There are plenty of options for people who don't want to jump around
Seattle’s Sunny Day Real Estate will perform during MusicfestNW at the Crystal Ballroom on Sept. 18.

With more than 200 bands playing at more than a dozen venues all over Portland, MusicfestNW can be a bit overwhelming.

Buzzing around town from venue to venue can be dizzying. Waiting in line hoping that the venue won't fill to capacity before you get inside can be frustrating. And figuring out how you're going to make sure to have the best fest ever can be daunting.

Here's some advice: Calm down.

It's physically impossible to be at every great MFNW show, but this guide will give you a shot at trying. Included is the all-out wristband-wearing music-fiend option. And a more sedate, single-venue option.


The wristband option

Start out in the afternoon by hitting up the Wonder Ballroom (128 N.E. Russell St.) for a 5:30 p.m. show with Philadelphia's masters of the summer jam, Dr. Dog and Portland noise rockers Helio Sequence (free pass, available at Jackpot Records, or wristband).

Then make it to Holocene (1001 S.E. Morrison St.) by 9 p.m. for Local Natives, who've been getting traction on music blogs for their laconic folk pop ($10 at the door). But don't stay long, you're going to want to swing by Doug Fir (830 E. Burnside St.) for Cymbals Eat Guitars, a wild mishmash of Built to Spill and My Bloody Valentine ($12 at the door).

After all that spacing out, finish up at Rotture (315 S.E. Third Ave.) for a thumping dance party with Ninjasonik, who's Tight Pants Rap is as appropriate in Portland as it is in the band's native Brooklyn (wristband only).

Get to Berbati's Pan (10 S.W. Third Ave.) early in order to catch local up-and-comers Ah Holly Fam'ly's mix of indie folk and Carter Family charm, then revel in more of Portland's best with Tu Fawning's rakish folk and Norfolk and Western's expansive rock. Top the night off with expertly experimental violins with Dirty Three ($15 at the door).


COURTESY OF DOMINO RECORDING COMPANY • The Arctic Monkeys will be performing at the Wonder Ballroom on Friday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.


The wristband option

Swing by the Wonder Ballroom (128 N.E. Russell St.) before the Arctic Monkeys take the stage at 7 p.m., since the lineup for the U.K.'s most popular foursome of snotty Sheffield boys will likely hook around the building (free pass, available at Jackpot Records, or wristband).

Once that set wraps up, hightail it to the Someday Lounge (125 N.W. Fifth Ave.) to grab Tanning (a one-man guitar act who just might play 'Careless Whisper' by Wham!) and the mellow indie rock of Inside Voices ($8 at the door) before getting in line again at the Crystal Ballroom (1332 W. Burnside St.) for the reunion of the original emo band, Sunny Day Real Estate. These guys were blasting guitar noise before crying was invented, and they haven't played together since Dave Grohl stole the rhythm section to play in the Foo Fighters (sold out, wristbands only). Finish your night at Satryricon (125 N.W. Sixth Ave.) with Japanther, the ridiculously fun indie punk band from Brooklyn ($10 at the door).

The single venue option

At 9 p.m. Portland's Scout Niblett kicks things off at Doug Fir (830 E. Burnside St.). Don't miss her; few women have wrenched more power from an electric guitar. Then Canadian garage punkers Pack AD and the next best thing to the reincarnation of Marc Bolan of T Rex, Portland's Nurses will fill out the set before psychedelic rockers Pink Mountaintops take the stage to end the night ($12 at the door).


The wristband option

Set up shop on the east side and make Rontoms (600 E. Burnside) your base of operation. All day various bands from Bladen County Records will be playing, starting at 2:30 p.m. and running until The Love Language, a dreamy pop band from Chapel Hill, N.C., finishes up at midnight. In between, Portland's Oh Captain My Captain (5 p.m.) and Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside (6 p.m.) are worth catching.

If you feel like going back in time, cross the river and check out Black Francis (better known as Frank Black of the Pixies) at Dante's (1 S.W. Third Ave., $15 at the door), or the reunion of the Get-Up Kids at the Roseland (8 N.W. Sixth Ave., $18 advance).

Last year's MFNW featured a super-crowded late night show from the Builders and the Butchers. This time they're playing at the Crystal Ballroom (1332 W. Burnside) a little earlier (11 p.m.) right before NPR darlings Blind Pilot, so expect a sweaty mess ($15 advance).

For a mellower scene, wander over to Berbati's Pan (10 S.W. Third Ave.) around midnight, where Beach House will play a haunting set of ballads set to surfy guitar and sensual organ.

The single venue option

Tender Loving Empire is Northwest Portland's most adorable shop, and now the owners have a burgeoning record label with a great stable of bands. Check out their showcase at East End (203 S.E. Grand Ave.) and you'll hear some of the best guitar this side of a Talking Heads record from Blue Horns and folky weirdness from Gratitillium and Idaho's Finn Riggins. But don't miss Church, easily one of Portland's best bands. With Beach Boys harmonies and noisy guitars, every show is a different flavor of mindblowing (doors at 8 p.m., $12).


The only option

The sold-out Modest Mouse show at the Crystal Ballroom (1332 W. Burnside) is the only show going on Sunday night. Even though the advance tickets are gone, wristband owners will be let in as long as there's space. So expect a long line to start up around 6 p.m. at the doors.

For diehards, the show will be worth the wait. Morning Teleportation will kick off the show with their psychedelic take on the Talking Heads new wave, and Modest Mouse is sounding better than they did in the 1990s.

Go to top