The Kinds of People You'll See at All of Portland's Music Festivals


When it comes to cities primed for music festivals, Portland lands among the best, alongside Austin, Chicago, and NYC. Whether it’s electronic music, bluegrass, or NPR-approved indie rock that’s your bag, there’s pretty much something for everyone. As with most events with large swaths of people congregated in a parking lot, under a bridge, or off in the woods, there’s a real circus of humanity taking place at these things. Before you head out to PDX Pop Now! or Pickathon, read through for a quick brush-up on who you can expect to find enjoying what remains of Portland’s summer music festival circuit.

The Skater Dad

Why they're there: To mosh to whatever reunited punk band festival organizers threw on the bill to shake out some street cred from the old-guy-with-soul patch set.
Where they came from: The outer reaches of Beaverton, so actually Hillsboro or Aloha.

Skater dad told his ex-wife that taking the kids to a festival would be a great bonding experience, but he’s really just using them as an excuse to justify standing in a parking lot and showing off his new pair of Vans to a bunch of youngsters that aren’t even half his age who give the guy side eyes anyway.

The Disinterested Tween

Why they're there: Because her step dad got her and her friends some tickets in hopes that they’d think he’s cool.
Where they came from: Lake Oswego, West Linn, or some other part of unincorporated Multnomah County that’s filled with palatial abodes in the middle of the woods.

Despite her trendy soft-grunge look and her one friend with the septum piercing, the Disinterested Tween would much rather be in her basement in the suburbs listening to Lana Del Rey than eating pizza and posting one Snapchat story after another in a parking lot with a bunch of sweaty old dudes.

The Out-of-Place Hippy

Why he’s there: With Phish being inactive at the moment, he decided to follow Modest Mouse (which he just abbreviates to "Mouse") across the country for the past two months because it’s something to do.
Where they came from: Most recently, the bus stop across from the Ben & Jerry’s on Hawthorne, but either Bend or Boulder before that.

With the exception of String Summit or Pickathon, there’s not much in the way of festivals that pander to regional jam band aficionados whose natural habitat is the parking lot, taking drugs and asking for "miracles." That won’t stop them from importing their culture to the least likely of places, however, and until a guy in a drug rug tells you how rad STRFKR sounds on Ketamine, you haven’t really lived through the Portland festival scene.

The EDM Bro

Why they’re there: To pop a bunch of club drugs and gyrate violently whenever any beat anywhere "drops."
Where they came from: Eugene, Corvallis, or Pullman.

Gatherings like Sasquatch and WTFestival are obvious choices for neon-clad OSU frat bros who choke down Monster energy drinks and eat molly like it’s candy, wearing CamelBaks to stay hydrated, but that’s not stopping these dudes from showing up to a mild-mannered indie rock festival and getting hyped AF when the music the roadies have on the PA between sets on the main stage reaches any kind of climax. You never knew it was possible to fist pump, let alone dance in any form, to Bon Iver, but they’ll do just that and elbow you in the face 20 times in the process.

The Overpreparer

Why they're there: To make sure no one gets sunburnt, dehydrated, or malnourished.
Where they came from: Laurelhurst or Irvington.

The matronly instincts and the planning skills she honed as president of her sorority are greatly appreciated in the planning stages of getting your crew assembled for a weekend of music and camping, but the presence of an overenthusiastic delegator with a clipboard and a 10-gallon bag of trail mix is more often an annoyance than an asset once everyone starts cutting loose. Steer clear of her if you’re in an opposing squad at an adjacent campsite lest you can handle passive aggressive overtures about the volume of your music and the fumes from your bug spray every hour.

The Aging Scenester

Why they’re there: His buddy is the touring drummer for one of the headliners, and he was promised there would be free beer and food.
Where they came from: A dodgy neighborhood deep in Southeast that’s considered part of Woodstock because of a zoning technicality.

Don’t let this ponytailed veteran in crusty leather fool you with tall tales about shooting smack with Kurt and staying up all night finger painting with Elliott -- he’s just an old crank who thinks being fired from every dive bar in town and knowing a couple dudes who played bass in Everclear gives him some sort of elder statesman entitlement in "the scene." Back away quickly before he starts bumming smokes and taking sips of your beer.

The Bewildered Public Radio Diehard

Why they're there: She heard one of the earlier bands play a Tiny Desk Concert and thought they’d be pleasant to see live.
Where they came from: Beaumont Village

Commonly found at Project Pabst and Pickathon, this entry-level festival goer knows nothing about current music besides what’s spoon-fed to her by NPR and KBOO. All they wanted to do was check out The War on Drugs or Sufjan Stevens, but no one told them they’d have to reckon with an unwashed sea of drug-addled youths in the process. She’ll spend the majority of the weekend tucked away in her Subaru eating Kashi and doing crossword puzzles.

The Anti-Technology Crusader

Why they’re there: To fight the good fight of keeping concerts "pure" by smacking that smartphone out of your hand while you’re trying to get some footage to put on Instagram.
Where they came from: The last vestige of Old Portland in the Clinton/Division neighborhood.

Back in his day, it was nothing but beer and a lighter in the hands of real diehard festival goers, and it’s his job to assume the moral high ground by chastising anyone who’s in the way of his totally analog concert-going experience. In reality, he’s just an Android user who can’t seem to hang on to a phone that works well enough to take decent videos, which turned out to be a real bummer when Kraftwerk played at Keller Auditorium a few months ago.

The Juggalo

Why they’re there: No one has any clue, actually.
Where they came from: Vancouver or Gresham.

A largely misunderstood bunch, Juggalos often keep their public interactions with mainstream humanity at large to a bare minimum. You’ll still see one here and there in the wild, however, and when you do, you’ll hope they're not there to see your favorite band. They’re usually just there to chug Faygo and give normal people dirty looks, but you’ll occasionally find them nodding in agreement with whatever hip-hop act the festival organizers threw on the bill to correct for Portland’s disturbing lack of music that’s not made by white dudes with guitars.

The Protestor

Why they're there: Because this is Portland and no one is allowed to have any fun here without somehow aggressing someone else’s well-being with their privilege.
Where they came from: Sunnyside or St. John’s.

Did you hear what the lead singer of that band said to that blogger from Norway last week? They only printed 20% of the interview, but I’m certain the 80% that was edited out was just as offensive towards animals and grocery clerks as the part I read on the internet last night! Shame on you!

The Corporate Sponsor

Why they're there: His network of car dealerships is a sponsor of the venue, and no one else in the office had any interest in utilizing their comped tickets, so why not?
Where they came from: The West Hills.

Armed with Oakley's and a belt clip for his phone, the corporate sponsor immediately regrets his decision of wandering around a black-top parking lot in the hot sun while music that’s probably even too weird for his kids to care about further ruffles his agitated demeanor. A bottomless supply of free Heineken will lead to him being shirtless and offensive in the VIP area before the sun goes down.

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Pete Cottell is a true believer in the glory of carrying a fanny pack to music festivals regardless of how dumb it makes him look. Send him a DM at @Vanifestdestiny if you're at PDX Pop Now! and are in need of a handful of trail mix or some suntan lotion.