Nada Mucho

Negative Space: How NOT to Cover Northwest Music Fest

Posted by August 21st, 2007 No Comments »

mfnw_logoEditor’s note: Each September, a heaping helping of truly gifted musical artisans convene in Portland, Oregon to rock Musicfest Northwest (MFNW), a three-day, multi-venue festival that celebrates some of the best independent music in the land.

Last year, Nada Mucho sent Dominic Aulisio and Dan Lurie (of local band Solyoni) to cover the event. The courageous duo scribbled down their personal experiences in a pink felt-covered diary that, until this week, was held shut by a heart-shaped lock.

With MFNW 2007 just around the corner, we felt the timing was right to pick that lock and reveal their secrets to the world. Unfortunately, what we found read more like a journal entry from a Creative Writing class than coverage of a live music festival. It is our hope that these harrowing first-hand accounts of pretty much every nuance of Dan and Dom’s 2006 MFNW sojourn – other than the music – will help you better prepare for this year’s festival, which runs Sept. 6. – 9.

We’ve also decided to give them a chance to redeem themselves at this year’s festival, so keep your eyes peeled for the two skinny guys with pink notebooks.

mfnw_logoEditor’s note: Each September, a heaping helping of truly gifted
musical artisans convene in Portland, Oregon to rock Musicfest
Northwest (MFNW), a three-day, multi-venue festival that celebrates
some of the best independent music in the land.

Last year, Nada Mucho sent Dominic Aulisio and Dan Lurie (of local
band Solyoni) to cover the event. The courageous duo scribbled down
their personal experiences in a pink felt-covered diary that, until
this week, was held shut by a heart-shaped lock.

With MFNW 2007 just around the corner, we felt the timing was right
to pick that lock and reveal their secrets to the world. Unfortunately,
what we found read more like a journal entry from a Creative Writing
class than coverage of a live music festival. It is our hope that these
harrowing first-hand accounts of pretty much every nuance of Dan and
Dom’s 2006 MFNW sojourn – other than the music – will help you better
prepare for this year’s festival, which runs Sept. 6. – 9.

We’ve also decided to give them a chance to redeem themselves at
this year’s festival, so keep your eyes peeled for the two skinny guys
with pink notebooks.

Dan and Dom’s Musicfest Northwest 2006 Diary
By Dan Lurie and Dominic Aulisio

MFNW Day 1: Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006

OPENING NIGHT

The lineup for Musicfest Northwest’s opening night is robust and staggering. We weigh our options. Do we see the well-publicized double bill of mortal enemies The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols? There’s also a Black Keys show at Roseland Theater. I’m equally interested in the simple charming songs of Portland transplant Super XX Man. In the end, it’s an easy choice. We decide to stay in our apartment in Seattle and watch the opening game of the NFL season. It’s a good matchup. The Steelers are the defending champs and the Dolphins are supposed to be much improved, having acquired quarterback Daunte Culpepper from the Vikings during the offseason. mfnw_daunteDom and I both have our doubts about Culpepper. Not only is he coming off reconstructive knee surgery, he’s yet to prove himself as anything more than a mediocre quarterback now that he no longer has Randy Moss to haul in his deep heaves.

(Editor’ note: The Steelers won the game 28-17. Both teams went on to miss the playoffs.)

MFNW Day 2: Friday, Sept. 8, 2006

THE LONG ROAD TO PORTLAND

With Cat Power’s latest album placidly blaring from the car stereo and afternoon stomach pains placidly blaring from our guts, we roll through the fish intestine miasma of Tacoma, continuing on I-5 toward Olympia. Stubs of evergreen shoot up and down the highway shoulders like the bristles of an ancient hairbrush, and the remnants of an abandoned weather balloon drift along through the sun-faded construction paper blue sky. Olympia nears, the Capitol Building rising up among the pines. I think of legislation and the executive branch. A cavalcade of bearded motorcycle enthusiasts head north on their hogs. Their chrome steeds roar, expelling soft blue plumes of exhaust. Gnats and Lady Beetles die by the thousands, frail exo-skeletons crumbling against tooth and beard and jaw and helmet visor, meting out the frenetic, shapeless cadence of meaningless existence. Truly, this is God’s Country.

We take a brief detour for some much needed nourishment. Our rest stop is none other than fabled Sleater-Kinney Road. The opportunity to patronize the Jack in the Box where Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker likely savored their first cibatta sandwiches is too kismet to pass up.

The Jack in the Box is cutting edge and progressive, yet blue collar and hard working; the kind of place Maria Cantwell might have worked at as a young child. At the counter, Staff Team Leader Elaine flashes me a toothy smile. Elaine applies her make-up in the morning with the same unbridled enthusiasm she exhibits while taking our orders (2 chicken sandies off the dollar menu). mfnw_jacknboxAs we wait for our food, I can’t help but notice the offerings of Jack TV and the presence the ubiquitous TVs seem to be having on the wait staff — people who seem to forget to blink. Our food is up. My receipt bears my name lovingly scribbled across the top "Domici." Not since the late Elliott Smith scrawled "Domtare" across a ticket stub has my name been interpreted with such curious phonetics. I assume it’s a regional spelling and take a seat in a nearby booth.

After downing our meal, we quickly return to the road, our pores secreting the remnants of the deep fried lunch. We proceed along, saying little, hushed by indigestion and the breathless display of Americana granted us via journalistic excursion. It seems the early intimations of a feverish socio-political sparring match have congealed into a stalemate. He gets like this over stem cells and teen pregnancy, brooding like a Viking returning from battle with nary a bloodstain on his burnished axe. Or like the goldfish, cowering in his plastic castle, uneaten food particles and strands of fecal matter drifting along like the debris in a snow globe. We don’t say anything. But the car is not silent.

We arrive in Portland, drowsy with back-sweat, humbled by the diatribes of Common, and make our way to the offices of MFNW sponsor Willamette Week. The town is abuzz with the thrill of the festival and rush hour is in full bloom. It’s a knick knack kind of town, this Portland, hairy with leathery characters and pan handlers the like, as well the trademark denizens of indie rockdom: astro-nerds with tightly woven messenger bags, punk princesses like Pippi Longstocking on a heroin bender, and enough earthy nymphs to keep the mouths of hirsute fetishists awash with fresh drool for days.

Willamette Week is housed in an unassuming, square building, brown like a rotten acorn and, architecturally speaking, a geometrist’s wet dream. The inner sanctum looks less like what you’d expect from a local media rag and more like the warehouse of a keg distributor that just went out of business. The girl behind the desk is pleasant but somewhat distant. There are other people there, but I am not looking at them directly and my peripheral vision is poor out of the corners of my prescription lenses. Dan and I collect the keys to the kingdom (i.e. wristbands) and head out to savor some local fare.

Despite their reputation nationally, the people of Portland seem friendly. They gather at the local pubs communing around wooden picnic tables, drinking wet beers out of glass glasses. They carry backpacks and wear print shirts and plaids and flannels (a sure sign that the era of the striped shirt is, yet again, on its way out.) They laugh and play card games. Upon arriving at the outcomes of those card games, they playfully jab at each other with pointed shards of metal tied to the ends of long skewers of bamboo.

I thirst. I hunger. I thirst some more, daydreaming with longing for the welcoming confines of our friend Minh McBurney’s front porch and the warm accommodations promised us road weary journalists.

BEDTIME

An exposed 60-watt A19 incandescent bulb illuminates the dingy basement we now call home. A rolled up carpet leans against a 13-inch black and white Gold Star television set. Beneath it rests a vintage stereo deck with cassette player and more knobs and switches than an airplane cockpit. Dom sleeps on a well-worn mattress surely infested with bed bugs. A tattered poster of a young Magic Johnson is crudely taped to the wall next to his head. I hear the buzzing of an insect approaching at an alarming rate. mfnw_bedtimeI feel helpless and cover my right ear fearing a mosquito will burrow in at any moment. This is hell. I walk to the hallway, shut off the lights and blindly make my way back through the pitch-black laundry room. I stumble over a broken vacuum cleaner, then a folding chair, before finally reaching the comforts of my REI sleeping bag. Tomorrow is another day at Musicfest Northwest.

MFNW DAY 3: Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006

THE CRYSTAL BALLROOM

We’re inside the Crystal Ballroom. It’s hot and crowded, like a Thai Restaurant in the U. District. Feeling overwhelmed after the Viva Voce set, we stumble down the rickety staircase that leads to Lola’s Room, a dimly lit bar hosting an 80’s video dance party. There is a man, in a sweater, and a hat. It’s hip, too hip for him. He walks up to the video screen, presses his nose up close, and poses. He sips a Tom Collins and turns around for all to see. He seems lonely. If he’s looking for attention, he’s not getting it, certainly not from the young woman in the form-fitting black mini-skirt. She owns the dance floor, contorting her body like some sort of illusionist attempting to break free from chains. I reach for my camera and frame the scene, then wait and wait and wait for the right moment to take the shot.

LATENIGHT REFLECTIONS

We drive deep into the night, down Lovejoy Ave and across Broadway Bridge. Two Asian girls pedal bicycles alongside us. They are young, perhaps sisters. The older one wears a green shirt and pure white pants. Before I can discern the pants of the younger girl, we speed ahead and they fall out of sight. It is 1:50 a.m. The reflections of streetlights scurry across our windshield like so many fleeting memories. My pen races to catch up. Oh the things we’ve witnessed this weekend. Here. In Portland.

We’re giving Dan and Dom a chance to redeem themselves this year. If you’re also thinking of attending MFNW 2007, visit www.musicfestnw.com for the complete lineup and schedule. This year’s festival runs from Sept. 6-9 and features such notable acts as Spoon, Rilo Kiley, Dan Deacon, The Shaky Hands, Clipse, The Thermals, Wolf Parade, Viva Voce, Okkervil River, Grizzly Bear, and many many more.


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