MFNW Friday: In Which Bar Lines Are Long

So I got a little behind. Forgive me. Let me shift into present tense so I can pretend I’m not writing two days late.

Friday! Friday is a day for sleeping in and enduring unsuccessful shopping trips. However, it’s also a day for lucking out, and for arriving at venues in time to walk right in (for the most part). I turn up at the Wonder Ballroom at about 5:15 for Britt Daniel‘s 5:30 set and there isn’t even a slip of a line. However, there is — in what becomes the theme for the evening, and for the Wonder — a line for the bar. A line in which I stand, briefly, before Daniel goes on and I realize it was a stupid idea anyway.

I have a confession: I only really love one Spoon album. Just Girls Can Tell. And thus, once Daniel closes the goosebump-raising “Me and the Bean” I think I’d be happy to leave were I not holding out hope that he might also play “Anything You Want.” He does play another Girls song, and some other songs I recognize, as well as one song on the bass and several with the nearly ubiquitous Janet Weiss, who plays with everyone and is so awesome her frequent appearances are never less than delightful.

Daniel is charming and sort of adorable in his tousled-bedhead way; he says he’s been living in Portland for three years and it’s still magical. I’m pretty sure he actually says “magical.” It’s sweet. The short is set and also sweet, and involves a song for which Daniel has to stop his drum machine, practice the chords and start again. I don’t know why I find musician fuckups so charming.

Outside, I find Chuck and his friend, grumpy about the no-magical-press-pass access at the Wonder. The line for Built to Spill is long, and I don’t envy those who get in the realization that they most likely won’t be able to get a beer. BtS is beer music. I’m leaving ’cause I’ve got to get dinner, but also because I’m still bitter that they’re playing Perfect From Now On rather than the clearly superior Keep It Like a Secret. I was in denial about this for so long that I convinced myself it was the latter album. Whoops.

After dinner, we head to the Towne Lounge for the Old Believers, whom I wrote about in July when they played Cozmic Pizza. That night, we missed most of the band’s set because they went on long before we’d expected them to; tonight, we catch most of it, and it’s fantastic and nostalgic and lovely and graceful as expected. There are other folks onstage with the core Believer duo; later I found out these other folks were Eskimo and Sons, but that’s a post for Saturday’s eventual blog. There is a sizable Willamette Week contingent at the Old Believers show, which leads me to some internal speculation about music for alt-weekly staffers that goes absolutely nowhere. Also, the Towne Lounge sells 24-ounce cans of Pabst. I should be immune to this sort of gimmick now, but despite my dislike for the gut-twisting cheap brew, I consider it. Briefly. The bar is a little bit dinky and a little bit dingy in just the right way and I think I would like to see more bands in its dark environs, often.

As the Old Believers come to a hand-clapping, crowd-pleasing end, we split for the Roseland and arrive just in time to get in another bar line. We stay in this one, though; I text with Chuck about Portland’s best bands and the fact that the Crystal Ballroom, where he’s seeing the over-hyped Vampire Weekend, has an actual press space. Crazy. Jaguar Love takes the stage and I immediately have a shit-eating grin on my face, because I love these guys. I love their batshit craziness, stupid white pants and singer Johnny Whitney’s tendency to scream EVERYTHING at incomprehensible levels. (Check out WWeek‘s Musicfest diaries for an accurate and entertaining take on the band.) I love that they make catchy music that veers from almost power ballads to almost-Michael Jackson pop, but coat it all in a layer of noise and ridiculousness. I love that some of them used to be in two other awesome bands.

The bad thing about Jaguar Love is that most of Portland is standing still and staring blankly at the stage. I posit the theory that some of them are convinced this is a test of their TV on the Radio loyalties. Eventually, we make it upstairs and obtain beer from the fastest bartender on the planet. My friend Toby sends a text from Brooklyn that ends, “FUCK THIS SHIT I AM MOVING TO PORTLAND,” which, well, hey, at the moment, I’m pretty in love with PDX myself, even if its denizens seem to dance even less than Eugeneans. As the show winds down, Whitney screams, “JAGUAR LOVE! JAGUAR LOVE! JAGUAR LOVE!” over and over again, and we can’t contain the laughter. A bearded dude in a baseball hat one row up catches my boyfriend’s eye and high-fives him. I wonder if he’s laughing with the band, like me, or at them.

Musicfest runs like clockwork, so it’s almost weird that TV on the Radio goes on a few minutes late. Downstairs, no one is dancing, which makes me cranky even though I’m sitting on my ass with a pint of porter. Eventually, I make my way back downstairs, stuff tissue in my ears, and slip through the crowd to near the front, where I find myself stuck behind a very tall blonde who keeps punching the air. I’m not sure this is the most … understandable? response to TVOTR, but whatevs; at least she’s into it.

Photo by Dominik Kolendo.

But it’s not their best show, to be honest. It’s the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen them, and something just seems a little less vibrant than usual — though at least part of that could be chalked up to the fact that the crowd is waiting for the band’s new album rather than excited about hearing new songs they’ve come to love already. But singer Tunde Adebimpe (full disclosure: I knew Tunde in college) has enough personality to carry any TVOTR show through, and there’s something sweetly (that word again!) appealing to his demeanor as he thanks the crowd; it’s in such contrast to his constantly-in-motion, shimmying, magnificent and oratorial presence during the band’s songs. If memory serves, the main part of the set ends without “Staring at the Sun,” so of course they’re going to do an encore. Of course. And it’s — to borrow a word from Britt Daniel — damn near magical.

Everyone is going to Berbati’s after this, so we decide to follow along just to see what all the fuss is about. When we get there, we finally get to use the magical part of the magic bulldozer passes and waltz right in, only to realize we don’t want to be there. There’s a stomping party vibe that doesn’t sit right after the epic density of TVOTR. I stand in the bathroom line, sweating, and get a text from Chuck: “Donuts sound better than this band.” Voodoo Doughnuts is down the block, and it’s a tossup whether there’s a longer line for sugar-coated treats or The Builders and the Butchers. We pass on both and call it a night. One more to go!