LIVE: Sigur Rós, Keller Auditorium, Portland, OR

14362716_10153814793305779_8581073082036384362_o.jpg

Sigur Ros // Photo: Hollister Dixon

By Hollister Dixon

There’s something remarkable about the career trajectory of Sigur Rós. Their lyrics and song titles are almost entirely in Icelandic, except for ( ), their 2002 album sung entirely in Vonlenska (otherwise known as Hopelandic), a completely made-up language. Icelandic is an impossible language that a scant 300,ooo people speak – to put that into perspective, the population of Portland is just under 600,000, so if every Icelandic-speaking person lived in this city, there would still be another half of the city that didn’t understand a word of it. And yet, for the last 20 years, the band have built an obsessive and adoring fanbase all over the world who have fallen in love not with the words frontman Jónsi is singing, but with the sound of his angelic falsetto, the sound of a guitar being played with a cello bow, and the breathtaking landscapes they create with their music. They are emotional on the same level as bands like Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor: the words may not exist (or, in Sigur Rós’ case, may not be understandable), but they’ve gotten unbelievably good at emoting without the need for a shared language.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

MFNW Presents Project Pabst (Night Two): The Hollister Dixon Report

14107711_1003350843096218_8708621685742057009_o

Ween // Photo Credit: Yousef Hatlani

This review is part of a series on MusicFest Northwest Presents: Project Pabst. This include Digable PlanetsGuided By Voices, and Day One of the festival.

By Hollister Dixon

When the merger of MusicFest Northwest and Project Pabst was announced, I had my concerns and doubts. There’s always a worry that it’ll be a “too many cooks in the kitchen” affair, where everything adds up to be less than the sum of its parts. I’ve been a die-hard fan of MFNW for years, but when compared to the lineups of Project Pabst in the two years that the festival has been at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the newcomer Project Pabst has completely outpaced the longer-running festival with a focus on acts that make you say, “Wait, they’re playing Project Pabst? That’s so cool.” To put it simply: it says a lot about that festival that Violent Femmes performing their first album front-to-back is an act that had to be relegated to the undercard in the first year. MusicFest Northwest at the Waterfront was a blast both years, but it was hard to ignore that the lineups both years felt a little too predictable at times.

The marriage of two minds that lead to MusicFest Northwest Presents Project Pabst (or just Project Pabst for short; sorry MFNW, but the full thing is just a mouthful), a two day (or five, if you count the night shows) Waterfront Park blowout with the likes of Ice Cube, Ween, Duran Duran, Tame Impala, Drive Like Jehu, and more.

My biggest disappointment this year came in the form of adulthood getting in the way of the full immersion I’ve always loved to engage in. Other than seeing Guided By Voices at the Crystal Ballroom, I completely missed the first day of the festival because of work, leaving Arya Imig to pick up the slack. Here’s what I saw during my few hours at the festival on Sunday:

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LIVE REVIEW: Guided By Voices, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

This review is part of a series on MusicFest Northwest Presents: Project Pabst. This includes Digable Planets and both Day One and Day Two of the main festival.

Guided By Voices // Photo Credit: Hollister Dixon

Guided By Voices // Photo Credit: Hollister Dixon

By Hollister Dixon

I started 2014 as a passive fan of Guided By Voices. I’d heard Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes just like the next guy, but they never connected with me in the way they did with some people. I was never into lo-fi recordings, finding them hard to really connect with when you have to wade through muddy production just to hear the good stuff. Then, in June, I discovered the secret: I actually saw Guided By Voices. This show was – and there’s no way around the word – transformative. I walked away from that performance ravenous for everything Robert Pollard had ever done. I obsessed over their music. I alienated people around me with this obsession. In August, just two weeks before getting to end my Summer Of Pollard with another Guided By Voices show, I branded myself with the GBV rune and the word “Incurable”, from the song “I Am A Scientist” (“I am a journalist, I write to you to show you: I am an incurable, and nothing else behaves like me.”)

One week after I got that tattoo, Guided By Voices announced that they were not only cancelling their entire tour, but breaking up entirely. “Guided By Voices has come to an end. With 4 years of great shows and six killer albums, it was a hell of a comeback run. The remaining shows in the next two months are unfortunately canceled.” Even as a new acolyte, it felt less like the band had broken up, and more like Bob Pollard had personally broken up with me. This was short-lived, though: in February, another reunion was announced – though it deviated entirely from the classic lineup entirely. Pollard recruited Bobby Bare Jr. (who opened for GBV at that first show, funnily enough), Kevin March, Nick Mitchell, and Mark Shue. In mid-July, the reunion added former guitarist Doug Gillard to flesh everything out. Sure, it was less a Guided By Voices reunion and more of a “Bob Pollard + Doug Gillard + a few hired guns” tour… but, any chance to hear GBV songs is worth it. Right?

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LIVE REVIEW: Digable Planets, Portland, OR

This review is part of a series on MusicFest Northwest Presents: Project Pabst. This includes Guided By Voices and both Day One and Day Two of the main festival.

By Hollister Dixon

While waiting for Digable Planets to start, my show companion (Colin McLaughlin) and I had a long discussion about truly underrated hip-hop albums. For me, the band’s Blowout Comb – their second and final record, released in 1994 – is a shoe-in for that Top 10. Blowout Comb sounded like it was from the future back in ’94, and listening to it now it’s striking how ahead of its time it still sounds. At times, it feels as though the trio – made up of Butterfly (Ismael Butler, later of Shabazz Palaces), Ladybug Mecca (Mary Ann Vieira), and Doodlebug (Craig Irving) – built a time machine with the sole purpose of seeing what soul and funk sounded like in the 3070’s and bringing those vibes back to the 90s. The band broke up shortly after, though they’ve reunited sporadically in the 20 years since.

There’s always a worry that any reunion is a lazy cash-grab, done “for the money”. Let’s set the record straight, before we go on: if Digable Planets are playing for us again “for the money”, it presents an entirely compelling case for capitalism.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MFNW Presents Project Pabst (Night One): The Arya Imig Report

14125505_1002298269868142_1659595254595239957_o

Duran Duran // Photo Credit: Yousef Hatlani

This review is part of a series on MusicFest Northwest Presents: Project Pabst. This include Digable PlanetsGuided By Voices, and Day Two of the festival.

By Arya Imig

When one music festival merges with another, it’s easy to assume that some capitulation to acknowledging vulnerabilities has been made by one side or another. Regardless of the circumstances which led to the merger of MusicFest Northwest and Project Pabst, the results of the lineup and attendance prove that greatness recognizing greatness pays off. The elements that have made the festivals successful separately over the last few years, especially since MFNW moved to a single site day time model, were on display in stereo Saturday at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

That said, the most valid criticism of the result of the merger is that it resulted in a deficit of all ages access to events of the festival. This is an issue worth acknowledging the importance of, and addressing with legitimate understanding of why it’s good for all parties involved. There are many valid legal reasons why the festival itself was unable to be all-ages due to the alcohol sponsorship involved being in conflict with the state’s convoluted and antiquated liquor control laws. There are many small ways to involve the next generation of music fans in enjoying the artistry of some of the icons who played this year. Future legend Vince Staples at the Doc Marten’s store is one thing, but let’s hope it’s a template that can be built on for next year. Other than this major caveat, with Sunday tickets and weekend passes sold out, it’s safe to say the festivals made a smart decision in joining forces.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Seu Jorge to Bring The Life Aquatic to Portland

seu-jorge-life-aquatic-2004-billboard-650

12 years ago, Seu Jorge recorded a series of Portugese covers of David Bowie songs for Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic. Only a few of them made it into the movie – and onto the film’s soundtrack – but a year later Jorge released an entire album’s worth of the songs, captivating even David Bowie himself – leading Bowie to remark, “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese, I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.” Now, after all this time, Seu Jorge has decided to take this music on the road, using the tour to pay a fitting tribute to the late musician.

This November, Jorge will tour the country with this tribute, including a stop at Portland’s Revolution Hall. Each show will be performed amidst set dressing designed to evoke that of The Belafonte, the boat on which the majority of The Life Aquatic takes place, complete with sails acting as screens for projected images throughout the show.

Check out Seu Jorge’s “Ziggy Stardust” after the jump, as well as tour dates for his travelling tribute.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Notes on Pickathon 2016

"Cause we're on our way..."

Yo La Tengo // Photo Credit: Hollister Dixon

By Hollister Dixon

Editor’s Note: Due to some unfortunate technical issues, all of the actual photos I took over the weekend were lost. I have a few decent ones I got with my cell phone, however. I apologize for this.

I’ve been hearing about Pickathon for years. Two years ago, Faces on the Radio cohost Arya Imig went for the first time, and came back with stories of immeasurable joy and brilliance. I resolved to get there as soon as I possibly could. It took a year longer than I would have liked, but I finally made it: I spent three unbelievable days at Pickathon 2016.

I’m just going to get this out of the way, before we move on: I really struggled to find things that could be better about the festival. Eventually, I realized that “There’s just too much hay for my liking” and “It’s about five degrees too hot out” weren’t valid criticisms, but minor ways for me to try and rectify the fact that I am, by and large, an incredibly positive critic. Still, Pickathon is a festival made for people like me: people with an obsessive need to geek out about music, with other people who want to do the same, in an environment that breeds that kind of behavior. Pickathon isn’t so much a festival as it is a four-day summer camp where all of your favorite bands are playing, and nobody feels like they’re there out of obligation. I had a few conversations with different performers about how they felt about the festival, and the consensus is that it’s the perfect antidote to just about every other North American festival out there. It’s clean, it’s free of gigantic sponsors, it’s eco-friendly. It does everything right.

I really, really wish I could talk about things that are wrong with it, but I haven’t got much. All I actually have is the fact that I would have liked to do and see more. There were some tough scheduling conflicts, and the smaller Lucky Barn was so consistently packed, I never actually saw a band perform there. I also never saw the Starlight Stage or a night show at Galaxy Barn, but this is a consequence of a) seeing the final act at the Woods Stage every evening, and b) not camping out, but instead going home every night. I also never made it to the fabled Pumphouse, which apparently saw a set by Dan Boeckner and Arlen Thompson’s Frankfurt Boys, the “the one-millionth Wolf Parade offshoot band” (in Dan Boeckner’s words), which was plagued with technical issues. And still, the experience I got was truly satisfying, in a way I haven’t experienced at any other festival – or, at least, haven’t come close to since the old multi-venue days of MusicFest Northwest.

It was impossibly hard for me to figure out how to break this festival down, because doing it day by day feels wrong. So, I’m going to do it in two Top Fives: The Old (bands I already knew), and The New (acts I discovered this year). All said and done, I saw 24 performances by 20 different acts (with four acts seen twice).

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

REVIEW: Turtlenecked – Pure Plush Bone Cage

a2807943455_10

By Arya Imig

Turtlenecked is the latest, but perhaps greatest, find by Good Cheer Records, who have dedicated themselves to chronicling the emergence of the best potential Portland has to offer. They succeed. Turtlenecked mastermind Harrison Smith exemplifies the aesthetic the label best strives for with his debut album, Pure Plush Bone Cage. Songwriting comes first for Smith and you can tell by the myriad of sound that are taken into account into developing his sound.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

LIVE: Weird Al Yankovic, Edgefield Amphitheater, Portland, OR

weird_al_yankovic-comerica_theatre-phoenix-august_concert-mandatory_fun_tour

By Hollister Dixon

I have a lot of love for Weird Al Yankovic. He’s a man who’s career I haven’t followed as closely as should, but my love of his music goes back – like most people – to when I was a kid. I remember hearing Seattle’s KISS 106.1 premiere “The Saga Begins”, and I remember the joy of seeing him at the Puyallup Fair on the Poodle Hat tour when I was all of 13 years old (my third concert ever). Over the last 30 years, Yankovic has built a perfect legacy as the parody artist, one with an almost superhuman ability to create fantastic pop songs within another person’s framework, as well as creating pitch-perfect pastiche pieces (Running With Scissors odyssey “Albuquerque” springs to mind immediately, which may be his best work). I haven’t seen Yankovic perform since I was a kid, so it seemed like it was time to finally watch him work his magic with adult(ish) eyes.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Notes On Night Vale

By Hollister Dixon

Those three years I spent doing a podcast taught me a lot about myself, but one of the most important things I learned was about the love, adoration, and respect I have for anyone who is able to turn in a quality radio production with any regularity, and get people to listen. In this respect, then, getting to see a live performance of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s Welcome To Night Vale – a bi-monthly podcast with a legion of fierce, loyal, and rabid fans – in the opulent Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was like being a Little League short stop at a Red Sox game. Radio is a fickle beast, and the nature of podcasting is such that you have to fight tooth and nail, at times, to really grab people’s attention. And yet, four years on, WTNV’s fanbase is devoted enough that they were not only able to justify being at the Schnitz, but were able to sell the place out for an hour-and-a-half of music, surrealism, and ghost stories.

The unfortunate thing about Welcome To Night Vale’s live shows is that, to get the full effect of everything, you need to actually hear it. As the show’s credits-reader/proverb-deliverer Meg Bashwiner highlighted in her pre-show delivery of the show’s rules noted, the story of this particular tour will be released as a live recording after the tour is complete, so even giving major details about the plot are hard to justify. In lieu of a traditional review – which is hard to truly do for something like WTNV – I’ve compiled a series of observations about the show as a whole. Please enjoy.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,