MFNW ’11: No Pause (Day Five)

The time has come, and whether I like it or not (SPOILER: I don’t), Music Fest has four bands left, and then we’ve got another year to wait until the mayhem and ecstasy of the festival descends on us, yet again. Last year, the festival went out with a bang, provided by The National’s warped, urban Americana, soundtracking the inner thoughts of every man and woman lost in the hustle and bustle of their city. Theirs is a sound of urban decay turned glamorous and gin-soaked, and it ended the festival with a bang. A tearful, wine-splattered bang.

This year ends with a yawn instead. As far as festival closers, it truly doesn’t get more mundane than Band of Horses. I am perpetually compelled to add the fact that while I do not mind Band of Horses, I do feel as though their slot as The Last Band Of The Festival was a little bit… wrong. This was the only hiccup of the festival, truly, especially considering the fact that the day itself deserved the most exhilarating distraction possible, which Band of Horses is not, by any means.

It’s also possible that I’ve hit a wall. I arrive at Pioneer Square exactly five minutes before Bobby Bare, Jr. takes the stage, just enough time to buy myself an ice cold Pepsi from a Chinese man. I’ve heard exactly nothing by the three openers today, so everything is a surprise, whether it be a good or a bad surprise. However, Bobby Bare, Jr. makes fantastic jokes in between songs: “In Nashville, if your guitar is out of tune… the cops come in… and shoot you in the face,” he lets us know while tuning his guitar. “If you liked what you heard today, and you didn’t buy a CD… and in a year, you’re in Nashville, and you order a pizza, and I deliver that pizza, you did not do your part to support the arts!” The band sounds fantastic in the Square, and I would be wrapped around his finger, were I not hungover in the worst way possible: hungover from exhaustion.

“I went over to their house one day, awhile back… they have bongs everywhere,” I am informed by my friend, while talking about Morning Teleportation. They seem out of place here today, with their psych-rock jams churning out into the faces of everyone who has, quite frankly, had enough of their bullshit for the last four days, goddamnit. I thought they sounded pretty good, but today was not the day. Sorry boys. Your songs still rocked.

But from there the rocking stopped, because Cass McCombs was next. As I said about Band of Horses, all of these bands would be much more well-received had this happened, say, the day before. All of these bands, if I am honest with myself, are truly good, solid bands worth seeing on a sunny September day. But not after the mayhem that MFNW provided. After the blistering night that Saturday provided, not even a $6 cup of Heineken could save how little I wanted this band right then. Whiskey was a great choice.

My friend and I made friends with another cynic before Morning Teleportation. It turned out that being the three cynics in the crowd is the way to enjoy a band like Band Of Horses. The only reason any of us could see for having a dad rock band close out the festival is that, after four hard days of show-going, we all needed a relaxing break. But it never quite felt like that. Band of Horses, to be sure, tore the goddamn house down, and did everything in their power to whip the crowd into a frenzy (SPOILER: they succeeded). Even I, cynical as I am, sang as loud as my “shredded wheat voice” (this is what Band of Horses’ own Ben Bridwell called his own singing voice) could muster when they played Cease to Begin opener, “Is There A Ghost?”

The band leaves stage without an encore, and…

It’s over. Five days later, it’s over. And, I feel sad. On one hand, the prospect of returning to work after this is almost enticing considering how simple it will prove to be. However, weekends like this come around but once a year, and it’s hard not to want them to last indefinitely. Summer feels over once MFNW ends, and the buildup until the following year’s artist announcement is always grueling, even though you never notice it. MFNW is the kind of place where you meet the people you want to see regularly for the rest of your life, and have experiences that you’ll tell your kids about, when they undoubtedly turn out just like you, and want to know about the time you saw The Thermals blow the fuck up on stage, or how it felt to say you saw Explosions in the Sky in a basement, after a meteoric rise to fame. It’s the only festival that you have to work for, but once you’ve worked for it, you feel like you’ve earned all of the joy you get out of it.

To be true, I wish I could have been one of the other 5000 people in Pioneer Square, hanging on Ben Bridwell’s every word. It would have made the grand finale so much more meaningful. It’s hard to see next year’s MFNW topping this year; though the lineup wasn’t mind-expanding, every waking moment spent running across town to catch just one more band was part of the most joyous experience of my life, and I’d be hard pressed to name another time in my life where I had so very much fun, despite passing out at rock shows more than once. Now that the five days is over, I don’t feel quite so much like a little kid anymore. But, that’s okay. There’s always next year, and next year, I’ll be just as excited. Farewell, Music Fest Northwest. Thanks for the tan and the free swag, and please, for the love of god, change your name, already.

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