While Portland hunkered down for a purported snowpocalypse last weekend, three of the Rose City's most powerful vocalists gathered on the sparsely ornate set of Artists Repertory Theatre's A Doll's House, Part 2 to vulnerably bare their souls through song and story.
The first installment in Vortex and Artists Rep's new Musical Interlude series—where artists perform stripped-down versions of their songs and tell the stories behind them—this Soul/R&B edition saw Saeeda Wright (who’s backed Prince and Liv Warfield and worked with Mike Phillips, Patrick Lamb and Duffy Bishop) share how she's overcome adversity to embody the meaning of her name: happy, fortunate, favorite of the people. As her stories flowed seamless into the songs, it was the equivalent of a musical motivational speech—heartbreaking but enlightening and uplighting, moving some in the audience to tears.
As Moorea Masa took the stage with her accompanist Steveland Swatkins on keys, the stories continued to pour out as she shared moving experiences through her brand of minimalist, folksy soul. A songwriter and vocalist who’s toured with k.d. lang and Allen Stone as well as sang with Ural Thomas and recorded with The Decemberists and EL VY, she spoke freely about her recent time with incarcerated youth and the broken "One Strike You're Out" system (aka Measure 11) behind their sentences, urging the audience to educate themselves on the 1994 mandatory minimum sentencing law that continues to detrimentally impact the lives of youth in our state.
The wave of emotions and intimacy crested as Sarah Clarke, joined by her Dirty Revival bandmate Ben "Snacks" Turner, closed out the evening. Best known for leading the funky seven-piece band, she recently collaborated with Vortex and Blue Heron Studio to recored her first-ever solo track—listen below. Sharing songs and stories that addressed her struggles with addition, unsuccessful attempts at relationships, and immense love for her son (plus a world-class display of her whistling game), Clarke herself shed some tears while her bold, unwavering voice made hairs stand on end.
Truly a night that will not be soon forgotten, there was a palpable feeling in the air that both artists and audience had exchanged energy and ideas, ultimately leaving the space with a sense of personal growth thanks to the incredible displays of musical prowess and emotional openness in the bijou theater.