Local Spotlights, Portland

A Guide to the PDX Pop Now! 2016 Festival

Aaron Sharpsteen / July 17, 2016


Music festival season is in full swing, and it is once again time for one of Portland’s best music festivals, PDX Pop Now!, to take place under the Hawthorne bridge. After bouncing around at different spots for a couple years, the festival has hit its stride with a two stage, all outdoors set-up that is picturesque, urban, has built-in protection from the occasional shower, and has room for a beer garden and an annual Rigsketball tournament. It is also the best price of any festival of the season (free), all ages, and exclusively features Portland-area bands. For music fans wanting to dig deeper into the local music scene, or for scenesters who have bands that they’ve been meaning to check out but haven’t found the right time, this festival is perfect.

Brief descriptions of each day follow, along with some unmissable bands in bold. We know that seeing 40 bands in 3 days is probably only going to happen for the most die-hard consumer. We’ve made it a bit easier by selecting 16 from throughout the weekend that you won’t want to miss.

Ali Muhareb. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
Ali Muhareb. Photo courtesy of Facebook.


In this author’s opinion, Friday looks like it was the hardest to schedule, because it starts a bit later (6 p.m.) Most of the bands playing on Friday are cut from a similar cloth: guitar driven, straightforward, with some folk/psych/country influence thrown in depending on the band. From Ali Muhareb (who is a rising star in Portland’s underground psych DIY scene, on at 7:20 p.m.) up until the start of Gold Casio’s set, I’m anticipating the experience blending together a little bit. This is fine, but it would have been nice to throw a wrench in the middle of the night with something a bit more aggressive, especially considering the bands that are playing early on Saturday and Sunday (more on that later). Gold Casio and Mic Capes should close the night out strong with the shift towards a late-night party vibe.

Lola Buzzkill. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen
Lola Buzzkill. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen


If a hypothetical person said they only had one day they could go to PDX Pop Now this year, my advice would unequivocally be: do not miss Saturday. Sunday does have a couple heavy hitters closing out the festival, but overall, Saturday has the best variety and curation out of all three days.

Every year there is a band that will take people by surprise, and this year that band is Mr. Bones (12:40). Their newest release, Bites is a glorious mixture of pop/rock/punk that could stand with any of Portland’s more well-known offerings. After that there is a killer block of music featuring Andrew Estes Collective (gotta get your jazz fill), Little Star (another great and criminally under-appreciated Portland rock band), Lithics (who have a lot of well-deserved pre-festival hype due to their artsy post-punk game), and Tiny Knives (who will absolutely scare the shit out of some children in the middle of the afternoon).

Fur Coats. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen
Fur Coats. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen

Another killer block happens later on in the evening. PDX Pop veterans 1939 Ensemble will surely impress with their interwoven musicality. Lola Buzzkill will get everyone in the mood to boogie down (though prudish parents might want to plug their children’s ears for lines like “If you ain’t goin’ down, then you ain’t gettin in”), and the Fur Coats will show once again why they are blowing up, with slinky grooves getting into the brains of everyone in attendance.

Coronation. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen
Coronation. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen


Another thing that seems to happen every year: an incredible, uptempo punk band plays a bit too early. This year that band is Blowout, at 1:20 p.m. on Sunday. Judging by the quality of the singles they’ve released for their upcoming album, No Beer, No Dad, (including “Indiana,” which you need to listen to immediately), they are going to blow most unsuspecting festival goers out of the water. Show up early for this.

Once again, another beautiful and varied block of music is in store, this time featuring Arlo Indigo (pop perfection), Dead Cult (quality Portland death-rock), A Volcano (which will be a frenetic, chaotic, noisy shit-show [in a good way]), and Coronation (your dad makes pretty cool dance music?)

Summer Cannibals. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen
Summer Cannibals. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen

This year’s rendition of PDX Pop Now ends with a bang, featuring two of the biggest names on the lineup. Cat Hoch has been making waves for a while, and was the runner up in this year’s Best New Band from the Willamette Weekly. It is incredibly cool that Summer Cannibals is closing out the festival, as they are now veterans of festivals such as Pickathon and Sasquatch, and they are absolutely going to shred the audience on Sunday night.

Once again, the bands you don’t want to miss are:

Ali Muhareb (Friday, 7:20)
Mr. Bones (Saturday, 12:40)
Andre Estes Collective (Saturday, 2:40)
Little Star (Saturday, 3:20)
Lithics (Saturday, 4:00)
Tiny Knives (Saturday, 5:20)
1939 Ensemble (Saturday, 9:20)
Lola Buzzkill (Saturday, 10:40)
Fur Coats (Saturday, 11:20)
Blowout (Sunday, 1:20)
Arlo Indigo (Sunday, 4:40)
Dead Cult (Sunday, 5:20)
A Volcano (Sunday, 6:00)
Coronation (Sunday, 7:20)
Cat Hoch (Sunday, 8:40)
Summer Cannibals (Sunday, 9:20)

See you there.

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