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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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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Springtime Is Ripe With Possibility

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A week before Portland clothing and accessory designer Lindsey Reif’s first solo show for her brand Reif, I arrive at the studio she shares with Seaecho owner and designer Sarah Rapp in the middle of fittings. The show’s producer–the assiduous Jillian Rabe–and team are there in support and models arrive staggered over the next several hours to try on a sampling of Lindsey’s newest creations.

The studio, located in SE Portland within the newly retrofitted creative space called The Bindery, is just how I’d imagine two busy and blossoming designers’ space would be: rolls of Pendleton fabric, sewing machines, racks of clothing, piles of finished clutches, inspiration boards, and the requisite magazine tear of a cat. The Knife plays from a small docking station against the East wall while Lindsey ties a model named Sky into a strappy, striped sundress. I poke through the clothes on rolling rack and can’t help myself from cooing over the soft silks and wearable designs.

Photography: Autumn Northcraft,  Hair and makeup: Clarity Mettler, Models: Ally Ford and Kaila Briann Styling: Lindsey Reif
Photography: Autumn Northcraft,
Hair and makeup: Clarity Mettler, Models: Ally Ford and Kaila Briann
Styling: Lindsey Reif

Lindsey Reif: This line was inspired by this color (holding up a poppy sleeveless button-down shift). I’m really picky about color. I was also inspired by early 90’s minimalism. Kate Moss and Calvin Klein. [The collection includes] a scort. Scorts are awesome. You can actually sit down in them.

Carrie Hamm: I definitely wore my fair share of scorts in the early 90’s.

L: Right! And then they went away and I think people thought they were stupid, but they are perfect.

C: Tell me about the show next Friday.

L: This is my first solo show, so I feel like I can control every element and make everything look like it is in my fantasy.

Jillian Rabe: The choreography and the show for this event is different than anything we’ve ever done. I love traditional runway. The lights turn on and the music turns on and the models start walking and looking amazing, but you don’t get enough stage time with the garments. This collection is really special, so it is going to be cool to have more face time.

L: I wanted to adopt the model of what the smaller designers do in New York. Rather than compete with the big runway shows during New York Fashion week, they’ll put on presentations and installations. I wanted to bring that model to Portland. I want it to be really fun, more like a party.

C: Did you build your brand off of the turbans?

L: I started with clothing, then the turban [got popular] by accident. People started buying them and I was like, ok I guess I’m making these now! A lot of Portlanders have a vintage aesthetic and dress for functionality. If there’s a fashion accessory that is functional for their daily life, they’ll go for that.

C: Like wearing a turban to replace their beanie.

L: Exactly. They still want to look good and show personality in their clothing choices, but they also are busy and riding their bikes.

Reif designer Lindsey Reif, shot by Krystyna Solodenko.
Reif designer Lindsey Reif, shot by Krystyna Solodenko.

C: Your lookbooks are full of all kinds of interesting imagery, with urban, witchy and psychedelic elements. How do you come up with your inspiration?

L: I usually have an era in my head when I’m designing a collection. [The SS2012 Collection] was inspired by disco 70’s era but with a darker energy. I wanted to use a ouiji board.

C: Do you keep a muse in mind while designing?

L: Chloe Sevigny or Alexa Chung: someone who is a style icon without being too flashy. Also Rihanna. She has a really classy, classic style that she edges up with urban elements. She rocks some minimalist, classic clothing and she looks great in it.

C: She’s kind of an accessory by herself.

L: Right, she doesn’t need much. I love that red dress that she wore. I could put Rihanna in a dress like that.

C: Your brand motto is “the time is ripe.” What does time mean to you as a designer?

L: I think that good design is timeless. I liken it to mid-century furniture. Something that was designed in the 50’s, but still looks modern no matter what situation you put it in.

C: We are in Portland and you are a designer, so I have to ask about Project Runway. Would you consider it at this point?

L: I was a finalist last year. It’s kind of like an ex-boyfriend where you say you won’t answer the phone when they call you, but then you pick it up. Tim Gunn loved my clothes, so that’s really all I need!

C: Where can people find your line?

L: This collection will be at Frances May. The turbans and accessories will be at the other stores. I’m working on a line of basics for fall. The idea is to have a daywear to loungewear transition.

Reif show_flyer_instagram
REIF presents Spring/Summer 2014. Friday February 21, 2014. Doors at 6:30, Fashion presentation at 8:00PM. To be held at The Bindery (3115 NE Sandy.) All ages. For tickets and more information,  visit www.reif-haus.com.
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Winter Is Coming…Complete With Art, Fashion & Beer

Nicolas Kelly and Katie Greiner walk in last year's Big Chill.
Nicolas Kelly and Katie Greiner walk in last year’s Big Chill.

This Friday, Grand Central Bowl marries more than a few of Portland’s favorite things at Big Chill, a lifestyle event presented by Widmer Brothers Brewing with fashion show produced by Jillian Rabe, LLC.

Both the launch of Widmer’s Brrr Seasonal Ale and the runway show of cool-weather gear compete to steal the show, but add the mixed media art, photo booth, music and silent auction benefitting the Snowdays Foundation and we have a high-energy, many-moving-parts event. I mentioned this all takes place in a bowling alley, right?

As Jillian puts it, there is no shortage of stuff to do.

The bowling lanes become the runway for the show, featuring a fresh mix of local brands and retailers, heavily leaning toward skate, street and snow style.

Model Alex Green on the Big Chill 2012 runway.
Model Alex Green on the Big Chill 2012 runway.

“Style is a more appropriate word to use than fashion for this event, which I really like,” Jillian says.

She purposefully books a range of models: some are working models and others are people who are active in their community. This show is one of her favorites to produce because of the opportunity to showcase and celebrate a wider variety of models.

“Not everyone is going to be the audience-expected high-fashion model.”

Retailers include Mojave, West Burnside’s new boutique on the block, which manages a perfect mix of rustic PDX and new-school-cool LA. Bringing the street and snow to the event are Unheard, a Portland-based skateboard company that focuses on skate decks and graphic tees, and Seattle-based ski and snowboard shop Evo. Local headwear company Capture will be joining the runway for the first time, and funky Portland-based lounge-wear brand Funsie returns as a crowd favorite (because really, what’s better than a onsie?).

Not by accident, Big Chill is a celebration of what makes Portland special: A fun, inclusive community vibe with great art, fashion, beer and music. Plus, it helps those of us dreading months of clouds and rain remember what’s fun about the Northwest in the winter.

I asked Jillian what she likes about Portland once the days get shorter and darker.

Immediately: “Knee socks and tall boots!” She adds: “Any opportunity to wear my big boots. Plus my Blackmilk leggings, which of course no female should go without. They are love with all of our bodies, which is very cool.”

Jillian Rabe: Whatever your version of brightness or happiness, intergrate it into your winter life.
Jillian Rabe: Whatever your version of brightness or happiness, integrate it into your winter life.

She adds that for her, colder days mean styling herself a little more creatively and using more color.

“Winter is fun because the given is that you are going to be layering, the given is that it is going to be cold. It’s a cool opportunity to tell really complete stories with your styling.”

Beyond mastering the art of getting out the door feeling great in what you are wearing, she adds that getting a leg up on your goals can be empowering—whether it’s style or music or working out or spending time with friends.

“You know change and rebirth is on its way with the New Year, and getting ahead of that is a really fun and opportunity and challenge.”

Come celebrate the impending chill Friday November 22 at Grand Central Bowl, 9:00pm. Free! Visit Jillian’s Instagram for more: @JillianRabe and her website here.

Important facts about Brrr Seasonal Ale:

  • Malts: Pale, Carmel 10L & 80L, Carapils, Dark Chocolate
  • Hops: Alchemy Hop Blend, Cascade, Simcoe
  • ABV: 7.2%
  • OG: 17.0° Plato
  • IBU: 50
  • Color: 22L

Big Chill

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Painting Faces in PDX

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Decorative flora at Michael Costello. Photo by Leah Haas

Makeup artists have a special perspective at fashion shows: they are commissioned to produce the vision of the stylist and designer, but (other than the key artist) typically aren’t allowed input to influence a certain look. They play an intimate role in the production of the show while having the ability to maintain perspective of the fashion at hand. With the conclusion of two of Portland’s major fashion events this fall—Portland Fashion Week and FASHIONxt—I picked the brains of two makeup artists who worked these shows on where they think we are and where we might be headed in Portland fashion.

Madeline Roosevelt worked behind the scenes on the final night of Portland Fashion Week painting faces. When asked to compare this year to seasons past, she described the show as much more organized. “Everything was charted out,” she said, and models would move through a kind of conveyor belt of makeup styling, with each artist focusing on skin, eyes or lips. Madeline was in charge of the face, making sure foundation, highlights and contour were perfect. One look was simple and fresh, one featured a nude lip and smoky eye and another was gaunt and avant-garde.

When comparing Portland to the greater fashion world, Madeline notes that that there is a lot of talent in Portland, but some artists don’t know how to execute their visions well. In Portland, Roosevelt feels like there are some good ideas, but the quality is off.

“You see photos and think ‘that’s a great piece,’ but really the photo doesn’t give it justice.” She has found that up close it’s easy to see that the piece could be better. When asked what could be done in Portland to produce better work, she said that people could try harder and do more research.

“It is a combination of things,” Madeline said. “Maybe it’s the model. Or the having the eye. I see a beautiful piece but the outfit does not go with the person wearing it. Sometimes it doesn’t display well.” When the pieces do work, however, the result is well worth the trip.

Models in waiting at Michalle Costello, Portland Fashion Week. Photo by Leah Haas
Models in waiting at Michalle Costello. Photo by Leah Haas

Raphael Ocasio also worked Portland Fashion Week as makeup artist and FASHIONxt as assistant to the key makeup artist Jamie O’Neill, owner of Portland-based makeup company Skull Sugar. He was in charge of eyes and brows and had the final look at models at FASHIONxt. Raphael thrived off the full-throttle atmosphere of the shows and has an optimistic view of where Portland fashion is headed.

“Some of the shows at Portland Fashion Week really gave me hope,” he said, adding that he feels there is better awareness about fashion here and more outlets for people to showcase their work. He appreciated the “hippie couture” looks at Portland Fashion Week and feels like some of these shows actually influence how women in Portland dress.

The fluffy, flowing looks at Michael Costello were a hit. Raphael found Costello to be one of his favorites, along with Seth Aaron and Hello Eliza—a pop-art line by Eliza Harrison that volleys from metallic miniskirts to sheer neon to studded platform shoes paired with spandex polka dots.

“The crowd response to Hello Eliza…I was floored,” Raphael said. “How she executed this show, with the lime green bangs, the Lil Kim hair colors, big gaudy chains, the tiger fur…the girl is tripping out!” This kind of energetic show bucks the eerily familiar feel that so many designers can fall in to.

“Women in Portland are picking up fashion faster [than men]” Raphael said. He feels that men here are comfortable, and a little afraid of change–a criticism easily leveled against Portland fashion as a whole just a few short years ago. Like many women here, the new Portland fashion is more confident, more colorful and more excited about self expression.

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Beach Fire Cooking

Hello Pacific

“We should roast some mussels over the fire.”

A middle aged couple sat on a log on the Northern California beach with their two adult children, drinking beer and smoking weed. They had built a fierce fire out of driftwood, evaporating the March chill, so hot I wondered if it could turn the sand underneath into glass.

“But you’re a vegetarian,” Eric said.

“I know.”

“Okay, then.”

“How do you cook mussels over a fire?” I asked the family of locals.

“You just put them on the rocks. It’s hot enough. When they pop open from the steam, they’re ready,” the father said. “I just heard they tested them and the mussels are safe to eat now. Usually they would have been good a while ago, but there were still toxins.”

I was glad I had asked. Mussels suck in and consume Dinoflagellate plankton, which contain chemicals poisonous to humans. The concentration of toxin in bivalves, such as mussels, usually fluctuates in a seasonal pattern. If I hadn’t queried someone knowledgeable of the redwoods coastline, I could have poisoned my boyfriend and myself.

I had inspected the rocks exposed by the evening low tide. There were mussels, many of them, although they were small. Each one held tightly to the rocks with tough protein fibers called byssus threads or the “beard” of the mussel. I used my blue Squirt multitool, small enough to fit on my keychain, to cut (with the knife) and pry (with the pliers) mussels away. I was no expert. The shells of the mussels and surrounding barnacles cut into my soft hands. I decided five mussels were enough to try. I didn’t even know if I liked mussels.

The rocks around the fire were indeed hot. Eric and I couldn’t get our hands close enough to lay the mussels out evenly, flinging them towards the fire from a foot away. Within seconds, the mussel nearest to the fire split open, spewing boiling juices. Eric fished it out with a long, narrow twig, catching a knob at the end of the twig in the hinge of the mussel.

“Would you guys like some?” I said to the family.

“No thanks. We just had pizza,” the mother said, with a sheepish smile.

Eric arranged the cooked mussels on a flat, cool rock. Orangey tan flesh was visible within the parting of the shells. It looked good.

I had been a vegetarian for fourteen years, only breaking my discipline to eat seafood during a year in Japan, something I felt obligated to do in order to be a polite foreigner. I may have eaten mussels in sushi or something during that time five years ago, but I have no recollection, and I stopped eating seafood the moment I landed in an American airport. I do not think eating animals is inherently evil, merely unnecessary and often cruel.  People are unacceptably disconnected from their food. They can eat a cow, but they would never have the guts to slaughter one. Most people would cry, or become nauseous, and refuse. It becomes barbaric when someone has to personally kill something that they can nonchalantly eat in fast food. While hitchhiking in New Zealand, I encountered a number of family farmers who raised, butchered, and prepared most of the meat in their diet. I found that respectable.

I have modified my own morals such that I can eat meat, but only if I hunt, kill, and cook it myself. Anything I do not have the fortitude to kill, I do not have any right to eat.  I don’t have much mercy for bivalves, though. No face, no visibly squirming body. I tore the mussels off the rocks without much guilt.

I selected a smaller mussel from the cooling rock and brought it up to my nose: salty, smelling of the ocean, but in a fresh way. I opened the mussel entirely, appreciating the inner sheen of the shell, and dropped the side without the meat. The small morsel held firmly to the remaining shell. My omnivore’s teeth scraped it out.

I wasn’t amazed. It was satisfyingly chewy and a little disgustingly gooey. The mussel tasted the way it smelled. Mostly satisfactory, I supposed, but I wasn’t an expert.

“What do you think?” I queried Eric.

“Delicious. Straight from the sea.”

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THIS IS NOT A L…

THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY. THIS IS JUST MY LIFE. [PART 1.]

Sometimes I think that memories would be better and more beautiful if they were painted from a place of imagination versus reality. A sort of past life creative outpouring. Like colors swirling into surrealism…but in the now.

The thick of carpet fibre disgusts me. And softness is deceiving when your face is pressed in it. Echo of shame speaks and then lingers. Dirt never tasted so good.

One day I almost asked a stranger if they had ever woken up from a dream so vivid that they thought they were still in it. Lips shut. I walk on.

I carried my heart that day like a drum while reminiscing of the Oldies song that goes “…and the beat goes on…” You are married now. Out of state. New state of mind.

But that day I almost caught up. Max speeding. Legs moving. I had a feeling you were near. After that, I saw you once more. Happy endings.

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