MusicFestNW has announced their line up. This year, many changes have been made. Instead of a citywide event, providing business for many venues in the area, MFNW has been reduced to a two-day festival on Waterfront Park. Instead of showcasing a ton of local acts and artists, as well as a handful of nationally known artists, MFNW has decided to only feature larger names – with only two local artists on the ticket. Instead of featuring a variety of musical styles, appeasing several different age groups and tastes in music, MFNW has instead decided to limit themselves to the most hip and young bands they could find. I have one thing to say to this new and not so improved MusicFestNW – GET OFF MY LAWN!(and get back to the venues where you belong).
I’m quite serious. If Pioneer Square is Portland’s living room, it stands to reason that Waterfront Park is Portland’s front yard. Therefore, as a citizen of Portland, I shall raise my cane in protest and yell once more, “Get off my lawn!” A little history of MusicFestNW through my eyes….
My first time going to MFNW was about eleven years ago. I saw so many bands that I can’t even remember them all. I saw many local favorites – Viva Voce, Menomena, Stovokor, The High Violets, The Helio Sequence – and that’s just to name a few. I saw Vancouver BC’s Delirium, Seattle’s Pedro The Lion, and even got to watch the now defunct Portland Organic Wrestling. I paid 35 bucks (43 in today’s dollar), and I was never turned down because the venue was full. Oh, and there was no such thing as a VIP ticket. That’s quite a deal, and a better deal than the current 85 dollar ticket (300 dollars if you want the VIP treatment).
In other years, I got to see The Decemberists, Portland Cello Project, Crooked Fingers, Quasi, Neko Case, the 1900s, Mogwai. and even Rilo Kiley. Save for perhaps the Decemberists, I don’t believe any of these bands would fit this year’s line up. They’re either too small, or just not hipster friendly enough.Even Rilo Kiley would probably be deemed too “Country sounding.”
Ok, so despite the fact that there’s nothing for me at the current MFNW, the changes are a serious blow to local venues. Sure, the past few years have seen shows at Pioneer Square, but there were also shows at venues such as Dante’s, The Crystal Ballroom, Mississippi Studios, Ash Street Saloon – pretty much every venue in the city, large or small, wanted a piece of the action. I’m sure MFNW was a yearly boon for these business, and lined many a pocket, from the owners all the way down to the servers. Rich, middle class, and poor all benefited from previous MFNW.
Oh, but it gets worst than that. This could very well cost local businesses and service people more than just a yearly bonus – this could actually hurt the local venues (and their employees) during that weekend. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, if you’re booking a show, do you really want to book a show against a huge festival with close to unlimited seating? A show with huge, nationally known bands at such a low cost? It’s the same reason why, during the Winter Olympics, most networks aired repeats instead of new shows. They knew they could not compete. But besides competing against MFNW, there’s also the fact that the venues downtown will suffer from people who want to avoid Downtown while MFNW is happening. I’ve read several comments stating just this – that person X is going to avoid Downtown that weekend – it’s just not something they wish to do. The crowds of people who drunkenly stumble out of Waterfront Park – just not something they want to deal with, and neither do I.
Perhaps I’m over reaching with that last paragraph. There’s one group of people the new MFNW is really going to harm – the local artists. In my past treks to MFNW, be it one show or the whole weekend, I heard a lot of new music. Even in the years where I had to camp out at the same venue, I was always exposed to some artist I had no idea existed before that night. Some became favorites (the High Violets, Stovokor, and although not local, the 1900s). I’ve bought a lot of music from artists I was first introduced to via MFNW, even from bands I do not consider favorites. People like me will not be exposed to these types of bands, and therefore, these bands will miss a great opportunity in gaining new followers and fans – or at least an opportunity to sell a record or two.
The new hipster friendly MusicfestNW Sucks. The new MFNW and is just going to fiscally hurt those who can’t afford to be hurt. The New MFNW will isolate people, and it just isn’t something I want in my city. So what can we do? Well – there’s two things. Firstly – pay attention to the shows being advertised by venues during the weekend of MFNW. If there’s a show that sounds interesting to you….go! Buy your tickets early, buy records, and make sure to show up for the opening act. Fully support local venues and artists during MFNW.
The Second thing one can do to protest MusicFestNW might sound a little crazy, but it just might be worth a shot. If you’re not supporting a band during the weekend of MFNW, join me in literally protesting MFNW. I plan to walk around Waterfront Park, yelling “Get Off my Lawn and get back to the venues.” If it’s just me doing this, they’ll just thing I’m a crazy person, but if a whole group of us gather to do this – well my friends, that’s how we start a movement.