Great Minds Think Musically

Expect some magic Friday night at Femm-EDM, the all-women musical and artistic showcase at Dantes in Portland featuring HOPSCOTCH, Acoustic Minds, Laura Ivancie and DJ Tracy.  Vocalist and producer HOPSCOTCH, in town for the final stop on her latest tour, has received well-deserved national attention for her sound: a blend of raw but dreamy vocals, synth, […]

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Festival Series: MusicFestNW

  As an acquaintance commented sarcastically when the new MusicFestNW lineup and setup was announced: finally Portland playing host to a music festival with shows in moderate proximity to each other, all happening the same-ish weekend. Crazy! Part of the charm of a music festival to me is the freedom that can be found within the curated eco-systems […]

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Festival Series: Sasquatch 2014

My lens is ever focused on the expression, inclusion and representation of women in our popular (and not-so-popular) culture. When I attend a music festival for instance, as I did several weeks ago at the Sasquatch! Music Festival in the Gorge, I’m ready to be impressed by the musical genius of world-class female artists. I […]

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Mag-Big Thinks Mega Big

It’s possible that my two years living a block and a half from Alberta Street has made me a bit Northeast-normative, with the wealth of habanero-infused craft cocktails and curated vintage shops dulling my desire to head South during daylight hours. It seems I may indeed have good reason to pick back up my old […]

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Alexa Stark on Pop-Ups, Portland & Designing as Performance

Fashioning Cascadia, the summer-long upcoming exhibit at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft, explores the question: “What is being made here and why?” Helping answer that question is Parsons-educated Alexa Stark, who is currently working out of the museum gallery as artist-in-residence. Also happening for Alexa Stark is the Mercury’s Open Season fashion show series (showing […]

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A Love Poem, With Hope & Feathers

Desert love. Photo by Chris Horton. Follow him on Instagram @CHRISKR4FT
Desert love. Photo by Chris Horton. Follow him on Instagram @CHRISKR4FT

A beloved friend

has never left my side

even when my side got unbearably prickly and sharp.

I pushed over towers

and stood while they fell around me.

She helped me pick

through the rubble

and learn to forgive myself.

 

A friend I traveled across the globe with

suggested

we spend a weekend away and

cover ourselves with dirt,

but only after we hit a tree 20 times with a stick.

 

One long-loved friend looks at me with wide blue eyes

and knows parts of me better than anyone else.

She also knows words

and uses them

early and often.

 

A corgi and a dinosaur

walk arm-in-arm with me, the monkey–

the most uncommon of friendships.

Our hearts pay no mind to our mismatched facades

as we pass a fluorescent obelisk

rising out of the desert floor.

 

To another friend, order and discipline

are second nature.

She keeps small piles of my abandoned belongings

always to be returned to me promptly.

 

One friend covers herself in rainbows

and teaches me how to let go.

 

And yet another gives me hope with feathers.

 

I wake from nightmares

Afraid I’ve said too much

or not enough.

 

How does one small flower find a way to

thank all these suns?

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We Found Justice In Our Beauty

  We met underground, in an above-ground world. He was beautiful: the biggest, brightest tiger.   We stood together as a who’s who of the animal kingdom raced past us. Together we became tiny, like Thumbelina and her flower-fairy prince, and walked through tall grass.   He showed me the blood, dried and sticky on […]

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Good Grammar

As far as I’m concerned, Austin’s South by SouthWest [SXSW] festival marked the beginning of the music season. From here out it’s all live tunes and sunshine, right? While indie and electro artists and fans are gearing up for the fun-yet-increasingly-corporate festival lineup, it’s hard to beat catching great acts in hometown venues. Here are several shows worth looking forward to.

Hannah Reid of London Grammar, coming to Portland's Wonder Ballroom March 28 and Seattle's Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room on March 29.
Hannah Reid of London Grammar, coming to Portland’s Wonder Ballroom March 28 and Seattle’s Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room on March 29.

London Grammar: March 28

These days, it’s almost impossible to discuss modern music without mentioning the internet: that polarizing and unifying, equalizing and stratifying force that it is. The music industry has felt its clumsy oligopoly crumble for at least the better part of a decade, but it’s getting smart again. Artists are getting their start by uploading songs directly to the internet and finding fans worldwide, as London Grammar did late 2012 with the release of “Hey Now,” and the mainstream is watching.

London Grammar’s album If You Wait is a soulful, ambient treat. The prize of London Grammar’s sound is lead vocalist Hannah Reid’s rich, stirring voice. Clean reverb from guitarist Dan Rothman and trip-hop sounds from multi-instrumentalist Dot Major (drums, keyboard, synth) contribute to the album’s depth. The haunting cover of French electro-house artist Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” and the simple-yet-poignant “Shyer” are two stand-out songs. Without the power of Hannah’s incredible voice to back up the bare, straightforward lyrics in “Wasting My Young Years,” they might be a tad cliche. But in this case, her raw honesty brings a universal quality to the music. London Grammar, March 28 at Wonder Ballroom

From left: Dot Major, Dan Rothman & Hannah Reid of London Grammar
From left: Dot Major, Dan Rothman & Hannah Reid of London Grammar

Chvrches: April 10

Not only can bands now reach more fans than ever from all over the world, but more internet trolls than ever can harass, threaten and attempt to undermine the female artists in those bands too. Chvrches‘ lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry publicly called out her online abusers in an open letter last fall, saying that she will not tolerate the constant stream of misogyny that awaits her every time she opens the band’s social media sites and email. A band born on the internet (as Lauren puts it) can benefit, surely, but also suffer from over-accessibility.

Luckily for Chvrches and their many fans, it’s still all about the music. The band’s debut album The Bones of What You Believe features immediate melodies and snapping percussion. The Scottish electronic pop trio gives us the catchy and vibrant single “The Mother We Share,” while “Tether” is dreamy and lo-fi, recalling an 80s futuristic minimalism. While the group’s experimental sound isn’t for everyone, they execute their sound well. Lauren (who also happens to have a law degree and a masters in journalism), shines in “Night Sky” where her voice sounds pretty and high. Then there’s “Lies,” where she takes a slightly lower tone with lyrics that seem like a barely masked critique of the stale blind following of religious or corporate devotion. Chvrches, April 10 at Crystal Ballroom

From left: Iain Cook on guitar, Lauren Mayberry on vocals and synthesizer & Martin Doherty on synthesizer
From left: Iain Cook on guitar, Lauren Mayberry on vocals and synthesizer & Martin Doherty on synthesizer

Typhoon: May 3

Incubated in nearly a decade of Oregon’s lush green wetness rather than the cold wires of the inter-web, Typhoon is a study in complex, hearty arrangements and upbeat, lyrical breaks. One listen through Typhoon’s latest album White Lighters will yield more talk of death, corpses and funerals than maybe you’re used to in 45 minutes, but do not be intimidated. As long-time fans of the Portland-based band know, Typhoon is not afraid to face mortality. On “Artificial Light,” frontman Kyle Morton–whose well-publicized battle with Lyme disease as a child shapes much of his songwriting–places his tangential lyrics at a comforting clip against the swell of horns, drums, violins and piano. At times the intentionally choppy hit “Young Fathers” sounds as if all 11 members of the mini-orchestra are contributing vocally, creating a bellowing rock-anthem sound. At other moments it’s just you, some percussion and a dose of contemplative realism. Typhoon, May 3 at Mississippi Studios

Typhoon's many members in Portland, Oregon.
Typhoon’s many members in what appears to be Forest Park in Portland, Oregon

Purity Ring DJ Set: May 15

For those who caught Purity Ring last year on tour with Blue Hawaii (in Portland at the Roseland and Seattle at the Neptune) or at their starry outdoor set last July at Oregon’s high desert What The Festival, this show will be a little different. This time the audience can expect a solo set and the group’s signature hanging cocoons and giant custom-built, light-up instrument will likely be spared from the dirt and grime that coats Branx.

Like London Grammar, Canadians Corin Roddick (instrumentalist) and Megan James (vocalist) found their initial success online with their clicking “Ungirthed.” The duo blends drafty, buried hooks with sharp synth and warped samples in their debut album Shrines. Megan’s piercingly clear voice and eerie lyrics carry us through landscapes that are at once odd and ecstatically pleasant. A delightfully restrained drop in “Saltkin” speaks to the delicacy of the project, while the complexity and strength of the melody in “Fineshrine” shows refined power. In “Grandloves,” Megan is joined by Young Magic on vocals, and together they sing a chilly song so lovely and sad it could be two ghosts contemplating the end of their relationship.

This is music for those inclined to heavenly beats, or as the show’s producers Abstract Earth Project puts it, “lullabies for the club.” Purity Ring DJ Set, May 15 at Branx

Purity Ring's Corin Roddick and Megan James
Purity Ring’s Corin Roddick and Megan James

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The Librarian: A Wealth of Bass

The internet, with its exponential options and on-demand everything, has it’s limitations. Good news for anyone fearing a future world seen only through screens, people still like to see music live. Geography still matters in music. Tonight at Refuge, cool Canadian DJ and producer Andrea Graham teams up for a very live show with Portland-based […]

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