What happens to the Portland Underground when we shouldn’t gather in big groups? Can the underground exist during a pandemic? You’re damn right it can.
Just like everything else, it’s going to take a little creativity. For instance, restaurants do takeout and grocery stores require spatial distancing. For us in the underground, we’re going to have to figure out this fandangled group chat thing.
Two issues ago we discussed the digital underground and how electronics can actually help word-of-mouth creative gatherings. When used intentionally, cell phones and even emails are great ways to reach out to each other. These tools can help connect us as long as it’s with purposeful inclusion.
Fast forward a few months, and technology is now more important than ever to the underground. Now we organize backyard concerts on Zoom. Now we go to decentralized living room dance parties on Houseparty. The underground still exists, my friends!
It’s not only doable and necessary, it’s also fun. After the pandemic started, I attended an underground open mic on Zoom, and even though I thought it was going to be a shit show, it was actually pretty awesome. You can see the faces of those attending, hear each other’s applause and, if a performance is strong enough, it might even make ya get teary-eyed just like it would in person.
Am I saying to run to the computer to check Facebook and sign up for TikTok? Hell no! Now’s not the time to fight in the comments, claim to be epidemiologists, promote conspiracy theories, be manipulated by algorithms, feed starving advertisers, and then feel left out. Now is not the time for social media!
Instead, go through your phone contacts and directly hit up people you haven’t talked to in a while. This can be texts, phone calls, silly memes or video group chats. Or even better, organize an underground virtual event! Now is the time we need to feel connected. So let’s strip away our ego, our online image and actually reach out to each other. We need it now more than ever.
No matter how long this shit lasts, my friends, the Portland Underground will always be here.
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.