MusicFest NW feat. Girl Talk, Spoon, Haim, Phantogram, & More! – Concert Review

MusicFest NW feat. Girl Talk, Spoon, Haim, Phantogram, & More!
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
08.16.14 – 08.17.14

IMG_9267Holy. Shit.

That’s really all I can say right off the bat of the experience of attending this year’s newly restyled MusicFest NW. Now moved from a multi-venue setting, spanning a week total, MFNW is now a classic music fest, taking place over the course of two days down on Portland’s beautiful waterfront. This year, the minds behind MFNW lined up an amazing set of bands to play the weekend, including headliners Girl Talk and Spoon, as well as Haim, Phantogram, tUnE-yArDs, and many more!

This was my first experience attending a large scale festival, and it was truly life-changing. I decided well before attending that I wanted to do something different with the review of this event. I didn’t want to just write a measly few paragraphs about how fun it was, and tell you to go next year (though you definitely should!) But I also didn’t want to do another Best Of… post. I wanted to cover all that I saw, through my eyes as I saw it.

What follows is my review of MusicFest NW 2014, written at the time of the events. Every blurb has a time associated with it, giving the time it was written. At some points, I will interject to give another thought I left out, because sometimes, you just can’t quite get your head around the events that soon. So, without further or do, here is my experience at MusicFest NW.

August 16, 2014 – Day One

8:00 a.m. – It’s all happening.

9:00 – There’s still nobody here.

10:00 – I’m getting real excited now. One more hour.
10:30 – People are showing up now. It begins.
11:00 – We’re in… and nobody is here. It’s a desert.
11:30 – My teacher from school is here selling art. All the art is alternative album covers for the bands playing. I love Haim’s. It’s like a spiderweb, and the logo is a combination of their two band logos.
11:47 – Alana just tweeted. They’re in Portland. I can’t do this. Not now. I’m not ready.
12:00 p.m. – We’re eating grilled cheese and all I can think about is Haim.
12:20 – I’m feeling good. Grilled cheese was okay, not great. Going to hit band merch now.
12:40 – Just bought Phantogram’s CD! So excited to see them!
12:50 – Landlady is starting at the Moda Stage. Good so far, not crazy about their sound. Not a lot of people here. More people sitting in the shade a ways away from the stage.
12:55 – Lot’s of people are starting to flock toward the stage. Not real crowded still, but it’s filling.
12:55 – Landlady introduced this song with “This is a song about a sex robot that stops working.” The lyrics are “What’s the matter with my girl. She’s not breathing in.” Never would have guessed what the song was about to be honest with you.
1:04 – Actually digging Landlady’s stage presence. They’ve got some cool beats and timing between phrases. Lead singer is fun to watch!
1:05 – But it’s so not crowded, I was able to just walk right up to front row. I’m cool with it.
1:11 – The bass players shirt is on point.
1:21 – Heading over and getting ready for Shy Girls!
1:42 – Shy Girls is sooooo good!
2:05 – Shy Girls was GREAT! Their music is very atmospheric. It’s full of a drone like sound, but it’s stuffed full with beats and drums. It reminds me somewhat of Lorde or CHVRCHES, but a lot slower and more airy. Like electronic, but slower and with more drums. One of the really cool thing about their set were the dancers they had on stage. It was like watching synchronized robots. It almost distracted from watching Shy Girls themselves, but it added a cool touch to the set.
2:45 – Hanging out by the stage watching Gardens & Villa soundcheck, and the lead singer says, “Hey Brendan” and nods at me. Do I know this guy??
4:25 – Gardens & Villa were good. I liked his flute. I wasn’t real impressed with them at first, but they got pretty good as it went on. They had kind of a funkadelic vibe about them. It was fun. Not the best of the day though.
5:30 – Future Islands starts soon! They’re drawing a big crowd.
5:47 – Oh my God. Este’s backstage. I can’t do this. She’s watching. She’s here. It’s real now.
5:57 – I’m just staring at Estes knees. I’m sorry.
6:05 – She left. What a babe. Future Islands has gained about another square foot of sweat on his shirt since I last looked.
6:25 – Future Islands rocked! Probably best of the day so far! His dance moves though! So much energy, so much sweat. I’ve never seen anyone visibly sweat that much before. Props to him!
6:26 – There are A LOT of people hanging out waiting for PHANTOGRAM. Same.
{My phone autocorrects Phantogram to all caps for some reason. I kept it that way. It looks cool.}
6:46 – Sarah Barthels pant game is STRONG.
6:50 – “I just tapped you on Instagram!” yelled some girl to Josh of PHANTOGRAM. She’s my new idol.
8:19 – And a big fuck you to the guy that just ripped Phantogram’s pick out of my hand and threw a fiver at me. I ripped it up just to let you know. *insert middle finger emoji here*
8:20 – On a lighter note, PHANTOGRAM was RIDICULOUSLY GOOD! Wow! Sarah Barthel has some lungs on her, and some legs, and a face! What a set!
8:50 – Girl Talk is on a whole other level of genius! He just mixed Royals with Airplanes and now he’s dropping Rock Lobster up in here!
9:00 – Is he mixing M83 with Gas Pedal?? Yes he is!!
9:19 – My mood just dropped 100% because I just heard Haim’s Bing Lounge show was cancelled. This will be my last entry for today. I can’t go any longer.
{I suppose I should explain this one a little more. See, Haim was supposed to play an intimate set at Portland’s Bing Lounge on Monday. Bing Lounge is a small venue where bands that are performing in town come to play a few songs, do an interview, and then hold a meet and greet with all the attendees. The only way to get into these shows is to win, and lucky me, I won a spot on the guest list. I was pretty pumped. When we found out we were for sure going to meet them, my friend Kendra and I decided to make the girls a blanket to give to them at the meet and greet. When we heard it was cancelled, we really didn’t know what to do. We were devastated. But don’t worry. Things looked up. Read on!} 

August 17, 2014 – Day Two
8:15 a.m. – Just got here and pretty sure I saw Haim’s tour manager. I’m so ready for this.
9:50 – We’re signing the blanket now. It don’t know what to say. This is so hard.
11:05 – We’re in, we’re at Haim’s stage, and we aren’t moving.
{We did leave once to go grab some Haim merch. I bought a t-shirt. They only had XL. It’s super huge and comfy!}
11:50 – We’re getting more Haim fans to sign the blanket. It’s full of messages now. It’s beautiful. I hope this gets to them.
12:25 p.m. – Local band Modern Kin up next. Feel like I’ve seen them before, but I don’t think I have. The soundcheck is getting pretty loud. I’m digging it.
1:13 – Modern Kin just ended. Not a standout, but good for sure! Some cool experimentally things going on with guitar and cello. Oh, and Kendra got the setlist.
2:45 – Just found Haim’s trailer. I know where I’ll be after their set.
{Around this time, I bought a hot dog. I hardly ate any of it. I was too excited and nervous to keep anything down.}
3:26 – Wild Ones starts now!
4:28 – This one I HAVE seen before at Best! Of Portland. Wild Ones was probably the strongest of the day. Meaning the strongest of the two. They were more mellow, and I really dug their sound and songs style.
4:52 – Fucked Up is next. I hope I don’t get moshed out of my spot. I have to be front row for Haim. I will be. I will.
5:11 – The SKK guitar. I see it. It’s here. In front of me. What is life?
6:18 – Okay… I think I would’ve like Fucked Up more if I could understand what he was saying. For one, he screamed everything. And two, he kept going into the crowd where you couldn’t see him and was out of the mic range. Whatevs. HAIM!!!
{I also would have liked Fucked Up more if the lead singer kept his shirt on and didn’t rub his sweaty body all over me.}
8:47 – There are no words.
{I told you at the beginning that sometimes, you just can’t quite describe events in the moment immediately following them. This is all I could bear to write at that time. I simply couldn’t put into words what had just happened. Now that it has been a couple days, I am ready to relay the events that occurred. First of all, if you haven’t already noticed, I’m pretty obsessed with Haim. They are, without question, my favorite band ever. This was my first time seeing them, so I was beyond excited. As I said, with the Bing Lounge show cancelled, we really didn’t know what to do. We ended up deciding that we would bring the blanket to the festival, and hopefully, somehow, it would make it to them. Once we were there, we had Haim fans come up to us, and we would have them sign the blanket. So, by the time their set started, the blanket was filled with little notes from fans. For the first few songs, there were tons of photographers between us and the stage, but once they cleared out, all of us in the front row took out the blanket and held it like a banner. Este, the oldest sister and bass player, looked at us, gave us the thumbs up, and mouthed, “I love it. I’m gonna get it.” Their set was beyond incredible! Seeing them live was everything I dreamt it to be. These girls, Alana, Este, and Danielle, rock hard, and by the end of the set, I can guarantee Portland left obsessed. After they played their last song and retreated back to their trailer, I and my Haim buds gathered up the blanket and went around the back to await the possibility of them maybe coming out. After a few minutes, Dash Hutton, their drummer, came around the corner. We called him over and told him about the blanket and to make sure it got to them. Attached to the blanket was a note I wrote describing the story behind it, the Bing Lounge show, and everything else. At the end, it said, “If you’re still around, we’d love to thank you in person.” Moments later, the trailer opened, and all three sisters came out and walked toward us. On Sunday night, I met my favorite band. I group hugged them, we selfied together, and they “fucking loved the blanket”. From now on, in my books, August 17th will be known as Haim Day. I will never forget it.}
So there you have it. [Almost] every detail of my experience at MusicFest NW 2014. It was truly an unbelievable and amazing experience (I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard in my life). Sure, there were some bumps in the road, but where it took me in the end was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. If you weren’t able to attend this year, you must next year! MFNW 2015 will be put together by the man that brings us the amazing shows Monqui presents throughout the year, so the lineup is sure to be a good one! I leave you with a quote that has gotten me through thick and thin. A lyric that got me to where I was at the end of Sunday night.
“Never look back, never give up.”




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