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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MFNW (Music Fest North West) Portland, OR - Day 2

Pack AD / Scout Niblett
The Doug Fir

Explode Into Colors / The Prids
September 18th, 2009

The Doug Fir interior feels warm—like a bucolic fishing cabin. It’s the perfect venue for a cold winter’s night, tucking the audience down a long flight of stairs where the stage sits comfortably and Portland’s advanced indie illuminati gather to stand, side by side, drinking one of the city’s signature products: craft beer. The floors near the bar emit a bright yellow glow, complementing the roughly hewn lacquered reclaimed pine logs that comprise its siding.

Tonight the opening act is Scout Niblett, a thirty-something English singer-songwriter whose voice is something you can ease in and listen closely to. Named for the youthful character in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, she invites her audience inside. Her dark, wavy hair falls across her smooth, pale forehead into her eyes, causing her to periodically flick her head, a sexy defiance of gravity’s inevitability. Her slow, undulating songs fit the room, indelibly alternating between vocals over guitar and vocals over drums. The audience sways with her, gripping their organic IPAs a little harder as she accompanies her stories with percussion. At the end of her set, within minutes of waving and dropping her instrument, she camps out near the merchandise table, greeting fans who seem as humbled by her as she is by them. Quite a number of them stutter, bow their heads, and manage to say little more than “thank you.”

In an act that seems either like an expression of the festival’s eclectic nature or a clumsily misguided pairing, Vancouver, BC’s Pack AD take the stage, and suddenly the Fir’s warmth is clear-cut : an all-girl twosome, guitar and drums, featuring a robotic churning sound that is as isolating as Niblett was inclusive. We quickly escape, moving venues a few blocks across the neighborhood to Holocene, in time to catch the middle and crashing end of The Prids’ set. One of Portland’s best kept secrets (hopefully nationally exposed, hopefully) the bouncy gothic rock harkens back to some black-clad divinity: Joy Division, and to a lesser extent, exuding mythological moodiness like Bauhaus. In spite of their dour costume, the crowded modernist demonstration bounces the crowd, sending them into joyous ecstasy. It seems like everyone here is ready for the russet onset of autumn. There are scarves and coats, even though the day’s high temperature was close to eighty degrees.

The Prids set is, as usual, fantastic, and over far too soon, giving way to Explode Into Colors, a trio of local girls I’ve never taken the time to sit down and listen to before (check that, corrected). Theirs is a dynamic sound that doesn’t easily leave you, primal like The Slits, yet filled with a calculated, artistic remove à la Laurie Anderson. Their set relies on a strong array of sounds and effects, and although it’s technically scattered, forcing the lead singer to constantly banter back and forth, their energy carries them through, howling, pounding like escaped primitives into the night.

- Erick Mertz

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you should try writing.