The Captain’s Return: Day 1 of Project Pabst

Vortex Music Magazine

Gen Xers and millennials convened upon the South Waterfront for the first day of the second annual, 21-plus, beer-fueled Project Pabst on Saturday, July 18. Photos by Emma Browne

Portlanders baking in the hot, hot sun of day one at Project Pabst—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Emma BrownePortlanders baking in the hot, hot sun of day one at Project Pabst—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Emma Browne

Captain Pabst arrived in Portland this weekend, bringing with him two stages featuring a varied musical lineup, a free ‘80s barcade, and a shit-ton of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The post-apocalyptic Mad Max gravel grounds of Zidell Yards were once again filled with sun-baked Portlanders for Project Pabst.

And in true Northwest fashion, many of the Portlanders weren’t just getting baked from the sun. Here’s a recap of Vortex’s favorites from yesterday:

Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees' John DwyerThee Oh Sees' John Dwyer

It was a scorcher with the sun angled just above the stage, but that didn’t stop San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees from rocking it.

Timothy Hellman’s bass walked the audience into the sun-storm. John Dwyer’s reverbed vocals and guitar screeches played off the overexposed vintage sky. And like two blinking eyes, the double drum setup of Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon flickered—completing the wild, synchronized spectacle. The phoenix was in full flame at Zidell Yards.

Near the end of the set, Dwyer said, “Alright, I’ve had a couple beers and sweat out my hangover”—an apothecary that the audience shared. Portland was now thoroughly warmed up.

TV On The Radio

TV On The Radio's Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone look out towards the Ross Island BridgeTV On The Radio's Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone look out towards the Ross Island Bridge

It felt like it was 2004 again as the Brooklyn indie rock group hit the main stage playing old favorites like “Staring at the Sun.” The heat was still beaming down, making some audience members wonder how could Kyp Malone stand it with that full beard?

Besides the old favorites, TV On The Radio is a fun band to watch live. Frontman Tunde Adebimpe jumped around and emphasised the lyrics with his wild arms. The St. Louis native seemed comfortable under the Northwest sun, and my favorite song of the set was, I believe, a new song, with the repeated lyric, “The devil don’t exist.”

Run The Jewels

RTJ's El-P and Killer MikeRTJ's El-P and Killer Mike

Walking onstage to Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” Run The Jewels was greeted by the most energized audience of the day. Portland not only enjoys a little bit of humor but also politically charged, high-energy rap—both of which RTJ know how to deploy.

As the unofficial Public Enemy of the millennial generation, Run The Jewels is known for being anti-establishment and angry. The audience especially responded to their hit “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” (watch the music video below), and it seemed like many in the crowd could have jumped in for Zack de la Rocha’s missing verse.

Here are the two things that I especially enjoyed about the performance:

▶ Rappers Killer Mike and El-P insisted on using downstage to be as close as they could to the audience, even though that put them on the part of the stage that was bathed in hot sunshine.

▶ DJ Trackstar’s subtle use of scratching and light touches on the vinyl were perfect. Far too many times, DJs go on overly long scratching interludes as if it were 1980. DJ Trackstar not only dropped dirty beats, but knew how to scratch just enough to keep it interesting.

RTJ also gave more shout-outs to Portland and the audience than any other artist on day one. They had the first group of dedicated onlookers watching from the top of the Ross Island Bridge, and they were the only performance on Saturday where the audience demanded an encore.


Blondie's Debbie HarryBlondie's Debbie Harry

Playing in front of what looked like Borg regeneration alcoves, the ‘70s pop group Blondie took the stage at what was probably their final Portland show. And their regeneration must have been complete because they didn’t play like they were that old.

Hitting all the favorites, Blondie took the Portland audience down memory lane. They even did a cover of the Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!).” And with the sun going down and shade finally hitting the crowd, many in the audience started to dance in earnest.

Now when I go to my favorite bar, the Clinton Street Pub, and I look up at the Blondie LP on the wall, I can say that I once saw them live. That I saw lead singer Debbie Harry, the modern-day Seven of Nine, and even though she was 70 years old, she was still sexy.

Project Pabst continues today with Passion Pit, Buzzcocks and Weezer headlining. The summery tones of Alvvays will groove well with the sunshine, and if you get there early, catch Wampire—one of Portland’s favorite strange, psych, indie rock groups.

And if you’re going to the festival today and want to take the Vortex Pac-Man Challenge—playing against me in Ms. Pac-Man for a tall boy—comment below.

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