The other day, with the days of winter waning and the streets of Portland as dry as can be, I took out our modest bicycle collection and gave them a cleaning and once-over in anticipation for the arrival of bike riding season. I’m especially looking forward to this because I am just starting the process of converting this lovely early 90’s Trek mountain bike (on the right above) into a stripped down city bike. I have ordered a 3 speed Sturmey archer internally geared hub laced into a new rear wheel, and will be going through and stripping off the derailleurs and gears and once that arrives. This is a great bike, pretty high end for the time, and I don’t want to ruin anything on it. These were USA made lugged Cro-mo steel frames and they came equipped with some great components. of course, I’m getting rid of a bunch of that, but I’m keeping the stock brakes, front wheel, fork and cranks. I’m just getting rid of the gearing. This is a small town, and while I love my roadbike, sometimes I just want to get on something simple and make a quick run across town. This will be perfect for that.
anyway, about two days later, this happened…
Don’t get me wrong, I prefer winter with snow. The past few weeks of cold dry blah weather were confusing my seasonal affectation disorder.
Anyway, the huge rainstorm that did away with the remaining snow, immediately before this most recent snow (always start with a clean slate) I spontaneously attended a show at Space Gallery, which so far has pleasantly surprised me with its ability to attract interesting musical acts. Even though the headlining band, The Toughcats, was of little interest to me, we were meeting a friend and thought it would be nice to see some music. I never saw the Toughcats, but did show up in time to catch the first of two openers. Since he was already performing, I did not catch his name, but was caught off guard by his general goodness. A one man act: just vocal and double bass, bowed primarily. Standing up front I could see that he played with an intensity and skill that is so often lacking in the often insufferable singer songwriter genre. I thought, “this guy sounds like the sincere offspring of Matson Jones and the Dirty Projectors. The Matson Jones comparison is inevitable because the rhythmically bowed Bass so resembles the full cello sound they are known for. The Dirty projectors connection was based just on his voice.
Of course, the show ended and we found out who was playing: Nat Baldwin, of the Dirty Projectors. What’s funny is he isn’t the singer in that band. He just sings very much like Dave Longstreth. It was a fantastic set, and he ended with a cover of Arthur Russel’s “A little Lost” that was just fantastic. I don’t feel comfortable filming at shows (everyone who does that looks like a jerk… no matter what) but here is an identical rendition from another show he played recently. It’s really quite nice…
The second opener was a band called The Milkman’s Union. They were decidedly less interesting but competent musicians. For all of their skills and musicianship, they seemed to do all they could to sound like a replica of their various influences. Their first four or so songs were acoustic and sounded so much like they had said “hey, the Fleet Foxes are wicked good. Lets do that” that it hurt.
Now, I enjoy Fleet Foxes alright at times, but I don’t need see them become an entire genre.
Anyway, at some point they put down their acoustic harmonizing, and picked up some electric guitars and indie cliches…here is a soundcloud link to some audio I caught…
Again, well played, fine musicianship, but their ability to replicate of the moment, accessible, inoffensive indie bands is uncanny.
I find something disingenuous about bands that make such broad leaps in sound from song to song. I have argued at length with people about this, so it seems like It must be the usual me being a jerk problem, but I find it to speak more to a need to impress with musical taste and ability, over actual focus and musical interest.
Needless to stay, we didn’t stay for the”good Karma” and “Bluegrass stylings” of the Toughcats.
Now unfortunately, it’s time for a bit of a rant…
Space Gallery is next door to MECA. It hosts a full schedule of art, music, and events, most of which are at very least interesting, and at best pretty fantastic. I saw not a single familiar face at this small show. This is an issue that I have been thinking about since starting to teach at MECA: For an art school, there are very few students who seem genuinely interested in art in all its forms. That’s not to say I don’t have students who are interested in engaging with art outside of college, but there are 350 students who attend this college, almost all of them live within a few blocks of downtown, and aside from some key school related events, I don’t see them nearly as much as I should. Shouldn’t a show like this be packed full of art students? This was a Friday night, the venue has a great bar with both good and cheap beer, and It is literally next door to their studios and most of their homes. I’ve been to college, and believe it or not, these kinds of things were what we lived for. We worked hard in the studio, and when we left, we spent our nights watching bands at bars. I go to events here and see one or two students. why is that?
Someone, who will remain anonymous for the purpose of this blog, recently told me that MECA is “an art school for students who don’t really like art”. I don’t think I can believe that. I don’t want to. That is way to pessimistic even for this pessimist. These are the events these students should be going to. they can sleep when they are done with college… or after graduate school perhaps. now they should be out at these shows, even if they go back to the studio and work all night after.
I saw a lecture by Giddeon Bok in the same venue last semester on his then ongoing exhibition, residency, and drawing installation in that very space. It was a fantastic talk and even better work, and afterword he hung out talking to people. This is an interesting local artist, making important projects right next door, chatting with whoever wants to about his work, their work, or anything else, and I recognized no students. There may have been one or two that I missed, but why wasn’t it packed with them? something is wrong.
Ok I’m done. To any students who may read this, take heed: immerse yourself in the arts of this place now, it doesn’t get easier to get access to these scenes.
in other news, here are two random shots from a recent critique with my multiplicity class. a lighting assignment.
Yesterday was my 10 year anniversary. This is both amazing and weird. here’s to 10 more…