The Portland Underground: An Introduction

Vortex Music Magazine

Even though our city may look like it’s going astray, The Portland Underground is alive and well.

Ollie CollinsOllie CollinsAmidst the rising wave of yuppie condos and $14 brunch entrées, it’s important to find Portland’s roots. It takes effort, but we don’t have to dig far.

The Portland Underground, as I call it, is an unaffiliated, decentralized network of gatherings and movements that occur under the radar all over our wonderful city. You won’t see these events listed in the weeklies or splattered on billboards, and you won’t hear about them on the radio. They are solely built on the DIO (do-it-ourselves) mentality that is our city’s mantra.

Underground events are not about the cover charge. They aren’t an excuse for promoters to drop a stack of Pabst beer koozies on scenesters. Underground artistic experiences provide a pure medium for expression, entertainment and connection with the community.

Events such as the Midnight Mystery Ride, Monday Funday, pinball moped gangs, backyard concerts, and shows that refuse to appear in print are the life force of our city. This revolutionary, trailblazing spirit defines us as Portlanders. And like revolution itself, these events are as essential to our Americana as Taco Tuesday.

But how do we find this underground? What do we Google? Social media and the internet are good tools, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all of human connection. In order to find the underground, we must put in more effort and do it the old-fashioned way: Talk with our neighbors.

In our Facebook Event Generation, it’s easy to forget that the best source for where to go and what to do is the people around us. Talk to the stranger in the park hula-hooping on a unicycle, the lady dressed as a lobster at the bus stop, the ballerina cowboy at the bar, or simply your friends. These sources will provide intentional invitations geared toward the type of person you are, thus directing you to fulfilling and worthwhile events.

Or even better, start your own underground event! In The Portland Underground there are no rules, no admin lists and no sponsors, so you can start your own event today. We must take action before a parking lot is paved over us, because if the roots are strong enough, they will grow right through those gilded cages.

Fret not, my fellow Portlanders. Even though our city may look like it’s going astray, The Portland Underground is alive and well. No yuppie can ever take that away.

Ollie Collins is the founder of the theater company Monkey With a Hat On and co-founder of the cannabis farm Fire Flower. Stay tuned for more of his thoughts on The Portland Underground in the next issue of Vortex.

Until then, find out what else is Rising From The Underground in the current issue of Vortex, including five Portland Artists to Watch and four Portland Record Labels to Watch plus add these new tracks to your summer playlist!

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