Friday, August 3, 2012

PDX Pop Now

Here's how I like my music- local, free, all ages, and (usually) good. Meeting all of these goals is literally next to impossible, but there is one exception- the PDX Pop Music festival. Since the first festival in 2004, PDX Pop has put on a free all ages music festival that features local Portland area bands. The festival has expanded to have yearlong outreach programs in Portland to bring music to K-12 schools.
I've gone to the festival a few times over the years, but have usually been out of town for it. This year I could only attend a couple of the many shows because of other things going on, but I had a really great time there.
Arohan lead singer Taylor Gehrts 

The first band I saw was Arohan. The electro music left a lot to be desired and lead singer Taylor Gehrts spent most of the time messing around on his computer (I think he was checking his email) and asking the sound guy to turn up the reverb (the indie-rock version of turning the volume up to 11). The only entertaining part of the set was when Gehrts would make funny faces at the audience, of course only for a second before going back and messing around on his computer.

Litanic Mask 
After the disappointing set by Arohan I had no clue what the next band would be like- and that's one of my favorite things about PDX Pop Now. Most of the bands are very small and there are only a few larger bands that headline the festival. While a lot of these unknown bands are not so great there is usually a jewel in the rough that makes sitting through the rest of the bands manageable. This year, that band for me was Litanic Mask. Their sound could best be described as a goth take on electro inspired pop music. The lead singer (whose name I couldn't find ANYWHERE) had a smoky deep voice, a cool leather jacket, and dance moves that got even the amateur photographers in the crowd snapping pictures on their iPhones.

Even though I hadn't heard their music before, I'll definitely be keeping my ears open for Litanic Mask in the future.

The next day I got to the festival bright and early to catch a trio of bands in the early afternoon. The first band was Houndstooth, a cute indie band with a slight country twang. While still a little shaky (all the members looked at each other nervously before transitions in songs), Houndstooth's sound is solid and a little bit of a relief after electro after electro band.

Following Houndstooth was XDS- with not one but two drummers, a singer/guitarist, and of course of a synth (I'm starting to believe that to be a band in Portland in the 21st century you HAVE to have a synth). The band had a garage rock/DIYed feel- with duck taped equipment, hubcaps as symbols, and their logo painted on their amps. XDS is a great band to dance to in a hot summer afternoon- with gritty riffs and of course heavy beats (one of the benefits of having two drummers).

Chrome Wings
The last band I saw of the festival (because I was out of town for the last day) was noise band Chrome Wings. Noise music isn't really my thing and I've never gotten all that into it, but I decided to give Chrome Wings a chance. I was pretty disappointed. It wasn't that the music was bad- it was just boring. And John Jurow, one half of Chrome Wings, spent all the time switching from guitar, to keys, to vocals, leaving no time to focus on how he was sounding nor interact at all with the audience. With performances like that, I don't understand why I would ever want to see them live, when I could have the exact same experience listening to their recordings. After snapping a few pictures I ended up having a friend teach me how to hula hoop (something that I am TERRIBLE at), instead of standing up front and watching the show.

While some of the bands were pretty disappointing, I still enjoyed PDX Pop Now. There is really no other festival that brings together local musicians like PDX Pop. And it is pretty cool that through the years PDX Pop has stayed to it's original goal of bringing local music for free to people of all ages.

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