It’s a conundrum. You want to go to underground events, but they are word-of-mouth and fly under the radar. Rock and roll house shows, basement rap cyphers and backyard art galleries are the types of events that define Portland; however, in order to attend, you’ve got to know where they are. You’re like Indiana Jones searching for the Sankara stones, but you don’t want to be left behind with your heart ripped out.
First things first: Don’t rely on social media. The underground must be organically discovered and experienced, not Instagrammed. You might be able to find an “underground” event on Facebook, but that’s like trying to get drunk on Keystone Light. You’re better off with whiskey, which in this case is talking to people in real life.
People are what make up the underground, so this is where you will begin your journey. Start with your friends. Get together and ask: “Do you know of any house shows coming up?” Be specific and don’t wait for an invitation.
Now, you can’t fully depend on your friends to lead you to the underground. If they didn’t hear about the punk rock basement show that you wished you went to, then you are going to have to make more friends by going to new places. When choosing where to go, be selective and go to public events that you’d like to see in an underground setting. Go to a concert at The Know to find out about a gritty house show—don’t go to a bar that serves foie gras.
Another valuable resource is this magazine! Vortex is the only Portland publication that focuses solely on local musicians and shows—the exact people and places that will help you find underground events. Go to a Vortex get-together and introduce yourself! Portland musicians and journalists are friendly and knowledgeable, so if you are positive and put yourself out there, the underground is closer than you think.
Of course, the best way to find the underground is to start your own underground event. But that is a topic for another day.
You’ve got to put in the effort to find underground events, but it’s worth it. So put down your fucking phone, get off Facebook and get out there. You do this and I promise something that’s worth more than treasure: an active role in the Portland Underground.
Ollie Collins is the founder of the theater company Monkey With a Hat On and co-founder of the cannabis farm Fire Flower. Sean O’Neill is a Portland illustrator and musician known for his bass and vocal work in Otis Heat. Stay tuned for more thoughts on the Portland Underground in the next issue of Vortex.