Let’s say you have your MFNW bracelet and have plotted out your menu of rising-star bands, synced the schedule on your iPhone, and have calculated how many blocks between each venue. For argument’s sake, you’re a post-Garden State fan of mister smoky Iron & Wine, and were swayed by SLP writer Gene’s review of their recent synthy album. So you’re headed to Pioneer Square Friday, and plan to catch The Horrors later at Dante’s. But then you’re stopped at the door—they’re full—the horror! Next day, said SLP writer’s excellent review of The Antlers caught your interest, and after that show you’re headed to the intimate basement that is the Doug Fir to catch The Vaccines. Tragedy strikes twice—$70 for an MF’ing bracelet, and you can’t get in the show. What to do? Luckily for you, the folks at MFNW have prepared a varied line-up, with many local bands that may please even the pickiest palate.
For one, Viva Voce (pictured) has been on the Portland scene since 2003, featuring Anita and Kevin Robinson, and various add-ons (including Corrina Repp) along the way. Their last two albums have been tight, slick affairs, with surging energy that is well-produced. The family Robinson has recently announced that they will be doing their most recent, The Future Will Destroy You, in its entirety. Should be worth your while (Crystal Ballroom, Thursday 8pm). For those who are less desiring of music that’s tight and slick, Dirty Mittens’ lead vocalist, Chelsea Morrissey, recently joked on an OPB studio session that her quirky but compelling voice (at times like a female version of Ween in “Push the Little Daisies”) is much better than her guitar playing. The catchy song “Row” has received a lot of airplay on local station KZME. Their live shows have been well-received (Hawthorne Theater, Thursday 9pm). Sporting another local female vocalist and one of the goofiest names in the festival (outside of Wampire, which takes it a step toward the ridiculous), my recent favorite The Angry Orts blew me away with their 2008 album of a name long and goofy enough to suit. Vocalist Sara Wiltshire grabs you by the shirt-collar, and your ears stand at attention. Their more recent single “We are Electric” proves beyond a doubt they certainly are (Jimmy Mak’s, Saturday 10pm).
To tout a couple of local male leads, Blind Pilot is working up a second wind with their recent release We are the Tide, which is for the moment streamable for free at NPR’s First Listen. Not to be confused with ex-Dharma Bum Jeremy Wilson’s short-lived project Pilot, the sightless version delivers a pleasant if a bit predictable alt-pop sound, though their more lightly-produced recent Daytrotter session sticks in the craw with substance and rawness more often associated with newer-comers Typhoon (Crystal, Saturday 11pm). Now working up something like a third wind, Blitzen Trapper brings country-fried croonings about a variety of topics including a childhood experience of a boy-turned-wolf howling with the pack (“Furr”). Or is it a rattlesnake? Really. Their newest release American Goldwing–nothing says Americana like a Honda motorbike—is streamable for free at Pastemagazine.com. Go see them and find out if my house/mate is right about them being the reincarnation of the Grateful Dead (Crystal, Friday 11pm).
Though alt-country may have hit its sell-by date, alt-folk still seems to be going strong, at least in the land of The Decemberists. Speaking of which, now that the band has announced an indefinite hiatus, three of its members can focus on their former side-project, Black Prairie. Their first album, Feast of the Hunter’s Moon, is heavy on the folk, light on the alt. I imagine they’ll summon the spirit of Colin Meloy to fill the cavernous Crystal Ballroom with energy in their opener (Saturday 8pm). In perhaps a more suitable venue, Horse Feathers brings their pleasant duets with mellow acoustic backing to the cozy Aladin Theater. Their most recent album Thistled Spring is starkly understated at times, such as on the title track, sprinkled with moments of brief but precise climactic intensity. Should be a promising show (Friday 11pm).
For those with less of a folky appetite, and for whom hip-hop is more than a curious side-dish, Friday at the Roseland displays a couple of intriguing entrees. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, a duo from Seattle, provided the most repeat-button-worthy song on the official 2011 MFNW CD, the anti-Nike anthem Wings. With lyrics delivered in force, echoing Eminem at his most eloquent (and least misogynist), backed by violin and piano, the band demands attention (10 pm). Just before that, fellow Seattle-ite Shabbazz Palaces takes the stage, showcasing the experimental hip-hop by the man who fronted Digable Planets. The live show sounds a little unpredictable, but highly entertaining. Malcolm and Betty would be proud (9pm).