It's been a tough go of it this summer for a faction of Portland purists.
While each week seems to carry word of yet another institution of Old Portland closing down to make room for some new condo building (think Magic Gardens, The Matador, even the downtown Jackpot Records—not to mention Slabtown at the end of this month), there's been an unspoken but palpable urge to bring things back down to earth a bit—to create anew from the underground. It's in that headspace that the Lose Yr Mind mini-festival resided, whether the organizers were aware of it or not.
Held within the confines of AudioCinema beneath the Hawthorne Bridge—home to previous editions of PDX Pop Now! and existing as an aural refuge for rehearsing bands—Lose Yr Mind brought mostly Portland-based music together with regional food and beer businesses for two evenings of old-school, warehouse-style musical mischief. Some six months in the making, organizers incorporated local designers (Misplaced Printing), artists (Ruff Hubbard) and sound folks, and even utilized the storied indoor stage from Bunk Bar to create an intimate environment eerily reminiscent to your salad-days basement shows, albeit with a flair of professionalism that was hard to ignore. The entire operation ought to be proud of itself.
While the jovial air surrounding the event was endearing, the main course of diverse artists manning the stage was downright explosive. Below are a few of the highlights of the two-day bill's eight bands, which also included Summer Cannibals and Wooden Indian Burial Ground:
And And And
As the inaugural live performance by And And And's new guitarist Boone Howard (of the recently disbanded The We Shared Milk), this second set of the festival didn't attract the minor-celeb factor as had Talkative's opening harangue—My Morning Jacket's Jim James loomed near the venue's back wall during the quartet's impressive showing—but it had all the makings of a raucous reception. Drummer Bim Ditson's metronomic rhythms laid fertile groundwork for the addition of Howard's eccentric leads and pedal-stomping assault, and the slimmed-down arbiters of Portland indie rock helped open the floodgates for a molten-hot evening of music.
Sometimes you really need to see a band live to understand how fantastically strange and wholly talented they are. Sun Angle was my weekly reminder of this time-tested ethos as they managed to unleash a manic symphony of noise, Latin-tinged pop, D. Boon-esque proto-punk, and all-consuming rock and roll sneer in the span of 45 minutes. They also managed to squeeze in covers of AC/DC's “Back in Black,” Ray Parker Jr.'s “Ghostbusters” and Minor Threat's “Straight Edge” and, briefly, smoke a joint that someone had thrown onstage. It was impossibly good.
Clarke and the Himselfs
Boise's Clarke Aleksandr Howell parlayed a surprisingly inspiring setup of a simple drum kit, guitar and tremolo-effected vocals into a witch's cauldron of garage-punk all by his lonesome. Taking turns strumming fuzzed-out chord and leads, Howell's obvious affinity for melodic, smart and catchy tunes subtly mesmerized a mostly unfamiliar audience.
The Ghost Ease
With vocalist and guitarist Jem Marie now living in Seattle and bassist Fabi Reyna having departed the band—ostensibly to focus on her female-centric publication She Shreds—The Ghost Ease played their first show in months and pretty much picked up precisely where they left off. Balancing off-kilter harmonies with the infectious, splashy jazz drum accompaniment of Nsayi Matingou, brand new bassist Lauren Vidal held down the low-end to the trio's grungey melange in an enormously great set on the second night. The Ghost Ease are easily one of the more engaging bands to come out of Portland in a spell thanks to Marie's equal parts haunting and hypnotic vocals.
At $10 for entry per evening, Lose Yr Mind was a steal of a showcase and a fitting fall end to a long, long festival season. Here's to hoping we see it around next year.