The schedule is posted, armbands are for sale (at these locations), and Portland’s gearing up for this year’s omnipresent local music showcase. Musicfest Northwest is just under two weeks away, falling on September 16th-September 20th.

Like Austin’s SXSW, Portland’s MFNW is a city-wide celebration of the best music out there today. Sponsored by Portland’s popular alternative weekly, the Willamette Week, MFNW cherry picks the best of the best for this September music festival.

Planning on attending, but not sure who to check out? MFNW can be a little intimidating. At five days, eighteen music venues, and over 200 performers, if you don’t have a guide you may be tempted to throw darts at the line-up in desperation. While you would still be guaranteed to see kick-ass bands, I have an easier way: I did the work for you. No darts needed.

Portland Bands

Want a locals-only fest? Check out James Mercer of the Shins, Viva Voce, The Builders and Butchers, Explode Into Colors, Blind Pilot, Dirty Mittens, and The Mint Chicks. James Mercer is a late addition, subbing in for Passion Pit (a great change, if you ask me). Explode Into Colors and Dirty Mittens are, I’m sorry, cute. They’re just cute people who make good music. The Builders and Butchers folk rock sound won them the title of Willamette Week’s Best New Band in 2008. The Mint Chicks now call themselves local, though they originally hail from New Zealand. Experimental and loud, they define their music as “troublegum.” Blind Pilot has been on an upward trajectory for the last year, and if you want to catch them this year so you can say “I saw them when…” that’d be a pretty solid plan.

Repeat Performers

Into checking out performers who have rocked in years previous? For sure don’t miss Girl Talk, Will Sheff of Okkervil River, Monotonix, Japanther, Love Language, or the Mimicking Birds. Girl Talk performed two years ago at the Roseland. Space will definitely be limited, so get there early. Okervil River nailed their 2+ hour performance at Berbati’s several years ago. Will Sheff has this voice that will make you melt if you’re a girl and make you squint your eyes in a jealous yet affable way if you’re a dude. You may remember Tel Aviv trio Monotonix from their nutty performance last year in front of Backspace. It involved nudity, playing drums in a tree, a pair of bright red underwear, and smashed instruments. (I have pictures if you want proof.) Brooklyn’s Japanther blew the house away at Holocene last year—if you’re into energetic fun punk, put these guys on your MFNW calendar. Love Language’s vibrant pop is responsible for the bouncy “Lalita” and well worth your viewing, and the Mimicking Birds have a great lyrical surf thing going on.

Big Name Bands

So you want that 60 bucks you shelled out for MFNW to contribute to only the big name bands? Check out Damien Jurado, the Arctic Monkeys, Sunny Day Real Estate, Helio Sequence, the Shaky Hands, and Modest Mouse. Whether you want to hear storytelling set to music (Damien Jurado), classic indie rock (Modest Mouse) or bouncy Brit-rock (Arctic Monkeys), these musicians got big for a reason. MFNW offers a great opportunity to see them live. These shows are going to packed, so come early, wear comfortable shoes, and bring your camera.

Wristbands are available at:

  • TicketsWest online or 503-224-TIXX and all TicketsWest outlets.
  • Jackpot Records
    203 SW 9th Ave and 3574 SE Hawthorne Blvd
  • Music Millennium
    3158 E Burnside St
  • Willamette Week
    2220 NW Quimby St
  • Backspace
    115 NW 5th Ave
  • Ace Hotel
    1022 SW Stark St

Check out the entire lineup and schedule at: Musicfest NW.

Culture Musicfest NW