MusicfestNW 2013 began for me like every other MusicfestNW experience. I consistently respect the festival's curatorial efforts, which always yield at least a handful of acts I am excited about, and an even larger smattering that I don't exactly care for but greatly approve of from an objective standpoint. This year, however, I decided to take it preeeeeetty easy, both because I've seen many of the bands in the recent past and because I wanted to save myself for the rest of the September festival whirlwind (Decibel Festival and TBA Festival are still on the horizon). The positive news to report is that I saw no filler acts at this year's MusicfestNW. Every act I saw was fantastic... but here are my top three.

Royal Canoe

It seems that every other year, I find an indie pop band that I instantly fall in love with. I need not hear an entire record to know these folks resonate with me; I need only the first track to sense familiarity. In 2009, that band was Nurses; in 2011, it was Gardens & Villa. 2013's candidate for "band I'm going to pimp out to all my friends" is Royal Canoe. The six-piece Winnipeg-based band traveled across the country to play an opening MusicfestNW slot for !!!, and despite the fact that very few people in the crowd seemed to know who they were, Royal Canoe were instant crowd-pleasers and dance-insinuators. They rolled through tracks almost exclusively from their recent LP, Today We're Believers, with one exception: the ridiculously sex-groovy "Summersweat" from their 2012 EP. Twas a set full of falsettos balanced by deep mutated vocal effects, and topped off by -- not one, but four -- vocalists harmonizing or shouting gang vocals as necessary. Also notable were the double drummers, one of which triggered numerous sounds on an electronic drum pad, and a series of sick ass synths that sprang awesome leads like unstoppable leaks. Royal Canoe are the first indie pop band I've seen in a while who truly seem like they are doing something irreplaceable. Their set is something wholly and bizarrely themselves, and unparalleled. As if in response to my bitching just the day before about the fact that live shows rarely wow me anymore, in Royal Canoe swooped, to uphold my high expectations for them. I'm only sad that even with all my proselytizing, I failed to rouse up much interest from my friends, who were busy with other MusicfestNW events. They missed out. Learn more about Royal Canoe in my interview with them.

What some of us might call the Pacific Northwest's best music festival -- and maybe the next and more relaxed SXSW -- is Musicfest NW, a multi-day spread across Portland's best venues. Featuring diverse and exceptional booking, we've split our coverage this year between indie staples, unconventional dance acts, and heavy riffers. Over the course of four days, we gush about everyone from Hot Snakes to The Helio Sequence, Mean Jeans to Omar Souleyman, John Maus to Pure Bathing Culture... and many more, including Swans, Beirut, and Chelsea Wolfe, to name a few. TEXT BY VIVIAN HUA & ERIK BURG; PHOTOGRAPHY BY LYMAY IWASAKI & NATHAN WATTERS SEE FULL FESTIVAL RECAP & PHOTO GALLERY
Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Red Fang

When Red Fang’s beardy, Pabst-swilling selves took the stage at Roseland Theater, the crowd thundered with a hand-clapping, foot-stomping welcome as driving as the band’s opening notes. In a bill consisting of them, Hungry Ghost, and Hot Snakes, Red Fang were easily the crowd favorites of the night. They built off of the unintentionally playful sonics of Hungry Ghost by one-upping similar rhythms and stylistic shifts into much gnarlier and more interesting territory. With every seemingly mediocre or white bread songwriting move came the crust of a more delicious lick; their beastly instrumental slaughtering led to their carving out juicy hunks of musical turkey, next to what had previously been cold and bland deli meat. Red Fang have gained an extensive following locally and beyond in recent years, and the ease with which they toe the line between accessibility and unpredictable manipulation is one main reason. Even those who can’t stand their brand of rock can appreciate that they do what they do with a high caliber of professionalism and an impressive display of confidence. - VIVIAN HUA SEE ALSO: CHARITABLE MUSICIANS: RED FANG BENEFIT PORTLAND ARTS EDUCATION (W/ INTERVIEW)

 

September 15th, 2011 - Branx, Portland, OR Suuns -- which, for the confused, and for me prior to MusicFestNW is pronounced "soons" -- play exactly the kind of dark dancey art rock that works for me. The Montreal band's ability to bridge pop and dance...