"We want to thank SPIN. We've been on the cover six times, but we've never been part of a showcase," joshed Adam Selzer, lead singer/guitarist for Portland's Norfolk & Western. The Hush Records-affiliated quintet -- reduced to a four-piece due to a viola mishap earlier in the week -- came out roaring last night before an adoring crowd at SPIN's Music Fest NW kick-off party at the sweltering Berbati's Pan, a popular restaurant-cum-nightclub located in the heart of downtown.
Alternating between pretty, radio-friendly pop songs and contemplative, mid-tempo ballads, Selzer and company ratcheted up the rock factor, a decision lapped up by an at-capacity audience eager for more.
Up next was Langhorne Slim, a folksy trio that cribs heavily from the No Depression playbook. Mixing country, classic rock, and Tom Petty-like Americana, the NYC-based act made a game effort to win over the Portland crowd with stage banter ("is anyone at this particular time...ready to get crazy?), platitudes ("it's a pleasure and an honor to be here"), and raw, frenetic energy.
Making their first Portland appearance in some time ("we've been here before... but now there are more of you"), the Old 97's took to the stage shortly after midnight and were promptly greeted by deafening applause. Like a countrified, blue-collar hybrid of the Pogues, Camper Van Beethoven, and Social Distortion, the Dallas band wasted no time blazing through a set that drew on all periods of their now lengthy discography, including their most recent long-player, Blame It On Gravity. Halfway through the performance, the Old 97's broke into a spot-on cover of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," providing further proof that theyknow how to talk the cowboy talk, and walk the cowboy walk.
Check out pictures from last night on page 2.