MusicfestNW will fill the streets and bars of Portland with music fans and the bands they love Thursday, Sept. 7 to Sunday, Sept. 11.
Like every other year, the question is: to wristband or not?
The old advice stands. If you plan to attend four or more shows, buying an entry wristband might be worth its price.
But the math is more complicated since the wristband comes in three varieties. The GA band ($70) gets you access to one of three headline shows at Pioneer Courthouse Square. The 'All Show' band ($115) gets you into all three shows, and the VIP band ($250) lets you cut in line. That's pretty cool.
The GA band is the miser's route, but it should work for most concertgoers. All three of the Pioneer Courthouse headliners, Iron and Wine (7:30 p.m., Friday), Explosions in the Sky (7:30 p.m., Saturday) and Band of Horses (7:30 p.m., Sunday), are backed by great acts that should make cohesive shows. But finding someone with MP3s from all three bands on their iPods isn't an easy task (hint: if you haven't heard of any of these bands, pick Band of Horses and get an extra day of music for your bucks).
For where else to go during a week of music madness, read on.
Band of Horses (above, courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment) headlines MusicfestNW's big evening show at Pioneer Courthouse Square Sept. 11, while Blitzen Trapper (below, courtesy of Tyler Kohlhoff), a Portland favorite, will rock the Crystal Ballroom late-night on Sept. 9.
Many of the bands playing this year's festival have a mid-'90s sheen, so it's apt the first night kicks off with a pair of alumni from that musical epoch.
Former Sleater-Kinney guitarist Corin Tucker will take the stage with her new band (11 p.m., Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi Ave., 21 and older) and Eric Bachmann, of recently reformed Archers of Loaf, will lead a set by his side project, Crooked Fingers (Midnight, Bunk Bar, 1028 S.E. Water Ave., 21 and older).
Don't miss: Your chance to see Kathy Foster and Westin Glass, of the Thermals, rock out with Maggie Veil of Bangs, as the pop-up band Hurry Up (10 p.m., Mississippi Studios). They're so new they don't even have a website.
The festival kicks into high gear in its second night with blockbuster shows at multiple venues throughout town.
At 10 p.m., Purity Ring, a B.C. band with tunes as catchy as they are imaginative, hits Doug Fir (830 E. Burnside St., 21 and older); Portland's Unknown Mortal Orchestra are at the Hawthorne Theatre (1507 S.E. 39th Ave.); and Blouse will play at Holocene (1001 S.E. Morrison St., 21 and older).
All three bands represent different angles of a new breed of electronic pop dominating MP3 blogs around the country. Blouse, with a mix of slinky basslines and airy vocals, is one of the most exciting bands in Portland.
But Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Purity Ring are equally essential listening.
If you're underage, hit the Hawthorne Theater. If you're hoping to dance (as much as Portland does at concerts), hit Doug Fir.
Otherwise, check out Blouse, which is followed by Twin Sister, an ethereal rock band from Long Island, N.Y. Then kick back for headliner EMA, whose brash, high-tech rock and confessional stream of consciousness lyrics are building her into a rising star.
But that's not all. Portland's Talkdemonic (10 p.m., Branx, 320 S.E. Second Ave.), Butthole Surfers (11 p.m., Roseland Theater, 10 N.W. Sixth Ave.) and Archers of Loaf (10:30 p.m., Crystal Ballroom) will also play.
Don't miss: Portland's Dirty Mittens, the closest the world will ever get to a crossbreed of the Sugarcubes and the E Street Band (9 p.m., Hawthorne Theatre).
Maybe it was Lilith Fair, or maybe it was the singer-songwriter '70s, but it's hard for a female artist like Sharon Van Etten (10 p.m., Crystal Ballroom) to shake snap judgments made because of her gender. That's too bad, because Van Etten is a remarkable songwriter with murder in her music. She'll join Blitzen Trapper (11 p.m., Crystal Ballroom), Portland's answer to the 1973 breakup of the Byrds.
Elsewhere, Bare Wires, a rollicking garage band (10 p.m., Star Theater, 13 N.W. Sixth Ave.) will be pummeling as much MC5 rock into a 2-minute package as possible before Thee Oh Sees take their pawn shop guitar collage songs on stage at 11 p.m.
Don't Miss: The sweaty dance party that Glass Candy will lead (midnight, Branx). Portland's hottest Italo-disco outfit hasn't released a full-length of new material since 2007's B/E/A/T/B/O/X, but that's OK. There's enough sexy material on that one to blow out the sub woofers at 1,000 discos.
Take in the tense desolation rock of Grails (10 p.m., Roseland Theater). Though they hail from the Rose City, this is a rare hometown performance from the city's top purveyors of atmospheric doom.
If you need vocals with your rock • roll, check out the Angry Orts (10 p.m., Jimmy Mak's, 221 N.W. 10th Ave., 21 and older) instead. Singer Sara Hernandez has the kind of pipes that can clear out a karaoke bar by shaming the rest of the patrons. Ted Leo shows are legendary for their bombastic energy. The punk veteran from Indiana has been putting out bouncy power pop under his own name since 1999 and this show offers an amazing opportunity to see Leo up close at a tiny venue (11 p.m., Backspace). If you go, wish Leo an early happy birthday (he'll turn 41 on Sept. 11).
If you're still standing, head east for Ty Segall, a garage rock prodigy from San Francisco (midnight, Mississippi Studios, 21 and older).
Don't miss: Young Buffalo, a jittery band from Mississippi with a knack for catchy Animal-Collective-inspired rock that hits as heavily as a hard rock band (9 p.m., Doug Fir, 21 and older).
The music fest wraps up with four acts for an all-ages show on the Levi's Pioneer Stage at Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 S.W. Sixth Ave.: Bobby Bare Jr., 4 p.m.; Morning Teleportation, 5 p.m.; Cass McCombs Band, 6 p.m.; Band of Horses, 7 p.m.