MFNW ’14: The Jacob Heiteen Report

By Jacob Heiteen

SIDE NOTE: Unfortunately life and my job got in the way of me seeing as much of MusicFestNW as I’d like. I only was able to catch 70% of the Sunday lineup. I could mope about missing Future Islands or Girl Talk, but I would say that the bands I saw more than made up for their absence. Here is what I thought of the sets I saw:

WILD ONES:
The last time I got to see Portland-based synth-poppers was in a cramped basement of a house show, in the end of fall 2013. Since then they seem to be everywhere. This is obviously a band in the beginnings of a pivotal chapter of their career. Thankfully they made the house show to festival stage transition seem effortless. The crowed was eating out of their hands, dancing throughout the set, and cheering when the band pulled out their “From Portland” credentials.  The best part about seeing bands at this stage of their career is that they usually play with a tone of confidence, and Wild Ones was no exception. Can’t wait to see them play on an even bigger stage next time.

THE ANTLERS:
Look, I understand why The Antlers are so beloved. Sad bastard music will never stop being necessary, but for some reason I just can’t get on board the Antlers train. I had such a hard time standing in the heat, listening to drone-y song with horns and a crescendo, after drone-y song with horns and a crescendo. The set had its moments, like when they played some of their more forward moving songs, but it overall made me really bored. It just felt really out of place being sandwiched between the perky Wild Ones and the in-your-face-ness of Fucked Up (more on that later). Maybe I would have liked them more in a more intimate setting, but I feel like they just aren’t for me.

FUCKED UP:
Oh man did Fucked Up come in charging like a horde of rhinos! One drummer, one bass, three guitars, and one Leonidas-like frontman (Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham) were all that was needed to amply pump things up. Pretty sure the only mosh pit of the fest was during Fucked Up and thank god I was right in their getting completely covered in dust. The band was super on point and somehow kept things together despite all the chaos Abraham was bringing out of people. I’m sure that this was the first hardcore show for some members of the audience and I’m glad it was this one, since it gave you a sense of what the genre is at its best. It felt like the band was there for us to let our anger out, which they returned with an attitude that made it seem like they wanted be there for us. Damian Abraham’s stage antics and banter (which ranged from the personal to the political) almost made me forget I was at a festival. I felt like I was in a small venue with the band ten feet away, which is what makes Fucked Up so special. There is no separation between us and Fucked Up, when they play we are all Fucked Up.

tUnE-yArDs:
I don’t get why all bands don’t come to show in costume? It adds so much, and even if they suck at least they are fun to look at. Thankfully tUnE-yArDs did not suck, not in the least. Their jittery brand of indie-pop went over so well with the MFNW and probably had more people dancing than any other band that day. They weren’t there to play a set, they were there to put on a show. Aside from colorful costumes, there were background singers and fucking choreography (a total weakness for me). And lets not forget the jams (of which there more than plenty), from new cuts like “Sink-O” to classics like “Bizness”. I’m pretty sure that Merrill Garbus, the band’s mastermind, is the only person who can take out a ukulele and not make me groan because it mean “Powa” is up next. After the set all I could think was how much tUnE-yArDs needed to have their own super ambitious, Sufjan Stevens-like stage show.

HAIM:
The way to describe Haim is “likeable”. Their music is likeable, their offstage personas are likeable, and their set was likeable, which was kind of the problem. They didn’t really bring out any side of themselves that I didn’t get from listening to their record, which I very much liked. While they totally had the right energy and jams the whole set just felt like standard festival fare. I guess what I’m getting at is that I had a much more fun time listening to Haim than I did seeing them live.

SPOON:
So, someone please tell me why Spoon is not as big as indie bands like Arcade Fire or The National? I’d be way more OK with Spoon having that status than either of the aforementioned. They have the better songs, they have better albums, and they have the better vibe. Spoon is the real deal and need to be recognized as such. I forgot how much I loved Spoon, a band that has been with me since freshman year of high school, and I’m very glad to be reminded of why I love them. Needless to say they put on an absolutely killer set, complete with two encores. They played everything, including my personal favorite “Black Like Me.” Spoon was a perfect choice for closing things out. I feel kind of lame saying that the finale headliner was my favorite set, but fuck it they were just so good. Total gold standard of their genre.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
I was very skeptical of the changes to MFNW. The smaller lineup and the new enclosed space made me nervous. However, I found myself really enjoying the fest this year. Yes, it has become more like all the other festivals in the country but it still stood out in a lot of ways. The fact that it was so small was refreshing and made the dreadful walk from stage to stage less of an ordeal, the non-overlapping set scheduling allowed for people to see every act on the roster if they so choose, and the nice view of the city skyline reminded everyone that, despite the changes, this is still a festival done Portland style.

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