A Christmas miracle happened in September. Scenerio: I am working my day job when a bunch of non regulars stroll in looking hip in search of their next meal. As a certain gentleman waits for his order to finish up I make small talk and ask if anything fun is going on during the day. “Not really – just driving to Seattle,” the guy says. He looked liked he could have been in a band so I asked if he performed in Portland the night before. He answered “yes”, in fact, his band had played MFNW the previous night and now was headed north on tour. I said I was planning on catching a couple of MFNW shows but I didn’t have a wristband. Then the kind gentleman lifted his wrist up to his mouth and tore off a white plastic band with his teeth and handed it to me. It was his MFNW wristband that he didn’t need anymore. I thanked him and asked what his band was. He replied, “Cold Cave”, took his lunch and was off on his journey on the open road towards Seattle. On my lunch break, I looked up Cold Cave and found that they were actually pretty good. The nice guy who gave me access to one of the most hyped Portland festivals of the year will always been remembered in my music loving heart for his generosity.
So I left my workday feeling pretty dang good about my networking – or superior customer service skills – which landed me a MFNW wristband. After all, I was planning on dropping some dough to see Man Man anyways so it was quite an unexpected endowment. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. I could have expected to pay some sort of price for my good luck – attending the concert alone. It’s cool though. I am a free-spirited, independent woman and sometimes I enjoy my alone time. Such a thing wasn’t obtained without a bit of chaos. The venue began to fill up with more and more people shuffling through.
One thing about going to a show alone is that you can really enjoy the music and not feel pressure to socialize. I was happy to discover two awesome opening bands. Let’s Wrestle played energetic punk rock that reminded me a little bit of a simplified version of the Pixies. After they finished a rollicking set, a handful of very young looking guys began to set up. Their instrument selection was quite impressive: your standard drum, bass, guitar with synthesizers, large bongos, trumpets, etc. Such cargo took forever to set up but the wait was worth it. Once these guys pounced into their tunes the crowd started to jive and dance. The sound was a mixture of disjointed rhythms, cool sailing synths with boy harmonies floating up into the atmosphere recalling Grizzly Bear. Needless to say, I was quite impressed by their musicianship and ability to sway the crowd away from impatience.
As I waited for the main attraction, getting pummeled by teenagers and drunks, I was confused why I was at Hawthorne Theater in the first place. Why would Man Man’s booking agency allow them to play such a “meh” club? Months ago, when I had heard about their destination, I had asked myself, “why, why, why?!” Not only is the venue not big enough for a band of Man Man’s caliber, the sound is incredibly mediocre and seems to attract a breed of douche bags. I admit to referencing Man Man’s sound to Tom Waits – a lazy journalistic move, I know now – and found it incredibly obvious when the sound people played tunes from Wait’s greatest hits while the sweltering crowd became anxious… After awhile, they became hostile, pushing people forward into a locked sea of bruised hips and unwanted body contact. Yet, what can you expect? It is a music festival, right? You should be expecting to feel, smell and experience every sense associated with your neighbors (Though, a double fist of beer and shot of whiskey sure does help). After enduring a young couple practically getting it on in front of me (good thing they were at least mediocre in looks) and standing through the championed opening bands, Man Man was being summoned by their rabid fans, chanting, hollering, stomping and demanding the presence of their modern rock gods.
Finally, the band appears and dives into some of their wild gypsy-jazz infested tunes. Immediately, towards the stage, people began to crowd surf and mosh – a celebrated tribal rock dance that seemed pretty outdated since Man Man is far from any sort of nineties revival band. Had to ditch the heart of the storm before I got shit kicked in the face by the boots of the flailing. I took a detour into the 21+ range of the event. Man Man was throwing themselves into “Top Drawer” one of my favorites and I couldn’t help but shake a little as I waited in line for a beer to cool off. After I had taken a few swigs, found a new spot and had a little bit more room, it was time for some dancing! Once you reach a certain level you don’t care so much what others think of you. Dance away. That is what is beautiful about being young and uninhibited. Sadly, I was probably one of the youngest – or having the most fun – grooving alone in the stand-still 21+ backdrop. It was time to move forward into the eye of the storm.
I began to make my way back toward the stage. Man Man was getting hot. At this point, I could have said my biggest life regret was wearing a hoodie and a jacket to this show. I tucked my layers under the merch booth just as sequins were starting to be unveiled onstage. A fake mustachioed women was beginning to gain popularity as she christened other members of the audience with white tribal paint – a look Man Man has popularized for their onstage battles of sonic sound. Beads of sweat began to appear on the backs of women and the air was humid as a hot Subway in New York during summer. Man Man’s jerky tunes purged on, causing a minimal amount of people to lose their shit to their own interpretative dance calling – it was hard to move but I did it anyway, letting myself go in a sea of strangers. Women’s makeup was running off in the heat, their feathers limp and tribal war paint leaking down their face. Still, they were pretty underneath, exuding an in the moment mental state. The trend with the male audience members was taking their shirt off. Not too surprising for Man Man’s demographic of male fans. Hot frenzy was quickly turning into a hot mess. Man Man’s music was especially sexy, probably fueling the rage of pheromones oozing from person to person in the audience. The sound was primitive, carnal and cut to the root of the human soul; infused with gypsy jazz, blatant Tom Waits rip offs and a janky Eastern European feel meshed with modern-day cool.
After the show I realized I had sweated out the equivalent to a session at the gym. In order to cool off I biked home without my jacket on and tried to cool down with a bowl of ice cream drenched in a delicious organic chocolate stout. I’m sure Man Man would be proud.