It ain’t always roses in the City of Roses. And in the underground, just like everywhere else, the sun might not shine, the flower petals aren’t always bright, and it can get dark down here, Johnny.
The decentralized network of word-of-mouth events, house shows and gatherings all around town—the Portland Underground—exists only for people to get together and be positive. We valiantly wave the inclusive flag and boldly have smiles on our faces.
But what happens when something goes wrong? What happens at a house show when someone gets too wasted, says the wrong thing and it escalates? What happens when all of a sudden it isn’t so easy?
First off, we have to realize that we’re not perfect. At one time or another, we will all fuck up. As much as we want to believe we’re the good guy, it’s not always the case. If we first realize we can just as easily be the person who’s fucking up, we start off with the best tool of all, the human common denominator: empathy.
After we see ourselves as that dude who’s talking too loud during a quiet performance, it’s only then that we’ll know how to address the situation. Most of the time, people don’t even know they’re being disrespectful, so deploy a friendly whisper: “Hey man, I think the performer and audience may be able to hear you.”
The best trick is to tai chi it so no one notices there’s something wrong, even the person fucking up. The only way this can happen is to have empathy and create intentional connection.
Then, when nothing helps no matter how much empathy you have, or how nice you are, and things really come to a head—harassment, yelling, violence—well, that’s when we turn to our friends or make a new friend.
There isn’t one single answer to dealing with dark moments, but it’s at these times when we have the opportunity to be the closest to each other. When shit fucks up, it’s as easy as standing in solidarity with the buddy next to you. That’s what the Portland Underground is really all about.
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.