced also, but I was able to catch Purity Ring. The Canadian duo entertained the mid-day crowd for the live taping of their performance for KEXP at the Doug Fir. Complete with thundering bass and a well-synchronized light show, they put on a simple yet entertaining show using only a beat kit, base drum and vocals.
Koskinen started out with a twangy electric guitar and his drummer JT Bates dialed in some boot stomping percussion. Before long, Erik had his friends and headliners Trampled by Turtles up on stage to join him for his last three songs. It’s always great when artists collaborate together and you could tell there was a lot of mutual respect and appreciation going on.
These United States started off mellow, getting a feel for the crowd and the old East Portland venue. The singer of this five-piece American band had a sweet voice that sounded somewhere between southern country slang and Kings of Leon. He made some cracks at Steve Earl and paid respect to Koskinen and the Turtles. By the time they played “Let the River in” they were rocking hard and enticing fans to dance up front.
The Crystal Ballroom is a really cool old venue three stories up in downtown Portland. It’s an old ballroom with springy wooden floors and chandeliers and big murals on the walls. Passion Pit was packed balls-to-the-wall on Thursday night. After a late start, they cut to chase and went straight into the hits playing tracks from Manners and their brand new album Gossamer. With a powerful sound system, and a crowd full of jumping teenagers, the whole building seemed to vibrate with an electro-pop pulse.
Unfortunately to catch Passion Pit, I had to miss half of the Trampled by Turtles set, but they played for two hours back at the Aladdin Theater. TBT put together an eclectic set list that leaned heavily on the rambunctious, rocking bluegrass side of things with a couple sweet lullabies in between to give the crowd a break from tearing up the dance floor. The night culminated when they brought back out their “good friend” Erik Koskinen for a mega jam of quick stomping jive tunes as the Aladdin shook with energy.
Meanwhile, in a shady industrial section of East Portland at the Branx, Omar Souleyman from Syria, was bringing us a whole new style of music by mixing traditional middle eastern vocals with hip-hop inspired Arabian dance beats. Dressed in a robe, keffiyeh and sunglasses, it was just he and his keyboard laden beat maker on stage. The incredibly addictive sound that was produced filled the venue as if it was an anti-Taliban rally. Souleyman’s simple swagger consisted of two moves: clapping and motioning the crowd to come forward with hands raised in the air. The crowd ate it up: everyone was clapping and grinding and bouncing along entranced by the worldly weight of his music.
The underlit, Vitamin Water-sponsored Holocene was the venue for Tanlines to shut down Thursday night for East Portland. Coming on stage fashionably late the Brooklyn electro-duo seemed hardly excited enough about headlining a stage at a festival of this size. They played pretty simple electronic tracks with a guitar and some percussion instruments. Stay tuned for more coverage: Friday features Menomena, Unkown Mortal Orchestra, Hood Internet, The Helio Sequence, Fucked Up and many more!
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Musicfest NW: Day One in Photos
Musicfest NW: Day Two in Photos
Musicfest NW: Day Three in Photos
Musicfest NW: Day Four in Photos