In 2008, I moved to Portland on a whim, and after a few days, I knew this was home. There’s no other city with as much art, grit, supportive energy and socially conscious attitude. We are from many places, such as the Midwest, down South and just down the street. We are all strays and runaways, my friends. So if we close the doors on transplants, we close them on ourselves.
The Portland Underground is a decentralized network of events that fly under the radar, not a club with a member limit. To attend a basement show, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. To join a late-night bike ride, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in town for 20 years or 20 minutes. In fact, welcoming new people is essential to the longevity and richness of underground gatherings. Not only does it help swell the ranks, but it also provides fresh, diverse and new ideas.
It is our duty as Portlanders to not only welcome others, as many of us were welcomed, but also to encourage the good ones to stay. This is how we Portlanders have a say in our city’s future. We can’t stop new apartment construction, but we can try to fill them with a community we love.
Underground events such as warehouse concerts, pop-up art galleries and Monday Funday are all opportunities for us to display the qualities we want to see in others and to give support to those who are friendly and collaborative. The underground acts as a positive, natural filter, and by taking an active role in it, we are taking ownership of our city’s development.
But be careful: Judging a book by its cover goes both ways. The dude on the skateboard could be looking to turn your favorite bar into condos, or the guy waiting in a 45-minute line for ice cream could be your next bassist. It’s important to actually get to know people before deciding on them. That said, if somebody stiffs a waitress for a “bad wine suggestion,” maybe don’t invite him to the show.
Am I saying that you’re a judge on Portland’s Got Transplants? Not exactly. What I encourage you to do is to play a part in this moment by welcoming transplants and meeting some new friends. The influx of new people into our community is an opportunity, not a curse.
To all the strays and runaways: The Portland Underground welcomes you. You may have to put in some effort and dig around to get here, but it’s worth it. Portland may not be the sunny beaches of California, but it’s the best damn home that many of us have ever had.
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.