For music lovers, two fests are better than one
If tickets remain for the MusicFest NW and Project Pabst concerts at Waterfront Park today, they will be few and those interested should call or click right away. In other words, it'll likely be sold out by the time Iggy Pop takes the stage Saturday, Aug. 26, and Beck performs Sunday, Aug. 27.
It speaks to the popularity of the festival — the second year of the collaboration, the fourth year Project Pabst has helped lure top acts to Portland, and the 17th year since Willamette Week's MusicFest NW began in venues around town.
Now it's a two-day festival at Waterfront Park, and it's approaching the sellout mark of 10,000 for each day.
It seems that organizers should be looking for another venue, huh? Maybe. It's cool to be exclusive, but it also would be cool to allow more people to watch and listen.
"It's a good problem to have," says Matt Slessler, Pabst national brand ambassador. "It's something we'll have to address. You get to the point where we like the fact that it's a tough ticket and hard to get in.
"There are still some growing pains. ... We felt we hit the high-water mark last year with Duran Duran and Ice Cube, and now we have Iggy Pop and Beck."
It's been a festival that has drawn 20- and 30-somethings. Two stages — Unicorn and Captain Pabst — feature music all day on an alternating basis.
Says Matt Manza, MusicFest NW operations director: "If we have another year like last year, we're definitely looking to see how we can scale (upward). ... We can see what we can do on the waterfront and expand down there, but it may involve looking for another site for the event. Easier said than done."
Manza says it works as an urban concert, and going farther out of the city might hinder the experience.
Both sides are happy with the collaboration. Manza says the biggest concern came before the collaboration, when the two festivals competed against each other — Pabst as an event at Zidell Yards, MusicFest NW in its previous incarnation as a multivenue event.
"Portland feels big, but it's not huge," Manza says. "My concerns were alleviated when we signed up in partnership."
The two sides complement each other in booking big acts.
"When we were talking about Iggy Pop and Beck, that's an easy decision to come to," Slessler says. "Iggy Pop really hits at our core demographic with Pabst. He's kind of the godfather of punk music, and Pabst is a gritty American underdog. He's reflected what our brand is about." (Slessler says that Portland is the No. 1 market in the country for Pabst).
"And we love Beck. He's a one-of-a-kind talent. He has a chameleon way about him. His catalog speaks for itself. And, it's one of the best live shows out there. When we found out that we could get Beck, it was a no-brainer."
Adds Manza: "Iggy Pop is quite an icon, and it seems to be his year. He's inescapable with a new album ("Loneliness Road") and documentary ("Gimme Danger") and playing a lot of shows. I saw Beck at the Pitchfork Festival. You forget about how many hits he has. He's the whole package."
Other highlights of the festival: Lizzo, a hip-hop attraction, along with Nas and Noname; Filthy Friends, featuring Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney, Peter Buck from REM, and Scott McCaughey from Minus 5; Americana band Whitney; a relatively unknown band called Rvivr, from Olympia, Washington; and hip hop's The Last Artful, Dodgr.
For more info on the MusicFest NW/Project Pabst lineup (and ticket availability), see www.projectpabst.com.