As the unfavorable clouds finally passed over Portland to introduce the splendid few weeks of summer we’re afforded each year, outdoor happenings of every sort become a commodity Portlanders are all too eager to take advantage of. Trips to the river, frisbee sessions at the park, and of course, outdoor music. And there’s no better example of this than the early summer tradition at East End. Their two-day outdoor Block Party is something of a rarity in the city, especially as its located in the heart of the now bustling inner-SE district. So as the sun began to set on Saturday night, sandwiched between a couple of empty warehouses, a few friends from Brooklyn and a terrific group from Mississippi took to the stage. When I arrived just before The Babies’ set, there was a typical East End band playing to a gathering crowd; the day was merely beginning for the all day mini-fest. Crust punks and general misanthropes gathered round, and as whatever band was playing their tired, expected punk rock, it was easy to see the crowd was in for a bit of culture shock once The Babies and Dent May finally began their respective sets.

 

July 7th, 2012 – East End Block Party @ East End, Portland, OR

 

The Babies

The mix of lo-fi indie rock that The Babies bring to the table was something of a surprise for the venue, although a welcome one to my ears. The side project of members of Vivian Girls and Woods, the group played fast and loose, the exact way you’d expect any young rockers from New York to perform. But as the numbers began to diminish, it was disappointing, but apparent, that these two groups were not what most of the crowd was expecting that night. Touring with only one two-year-old album under their belt, The Babies were fairly compelling as they closed their set with a rambunctious version of “Caroline” that was intense and gorgeous, especially as the sun finally ducked behind the hills far off in the distance.

 

Dent May

As Dent May and his band of quaint Mississippi friends took to the small stage that night, the crowd was sparse at best, but that didn’t stop this rising group from ripping through their brand new album Do Things, and maybe mixing in an old track or two. The transition from mostly ukelele and solo material on The Good Feeling Music… to the more guitar driven and band-oriented tunes of Do Things meant the latter was the focus of the show. From the opening of “Rent Money” to “Parents”, and including the album’s titular track, Dent May was in his characteristically smiley but lethargic disposition. And the band sounded great, taking on B-sides like “Eastover Wives” and hitting them note for note. Do Things is one of my favorite records of the year, and especially now as the sun looms higher in the sky each day, the warm vibes and irreverent tunes on the album make for the perfect pair. East End’s Block Party might have been just about the oddest place to find him that night, but that doesn’t mean these humble gentleman didn’t impress the folks in attendance.

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