Live Review: Project Pabst 2016 Day 2: Tame Impala, Drive Like Jehu, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Hop Along, Diarrhea Planet, Parquet Courts, and more

photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

Day two of Project Pabst was the blockbuster sequel to Saturday: bigger, dustier, and more lager-fueled. Technically speaking, the attendance was the same – both days were sold out – but the crowd (a seeming third of whom were decked out in Tame Impala shirts) was significantly more energetic on Sunday and from an earlier hour too. Then again, starting your day with Diarrhea Planet will do that. In its two days on the Portland waterfront, Project Pabst finally pulled off what it’s been aiming for and nearly acheiving for the last two years: a sold-out, engaging, medium-sized festival that embraces its corporate sponsorship with an almost ridiculous aesthetic and a great lineup. (No doubt they sold a lot of PBR too.) A recap of DP and some other, more tastefully-named bands that played the festival follows. (Blurbs by Jacob Webb, Scott Kulick, and Anna McClain.)

Diarrhea Planet – “It’s a raw, primal love that accompanies the likes of Diarrhea Planet… it’s the fact that these six dudes make highly technical, well-done rock and roll so damn appealing by never taking themselves too seriously.” That’s KEXP’s Gerrit Feenstra gracefully reviewing the Nashville sextet’s Seattle show from the night before they played Project Pabst. Despite playing in the middle of the afternoon sun, the crowd at DP’s Project Pabst show would have almost certainly described the same experience as Mr. Feenstra, but with 1000 times more f-bombs, devil horn signs, thrown tallboys, air guitar, and bad puns on their name. There’s no middle ground with Diarrhea Planet: either you’re part of the guitar-solo laden church of DP or you’ll never get over the fact that they’re named Diarrhea Planet. For those that are racing motorcycles with the baby Jesus in Heaven alongside DP, however, there are never enough guitar solos or joking asides about their name, because Diarrhea Planet are on some next level shit. (Accordingly, there will be no apology for that pun.) (JW)

Hop Along – Indie darlings Hop Along drew a PBR-wielding crowd at day two of the festival with their grungy folk-pop. Frontwoman Frances Quinlan’s voice was immediately recognizable, and the occasional raspy note inspired some fear for the longetivity of her vocals. But Quinlan has complete control over her voice, and it’s the nuance and range of emotions she conveys with it that makes Hop Along one of the most exciting up and coming bands of late. The group, representing Philadelphia’s galvanized music scene, played favorites from their sophomore effort, 2015’s Painted Shut, which put them on the map for many fans last year. (AM)

Sheer Mag – Fellow Philly-dwellers Sheer Mag made for an easy transition from Hop Along and rocked mid-afternoon listeners with a revved-up punk set. Tina Halladay’s voice ripped through the dusty park, complimented by guitarist Kyle Seely’s catchy riffs. The band, whose catalog is limited to three 7-inches, embodies DIY coolness and redefines the 70s hard rock formula laid out by groups like Thin Lizzy and AC/DC. The performance refreshingly brought a little house show attitude to a packed festival bedecked with sponsors. (AM)

Parquet Courts – I lost count in the high-umpteen range, but I think I saw more Parquet Courts than I saw Tame Impala shirts. Touring their fifth album, Human Performance, the band barely said a word as they took the stage – perfectly fitting their New York mumblecore persona – but Andrew Savage and band were anything but mumbly. Sporting a quirky array of thoroughly-thrashed short-scale guitars, everything was relatively upbeat until they dialed it back for easily the best received song in their whole set: “One Man No City.” Whether it was the much-needed tempo break, the eminently quotable, borderline LCD Soundsystem lyrics, or simply the undeniable magic of a good bongo track (what is it about bongos?!), but people stopped jumping around and started grinding on each other almost immediately. (SK)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s presence in the second day of Project Pabst’s lineup echoed much of the band’s first reviews and praises: they offered a much-needed dose of musical sophistication in a scene that sometimes leans too hard on the crutches of the lo-fi genre. Ruban Neilson’s musical brainchild exploded into the indie blogosphere riding praises of musical and technical complexity – and in the middle of a hot afternoon of simple beer and simple beats, they offered a rich, flavorful break. Ruban’s demeanor and one-shouldered guitar were unassuming, but as they slickly wobbled through a seemingly endless sequence of chords per song part, Neilson’s singing and guitar screaming in unison, fans vibed through the hits like “So Good At Being In Trouble” and “Necessary Evil.” But as clearly mastermindedly talented as Neilson was, even when he sat cross legged on the stage facing away from the audience (he made up for it by singing while walking through the crowd), due consideration needs to be given to drummer Riley Geare. The drumming in a lot of lo-fi rock isn’t the most imaginative stuff out there, and after hours of light beer and hot sun people started losing the will to thrash – enter Geare, and his occasionally breakbeat funk. Whoever was pulling the strings in the Scheduling office nailed this placement – the reprieve from headbanging injected some much-needed soul into the 36th hour of festival-ing. (SK)

Drive Like Jehu – Drive Like Jehu took the legacy slot at the festival on Sunday and they couldn’t have done it any more differently than Saturday’s legacy act, Duran Duran. For one, the San Diego punk legends had essentially nothing onstage besides themselves and their equipment, but that’s all it really took for the reunited group to rip Portland a new one in their fifty minutes onstage. You’d never guess from watching the show, but only two of the band’s members have actively played music in the last twenty years. Unsurprisingly, punk lifers Rick Froberg and John Reis perfectly rode the line between sloppily unhinged and brilliantly unhinged, but so did bassist Mike Kennedy and drummer Mark Trombino, who played like he was trying to murder his drum kit six or seven times over while onstage. Admittedly, Jehu’s influence is bigger than their audience, but Yank Crime has aged remarkably well for a Californian punk record, particularly when compared to its ska and skate contemporaries. DLJ’s reunion seems likely to be short-lived, but “Here Come The Rome Plows” was built to blow speakers forever, and on Sunday night, that’s what the band more or less did. (JW)

Tame Impala – Undeniably the biggest draw of the weekend by any metric, Tame Impala is in a place that very few bands are at the moment. After quietly jumping from “popular” to “very, very popular” in between 2012’s Lonerism and 2015’s Currents, they’ve made another jump to “outright massive”, and – this is even rarer – they’ve done it while still making capital-G Great records. So was it any surprise that a band who’ve spent the past year easing into their newfound role as headliners absolutely aced their headlining set at Project Pabst? Kevin Parker has become a proper frontman since his last Pacific Northwestern set at Sasquatch 2015, sometimes ditching his guitar – which still has an inimitable tone that balances crunch and melody – to move around the stage, and frequently addressing the crowd, who clearly came prepared to party. (Legions of balloons and an inflatable T. Rex brought by the crowd were met with a smile from Parker, who promptly responded by firing confetti cannons throughout the set.) The band knows which songs are going to be the anchors of their set – the stop-start chug of “Elephant”, disco fevers of “Daffodils” and “The Less I Know the Better”, and phones-in-the-air singalong of “Feels Like We Only Go Backward” are all on that list – but kept it heady with sprinkled tracks from 2010’s Innerspeaker. Call it hyperbole if you’d like, but it’s not a question whether or not Kevin Parker is in his imperial phase. He is. The real question is if he can go even bigger, and listeners and festival organizers (a.ka. the house money) is clearly betting on him to pull it off because when you have three near-perfect albums, a crack band and light show, and a budget for confetti cannons, why wouldn’t you? (JW)

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One Comment

  1. Tom Haefliger
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Where are the WEEN photos and text? WTF????

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