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)

 

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, this year's picks have been written by three writers, each with unique tastes, to do the festival justice.

 

Hot Snakes

Wednesday, 11:00pm @ Roseland Theatre Relatively newly reformed band Hot Snakes saddened the post-hardcore world (and beyond) when they exited the scene after the release of their last record, Audit In Progress. Catch them while you can. - VIVIAN HUA

 

See all Previews & Picks For WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5

 

Purity Ring

Thursday, 11:00pm @ Berbati's Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring released a fantastic debut album called "Shrines" on 4AD this summer. Though full of mystical electronic layers, the duo's music has a very fresh and pristine sound apt for their band name. Megan James' tender voice sparkles among a bright and absorbing waterfall of percussive sounds and beats. - KARLA HERNANDEZ

 

See all Previews & Picks For THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6

 

Music & Movement in Music Video

Friday, 6:30pm @ Holocene This panel will explore how dance and movement intersect with modern music videos. Select music videos will be screened, followed by an open community dialogue with associated dancers, directors, and musicians. Topics covered may include differences in dance styles among different musical genres, trends of modern dance in contemporary music video, and spontaneity versus choreography in the creative process. A related brochure, featuring Q&A with directors and musicians, will be distributed with further information about the participants and videos screened. SEE ALSO: MOTION & MOVEMENT IN MUSIC VIDEOS EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Black Mountain

Friday, 11:30pm @ Doug Fir Black Mountain are one of the best psych-rock bands out there because no matter how far out the songs get into space, the band always keeps your feet grounded onto Earth. - PETER WOODBURN

 

 

See all Previews & Picks For FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

 

Moonface

Saturday, 12:00am @ Dour Fir Lounge The lesser of Spencer Krug’s numerous projects, Moonface have quietly put out three impressive albums over the course of the past few years. It’s less Wolf Parade and more Sunset Rubdown, if you’re familiar with Krug’s other work, but it also brandishes its own dark, loud mystique. This year’s With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery showcases the groups imaginative and unique song writing skills, a heavy and heady album that deserves praise. With all the rotating, busy pieces in the band it’s worth catching Moonface when you can, as they might not ever come around again. - ERIK BURG

 

See all Previews & Picks For SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8

 

Seattle's discipline-defying Bumbershoot Festival is annually packed with everything an art-minded individual could want, from comedy and dance to art installations and music. Our festival preview for 2012 pulls from all areas, but has a minor focus on dance, as we will presenting our Motion & Movement in Music Video discussion panel this year. Read on for details and our top picks!

 


The Miracles Club

Friday, September 1 - 11:00pm @ Exhibition Hall The Exhibition Hall will be the perfect place for The Miracles Club to churn out their indie house beats and get the crowd pumping with the moves of resident dancer Ryan Boyle. And, did we mention? They'll be premiering their new music video, "The Wheel", at our Motion & Movement in Music Video panel at Bumbershoot, on Monday, September 3rd. - VIVIAN HUA

 

See all Previews & Picks For FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Mudhoney

Saturday, September 2 - 6:45pm @ Fountain Lawn Mudhoney is a Seattle institution. Blam. You can’t really talk about Seattle music accurately without giving Mudhoney its own chapter. If you’re the kind of person who loudly expresses their desire to “support local music” and you’ve never gone to see Mudhoney, then you’re a hypocrite, plain and simple. - RYAN PANGILINAN [... and another recommendation.] Mudhoney are often coined one of the godfather’s of grunge, and its fair to say that after still kicking for close to 25 years, the band is just as good and dirty live as it was in its heyday. - PETER WOODBURN

 

See all Previews & Picks For SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

REDEFINE magazine presents Motion & Movement in Music Videos

Monday, September 3 - 3:30pm @ Leo K Theatre This panel will explore how dance and movement intersect with modern music videos. Select music videos will be screened, followed by an open community dialogue with associated dancers, directors, and musicians. Topics covered may include differences in dance styles among different musical genres, trends of modern dance in contemporary music video, and spontaneity versus choreography in the creative process. A related brochure, featuring Q&A with directors and musicians, will be distributed with further information about the participants and videos screened. SEE ALSO: MOTION & MOVEMENT IN MUSIC VIDEOS EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT

 

See all Previews & Picks For MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3 Director ELY (Eugene Lee Yang) and producer Cathleen Cher of Polica's "Wandering Star" (below) will be present and visiting Seattle from Los Angeles.

 

Menomena have always seemed like a happy-go-lucky bunch. With an arbitrarily-chosen band name reminiscent of The Muppets and lighthearted album titles like I Am The Fun Blame Monster!, the Portland band established itself early on as hard-working yet fun-loving. The band members worked tirelessly towards their success without sacrificing their artistic integrity; they employed DIY promotional methods and remained loyal to Pacific Northwest record labels when they probably could have gone to "bigger and better" ones. They took pleasure in simple projects, buffering their live shows with innovative ideas and devoting their second full-length as an instrumental accompaniment to an experimental dance performance. As Menomena constantly pushed the limits of what it meant to be a creative indie rock force, all pieces pointed to a well-functioning musical machine.
Fast-forward to nearly a decade since the band's first live performance. During that time period, Menomena has released four albums and signed to three different Pacific Northwest labels. The band's long-awaited fourth full-length, Mines, was released in mid-2010, more than three-and-a-half years since their previous release, Friend And Foe. On record, the time seems hardly to have made a difference. Menomena sound as united as ever, the same thoughtful songwriting and complexity one finds on their previous albums present on Mines.

A deeper look, though, reveals that the three musicians behind Menomena – Danny Seim, Brent Knopf, and Justin Harris – aren't actually quite as compatible as they might seem. In fact, they've openly admitted that the creation of Mines was punctuated by countless soul-crushing arguments, and it seems remarkable that they were able to complete the album at all. Despite their obvious creative quirks, the members of Menomena are actually quite serious when dealing with one another; it seems the musical relationship they operate within is a gnarled one.
In their self-crafted statement for Mines, percussionist Danny Seim describes the creation of the album, saying, "Nothing holds up a process like an indispensable band member being both a perfectionist and a control freak. Especially when your band features three of these types. And we certainly haven't gotten any more agreeable in our old age – quite the opposite. However, in the wake of brutal disagreements, unrelenting grudges and failed marriages (not to mention a world full of modern terrorism, natural disasters and economic collapse) somehow this band is still standing."

Mines is the silver lining on a cloud that represents years of creative stagnation, difficulty, and compromise.

This year was the first year that any Redefine staff members have managed to make it down to SxSW in Austin. We didn't know what to expect since SxSW's reputation proceeds it. Although slightly daunting and involving way too much standing around, SxSW is one amazing event. Some people are mistaken in thinking that SxSW is yet another cramped, sweaty festival in which people are herded around like derelict cattle. It is much, much more than that. SxSW is a non-stop music party in the city of Austin. Every venue in town -- including bars and churches that are not usually venues -- begin churning out bands from noon to early the next morning. People from all over the country and world come to Austin in mid-March to experience all of the musical delights -- free and paid -- that SxSW has to offer. Because of diverse booking, music lovers can see anyone as laughable as Bo Bice or Hanson to anyone as underground as that shitty nobody who plays at your local coffee shop. SxSW is, in many ways, an independent music lover's dream, as there were very few major label artists being represented. And did I mention the free food? Oh yes, there was a lot of free food and schwag as well. This year, we went from late Thursday, March 13th to early Sunday, March 16th. Because of the sheer number of bands at SxSW, the long lines during the nighttime shows, and the cruelty of Father Time, we obviously didn't see every band. Nonetheless, here are my five favorite acts from SxSW, in no particular order, along with a couple notable mentions.