PDX Pop Now's opening night for 2012 is in the books, and the festival wasted little time ramping things up to a fever pitch. From the Parson Red Heads' slightly rootsy, retro power pop to Radiation City's dreamy, cooing, closing set, it was a fittingly diverse beginning (metal, hip hop, garage, and whatever AU plays were all represented among others) to a festival that has always mixed it up well.
The Parson Red Heads
The Parson Red Heads launched into their early set with back catalog power pop gem "Punctual as Usual," ahead of a set peppered with new songs from their upcoming full-length (look for it in early '13). The band's husband and wife duo, Evan and (a quite pregnant) Brette-Marie Way, appeared to be taking the festival's all-ages decree an extra step, their upcoming addition making his/her PDX Pop debut in utero.
TxE, the hip-hop trio comprised of recent in-studio guest TOPE alongside Epp and Calvin Valentine, worked the crowd to begin the final outdoor set of the night. This was literally the case when TOPE and Epp spilled into the front rows to perform standout track "The Basics," eventually finding it more difficult to extricate themselves than they had perhaps planned. They also brought plenty from this year's We Get It in True, showing why they've quickly become one of Portland hip-hop's best and brightest.
The Shivas, while not unknown to us in recorded form, were the real live revelation of the night. The quartet's garage-y, surf-tinged and above all high energy set had the front rows threatening to topple the barricade at the front of the stage. The band released a solid enough full-length this year called WhiteOut, but it hardly suggested the young, hungry rock & roll they brought to the stage Friday night. Capturing the same on record should definitely be a priority going forward.
Epic AU sets at PDX Pop have become almost a tradition in recent years (they delivered huge in '09 and '10 before) and they did nothing to interrupt that streak last night. Core duo Luke Wyland and Dana Valatka and more recent addition Holland Andrews were further bolstered by the presence of Blue Cranes' Reed Wallsmith on saxophone for (ho-hum) another life-affirming set full of rhythm and intensity. Sole complaint: just as AU was beginning to work themselves (and everyone else) into a suitable lather, time constraints due to the approaching noise ordinance cut-off forced the set to be cut short.
Radiation City's comparatively subdued set closed the night, a perfect way to cool down after the sustained energy of the previous three sets. Not that they didn't bring their own brand of intensity. Portland's reigning "Best New Band" (according to the annual Willamette Week poll) swept dreamily through songs from last year's The Hands That Take You debut and this year's Cool Nightmare EP, inspiring a good portion of the considerably sized crowd to audibly sing along. It was an interesting contrast to their set at last year's festival, which saw a buzzed about but still very much under the radar band deliver a charming if somewhat unsure daytime perfromance in front of a modest crowd. Things have changed. They closed stunningly and unexpectedly: a note-perfect version of Etta James' "At Last" soothing souls before sending them out into the night.
See our full photo set of Friday's PDX Pop Now action
More to come here on the blog with two more full days of action still on the way-- even more and up to the minute on Twitter.
Tagged: PDX Pop Now 2012