Getting Weird In Portland for MusicFestNW

Last weekend I found myself in Portland, Oregon, in support of MusicFestNW, Portland’s largest outdoor music festival held at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Saturday August 16th & Sunday August 17th. Shure was an official sponsor of the festival which featured Spoon, Girl Talk, Haim, Phantogram, tUnE-yArDs and many more. As a sponsor, Shure gave away a pair of 2-Day VIP tickets to Jennifer Le (@helloJle) from Portland, who was randomly selected on Twitter for following and retweeting our post about our MusicFestNW VIP Ticket Giveaway.

In previous years, MusicFestNW was held in various venues throughout the city. This year, the festival organizers decided to keep it to one central location, and what better than Tom McCall Waterfront Park? The festival grounds featured two stages, a silent disco booth, various food carts from around town, and plenty of vendors selling their wares. All in all, a very cool festival with an indie vibe and some excellent music. But this is not what separated it from any other festival I’ve been to. What made this whole experience special and unique for me was Portland…

Everything I knew about Portland before experiencing it for myself came from two sources. A good friend who lives there, and the show Portlandia. My friend, an avid hiker, told me all about the scenic outdoors I could discover. Portlandia, a satirical sketch comedy series, made me look forward to its exquisite weirdness portrayed in the show. As I didn’t have time to do any hiking, I grabbed my trusty sidekick, #SammyTheSM58, and we walked around as much as we could in order to see if we came across anything Portlandia-ish… Since Portlandia is satire, I didn’t really expect anything I couldn’t already find in Chicago, but boy, did we ever!

Everywhere I turned I saw the “Dream Of The 90’s” alive and well. During one of my coffee breaks I overheard a barista compliment one of his regulars on his ability to grow a beard. Then at night, while walking back to the hotel, a fellow festival goer asked me if I had seen his friend walk “this way,” as per his description, “a short bearded guy, a little drunk wearing a plaid shirt.” A person walking next to me then said, “Good luck, dude, that sounds like most of the guys I saw today…” I couldn’t make this up: this all really happened. I came across so many Portlandia-ish things that this festival recap would not be complete without a proper MusicFestNW Winners and Losers.


  • Portland. Not only breathtakingly beautiful and the home of Voodoo Doughnut, Portland definitely IS the place where young people go to retire and grow facial hair. It’s a place where you don’t have to worry about passing up a coffee shop because chances are, you will run into one a few shops down and get educated on the schools of “Latte Art,” while you wait for your freshly brewed organic cup of heaven. Portland is such a fun and eccentric host city for a festival like MusicfestNW that most of the artists who played all said they came to Portland a few days early so they could check out their favorite local spots.
  • Food Carts. As the saying goes, food is the way to a man’s heart. Well Portland, you had me at food cart pods. Walking around Portland, you come across the smell of yummy goodness just about everywhere you go. “How come?”, you ask. Well, that’s because of the various parking lots, “pods” as the locals call them, that house over 500 food carts throughout the city. You can get anything from your classic cuisines to the most eccentric fusions you can imagine. Too bad I was only there for a couple days. I would have loved to be able to check out more of them. Thankfully, a few of those carts were able to make it onto the festival grounds. Yum!
  • Street Musicians. From the moment I got off the plane and entered Portland International’s main terminal, I heard live music from a man behind a guitar and his SM58. That’s right, live music right near the waiting area next to the gates! How cool? It was a sign that clued me in on what I was to see throughout my short visit. Street musicians in the airport, streets, coffee shops, parks, and just about every corner. Not only was there an awesome line-up of artists that was to play MusicFestNW, but also there was music all over the city. I loved that.
  • Jennifer Le and the MusicFestNW Line-up. Jennifer won a pair of VIP 2-Day Passes to see Spoon, Girl Talk, Phantogram, Haim, tUnE-yArDs, Run The Jewels, Future Islands, F***** Up, Man Man, The Antlers, Gardens & Villa, Wild Ones, Thundercat, EMA, Shy Girls, Modern Kin, Landlady and The Districts.


  • Late Arrivers. Where were you for the earlier acts? Not only did you miss some good bands but also it’s not very indie of you. You paid for an all-day ticket, and the weather was gorgeous. Get it together.
  • Tall Guy. You managed to find me in Portland and stand right in front of me for most the festival. You must have not read my blog post about Do’s and Dont’s at Concerts
  • Bees. I get it, you’re sort of important, and the locals love you. But please don’t try to eat my breakfast while I’m trying to eat it. You’ll get bit, and I’ll get stung. Not good for either of us. Truce?
  • Me. For not packing enough plaid, not growing out my beard, and for not having a leg tattoo. I should have known better. Oh well, there is always next year…

Keep Portland Weird Sign
Special thanks must be extended to Trevor Soloman, Travis Labbe, the rest of the MusicFestNW crew and Portland for your gracious hospitality. You and all my special moments there have made this experience unforgettable. Finally, I want to send a shout-out to my licensed and bonded Voodoo Doughnut Adviser. I couldn’t have picked a better doughnut without your help. Stay weird, Portland!

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Nelson Arreguín

Nelson Arreguín

Member of the Shure Artist Relations team. Music dilettante & sneaker aficionado. Live music is his favorite diversion.

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