AIMFest review

by Clint Darling

Portland Online Music Net


"...DJ Wicked and crew put on a freakin' amazing exhibition of rapping and scratching.

Whew. It's over for another year. Gawd... I feel like I've been beaten with a 2x4. As a day it went swimmingly, even ahead of schedule at points. The crowd was bigger earlier than previous years but thinned out toward the end probably due to loss of the headliner, Pinehurst Kids. For those who stayed or arrived, DJ Wicked and crew put on a freakin' amazing exhibition of rapping and scratching. The most amazing thing was the number of people in our age group or younger who wandered down the waterfront, kinda looked as they walked past but evidenced absolutely no interest in the concert occurring a few feet from their path. A lot of them seemed to be of the "must get to mall" variety but still...

Let's see...start distilling reviews of the day. SEAN CROGHAN delivered a great solo performance, traffic overhead on the Hawthorne Bridge serving as a distant ocean roar and giving the set the feel of a beach concert with Elvis Costello sitting in for Frankie Valli. Manager and rah-rah man ALEX STEINIGER prostrated himself before the deity and soaked it all in, probably getting his karmic payback for all the work he put into the day in one glorious moment. Fresh from a night with Chan Marshall (CAT POWER), Sean seemed even more open and relaxed than usual playing to the biggest kickoff crowd in AIMFest history.

From there the day just got better and better. THE DAYLIGHTS kicked the crap out of the Waterfront to give the day an electric jumpstart with a tight, energetic set that had the alterna-scenesters hurrying the hipsters of 2020 along to find out what they were missing -- with the memories these kids are going to have there may be a huge Pat Boone resurgence as they come of age and search for something to piss off the folks! HIGH VIOLETS were a wonderful surprise to me and a nice change of pace as KAITLYN NI DONOVAN put her absolutely gorgeous voice to use with her most muscular and rocking project to date. Kaitlyn is one of the greatest treasures this city offers and High Violets are a great rock band -- along the lines of Belly or "Copacetic"-era Velocity Girl. I want to be on their mailing list and I want to have a CD so I can wake up to them every day for a month

The coolest part of the day was not only that every act flat out rocked but that every act was totally different. HELIO SEQUENCE is a band that I didn't go gaga over the first time I caught them but that have either really grown on me or keep getting better because they wowed a great crowd with their Beatle-esque noise collages. The guitar seemed more focused and under control than in the past, allowing the music to rise and fall better. Definitely a crowd pleaser
and definitely "a band to watch." You heard it here after about thirty people told me. TELEVISION EYE was the goofy glam stepchild of the show, benefitting from an assembly of DANDY WARHOL members and groupies. I'm sorry, guys, it's not a reflection on what you do, really. The resemblance to the Warhol's is unfortunate but they made up for it by having a really really good time onstage. The band has a great attitude (like, they're happy people having a lot of fun playing in a rock'n'roll band!) and likes to put their-punk-tongue-in-your-cheek (which is about the best description of their humor I can come up with). You go, girl.

Y'know, it ought to be unrelated to AIMFest but it comes up again later so let me say it here -- the Dandy Warhols are a much better band than they were five years ago and I give them total credit for flogging this horse as far and as long as they have BUT while they have the showmanship and talent to be a really fun band, they are not a creative band. Soapbox alert: the reason a lot of people in Portland are contemptuous of the Dandy's is because they are doing the rock star "thing" -- clothing and attitude; drugs, sex and rock'n'roll; damn the critics and full speed ahead! The bands they came out of had that attitude long before the Dandy's decided to retread the British and have a bit of fun with it so there is lineage and history to the attitude. A big part of the Portland scene is that there isn't a sense of competition (or even much determination to succeed)--it's just you and your friends making the music you want to make. But if you want to make a living, as in earn money, you may need the attitude and determination that the Dandy's have shown. So, hey, I wouldn't pay to see them, personally, but they've done something that not many people in this town manage to do and for that they do deserve kudos.

Now back to our original programming.... SURFACE CREEPER turned the whole barreling AIMFest caravan 90 to head off in a darker direction. Sounding in places like Radiohead doing CODEINE covers and in others like JEREMY ENIGK sitting in with AFGHAN WHIGS, frontman and AIMFest honcho Chris Herring led the audience on the days only perilous journey. Surface Creepers' spooky lyrics and disturbed textures (plus go-go dancer rythms!) make them THE ultimate band for your Halloween party. NO. 2 was the other lyric heavyweight of the day, summoning the glitterati and literati to hear a really solid presentation. Is that really Jim Talstra on bass? Shit, Jim, the fuzzy face Another Alex Steiniger favorite, No. 2 suffers only from a lack of outrageousness. This is a band that your mom will like...a lot. That kind of backhanded compliment is liable to dog them for awhile. They are "The Boys Next Door" who suddenly have this great rock and roll band and want to know if you can come see them play the Big Concert downtown tonight. In the "I Swear I Didn't Know" category, ALIEN CRIME SYNDICATE turns out to be a Seattle band (gasp!) although they seem to play in Portland every other night. That I-5 drive must be etched on their retinas by now.

Despite some mechanical trouble with their noise-maker machine, ACS did their Ramones-meets-"Tommy"/Replacements schtick with verve and vigor, sweating through a great pogoing sing-a-long set. Once you know, it's easy to tell that these lads are not Portland material -- none of the obvious introspective, experimental or out-of-tune behavior that we've come to expect from our rising locals. Chris Herring had talked about options for making AIMFest more inclusive of the NW (the way, for example, NxNW should be but isn't) and ACS was an excellent first representation of the Outside World.

And then there's RICK BAIN AND THE GENIUS POSITION who had a mind-blowing 25-minute set that stretched out to almost a full hour, the excess mainly consisting of "spacey" mood jams and "slowing things down." Another Dandy favorite and it showed in attitude and presentation -- theatrics over substance, lots of showmanship but light on content. Their set was marred by a call over the PA for alcohol for the band which was answered by a smug-looking young girl who paraded four bottles of FULL SALE AMBER to the stage. Soapbox: this move totally pissed me off. A lot of my friends have worked damned hard on this concert all year long and these absolute dumbshits placed all that work at risk. My bet is that the girl was underage, everyone knows that glass is prohibited in Waterfront Park as is alcohol and the band was very aware that we had City of Portland officials present because I had asked them to delay starting their set five minutes while we reviewed permits with some bureaucratic flunky. Making an appeal for beer was totally inappropriate and may come back to haunt this event as we try to get permits for next year. Thanks, guys. Have the foresight to drink at McCalls or bring a coffee cup and pour them in your van but this was just stupid. And then to leave the bottles onstage while we tried to do a changeover for the next act AND to be dickless rock stars when asked to pick up your garbage is totally bush-league. In places they were great but I found it difficult to enjoy watching them burn bridges.

Building bridges and bringing a lot of positive energy, DJ WICKED AND CREW were the coolest band I saw all day. Pitching to a supposedly indifferent crowd, they threw down a gauntlet for open-mindedness and drew everybody in for a wild ride down a very musical lane. I've seen a lot of DJ's that I did not respect in the morning, but DJ Wicked, a quiet man behind the turntables, laid down a storm of scratching that opened my eyes to the possibilities in vinyl. His rappers spit out a quick sampling of a variety of styles with aggressive aplomb, stopping on a dime or coming down heavy as needed. Wicked cool, dude. Missing headliners, PINEHURST KIDS just weren't missed by those who gathered in close to watch this posse lay it down. This performance opened a door in a lot of peoples minds and it's a sure bet that a DJ will make the short list for next years event thanks to the enthusiasm, professionalism and talent brought to the stage by this crew. I'll be checking the papers to see where he's playing next--they made a fan out of me.

Since we have an informal only-play-it-once policy for AIMFest, emo-rock mavericks MANDARIN weren't on any shortlist but they're back at Lola's Room at the Crystal on August 11. No word yet as to who else is on the bill but it shouldn't really matter--Lola's is a great place to see a band in an intimate setting. And mark your calendars now because SURFACE CREEPER will be at the Ash Street on August 25th with CAPTAIN VS CREW and HERKIMER. Good things are said about Captain Vs Crew and I'm eager to enjoy the night. See you there!

Portland Online Music Net web site

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