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On way to Riptide Music Festival, Portugal. The Man still feeling rush of fame

The Riptide Music Festival returns to Fort Lauderdale Beach Park this weekend with an opening-day offering of indie-rock festival favorites such as Cage the Elephant, Weezer and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, as well as up-and-coming locals Alex Di Leo and Brother Sundance. But no act will hit the beach on the wave of buzz that carries Portugal. The Man.

Since last we saw the Portland, Ore.-based quintet, in April in the intimate confines of Fort Lauderdale’s Culture Room, the band has set records on the Billboard singles charts, nearly broke Twitter during last week’s American Music Awards and, this week, became Grammy nominees with their persistently infectious hit “Feel It Still.”

“It’s pretty surreal. It’s the most real surreal thing that’s happened to us,” PTM keyboardist Kyle O’Quin says by phone from Portland, a few hours after they got the Grammy news. O’Quin’s mom has been calling. “I just got a missed call. That was probably her calling again.”

The overnight success of Portugal. The Man has been eight albums in the making, with “Feel It Still” the first single from the Atlantic Records release “Woodstock,” which hit shelves and streams in June. The album was a long-awaited follow-up to 2013’s “Evil Friends.”

The real surprise is that O’Quin is surprised by the Grammy notice paid to “Feel It Still.” The bouncy track, pulsating with a beat lifted from the Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman” and the ear-wormy falsetto refrain “I’m a rebel just for kicks,” has been an inescapable part of popular culture for months, blaring from radios, phones, TVs, speakers in youth-skewing mall boutiques and Miami Hurricanes football games.

In the latest Billboard rankings, "Feel It Still" set a record for most weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Alternative Songs airplay chart (20 weeks). As impressive is the range of its popularity, illustrated in Billboard’s various tabulations of sales and airplay: The song spent 17 weeks at No. 1 on the all-rock-genre Rock Airplay chart, 11 on the Adult Alternative Songs list, five on the all-genre Radio Songs chart and the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart, four on Adult Pop Songs and three on the Pop Songs list.

O’Quin believes there is room for even more success in 2018.

“We were the most Shazammed song multiple weeks in a row and in multiple places, which is an awesome thing, but it really just means that people don’t know who we are when they hear us,” he says. “So I feel like we’re just breaking out. A lot of the shows this year, especially near the end of the year, people had only heard ‘Feel It Still,’ which brought them out the see the live show, which we take a lot of pride in. We’re just reaching out to new people, so next year is going to be a lot of that, in a really good way.”

Portugal. The Man’s nationally televised American Music Awards performance of “Feel It Still” offered the uninitiated a memorable introduction to the band, with vocalist-guitarist John Gourley shocking the Twitterati by revealing that “Feel It Still” is in fact sung by a man (who, it was pointed out in multiple posts, looks like Kip from “Napoleon Dynamite”). They performed in front of a video screen filled with commentary from the band, including the cheeky declaration, “No computers up here, just live instruments."

If the AMA version of “Feel It Still” lacked the slick polish of the recording, it earned the band extra points for honesty.

“We don’t play to backing tracks. We don’t have instruments being played by computers,” says O’Quin, whose most vivid memory of the AMAs was seeing one of his heroes, Smokey Robinson. “We do all that live as a band. We take a lot of pride in it, and it’s not easy to do it, so we want everybody to know that the song they’re seeing that night is really just us playing. There’s a human element involved.”

While the toe-tapping effervescence of “Feel It Still” is undeniable, O’Quin acknowledges the political statements to be found in the song, recorded during the election strife of 2016. The reference to 1966 is an allusion to the unrest their parents faced in the years leading up to Woodstock, O’Quin says. The line “We could fight a war for peace” honors fearless comedian George Carlin’s line “Fighting for peace is like f---ing for virginity.”

It was important for the band to acknowledge the social and political conflict that was going on while they created the music on “Woodstock,” but O’Quin is pleased that “Feel It Still” is being enjoyed as pure fun.

“I don’t really drive [O’Quin doesn’t own a car], but it’ll come on in a restaurant or something, and I’ll see the servers move a little bit more, or singing along, and I’ll think, ‘God, that’s’ awesome,’ ” he says. “It’s one thing to hear your song. It’s another to see people’s moods get better because of it.”

Portugal. The Man performs 3:40-4:20 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, during Day 1 of the two-day Riptide Music Festival at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, 1100 Seabreeze Blvd. Single-day, general-admission tickets cost $70, with two-day passes $110. Go to RiptideFest.com.

bcrandell@sun-sentinel.com

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