History was made (and relived) this weekend in Portland with the first ever Project Pabst. The festival, a testament to the PDX+PBR love affair, tossed Portland into a beer-fueled time warp. Along with newer acts, Zidell Yards hosted some 80s and 90s greats like Tears for Fears, Violent Femmes, GZA, Modest Mouse and Rocket from the Crypt. While some festival-goers may have described the event as a "drinking festival with music," a better description might be that it was a utopic condensation of Portland's best qualities; live music, beer, food carts and... retro arcade revival and cornhole?! Yes, the throwback included a "PBRcade," where people took a break to hide from the sun (the sun!) and play Pac-Man. The format, like Portland's MusicFest NW, featured two stages with alternating shows. The set up meant no tedious wait for shows to start and no performances missed. The lack of down-time between sets also resulted in some of those $4 tallboys being worked off hustling between stages and dancing to "Pale Shelter."
After Portland's own Guantanamo Baywatch got the day started with their signature "surf, sex, sludge, and garbage" on the Blue Ribbon Stage, Illinois' suburban rap queen K.Flay gave the audience a kick with songs from her debut studio album, Life as a Dog. The rapper had a live drummer on stage and even took to pounding on a few drums herself. Staying true to the spirit of the festival, K.Flay chugged her beer before finishing the set.
Back on the Captain Pabst stage, Violent Femmes summoned the sun and a huge crowd with renditions of "Blister in the Sun," "Add It Up," and "Gone Daddy Gone." The band, like PBR, was brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they drank the brand as youths and wrote their first album thirty-three years ago. Sounding as fresh as ever and wearing virtually the same outfits as thirty years ago (was Brian Ritchie born in those sunglasses?), Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie, with drummer Brian Viglione and the Horns of Dilemma serenaded Portland's diehard alt-rock fans as they ate their burgers/poutine/pizza/sandwiches/biscuits/ice cream and stumbled about in the gravel toward their next PBR.
Up next were Portland's metal shredders Red Fang. The four sported cool t-shirts and got intergalactic with a UFO themed drum kit and backdrop. Highlights from the set included "1516" from their most recent album Whales and Leeches, and "No Hope," which got the entire crowd -- even the resident old-guy-in-bucket-hat -- dancing, headbanging, and crowd surfing. With heavy metal comes a hard exterior and a formidable sound, but the four kept their banter lighthearted.
Alabama native Phosphorescent has got to be one of the only Portland visitors to have ever complained about the sun. In the afternoon glare, the man behind Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck, was joined on stage by his band, including a percussionist with congas, tambourines, and other goodies to bang on. The main drummer gave Seattle some love with his Sub Pop hat. The hour long set also featured a slide guitar for "Tell Me Baby (Have You Had Enough)." Phosphorescent played favorites like "Song For Zula," "Los Angeles," and "Wolves," which was dedicated to a few loyal fans in the front. "He seems like a cool dude," said one fan, summing up Phosphorescent's easy-going vibe.
Unsurprisingly, San Diego punk rock band Rocket from the Crypt won the day's award for best outfits and wackiest stage presence. The antic-prone band has claimed multiple times that they would never play together again, but Portland was treated to one of their reunions. Looking something like a mariachi band, the six guys initiated Project Dance Party, assuring the crowd that Obamacare would fix their thrown out hip before launching into "On a Rope, "I'm Not Invisible," and "Straight American Slave." John Reis, aka Speedo, grinned through the set, even as he had a real talk about cat deaths, coyotes, his hatred of Florida, and wanting a falafel. Now we're just hoping for a new single dedicated to the smell of chickpeas wafting through Zidell Yards (I'm pretty sure there wasn't even a falafel cart in the area) called "Fucking Falafel."
Rocket from the Crypt:
Finally, headliner Tears for Fears descended from above in all their new wave glory to grace Portland with a two hour long performance of their greatest hits, a few covers, and assured us that a new album was indeed imminent. Original members Roland Orzabel and Curt Smith, along with a show-stealing back-up vocalist, opened with "Secret World," then of course played "Mad World," "Head Over Heels," "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," "Sowing the Seeds of Love" along with "Floating Down the River," "Advice For the Young at Heart" and many more. The band, who has been active on and off since 1981, took a break from their own material to perform a version of Radiohead's "Creep" that would give Thom Yorke the chills and a cover of Arcade Fire's "Ready to Start." After a brief breather, Tears for Fears returned for a crowd-rousing encore of 1984 chart-topper "Shout."
Tears for Fears:
Day two of Portland's first ever Project Pabst began with Portland psych-pop band Grandparents, then a Heart-meets-Led Zeppelin performance from 2014's Thelma & Louise, a.k.a. rock band Deap Vally, as well as a set from Massachusetts indie rock band Speedy Ortiz. The beer was once again aflow...
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