My Mini-MusicfestNW

It’s getting harder to come home.

The only thing I really don't like about Portland is the fact that every time I visit our sister city to the south, it becomes increasingly difficult to leave. There are far too many commitments keeping me here in Seattle to consider trading emeralds for roses, but the urge to relocate is nearly as powerful as the tractor beam that pulls me toward the Magic Gardens strip club whenever I'm anywhere near Portland's Pearl District.That desire to stay just a little bit longer was even stronger last week, when I made a far-too-brief trek to catch what I could of Willamette Week's impeccably curated MusicfestNW. More than 200 bands were playing over four days, so it could have easily turned into a SXSW-caliber marathon, but I only had time to run the Thursday-night leg of the race. Still, for only one night, it was well worth the effort, despite the fact that it left precious little time to visit my lady friends over at Magic Gardens.The evening started with the requisite free-booze-and-food meet-and-greet under a tent outside the Wonder Ballroom, where I ran into Neumos' bromancing power couple Jason Lajeunesse and Steven Severin, the latter of whom was particularly excited for that evening's Steel Pole Bath Tub reunion show at the Doug Fir Lounge. Battles was playing just inside the Ballroom during the party, but thanks to prohibitively long lines (all the Nike-sponsored Ballroom shows were free, and thus wildly popular), we had to pass on that particular math-rock freakfest.The Doug Fir served as my default location, since most of what I wanted to see was there and I didn't want to risk missing anything by dodging to other venues. When my companions and I needed a breather from the crowds at that club, we hopped over to the B Side, a charming dive with a talent for mixing flammable-strength drinks and a fondness for playing Hot Snakes records, an ideal preparatory soundtrack for the Steel Pole show.Back at Doug Fir, the showcase began with former Unwound drummer Sara Lund's new two-piece band, Hungry Ghost. Lund and guitarist Andrew Price (formerly of Irving Klaw Trio) dished up a giddy, economically constructed set of street-walking power punk shaded with just the right hue of blues to evoke the White Stripes, but with enough creativity and technical prowess to make it easy to imagine them blowing ole Meg and Jack off the stage. Lund is easily one of the most gifted post-punk drummers this side of Fugazi's Brendan Canty, and there's no good reason that Hungry Ghost shouldn't have plenty of packed shows in their future.Chatting in the outdoor lounge upstairs with camera-wielding former Juno front man Arlie Carstens, bespectacled alt-country maverick Gerald Collier, and wise-cracking Black Elk leader Tom Glose proved much more entertaining than the Thrones' attempts to loosen the crowd's collective bowels with their trademark low-end-driven drone-fest, so I was content to let the pavement rumble under my feet until it was time for Red Fang to take the stage. I had sacrificed my hope to see the Scared of Chaka reunion down at the Ash Street Saloon to see Red Fang, a band I've long admired on record but had yet to catch in the flesh. I'm sure Scared of Chaka was great (and I hope they book a proper Seattle show soon), but sticking around for Red Fang was definitely not a choice I regretted. It's high time for these guys to snatch the stoner-rock crown from the increasingly pedestrian thugs in Queens of the Stone Age and rule in their rightful place alongside wiser contemporary metal comrades like Pelican and The Sword. If you listen to as much Slint as Slayer, then this is your new favorite band.Red Fang were perfect—if somewhat unexpected—openers for Steel Pole Bath Tub (Black Elk was originally in that slot, but was moved to Saturday's showcase featuring Polvo and Trans Am). Watching the crowd flip their wigs and raise their fists rapturously when the Bay Area trio took the stage just after 1 a.m. was a sight to behold (Severin looked like he might jump out of his skin at any moment), and we were duly rewarded with a blistering and beautiful set culled from the best of their back catalog, including cuts from Tulip and The Miracle of Sound in Motion.Back in Seattle, I was greeted with exceptionally good news and a reason to fall back in love with my city: In an exclusive statement to Seattle Weekly's music blog, Reverb, local music scene activist-turned-publicity baroness Kerri Harrop told me that former Neumos/current JuJu owner Marcus Charles has purchased the Crocodile, and the club is set to reopen in late January or early February. "Marcus has assembled a good team of investors, including Alice in Chains manager Susan Silver and [AIC drummer] Sean Kinney, who are both really behind the project and really excited about it," said Harrop. Also delicious to note: Via Tribunali, Capitol Hill's classic Neapolitan pizza restaurant, will be taking over the space in the Croc's back bar, and beloved engineer Jim Anderson will be on board running the sound. A booking agent has not been decided on yet. "The whole space is getting overhauled," Harrop continues. "[We are] addressing issues such as that unsightly, god-awful column in the middle of the show room. I think people are going to be very, very pleased."rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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