MFNW Saturday: Sweaty, Tired, Happy

And now it’s Monday. Isn’t it? I feel a little discombobulated. I’m pretty sure it’s Monday, and I’m tired, and I keep babbling incoherently to anyone who’ll listen about how much fun MFNW was. Seriously. Babble, babble, ramble, meander.

And the best part of MFNW? Les Savy Fav. Saturday night begins like the other two nights: At the Wonder Ballroom, where there is a giant freaking line that reaches all the way down Russell. I cross my fingers that the magic bulldozer passes will work as I walk up to a friendly-faced fellow who asks, “Did you have a question?” “No,” I say, “I have this.” I hold up the pass and he waves us in. Awesome. Even the bar line isn’t as long as it has been. Not that I’m going to sit in the bar for LSF, but I’ve got to get through Ratatat first. Ratatat has one song I like; all their other songs sound like variations on it to me. Naturally, they play this one song last, after battering the Wonder with truly epic amounts of bass. My cell screen vibrates. The window behind me knocks in its frame. We bitch about the bass for most of the set.

And then I bid adieu for the moment to my starving boyfriend and begin swimming upstream against the tide of sweaty, exhausted-looking Ratatat fans. It’s delightfully easy to get right up front, which is where you must be for Les Savy Fav. It is the vantage point from which to properly appreciate the mad genius of singer Tim Harrington, who comes out with tissue paper wrapped around one arm and a towel around his neck. He’s got a weird little hat on and is explaining that he got in a car wreck. They don’t have their flutist or bongos. He says. It’s all very funny. And then the music starts, and Harrington is flailing and leaping into the crowd and spitting water into fans’ mouths (ew!) and generally being the most entertaining performer you could hope to see. At some point, a ladder appears, and he hands it to the crowd, gesturing for them to put it on the floor. But they don’t. They don’t want to. And so he crowd-ladder-surfs to the lighting rig a few feet back, where he grabs a light and twists it to point downwards. Back onstage, he says, “That light was really bugging me.”

That light now creates a little spotlight into which he wanders, later. They play all the right songs, except “Wake Up” and “Dishonest Don Pt. II,” and I pogo and dance as best I can while pushing moshers out of my way. Dudes, c’mon now. You DANCE to this music. Seriously. Really. I’ve seen entire floors dancing. It’s rock you dance to. It’s not an oxymoron. But this weekend, Portland has two modes: standing stock still and flipping the fuck out in a dude-heavy frenzy. Two kids, one with braces, decide this is the time to take up crowd-surfing. I am not amused, but I just get out of their way.

Sweaty, sweaty, sweaty. Someone gives Harrington a fork and he combs all available hair (on his own body) with it. At one point, he yelps, “What’s the difference between me and a pit bull?” The crowd responds, “Lipstick!” Harrington says, “I have human intelligence!” and tears into the next song to a weaker barrage of cheers than I expect.

For the encore, he comes out in orange thigh-high tube socks, red underwear and a hoodie, which he quickly removes as sexily as possible. The crowd is more frenzied than ever. By the time the set is done — the almost perfect set, all that booty-shaking total guitar-rock beautiful contradiction stuff tied for the best thing I’ve heard in ages — we’re all damp and breathing like we ran here from the Crystal Ballroom. I stumble out the door and down the block and pull myself onto a stool at the BBQ pit where my boyfriend has ridden this one out, and proclaim it the best show ever, and by the way I could really use some water. The bartender overhears, obliges, and we chat for two seconds about the Les Savy Fav show being the show he most wanted to see during the festival. “I’m sorry,” I say. He shrugs. “I’ll get over it.”

I dunno, man. That was pretty unmissable. Next time!

We opt for a quieter stop next: Horse Feathers at Holocene. I love Horse Feathers, I love Holocene, I love my delicious cocktail; I’m clearly having a Musicfest Moment. Horse Feathers are delicate and beautiful and heartbreaking and sometimes, in the instrumental-only moments, put me in mind of music that’d be used on Deadwood. I dream idly of being able to play the violin. The girl in Horse Feathers has the prettiest voice and is wearing huaraches. The singer is in the Sam Beam vein – not just that he sings gorgeous acoustic songs, but that he’s a blond, bearded fellow. This is about the extent of my capability for thought at this point. This, and that I need to get my hands on the newer Horse Feathers record.

I want to see Panther, and the Shaky Hands, but I’ve spent a lot of time at Holocene already. We drive back to the west side, translate weird visitor parking signs so we can figure out where it’s safe to leave the car overnight, and proclaim ourselves foot-bound for the rest of the night. On a whim, we trek down to Fez for Blind Pilot and have to pull magic-pass rank to get in, which is good for the band — the existence of the line of fans, I mean — and makes me feel like a dick yet again. But there’s no beer on tap, the room is weird and the band is still soundchecking long after they should have gone on (this is extra weird, as everything else has, delightfully, been incredibly well-timed). We stay long enough to hear “Two Towns From Me,” which is so catchy (and fantastically embellished by the handful of extra musicians onstage tonight) it spends the next 36 hours running around my head, alternating with Oxford Collapse’s unexpectedly beautiful, oddly sad “A Wedding.” It’s a slightly unnerving pair of songs to have stuck in one’s head that long.

From Fez, we head up Burnside to the Towne Lounge for Eskimo and Sons, having heard enough good things over the last few days about this about-to-go-on-hiatus band that we can’t miss out. And it’s fantastic. It’s sing-along central with the Old Believers; it’s packed; I can’t even see who’s doing what and I don’t care. We perch on the back of a banquette and I love everything about the show, including the clubby feel. I don’t know the songs, and for once it doesn’t matter. They all sound familiar; they all sound perfect.

And that’s it. We walk out of the Towne Lounge and down 23rd to the New Old Lompoc, where we discover too late that late-night snacks translate to a $4 Reser burrito (or fair approximation) served on a lettuce leaf. Thankfully, it comes with a side of salsa for drowning the thing in. We never leave beers unfinished, but tonight, we make an exception. Oh, the tiredness. But it’s all worth it. Musicfest NW has proved to be fantastic – though I do have to wonder if it’s as much fun for the non-press-pass holding folks. We would have spent a lot more time in lines were it not for that (so thanks, MFNW Powers That Be!). On the other hand, there was almost always another show I would have been happy to be seeing; the list of shows I wish I’d squeezed in includes Hot Water Music, Centro-Matic (my most sadly missed band!), Nada Surf, Menomena and Helio Sequence (though I can see both of those bands this weekend at the Eugene Celebration, so all’s well there), Chris Robley and the Fear of Heights, Norfolk and Western and more I’ve blocked out so I won’t regret not having seen them. It’s a lot of a good thing, MFNW. It’s so much of a good thing that I have, for the first time in months, this giddy-happy feeling about new music and seeing bands and all that good stuff it’s sometimes easy to get jaded about. So thanks, you guys. I’m already excited about next year. Especially if The Thermals play. I’m just sayin’.