One of my resolutions for the new year was to involve, write about, and generally give credence to (not that I have such awesome power…) the long-since-burgeoned music scene in our li’l sister town to the south, Portland. This is the Northwest Music Blog, after all, not the Washington Music Blog (don’t worry, I’ve no interest in Idaho). I’ve spent a great deal of time down there over the years—even paid rent for awhile—and despite what may be the prevailing notion of “just a smaller version of Seattle”, that’s not really an accurate comparison. IMHO, anyway. It happens to be laden with rivers and bridges that make urban navigation a cinch—or an adventure if you’re directionally challenged like me. Portlanders have great resolve when it comes to mass transit, blowing our collective brain-freeze out of the water. They eat more granola and ride more bikes. They seem to do a better job of supporting local artists. The “big city feel” that some Seattleites claim (myself included) plays as more of an “urban community” in P-Town. I’m decidedly in favor of the Emerald City as a permanent residence, but friends, family, and a vibrant music scene make PDX well worth the short, 180-mile trip.
Speaking of the music, there are plenty of bands worth hemmin’ and hawin’ about—we’re all familiar with the Shins, the Thermals, Helio Sequence and the like—and my goal this year is to give some of my existing Portland favorites some shout-outs, and hopefully discover some new ones along the way. Generally in this here blogostate, I’m mostly interested in live reviews (just sort of a ‘thing’ I have), so travelling south will be of the utmost importance to check out the bevy of venues Oregon’s finest has to offer. Places like the Roseland Theatre, the Crystal Ballroom, and Dante’s I’ve been to, but there are many others—Doug Fir, Berbati’s Pan, Holocene—that I’ve yet to see a live show in. And in the hopes of gaining some readership outside Washington, I’ll try to keep you (yes, YOU) apprised of any sweet Seattle bands gettin’ their rock on in P-Town.
So, anyway, here’re some recommendations based on the aforementioned criteria I thought you (yes, YOU) might enjoy:
Feral Children - Probably one of the better local releases of 2007 was this band’s Second to the Last Frontier. They’ve benefited mightily from KEXP endorsements (stealing the show at this year’s Yule Benefit, even), but their experimental nuances and visceral attitudes create passionate and volatile music that grabs your ear and hangs on tight. Did I mention one of the lead vocalists uses an empty beer keg as a floor tom? These
Marysvillians Maple Vallyians-via-Seattle will be embarking on a west coast tour shortly, starting off with the Tonic Lounge in—you guessed it—northeast Portland this Thursday (1/17), and ending oddly enough in Portland on Feb. 9 (at Slabtown). And you FC fans will be delighted to know that they’ve been slated to play SXSW in Austin this year as well (3/12-3/14). Things are lookin’ up.
The Prids - I came across the Prids a few years ago, and have been following them ever since. This quartet, out of Portland, plays tight, gloomy, synth-embellished, 80s-inspired post punk. They’ve been described as a cross between My Bloody Valentine and New Order, but the fact that they live in today’s world does wonders for their musical perception. Songs are mostly sung with dual male/female vox, accompanied by a slithery guitar and a fearsome rhythm section that creates an interior groove to their decidedly rock music. Catch them Saturday, Feb. 9 at Doug Fir before a short swing-tour into California during March.
Swan Island - I’ve recently heard a rumor that these girls may have called it quits, but since I don’t have official word, I’ll keep plugging. Named for an industrial area of Portland, the riff-rock this quintet churns out may just be what all the truck drivers down there have been looking for since the heyday of 70s metal. Not completely Sabbath, and not entirely Heart, Swan Island creates epic music with tight rhythms and soaring vocals. They are scheduled to play Holocene this Thursday (1/17), so be sure to catch them for what may turn out to be their swan song. Literally and figuratively.
Talkdemonic - I can’t say enough (though I haven’t really tried) about this atmospheric duo with a flair for classical, beat-romantic instrumentals. Led by astoundingly astute drummer-cum-laptop-controller Kevin O’Connor, and joined by viola-ist Lisa Molinaro, the awesomely-named Talkdemonic takes experimental songwriting to another level. At times gushing with emotion, and at others crushingly primal, the live performance is not to be missed. I saw them at the Crocodile a few years ago and was truly mesmerized. Lucky for Seattle and Portland fans alike, they’ll be playing both cities on back to back nights in early February. The High Dive in Fremont on the 7th and Doug Fir on the 8th.