The second annual incarnation of Project Pabst finished last night in southwest Portland’s Zidell Yards. Weezer, Blondie, Run the Jewels and Passion Pit were among the acts that played during the two-day music festival.
Temperatures lingered in the high 90s both Saturday and Sunday (July 18-19.) For most attendees, the experience was oftentimes comparable to being an ant scurrying under a magnifying glass (and drinking beer in the process). Many strolled around with the cracked-out confidence of Dennis Hopper’s character in Blue Velvet.
Pabst flowed throughout festival grounds; Pabst was gargled by the fluid ton and Pabst stained the mountaintops. The blue-ribbon winner could be found almost everywhere.
Oftentimes during music festivals, especially when it’s hot out, someone in a crowd will crack open a water bottle and splash everyone in the vicinity. At this festival, whenever moshing broke out, several folks holding raised cans would be shoved and beer would take flight. Whenever you stood in a crowd and felt your shirt splashed with a fluid, it was only water about half the time.
Thee Oh Sees, while performing at the secondary Blue Ribbon stage, were among the first to wisecrack at the ubiquitous beer commercial in which we all stood.
“PBR?” asked frontman John Dwyer incredulously, as he wore his guitar strapped high on his chest. “You pussies.”
Someone shouted back, “We have no choice!”
Thee Oh Sees completed an outstanding set before I walked over to the main stage to see TV On the Radio. Frontman Tunde Adebimpe decried the punishing sun on first hello and carried the weight of the very fun set with tracks such as “Lazerray” and “Happy Idiot.”
After this, Run the Jewels took the secondary stage, located just beside the Ross Island Bridge. Several onlookers peered over the bridge to get a glimpse of Killer Mike and El-P.
The two walked onto stage as Queen’s “We Are The Champions” played. The always charismatic Killer Mike grabbed a microphone and boomed, “We’re gonna burn this stage like Portland weed, motherfucker” before the pair bounced into the track “Run the Jewels.”
And later, he elaborated, “Big thanks to Josh from Cannabis Collective for baking us a cherry pie,” which was the best commercial spot of the entire festival.
RTJ parsed out a few dedications, namely to the memories of Eric Garner and Michael Brown – two infamous cases of black men who were killed by police in 2014. In another sort-of shout-out, El-P graciously thanked Pabst and Portland for the show. Killer Mike finished with, “And fuck Donald Trump!” prior to their closer, “A Christmas Fucking Miracle.”
Blondie closed the night on the Captain Pabst stage with several hits, including “One Way Or Another,” “Call Me,” “The Tide Is High,” and closing with “Heart of Glass.” Active as a band since 1974, it’s not eminently clear whether Deborah Harry is still having fun singing these tracks.
Aimee Mann and Ted Leo make up The Both, whose masterful ease of playing made for a beautiful set on Day 2 of Project Pabst.
Mann’s “hummingbird trill” (as she put it) was immaculate and seductive, complemented by her bass playing and Lee’s guitar. They closed the set with a song written by each of them: Mann’s “Goodbye Caroline” and Leo’s “Bottled In Cork.”
Immediately thereafter, Passion Pit played “Little Secrets” at the main stage. The band was decorated with a light show that was trivialized by the mid-afternoon sun. Not even frontman Michael Angelakos’ raspy falsetto nor the band’s explosive synths could rouse much of a spark among those present.
The crowd, fifteen rows back, was something of a passive pit until their final two tracks “Take a Walk” and “Sleepyhead.” Although we’ve heard the Jack Kerouac samples in “Sleepyhead” on repeat since 2010, it’s still very danceable and very undeniable.
For the final Pabst show, Weezer guitarist Brian Bell later stepped onto the main stage wearing a novelty beer-sipping helmet weighed down with two PBR tallboys. He tossed it into the front rows before the opener’s (“My Name is Jonas”) end.
The once-dorky, now-much-dorkier band played a vibrant, career-spanning set that included tracks old and new(ish). Following “Hash Pipe,” “El Scorcho,” and “Back to the Shack,” a handsomely bearded Rivers Cuomo, Weezer’s frontman, wordlessly raised a fist in the air between songs.
Cuomo is a hero. He played his spearmint-colored, sticker-covered guitar and sang tracks that he wrote in the nineties. These are songs about how he resembles Buddy Holly, how he doesn’t leave the garage, and how he’s always hopelessly falling in love with half-Japanese lesbians.
He’d go on to sing more recent tracks about his audacious celeb goals, like moving to Beverly Hills or becoming a superstar for whom “people will crane necks to get a glimpse of me and see if I am having sex” (“Troublemaker”).
Weezer’s celeb idealism was buffered with more humble reflections in the Project Pabst set, like: “I’ll eat my candy with the pork and beans” and “I’ll soon be naked, lying on the floor.”