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May 29th, 2013 BRANDON WIDDER | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

Crash Course

A guided tour through Portland’s music-video history.

screen_music-videos_3930CALL ME, BEEP ME: Carrie Brownstein in Sleater-Kinney’s 1999 video for “Get Up.” - IMAGE: Dir. Miranda July
When filmmaker and Portland State professor Dustin Morrow founded the Portland Music Video Festival last year, he limited the event to videos produced in Portland. This year, he solicited submissions from around the globe. Over 100 submissions poured in from more than 30 countries, and Morrow and his panel selected the best, which will screen at the Hollywood Theatre on Thursday, May 30. With this forward-looking fest showcasing brand-new music videos for the likes of Sallie Ford and Cypress Hill, we decided to take a look back at landmarks in Portland’s music-video history.


Quarterflash, “Harden My Heart” (1981)

Premise: The video for the New Wave pop-rock number features everything from well-dressed little people to Daft Punk-esque action figures carrying flamethrowers through the desert. It’s anyone’s guess how the disjointed scenes connect to a song about tough love and moving on.

Significance: Quarterflash’s hit single was one of the first music videos to land on MTV during the network’s debut year. Plus, lead singer Rindy Ross’ sax solo in the rain is one of the smoothest to date.


U-Krew, “If U Were Mine” (1989)

Premise: The video by Portland’s rising R&B and hip-hop hybrid U-Krew epitomizes ’80s trends: big hair, Crayola-bright backdrop, keytar, stellar synchronized dance moves. This ode to the opposite sex captures the boys macking on some booty-swiveling ladies amid the running synths and hand claps. 

Significance: Portland wasn’t known nationally for its hip-hop scene prior to U-Krew. “If U Were Mine,” though, rocketed to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, proving homegrown hip-hop acts could achieve commercial viability and mainstream success.


The Dandy Warhols, “The Dandy Warhols TV Theme Song” (1995)

Premise: A garage-pop song with about 12 nonsense words leaves ample room for artistic direction. Though the original video was to be full of Vespas cruising the then-industrial Pearl District, limited finances prevented the band from processing the black-and-white film. Director Andre Middleton instead relied on a live Dandys performance and B-roll footage of singer-guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor vandalizing a local Fred Meyer. Nice.

Significance: Despite mixed critical response, “TV Theme Song” was a breakout song for the Dandys.


Everclear, “Heroin Girl” (1995)

Premise: Shot beneath the Burnside Bridge by high-school students equipped with 8 mm film cameras, the chaotic video features a mass of headbanging, rowdy youth recruited through local newspaper ads. According to lead singer Art Alexakis, the kids were later suspended for ditching school.

Significance: Opinions on Everclear aside, our music scene owes the band a substantial debt. The national media called it Portland’s answer to Nirvana, and with that title came the gaze of a nation.


Sleater-Kinney, “Get Up” (1999)

Premise: A line of people, holding hands, meanders through a field to frantic drum work and slinky, distorted guitar. Director Miranda July’s black-and-white video isn’t the most uplifting, with sullen shots of guitarist Carrie Brownstein and company gazing at the sky above.  

Significance: Sleater-Kinney was a big player in the riot-grrrl scene that sprang up in the Pacific Northwest in the late ’90s. The music video, the band’s first, helped solidify Brownstein as one of Portland’s more iconic artists.


The Decemberists, “16 Military Wives” (2005)

Premise: Shot for less than $6,000 at Cleveland High School, the video provides a whimsical yet staunch critique of Bush-era politics. Colin Meloy plays a student representing the U.S. in a Model United Nations simulation who declares war on Luxembourg—bandmate Chris Funk—before launching a bullying campaign against him.

Significance: The video was the band’s last before signing to Capitol Records and one of the first to be released via BitTorrent, an online file-sharing service that helped shift distribution methods. 


SEE IT: The Portland Music Video Festival is at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 281-4215. 5 pm Thursday, May 30. $7.

 
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