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MusicfestNW was founded in 2001 by Willamette Week, to fill the void left by the North by Northwest Music and New Media Festival withdrawing from the city (after Willamette Week declined to continue sponsoring the festival).
MFNW has become the third largest indoor music festival in the United States with more than 150 bands across 18 of Portland's most popular music venues. The main festival stages include the Crystal Ballroom, Roseland Theater and Doug Fir.
In 2009, MFNW was rated by Time as one of 50 Authentic American Experiences of 2009. That year, the festival drew over 15,000 fans with performances by Modest Mouse, Bad Brains, Mayer Hawthorne and Sunny Day Real Estate.
In 2010, MFNW took place between Sept 9-12 and featured over 200 bands including, Brooklyn-based indie rock band, The National, Portland-natives, The Decemberists and Major Lazer, a collaborative musical project from DJ/Producers Diplo and Switch.
In its 10th year the festival added Pioneer Courthouse Square, MFNW's first outdoor venue. Pioneer Courthouse Square is often referred to as Portland's living room. In addition to adding an outdoor venue MFNW combined Portland's love of food and music with an event featuring The New York Times favorite, Bunk Sandwiches.
In 2012, MusicfestNW expanded with the creation of TechFestNW (formerly PDX: Portland Digital Experience). The event featured two days of programming that showcased Portland's world-class startup, mobile, social, and open-source creators. PDX ran throughout the day preceding MFNW's nightly musical offerings. Featured speakers in 2012 included: Evan Doll, Andrew McLaughlin, Aaron Draplin, Maggie Vail, Dave Allen, Mike Thrasher, and Sam Adams. TechFestNW has grown to offer three full days of programming and runs September 6-8th, 2013.
On the music side, MFNW 2012 showcased more than 175 bands across 16 venues. More than 34,000 fans danced and sweated to performances by Girl Talk, Beirut, Passion Pit, Silversun Pickups, Dinosaur Jr., The Tallest Man on Earth, Yelawolf, The Hives, and many, many more. In February 2014 the promoters announced a radical change to the festival. MusicfestNW was transformed into a two-day outdoor festival at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, featuring two stages and 18 artists. Taking place August 16–17, 2014, MusicfestNW showcased performances by Spoon, Girl Talk, Haim, Phantogram, Run The Jewels, Future Islands and more.
In 2015, MusicfestNW announced a return to Tom McCall Waterfront Park and the addition of a third day of festival programming. The festival took place Aug 21-23 and featured performances by Modest Mouse, Foster The People, Beirut, Danny Brown, Belle and Sebastian and many more.
In 2016, MusicfestNW teams up with Project Pabst to present the ultimate festival experience in Portland. Aptly named MusicfestNW Presents Project Pabst, the two-day event takes place at Portland's Waterfront Park on Aug 27-28 and will feature performances by Duran Duran, Tame Impala, Ice Cube, Ween, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Drive Like Jehu and many more.
- Tucker, Reed (July 13, 2009). "50 Authentic American Experiences in 2009: Oregon". Time Magazine. Retrieved July 24, 2011.