An article over at Slate yesterday functioned as a partial scene report to Portland, Oregon’s indie-rock residents, pointing to the goings on of castle-dwelling Steve Malkmus, the Shins’ James Mercer (who, we learn, likes public transportation), Isaac Brock’s “squawk-producing home,” Colin Meloy, Chris Walla, Sleater-Kinney (hey, Janet drinks coffee!), and newest resident Britt Daniel. Elliott Smith, of course, gets an entire section to himself (deservedly so).

After the setting’s in place, the author, Taylor Clark, poses the question:

Why, you might ask, haven’t you really noticed Portland’s incredible concentration of musical talent before? Because unlike, say, Seattle’s grunge boom in the ’90s or the Bay Area’s recent hyphy movement, Portland has neither a distinctive “sound” nor a “scene” to speak of. Sonically, there’s not a whole lot that the twisty pop of the Shins has in common with the “hyper-literate prog-rock” (to borrow a phrase from Stephen Colbert) of the Decemberists. And virtually none of these groups can be considered “Portland bands” since, with very few exceptions, they all moved to town after gaining some level of fame. (Generally speaking, it’s rare to meet a young, creative Portlander who’s from Portland.) You might see Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss parking her Volvo station wagon in front of Stumptown Coffee Roasters, for instance, but you seldom feel these luminaries exerting any influence on the local musical landscape. They all just kind of live here. Which is why it’s often quipped that Portland is the place where hipsters go to retire.

Um, well, other folks did live there before the indie yuppie coterie rolled in for early retirement…

Yep, one member of the Stereogum fold resided out in PDX a long-ass while ago, and though he concurs it’s inexpensive and rains a lot, something Clark overlooks when he asks “what’s luring them here?,” is that there was definitely much going on before Smith left Heatmiser and caught on with a non-Pacific Northwest audience: How’s about all that great noise? The stuff that sprouted alongside Union Pole and Road Cone? (Catsup Plate was there a while, too.) Strange not to even give a mention to Team Dresch or Donna Dresch’s Chainsaw. Or how about New Bad Things? Hazel? Bugskull? Or earlier … Poison Idea! The Wipers!

Not that we need to defend the history of Portland or go to town on short attention spans, but the article got us thinking about any number of half-digested/ADD scene reports. Like, hey, shocker: Not everyone in Williamsburg has a mustache! Okay, bad example. Curious: Has your own city ever been represented kinda slant?

Look, it’s Hazel!

Comments (35)
  1. brian  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    I don’t care how great your folk band is or how well you can push keys on a casio and scream into a mircophone, STOP MOVING HERE!!! Rent is getting too high for people other than those Indie Stars to live here.

  2. Freddy  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Drugstore Cowboy

  3. Yo Taylor, if you’re reading this, congrats on writing for Slate. And let’s not forget who brought you to that party at Laura V’s house. XO!

  4. Rachel  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Dude, if you hear Modest Mouse rehearsing out your window and you not only don’t know it’s Modest Mouse (with unreleased material, forgivable) but think it sounds like any other “pabst-and-angst fuelled racket” you might hear floating out of your neighbor’s garage, your entire cred move has just been negated. Negated! Wholesale!

    I mean it’s JOHNNY MARR, people. Johnny Marr is playing in your neighbor’s house, and you do not take notice? Once again, it is impermissible to name-drop Johnny Marr (which you do) as a cool musician who lives in Portland while you cannot recognize his guitar playing as “cool” in a blind test.

    Beyond that, I’m really, really, really, really, really, really, really impressed that this kind of thing “happens all the time” to you in Portland. It sure as hell doesn’t to me, and dear God, if it did, I’d be a little less liberal with the privacy of those whose music I enjoy.

    (Anyone else want to argue, btw, that there actually is a distinct Portland indie sound? I mean, perhaps not a musical style, but surely a general one -literary, pastiche-prone, large lineups without guitar domination, an interest in being the Smiths or at least recruiting a Smith- does link MM and the Decemberists and the Shins, and float down from there. Maybe I’m not paying enough attention, though.)

  5. dhs  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    “I lengthen my shorts for no one.” Totally hillarious.

    Probably wouldn’t agree with the idea Elliott Smith popularized the place, and I’m a terminal ES fan.

    Thanks for posting! I don’t know how I missed that…

  6. Rachel  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Okay, “lengthen shorts” was a good one.

  7. John  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Think how much better it is than the same pieces written about Seattle back in the day. Who cares if he didn’t mention all the cool bands, the point is it’s been overrun by the big boys. Anthony Kiedis? Ouch. As a former Seattleite who’s been hearing for years how awesome Portland has become, it’s good to know it’s already passe. Look out Tacoma!

    BTW, I lengthen my shorts for now one, too. The kids worship me like a god.

  8. rusty  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    I see Malkmus (riding the stationary bicycle at the Y!) and Daniel (at a sparsely attended Tapes n Tapes show a couple of years ago, at The National a month ago) around town all the time and it’s really no big whoop – maybe that’s why they like it here, no one really gives a shit that you’re Britt Daniel as long as you don’t cut in line at the bar.

    I was a little disheartened that the article focused on all of the indie rock stars moving here and didn’t mention some of the tremendous homegrown stuff like Blitzen Trapper, Menomena, The Gossip, Shaky Hands, etc., ad infinitum.

  9. matt  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    this whole article and the slate article…make me want to fucking puke. also, rusty…no offense but some fat retard writhing on stage doesn’t make for tremendous stuff. horrid.

  10. i like the dirty dirty…..

  11. volume-addict  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    I’m just glad that even if Seattle has it’s own great bands (yeah, Saturday Knights, Math & Physics Club, The Lashes, and The Blakes just to name a few), it’s great that Portland can also come up north in the I-5 corridor to share the music with us. Portland-based transplants like Viva Voce and Eux Autres are also welcome. We really need that new Helio Sequence album already, BTW.

  12. My band played a great show with the Blakes at MusicFest last weekend. Love ya Seattle!

  13. Kurt  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Swords (Project)?

  14. rusty  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Matt: no offense taken, I’m not the fat ass retard writing around on stage. frankly I don’t see the appeal of The Gossip but some do.

    Shit, forgot about Viva Voce and The Thermals

  15. volume-addict  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Oh, and The High Violets need some more love too. I try to make their gigs whenever they play The Comet in town.

  16. The Gossip are from Arkansas not Portland.

  17. Bigno T. Klown  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Okay so what the fuck is the “hyphy movement”?

    I live in SF and have never heard of this. And since there isn’t much good music or live music scene in SF they probably meant to reference Oakland.

  18. Eh, they all live here for the easy availability of mountains, beaches, forests, and weed. What’s not to like?

    I’m a Minders fan, myself.

  19. bb  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2007 0

    Portland attracts indie artists because they have a relaxed, liberal environment that supports arts in general.

    The downside is, its pretty damned expensive (its only cheap compared to big west-coast cities).

  20. seth  |   Posted on Sep 13th, 2007 0

    is Portland the new Omaha? or is Omaha the new Portland? or does no one care about saddle creek?


  21. Ben  |   Posted on Sep 13th, 2007 0

    I blame Quarterflash.

  22. Setya  |   Posted on Sep 13th, 2007 0

    I’ve seen some of the more famous indie rockers around town, and I’m sure they live here for the same reason I do. It’s beautiful, clean and there is a never a shortage of things to do or people to connect with. The ability to see a great show on any given night is also why I love it here. The large number of incredible local acts is what makes Portland great. PDX POP Now! anyone?

    My picks for local excellence — The Thermals, YACHT, Copy and Pseudosix.

  23. bb  |   Posted on Sep 13th, 2007 0

    Oh, I forgot to mention – it rains six months out of the year here in the Pacific Northwest. The job market is terrible. Houses (and rent) are very expensive.


    All you other Portlanders know what I’m getting at. ;)

  24. John S  |   Posted on Sep 13th, 2007 0

    Elder statespeople: Nu Shooz

  25. Andrew  |   Posted on Sep 14th, 2007 0

    I don’t care how many cool bands live there.

    The fact that Portland is in Oregon makes it guilty by association.

  26. Andrew  |   Posted on Sep 14th, 2007 0

    Oh, and to volume-addict….

    Saturday Knights are a Tacoma group…

    But then you probably think Neko Case is from Seattle as well.

  27. hell yeah andrew. thanks for standing up for tacoma. 253…bitches…

  28. morgan  |   Posted on Sep 15th, 2007 0

    First off, my roomate walked by said house, and Isaac Bracht’s garden gnome is now on my porch. That aside, there are enourmous pockets of neglected musical bounty to mention. Some locals I run into: SCout Niblett, TJO, members of Jackie O’Motherfucker, Daniel Mensche, Au, etc…Thinking Fellers Union just moved here a while back, and I ran into Will Oldham in a bar a while back, although I think he was just visiting…

  29. Baby81  |   Posted on Sep 17th, 2007 0

    The Dandy Warhols are from Portland as well.

  30. Andrew  |   Posted on Sep 17th, 2007 0

    No problem at all, Christian. Just doing my part here.

  31. Brian  |   Posted on Sep 18th, 2007 0

    One great thing about living in Portland with such great bands… when other great bands come to town, things happen. When Broken Social Scene came to PDX, they invited Modest Mouse on stage for an extended jam and it was mind-blowing.

  32. biltmore  |   Posted on Sep 20th, 2007 0

    Nice that you guys mentioned Hazel … but what about POND? Another awesome 90s band.

    Oh and Dave Hernandez from The Shins lives here too .. about 2 blocks away from me. I run into him often at a local food store named “New Seasons”. I’m also pretty sure that the rest of The Shins guys live here as well.

    What’s funny, is that not many of these AWESOME bands ever play here in Portland … in fact, when many of them tour they skip Portland completely. This town, is sadly still run by a bunch of hipsters … NASTY ones at that. For local shows we get TONS of shitty hipster bands like Swan Island. The High Violets, The Shins … you never see them playing shows here in town. The scene here fucking SUCKS to be honest with you … it’s a joke. People are EXTREMELY rude at shows and their chatter during the show in usually so loud that you can’t hear the band play at all. People just pay to get into these shows to be seen and drink … try selling merch here in Portland … it’s pretty much impossible. I think that the main reason why these people move here in that it’s a big city with a small town feel. You can easily just wander around and no one gives a shit about you.

    Other than that, Portland has great weed … SHITTY job market, and the property taxes are so high here … don’t think about buying a house, even rent is pretty extreme as well.

  33. eds  |   Posted on Nov 7th, 2007 0

    please, all you williamsburg hipsters — you’re driving us local hipsters out! STOP MOVING HERE !!! it’s starting to become noticeably more expensive!

  34. Donovan  |   Posted on Nov 20th, 2007 0

    Please stop turning Portland into Williamsburg!!!

  35. I have heard that the job market isn’t great. Isn’t it where young people go to retire? I heard that the Fleet Foxes recently moved there. Are there a lot of Portland apartments for rent?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2