Phosphorescent

Project Pabst 2014 Recap

We gave recaps for a couple of the bonus shows that came courtesy of Project Pabst, and now it’s time to give some thoughts on the main event itself.  Overall, it was a pretty fantastic experience, feeding off the successful aspects of MusicFestNW with an even better lineup and nicer weather (the sun was shining just the same, but with none of that unpleasant August heat).    If this becomes an annual event, we’ll welcome it with open arms, but it’ll be hard to top this debut.

The mascot for Project Pabst and Scotland's national animal.

The mascot for Project Pabst and Scotland’s national animal.

I’ve lived for over 15 years in Oregon and have spent time in Portland on countless occasions, but this festival marked the first time I had poked around the South Waterfront.  It’s an area that the city has thrown a bunch of money at for redevelopment, but for some reason a few towers of condos haven’t spurred people to come down and spend money in that area.  And if you look closely at the gravel pit from the photo above, you can see why.  That said, parking was convenient enough (for ten dollars) and public transport ran smoothly, so clearly this spot should be able to handle an influx of hipsters as necessary.

Violent Femmes up on the stage.

Violent Femmes up on the stage.

Since I had to make the hour drive up each day, I skipped a couple of unfamiliar acts, but made sure to at least catch an old favorite, the Violent Femmes.  Though I came in half-way through and probably missed alternative radio staples like “Blister in the Sun” and “Add it Up”, I did get to enjoy “Gone Daddy Gone”, “Country Death Song”, and “Black Girls”.  The group showed why they would be a blast at festivals, engaging with the crowd with great jokes and keeping things fun and loose.  They may be basically a nostalgia act at this point, but no one should be complaining.

While the sun was pleasant for the audience, Red Fang would best be enjoyed in a grey thunderstorm.

While the sun was pleasant for the audience, Red Fang would best be enjoyed in a grey thunderstorm.

It’s always a blast to see these hometown heavy metal heroes, but Red Fang really brought it at this festival.  I’ve seen the band headline numerous shows around town, and for the first time the band had a proper mix, at an outdoor festival of all places.  Both guitars and vocals came in clearly and at the right volume, and it made it easier to enjoy crowd favorites like “Wires”, “Prehistoric Dog”, and “Blood Like Cream”.  It was the perfect soundtrack for driving around and committing some misdemeanors (and maybe a felony or two), but luckily no one actually took up that challenge.

Phosphorescent with some breezy jams

Phosphorescent with some breezy jams

I enjoyed Phosphorescent’s 2013 album Muchacho quite a bit, so I was eager to see Matthew Houck and his friends perform live.  He kicked things off with the best track off that album, “The Quotidian Beasts”, and it did not disappoint–the song builds off Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” chord progression to provide ample space for gorgeous and thrilling solos.  The mood was pretty chill for the most part, which was perfect for the afternoon, but the band was able to keep the momentum going even through some of the ballad-filled lulls.

I assure you, those ants are Tears for Fears

I assure you, those ants are Tears for Fears

We took a break during Rocket from the Crypt’s set, partly because I can never forgive the band for not being Rocket from the Tombs, and sampled some of the foodcarts and the free “PBRcade”.  Being originally from Louisiana, if someone is offering a Muffuletta sandwich you’re goddamn right I’m going to order one, and even if it wasn’t great, it’s better than most options.

Tears for Fears were an unconventional headliner that made a lot of people scratch their heads (as they explained, they were a last-minute replacement for Kate Bush (yes, this was a joke)), but the crowd definitely seem to appreciate it.  The instrumentation was pretty spare, allowing a lot of space in the music, and probably could have benefited from some additional backup vocals.  They stunned the audience with an aching cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” (even if it failed to include the best part of the song as some would argue), then proceeded to capture the hearts of the hipsters in attendance with an Arcade Fire song.  I checked out at this point to get across town for Built to Spill, but as I exited they launched into “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, so I hung out a bit right outside to hear one of the best songs of the 80’s live.

Speedy Ortiz keepin' the dream of the 90's alive

Speedy Ortiz keepin’ the dream of the 90’s alive

I was glad to catch the end of Speedy Ortiz’s set, since Major Arcana was one of my favorites from last year.  They draw from some of the best parts of Pavement and the early grunge era to write crunchy, meandering (in a good way) alt-rock, and while they could improve on their stage presence a bit, it was good to hear some noise.

The Thermals up on the main stage, and deservedly so.

The Thermals up on the main stage, and deservedly so.

The Thermals are the true hometown heroes, and they proved it with their blistering 45-minute set that tore up the main stage.  Granted, it was still early in the day and the crowd was a little sparse given their considerable effort, but the band played with a furious intensity that only let up when Hutch had to confront a bee on his microphone.  It’s always a treasure when the band throws in some tracks from Fuckin’ A in with the classics from The Body, The Blood, The Machine.

Shabazz Palaces rockin' the laptops and drums.

Shabazz Palaces rockin’ the laptops and drums.

Shabazz Palaces were a change-up from the rock-heavy lineup, and while it was nice to have some hip-hop, the duo’s set was a bit monotonous.  Sure, it was groovy for a bit, but there wasn’t much shape to their set, and it was hard for the newcomer to really latch on to the music.

GZA taught Portland the finer points of astrophysics

GZA taught Portland the finer points of astrophysics

GZA thrilled the crowd with not only a performance of Liquid Swords but also by tossing in some Wu-Tang classics, with plenty in the crowd ready on-hand to provide some of the missing parts.  Liquid Swords can be a difficult album to get into, but with the help of an excellent backing funk band GZA was really able to get the songs to pop and come alive.

Modest Mouse putting an exclamation point on a great weekend.

Modest Mouse putting an exclamation point on a great weekend.

We had seen Modest Mouse a few months earlier as they started touring once again, and while that was a fine show, it was nothing compared to how tight the group was for this performance.  Holy shit, this may have been their best show yet, featuring such highlights as “Night on the Sun”, “Broke”, and “Doin’ the Cockroach”.  The group at this point has evolved so much over the years, transitioning from a power trio into what seems to be an 8-or-so piece in its current incarnation, with dual percussionists (as has been the norm since Good News) and multi-instrumentalists handling horns and strings.  With its revolving-door-like lineup, it can often appear to be some sort of musician welfare program, and I say that with the best of intentions.

On Sunday night, after a brief delay at the start (it was fitting that Modest Mouse was the only band unable to start on time the whole day), the band effortlessly ran through their extensive catalog with nary a hiccup, beginning with “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”, which in a nice bit of symmetry was the final song of the encore from the time we saw them back in May.  The band easily moved throughout their extensive catalog, capturing both the big hits and the rare gems alike.  As mentioned above, the rare early single “Night on the Sun” was especially memorable, with Isaac putting his gruff delivery to good use and firing off some especially wicked solos.  Though Isaac was battling a cold, the audience wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t for his announcement, but it did lead to one of his many funny anecdotes during the show; at one point he claimed to be bad at the “in-between song banter”, but anyone who’s been to a Modest Mouse show knows that’s far from the case.

The encore ended with an especially stirring rendition of “The World At Large”, augmented by a coda which made excellent use of the full band with horns and strings helping deliver extra power to that gorgeous instrumental ending.  The finale of “The Good Times Are Killing Me” provided the perfect conclusion to a festival put on by a beer company, with audience engaging in a gregarious sing-along with the band as the lights flipped back on.

* * *

For the most part, the crowds at the festival were excellent, though I want to make special mention of the audience at this last performance.  I’ve been to hundreds of shows over the years, and I’d never encountered a larger group of pure assholes than the ones that were ostensibly there to be “entertained” by Modest Mouse.  If you’re heading out to grab beer while the band is performing a rarity like “Night on the Sun”, then maybe you should just ditch the show entirely and go get wasted out in Old Town; believe me, the pisswater available at the show was not worth the trouble.  It was infuriating to see people just try to force themselves through groups of people when there were clearer paths available that were also easy to spot.  At one point, a bro tried to barrel through, pushing into me but armed with an excuse that “hey man, let me through, I’m carrying wine, so I gotta be careful.”  If you’re concerned about the safety of your wine, then maybe you shouldn’t be attempting to bulldoze multiple people as they’re dancing along to “Doin’ the Cockroach”.  It was just an unrelenting stream of assholes constantly behaving in this manner, and it nearly ruined an otherwise perfect ending.  Considering that the rest of the festival went off without a hitch, perhaps in the future they should consider cutting off alcohol sales before the last act, similar to how they’ll cut sales late in a baseball or football game.  Other than that, it was a total success.

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Best of the Rest: Other Highlights from 2013

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

EELS – Wonderful, Glorious.  It had begun to seem as if Eels were stuck in a rut, with a trio of dour albums (Hombre LoboEnd TimesTomorrow Morning) that were difficult for even a superfan like me to listen to on an regular basis.  But E switched up the formula a bit and even sounds “happy” with this album.  And the live show for the tour for this album was quite great as well, a kind of variety-show getup with everyone dressed in monochrome tracksuits and sporting the same facial hair.

No Age – An Object.  No Age have always been a band that’s difficult to appreciate on first listen, but even fans of their abrasive sound (whether it be riotous punk rock or feedback-drenched ambient) weren’t sure how to respond to An Object.  In many ways it was built more like an art project than just “the next album from No Age”, and surprisingly it often worked.

Phosphorescent – Muchacho. This country-tinged indie folk album is a real treat to listen to on a relaxing, sunny day, but would still be worth it if it only included the reworking of “Wicked Game” that we didn’t know we needed in 2013 with “The Quotidian Beasts”.

Red Fang – Whales and Leeches.  I always love hearing my favorite hometown metal band, so it was surprising that they didn’t manage to make it onto the official list.  Such is the mysterious ways of The Process.  It seems that touring with Mastodon rubbed off on them a bit, as one could definitely hear their influence on the album (my initial comparison was “Mastodon on amphetamines”, and I think that it still fits).  And good news, Red Fang is still making great music videos.

David Bowie – The Next Day.  Can we just pause a minute and recognize how awesome it is that it’s 2014 and David Bowie can just surprise the world with a damn good album 45 years into his career?  The album isn’t perfect, but there are some songs that would fit comfortably aside the old classics on a Greatest Hits.

Los Campesinos! – No Blues.  I keep telling everyone to go to one of their shows because it’ll probably be the most fun you’ll have all year, and I’ll continue to do so.  No Blues sees the band continuing with the mature sound from Hello, Sadness but with a slightly more positive outlook.

Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady.  It’s hard to keep track of the narrative about robots and revolution, but the music is fantastic.  Seeing her perform with OutKast was one of the highlights of Coachella.

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual.  I hadn’t understood the love that some people had for this band until I heard this album.  It’s bizarre, but I like it.

Death Grips – Government Plates.  Who knew we hadn’t heard the last from Death Grips?  My favorite part is that when I downloaded the album, it was automatically tagged as “Rock & Roll”.  If you are unfamiliar with their music, well…

Also Worthy of Praise

Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana; Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt; Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons to Die; Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On; Tim Hecker – Virgins; Neko Case –  The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You; Washed Out – Paracosm.

All Albums That Were Considered

Here’s a list of the albums that I listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just couldn’t crack the previous lists.  And I’m not going to do something like say the new albums from The Strokes or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were complete garbage, because that wouldn’t be nice.

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest; Daft Punk – Random Access Memories; Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze; The Strokes – Comedown Machine; Surfer Blood – Pythons; Atoms for Peace – Amok; Ducktails – The Flower Lane; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast; British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy; The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanney Valley; M.I.A. – Matangi; Palms – Palms; Phoenix – Bankrupt!; Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts; Deerhunter – Monomania; Jake Bugg – Shangri-La; Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God; MGMT – MGMT; Mudhoney – Vanishing Point; Yo la Tengo – Fade; Beach Fossils – Clash the Truth; Fitz & The Tantrums – More Than Just a Dream; Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here; The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual; Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving; Darkside – Psychic; The Dear Hunter – Migrant; Dr. Dog – B-Room; How to Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion; Kavinsky – OutRun; Major Lazer – Free the Universe; Of Montreal – Lousy With Sylvianbriar; Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven; Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love; Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious; Tyler, the Creator – Wolf; Typhoon – White Lighter; Baths – Obsidian.