What the Heck Fest is a festival out of Anacortes, Wa put on (more-or-less) by Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie and Geneviève Castrée of Woelv. It's kind of like summer camp with tons of indie bands. They've been at it for 8 years now. This year's fest was awesomely diverse (highlighted humorously saturday night with Olympia black metal superstars Wolves in the Throne Room following posi indie folkster Kimya Dawson) and I really couldn't have been more pleased to have the presence of so many things that didn't fit the k records/indie rock mold that people assume this festival is in the mix. Personal favorites:
Ô Paon- two years in a row, she has blown me away and probably been my favorite performance each year. Covered in a bright green cloak, Geneviève Castrée (above mentioned organizer and also-known-as Woelv) set down deceptively-simple bass loops with subtle vocal back-up layers and then howled like a siren. Dark, spiritual, healing, disturbing- at one point the waves picked up under us in the port warehouse where the show was happening and it was truly like she was a siren trying to drown us all. I would have happily gone under.
Arrington de Dionyso's Malaikat dan Singa- Old Time Relijun's Arrington de Dionyso new band (just started in the last few weeks, from what i gather) is amazing. If you can imagine something more primal and wild than Old Time Relijun, that's this. Like an early era of rock music that never actually existed. Angelo Spencer, Mark Morrison (LAKE, Number Bear) and Andrew Dorsett (LAKE, Invisible River, Desolation Wilderness) fill out the rest of the band.
Mirah- For whatever reason, even though I've loved Mirah since her first album and I love her new album, I was not expecting much from her performance. But she came with a great band and played cool arrangements of her songs, everyone wanted her to be 19 and singing about sex, but she's 30 and singing about the end of the world and it may not be as good, but it's pretty damn good, nonetheless. Their quiet set ended with a industrial-punk version of "Garden." So solid.
Vanessa Renwick- the Portland film-maker showed a movie in the middle of Saturday festivities that was just excerpts from a radio tribute to demolished-due-to-gentrification soul record shop House of Sound with black and white scenes of its north Portland neighborhood. So simple, but so heart-breaking and beautiful.
LAKE- while I think everyone in this band are wonderful people and make great music in so many other projects, I've never totally been won over by LAKE. This show, which closed out the festival, made me change my tune. The new Let's Build a Roof album is amazing and their live show finds them breaking out (ever so slightly) from their perfect pop mold; tight 80's-like synth lines and some sultry groovy Steely Dan-ish songs convinced me this is a band to watch.
Other personal enjoyables: Earth, D+, Karl Blau, Cryptacize, Mount Eerie, Yr Heart Breaks, Wolves In The Throne Room, Vibrarians, No Kids, and Kimya Dawson.
The Ghost at the Embassy
4 days ago