"You do whatcha can with whatcha got." That's the Gnome's new motto after his weekend at the lackluster North by Northwest music festival. This year, the Portland event went OK computer and rounded up a bunch of tech types for its panel discussions. The NXNW organizers were so busy tracking down these guys—and they were mostly guys—they forgot about the, um . . . why were we all there again? Oh yeah, music.
After spending all day in a folding chair, my chunky butt gets numb and my elfin feet get a wanderin' itch. Relief was hard to come by on Friday, however, when my merry companions and I checked in at several clubs. The Gnome uses the word "club" loosely, since many of the NXNW venues don't usually host live music. You can imagine how great the sound was at these converted pizza joints and video arcades.
Relief was provided by cabaret-style rockers Botanica, whose Paul Wallfisch wandered through the crowd as he sang, and by Hungry Mob, whose cool female vocalist soothed this savage beast. The Gnome also dipped into the Weekly's own party, where he heard the night's best act: Plastiq Phantom, a 21-year-old Seattle whiz kid who makes beautiful and sometimes scary music with a single turntable and samplers. Also, Polecat rocked out—a little too hard for some, as many cleared the room during their decibel meter- busting set.
Saturday went better, since the Gnome added a new activity to his NXNW itinerary: tax-free shopping. That night I wanted to show off my new duds, but I got stuck in the middle of This Busy Monster's set, as bodies crowded the stage in anticipation of Death Cab For Cutie. I couldn't sit through TBM's orchestral-pop pretension, so I wandered over to see The Vogue. Lo and behold, I'd hit A&R HQ, as the too-young-to-touch band—which is like Calvin Klein models raised on the Fall—strutted its stuff before scouts for several major labels.
Generally, two shows in a night is enough—at P-Town's NXNW or in the more picturesque, less dismal surroundings of Seattle. Last Tuesday, I was torn between Tricky at the Showbox and Basement Jaxx at ARO.space. The hipper crowd was on Capitol Hill, where the adorably geeky Jaxx duo turned us all out with classic house and techno tracks as well as their own stuff. Not to take anything away from the Trickster, who redeemed his last Seattle appearance—an angry set at DV8 which he ended abruptly after 50 minutes—with a compelling (and topless) performance. The Gnome's gonna have to start working on his pecs. You betcha!
You can reach the Metro Gnome at email@example.com