Festivals, Music Fest NW, Portland

Live Review – Wild Nothing at MFNW

Nate Midgley / September 14, 2012

The older we get the less likely it becomes to have a truly new experience. When we’re young the freshness of the world leads to near constant stimulation. Even the smallest details of life are filled with wonder and excitement, and many of our fondest memories involve the discovery of the mysteries of the world. As we become older we develop a numbness to many of the things we once found exciting. Our numerous experiences shade who we are: we know what we like and seek it out, just as we know what we dislike and try to avoid it. For the most part we become people of routine, people of comfort. Music, and art in general, is one of the few avenues through which we are shaken from our habits and prejudices, if we allow ourselves to be taken.

I had never heard of Wild Nothing, not until hours before their MusicfestNW show anyways. Truth be told, I had almost completely forgotten about the festival. Not that I was trying to avoid it, but work scheduling and a slim wallet had rendered much of my interest obsolete.

Looking back now, with $12 dollars and a desk full of change to my name, there was every reason to be financially prudent. There are times, though, when things like restraint and poverty are of little concern. Times when every rational thought in your mind is useless compared to the whim of adventure. This was one of those times.

It was revealed to me in a brief text conversation with a friend from Seattle a day before MFNW that a mutual friend of ours from high school would be in Portland to cover the festival for a major publication. It’s hard for me to think of anything else quite as treacherous as leaving an old friend out to dry when he comes to town. And so, suddenly, I didn’t care quite as much about future financial stability.

Does that mean I blew the bank? Thankfully no. I displayed a maturity beyond my years (ok, maybe that’s an overstatement) when picking between the fantastic Dinosaur Jr. and the unknown Wild Nothing. A difference of $10 may not seem like much, but in these depression days it should come as no surprise that I made my decision with dollar signs in my eyes. And as much as I love Dinosaur Jr. wasn’t I really just going to a show to catch up with my friend anyways?

Regardless I showed up to Berbati’s Pan in the dark. Wild Nothing’s set had already started when I walked in. After finding my friend and ordering a drink we talked for a while. Slowly the music began to infiltrate the conversation, as the dreamy pop of Wild Nothing filled the tall, wide room of Berbati’s. Great music has a way of seeming familiar without being so, and so, the comparisons began. The melodic sensibilities were likened to vintage New Order. The guitar riffs reminded of Chromatics’ latest effort Kill For Love. The vocal affects and harmonies were a thoroughly modern take on acts like Joy Division, and yet the show took on a very timeless feel. It seemed to strip backwards and forwards through time, breaking apart the world weariness sensibility so many of us acquire through experience. As the music washed over me, I remembered again what it’s like to embrace the unknown and discover something great for the first time.


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