MusicfestNW Recap 3: Dan Deacon, Titus Andronicus

Surfin' Dan Deacon style.

Here is MusicfestNW Recap 3 featuring Dan Deacon, Titus Andronicus, plus more. I attended the festival from Sept. 4-7.

Prior to my arrival in Portland for MusicfestNW I circled Friday’s lineup for its deep talent pool, diverse artistic offerings, and up-and-coming musicians, ingredients in short supply on the fest’s other nights. And after the preceding two nights predictably underwhelmed, there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth if Friday’s potential proved a washout.

Of course how could Friday suck with Dan Deacon and Titus Andronicus performing? Answer: It couldn’t.

The daffy dance impresario and the Jersey rock evangelists each cast their marks by inciting sweat-drenched revivals. Deacon orchestrated a massive freakout across Pioneer Courthouse Square. Titus’s full-frontal rock assault inside the Crystal Ballroom led yours truly and others to throw their bodies into the scrum without regard for safety or property (i.e., my New York Mets hat).

The remainder of the evening I bounced from set to set, venue to venue like a nomad in the desert never finding a show that stirred half as much enthusiasm as Deacon or Titus. Not surprising, I know.

For those unfamiliar with MusicfestNW you purchase one of the headliner courthouse shows with your bracelet. I selected Animal Collective’s show on the strength of their early summer outing at Governor’s Ball in NYC. A schedule conflict with Titus Andronicus, a band I regard as one of the finest in live music today, ended any thought of seeing Animal Collective at MusicfestNW.

No such conflict existed for Animal Collective’s opener.

Deacon stood in the crowd, one balding man with oversized glasses, a mic and a sound manipulating device, playing a veritable game of Simon Says in which every request yielded a child-like sense of joy and wonder. He parted the crowd, we shook for all the hipsters too cool to let go, and then when we were done he brought us back together. We also put our hands on each other’s heads, stared at the sky, and let our anxieties go. Hokey perhaps but an awesome experience nonetheless.

The show ended with Deacon instructing us to pull together tight in the courthouse square before sending us off running in opposite directions simultaneously. I have a hard time recalling the music that made me run, wiggle, and leap. The moment mattered more than the music. In an hour’s time Deacon distinguished himself not only as a gatekeeper of fun but also far and away the best show I witnessed at MusicfestNW.

Perhaps if they were on their A-game Titus could have challenged Dan Deacon for that title. It didn’t happen though. Frontman Patrick Stickles seemed pre-occupied at times with doubt – doubt about his band’s lineup without longtime guitarist Liam Betson, doubt about people wanting to hear his band before Superchunk, etc. The outward confidence I’ve seen him exude in New York City failed to materialize during the moments in-between songs.

Titus

When Titus played standards like “A More Perfect Union”, “No Future Pt. 3″, and “In A Big City” all doubt dissipated though and they sounded like the great rock’n’roll hope they are. The twenty-something men and even women standing near the stage morphed into one big ball of shoving, elbowing, and all other manner of WWE maneuvers as soon as the music fired up.

I joined the fray wearing my Mets cap. I left the fray without a Mets cap – a fact I did not discover until two minutes too late. C’est la vie. I should have known better. In February I almost lost my glasses during a Titus show. Next time I see them I’ll have to wear contacts and nothing else on my head.

EXTRAS

Olympia, WA grunge worshippers Naomi Punk brought the early 90s back to the Crystal Ballroom prior to Titus’s set. Listening to their bursts of noise for 40 minutes provided me with a sensation of my brain falling apart chunk by chunk. This is a soundtrack for the character in a movie who is suffering a breakdown and for which beating on a wall indefinitely seems therapeutic.

After Titus wrapped I walked across the Burnside Bridge down to Water Street to Bunk Bar to catch New Orleans-based folkies Hurray for the Riff Raff. Standing room at Bunk Bar might be 150 people. The line for Hurray for the Riff Raff and Frank Fairfield stretched out the door and along the wall adjacent to the venue. To the venue’s credit their employees opened windows so that those waiting in line could watch the show. The live footage I had seen of the band featured four members. Their Bunk Bar performance only featured two. Hence, the show had an unplugged vibe to it that did not match my expectations. So I stalked the night for another show.

I walked past Dante’s on my way to Bunk Bar so I knew the Ty Segall show would be packed. A line out the door also existed at Mississippi Studios for Washed Out (why would Washed Out play that hole in the wall?). So my friend Ben and I settled for Cody Chestnutt’s show at Doug Fir.

Chestnutt’s show registers in my memory for two reasons: 1) the Army-style helmet he wore on his head which provided an interesting contrast to his pacifist demeanor and 2) the white woman dancing in front of me who so lost herself in the music that the concept of personal space eluded her. At least somebody got their money’s worth.

Check back later this week for my MFNW Recap 4 on Portland standouts Radiation City and And And And. Also read Recap 1 featuring Deerhunter here and Recap 2 featuring The Joy Formidable and The Menhere.