“You hear a lot about the faux weirdness of Alberta’s Last Thursday—but it pales in comparison to the real deal, the annual St. Johns Bizarre, in the heart of the realest neighborhood in Portland. Tons of vendors, kid crafts and activities, a beer garden, and insanely good music from actually awesome local bands. It does not get any realer.” — True Parent
2017 lineup coming soon! Till then, here is the magic that was last year’s event.
After 2 decades of launching drums, guitars and pianos through the shifting interzones between harmony and chaos (moonlighting along the way with the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag, Elliott Smith, Built to Spill and a long list of others), Quasi are a genre of their own – they write songs in the style of Quasi, and Mole City is the Quasi Song Book: Parlor Sing-alongs for the Last Century.
Now in their 20th year, Quasi hand-delivers the double album/Liberation Cookbook/Encyclopedia of Kicking Ass, Mole City, to those of us who still care about well-built, homemade objects crafted with integrity, spirit, fire, and skill. In other words, those of us who don’t fit into a world where the empty noise of crass capitalism, slick branding, and high profile hot pants have drowned out nearly all other concerns. Mole City, their ninth album, is a set of anthems for the refuseniks, Molotov tossers, pacifist soldiers and bug-eyed freaks, and Quasi is the band playing as the Titanic of what was once Independent Music goes down.
Quasi would actually fit in just fine if every other band had such technical control and ability that they could express each passing thought and literally converse through their instruments, could write meaningful, memorable songs, could sing with heart and humanity, could maintain a musical relationship for nearly a quarter century, could disregard the consumer-tested research and American Idolatry, and was brave enough to strip back their production budget and advance to zero, ditch the engineers, producers and side players, and head underground into their basement alone to record and mix over an hour of new music from scratch.
And Mole City would sound like everything else out there if all the other records peeled off their absurd costume jewelry and piped pleather jumpsuits, climbed into the sweat-lodge, confessed their sins of avarice and pride, renounced all earthly possessions and ties, then kicked out the fucking jams. This is the music at an agnostic afterlife juke joint where lysergic teardrops are cried into sweating mugs of high octane hellfire, the bartender can see clear through to your every thought, fear and desire, the upright player’s head is locked into a guillotine, and the guys next to you are whispering conspiratorially about how to fix their time machine. Shakin’ blues, precision freak-outs, air-guitar-worthy riffs, heavy round droplets of time, fuzz everything, wah wahs, ya yas, ooh ahs, grunts, shuffle struts and chiming minor seventh chords – this is rock n roll.
Chanti Darling is the brainchild of musician and performance artist Chanticleer Tr, and his collaborators Natasha Kmeto and Damon Boucher. The bands driving inspiration is to bring R&B music back to the forefront of pop consciousness. Not the R&B that you hear on the airwaves of radio stations today but; the funky dance floor jams of yesteryear, the soulful slow burners that seem to have now burned off into the ether, and the once smartly cooed lyricism that once lived in peoples ears crossing into pop music and defying genre. Still, all at once Chanti Darling’s mission is clear. No matter where they take you, they want you to lose yourself to the driving forces that inspire this music. They want you to dance. Nothing and everything is sacred as they take you on a rocket ship that passes through the celestial bodies of R&B. A complete cellular string theory like portal that encompasses Disco, Funk, House, Freestyle, and other moments in the connected history of this music all while bringing an element of futurism. Prepare to feel all the feels. Enter Chanti Darling. An amalgamation of this vibrantly color-bleeding palette. A reflective piece of this evolution, consciously aware while pushing all of this “influence”, rather history and experience, through a lens of futurism. Chanti Speaks A big part of our love of this project stems from a young lifetime listening to R&B. True R&B. All the way from the 80’s cutesy funky soul-pop of Evelyn Champagne King, to the more sophisticated jazz influenced Patrice Rushen, and the ombre disco-boogie of Cheryl Lynn. From Toto and Don Henley; to the beginnings of Prince, and budding genius of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, to SWV and Tony Toni Ton. Throw in the appreciation of some of the absolute best appreciators of this massive landscape ala Frankie Knuckles, and Boom. Like everything in this life we are a product our past looking into a crystal ball.
Founded in January 2011 in Kansas City, MO by songman Casey Burge (vocals, guitar) and longtime associates Lia Gist (vocals), James Taylor (guitar), Evan Houston (bass), and Ryan Johnson (drums). Minden relocated to Portland, OR in June 2012, where local players Papi Fimbres (percussion) and Sam Adams (occasional keyboards) were brought into the fold. In both regions, a reputation quickly developed through their live party vibes, spreading via year-round weekly open BBQs, a self-released LP (Exotic Cakes), music videos, EPs, and appearances on various compilations, web series, festivals and showcases. The flamboyant and distinct energy is seductive enough, with its timeless emphasis on solid grooves and classic chords filtered raw through group moods ranging from funk & soul to lounge & bossa nova. The real riches, though, are in the memorable hooks and vocal harmonies, centered around bold lyrical takes on power dynamics & human tendencies, dressed up as sexual-spiritual monologues.
What separates The Domestics from the escapism of so many other indie pop acts is the fearlessness with which Michael Finn and Leo London confront their own pain. London’s birth parents both struggled with drug addiction in his early childhood before he was adopted by his grandparents at the age of two. Finn’s trials started later on, struggling with depression and dependency in his early adult years. Writing in the aftermath of infidelity, mental illness, substance abuse and child abuse, Finn and London have wrought songs as moving as they are catchy and as honest as they are loud. What The Domestics provide that so many other bands do not is something which all listeners can relate to: vulnerability.
Long before they decided to join forces as The Domestics, Finn and London each spent years honing their craft as individual songwriters. After moving to Portland in the summer of 2013 after over a decade of writing and performing under his own name in Eugene, London found himself tracking piano for Finn at Flora Recording and Playback, studio of Grammy-Nominated producer Tucker Martine where Finn works as an assistant engineer alongside artists like My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Modest Mouse, Neko Case, and Sufjan Stevens. This first studio collaboration began a relationship which would eventually lead to the combination of Finn and London’s respective solo projects and to the recording of their first record over 15 days in the spring of 2014.
Less than a year after assembling a live band, The Domestics have triumphantly emerged as one of Portland’s most promising new acts. Their energetic live shows, as well as the strength of their debut record have garnered them a dedicated fan base and maelstrom of critical attention.
The Domestics are: Michael Finn, Leo London, Kyle Moderhak, Matt Moore, and Brad Norton.
Patsy’s Rats are a rotating cast of rascals out of Portland, OR playing raucous guitar pop led by Patsy Gelb and Christian Blunda. Christian is the leader of party punk band Mean Jeans and Patsy is the former bass & vocalist of sludge-pop group Scavenger Cunt and occasional collaborator of her father, Howe Gelb of Giant Sand. The Rats craft genuine bedroom pop tunes and then crunch ’em all up with 70’s rock & roll power.
Directly after Cardboard Songsters performs, Henrik Bothe will return to the Bizarre’s stage, once again bringing his international act to St. Johns. A native of Denmark, Henrik began entertaining at the early age of three when he drove the family VW bug into the sea. With fortune on his side, he made a quick escape and was soon mesmerized by plate-spinning acts on The Ed Sullivan Show. This lead to breaking Mom’s plates and throwing Dad’s knives in the wood-shop, until he ultimately attended Aahus Theater Academy to focus on the performing arts. This PDX-based physical comedian, who has been on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, as well as A Prairie Home Companion, will be performing his all-ages friendly act on the main stage.
Though they sometimes claim to be from a place called Yazoo there is no denying the mossy side to The Cardboard Songsters at home in Portland Oregon. Entertaining all ages with songs both old and odd animated with giant cardboard props.
I first saw them performing by a vegetable stand and was instantly charmed by their raw and homemade style. I caught the last song of their set about “ice worms”, and learned a bit about Tesla and the Solar System from the educational section of their guitar case. I then followed them to their bohemian loft on the fringe of china town trying to put a finger on this makeshift and unusual world.
I asked Felix “the bat” Hatfield, Director / Musicianeer and light bulb in chief, what kind of music they played exactly? He simply said while wiping a paintbrush clean in the armpit of his t-shirt, hopelessly trying to hide the paint leaving what looked like the rainbow legs of a muddy spider peering out, “We play Folk Art”