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September 3rd, 2003 MARK BAUMGARTEN | Music Stories
 

A Modest Proposal

You are cordially invited to rock your ass off.

     
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rock your ass off
IMAGE: THOMAS COBB
Invitations? RSVPs? Chips? Dips? DJs? The act of party planning astounds in its complexity. OK, maybe it's not that complex for someone with more experience--or class. But coming from a guy who has thrown only impromptu after-show affairs featuring DJ Me, a bunch of drunks I call my friends and whatever subterranean sludge is in the liquor "cabinet," the concept of invitations is mind-blowing.

When I stepped into this music editor position last month, I also inherited the task of inking an invitation to MusicfestNW. Let's just say I was somewhat overwhelmed. A 36-page rundown of more than 200 bands, most from a town I just moved to? Yes, that's me in the corner shaking in a pre-emptive breakdown.

But, honestly, what better way to dive into a scene than headfirst? The fact is, a lot of you are sailing the same ship I am. We're foreigners in this revolving-door town, where transplant bands and fans arrive by the wagonload. We show up with, maybe, a cursory knowledge of the Decemberists, the Dandy Warhols or the Thermals. But most of the music being constructed and conducted within Portland city limits is unknown to us. As a music fan, it's hard to enter a city filled with unknowns. Especially when that city has taken some hits in the past year with the loss of Satyricon and the Blackbird and the deaths of so many members of the community.

Since I moved to town, I keep hearing that Portland fans don't support local musicians. That there are a lot of people here creating but not enough audiences out there listening. Menomena pulled just a couple dozen folks at the Blackbird last month. And a huge Hush Records roster, including Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, pulled even fewer at Berbati's Pan two weeks ago. These are great artists, and yet--where are the people?

I don't believe the easy answer. I don't think the economy is responsible for empty clubs. I do think music lovers are scared. Scared of the unknown. Scared to take a chance on an undiscovered or overblown band that might be complete crap. And scared to take a chance on all those strangers in the audience you don't know because either you're an out-of-towner or everybody else is.

Here's what I propose: Get over it and get outside. Head to MusicfestNW this weekend, talk to the people and listen to the bands. Hell, buy a pitcher and share it with those strangers. Toast the fact that you're all scared of each other and suspicious of everything. And then wash that all down and away, and let the music spilling out of clubs across the city lift all your anti-hipster, anti-square, anti-punker, anti-glam anti-anti sentiment. Dance, drink and sing. This is what MusicfestNW is for. And right now, in the wake of a summer of loss in Portland music, it's exactly what this community needs.

 
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