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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

MFNW: Frank Fairfield (Old-timey vs. Old-timer)

Posted by Mark Lore on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Someone asked me yesterday which shows I went to during MusicfestNW, and I could barely remember. “I saw gin & tonic, Miller High Life, and Taco Bell,” was my response. “And with all that I fucking missed Superchunk.”

I did miss Superchunk (but Taco Bell killed it). I saw plenty of other bands, though, most of which I had to look up to remember. Not that there were any forgettable performances, it just reinforces what a whirlwind MusicfestNW really is. Add the fact that it started on Tuesday, and this old man was tuckered out by the Sunday finale (although I did muster the strength to go see the non-MFNW Adam Ant show, which was great).

Rather than give a long-winded blow-by-blow of my festival experience (which included Deerhunter, Redd Kross, The Men, Team Dresch and Yob), I thought I’d recall a couple performances that pulled me out of my noisy comfort zone.

When my friend pointed to the poster at Bunk Bar of a young man with a bristly mustache, holding a fiddle and wearing a starched shirt buttoned all the way to the top, I laughed in my friend’s face. “Yeah, probably won’t see you there.”

Well, I did see my friend there. And that old-timey little rascal ended up being Frank Fairfield. His “aww shucks” demeanor and pickin’ and fiddlin’ skills got me and the rest of the room hootin’ and hollerin’ (even though Bunk was probably not the best choice of venue for him). I don’t think it’s an act. This guy is an old soul, and he was immediately endearing. Plus, according to my friend who interviewed Fairfield, when he opened for Fleet Foxes, he barely knew who the band was, and later admitted he didn’t really care for them. Bonus points, Frank. Fairfield also boasts a large collection of 78s. Essentially, he’s a weirdo. But instead of collecting comics and playing D&D, he collects records and plays his great-grandmother’s music.

I think Fairfield should have opened for Bonnie "Prince" Billy, an older old soul who’s also the genuine article. His performance at the Aladdin Theater was just as mesmerizing—his voice, and especially his storytelling. I’m not going to rush out and buy his music, but I get it now. It’s rare that someone on a stool with a guitar will hold my attention. But Fairfield and Will Oldham did it. Thanks, gents.

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