by JOEL HARTSE & r & & r & 10. Modest Mouse is better than ever. Some people say that on their latest album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Ever Sank, Modest Mouse has gotten too poppy, but those people obviously hate fun. Modest Mouse has expanded from a trio to a band with two drummers, a stand-up bassist, and Johnny freaking Marr. When you see this version of the band perform "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes," you're watching sheer, unadulterated music-chaos-joy.
9. Incubus does not belong on this bill. "Let's see...we're planning a festival of cool indie rock bands in the Northwest. OK, we got Modest Mouse, that's great. And the Presidents, they're old-school Seattle. We got the Thermals from Portland. You know what this festival really needs, though? A horrible post-grunge band from Southern California that's past its prime. Does anybody know if Sugar Ray is available? No? Wait, I've got an idea..." No one knows who said it first, but we must concur: Incubus? More like Succubus.
8. The Presidents of the USA and Nada Surf are not '90's has-beens. It sure seemed like both of these bands were doomed to be remembered for goofy singles -- "Lump" and "Popular," respectively -- but they've both mounted surprising comebacks since the turn of the century. The Presidents started their own label and released the ridiculously catchy Love Everybody, while Nada Surf's members turned down their guitars a bit, signed a deal with hipper-than-thou Barsuk Records, and proved they could actually write songs. Good ones. Both groups are great live.
7. The Download Festival would like you to buy some crap. Specifically, they'd like you to buy Adidas shoes, Volkswagens, Wrigley's gum, Gibson guitars and a night at a W Hotel, among other things. Corporate sponsorship is the way it goes these days -- that's how they keep ticket prices low, right? If you consider, um, $50 (not including parking or camping) a low ticket price. The custodians of modern gadgetry will be out in full force. Your mission, should you accept it, is to resist them.
6. The Thermals kick ass. And they might be the only punk band that actually understands how to be both angry and original. This powerful three-piece is bratty and obnoxious, but the music is fresh and catchy, and feels like it's motivated by hope that things can get better rather than hell-in-a-handbasket despair. The Thermals just released a new 7-inch, "Pillar of Salt," on Sub Pop.
5. No one has heard of the Heavenly States, but they're good. The Heavenly States are from Oakland, Calif., and even though we've never heard of them, they have been around long enough to be mentioned in Rolling Stone, Spin, and Newsweek. Theirs was the first rock band to ever play in Libya (!) and they've got that lovable, humble sloppy rock vibe that's been missing since the Promise Ring broke up. And they have a violin player.
4. No one has heard of Back Door Slam, either. Another head-scratcher (see No. 9), this band is from the Isle of Man, a tiny island off the coast of England, and they're supposed to channel the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. Which is fine, except we already have a Jimi Hendrix and he was from Washington state. So you're kind of treading on thin ice here, mates. No word on why Back Door Slam isn't playing the UK version of Download instead.
3. There is no actual downloading happening. It's just, you know, a "hep" name for a festival. The press release sez: "Download is all about getting the ultimate download on the best in music, technology and lifestyle. Download was created to gather passionate fans together in a fun music setting and provide unique ways for you to connect with the artists you admire." Translation: "Somebody told us that 'download' is a word that the kids are using these days. We hope you will come to our festival." They don't need to try so hard, because they've got the bands to make it worthwhile.
2. Arthur & amp; Yu contains no members named Arthur or Yu. They're actually Seattle duo Grant Olsen and Sonya Wescott, who named the band after their childhood nicknames. Arthur & amp; Yu's specialty is a modern-day take on the sad, reverb-drenched wall-of-sound pop of the '60s, filtered through indie rock and folk songwriting. Think of the Scottish band the Hidden Cameras, only even more echo-y. When they play their music, you can almost feel it raining.
1. The Gorge belongs to us as much as it does to Seattle. This one isn't Download-specific, but come on, we gotta represent! Aren't you sick of seeing the Gorge listed as "Seattle" like the Download Website does? Aren't we, technically, like 10 miles closer to the Gorge than Seattle is? Let's reclaim it! Let's carpool! And let's make sure next time Download comes to the Gorge, in addition to bands from Portland and Seattle (and the Isle of Man, for some reason), there's somebody repping Spokane.
Download Festival, with Modest Mouse, the Presidents of the USA, Nada Surf, Arthur & amp; Yu, Heavenly States, the Thermals, Incubus, and Back Door Slam plays the Gorge on Saturday, Aug. 25, with doors at 12:30 pm and show at 2 pm. Tickets: $45-$60. Call (206) 628-0888.