In Portland, if you build a music venue, the bands will come.
And if you pave it over and put up condos? Well, the bands will find a warehouse, basement or Ethiopian restaurant to play in.
No matter how much this city changes, music perseveres. This year's Best New Band poll is proof positive of that. Our expert voting bloc of 200 journalists, promoters, musicians and fans turned in a staggering list of 457 individual artists. At a time when so many local institutions are closing we've decreed the era "Barmageddon," the bands just keep multiplying. Of the 10 you'll read about here, most have yet to headline the major clubs in town. All of them, however, are born of a particular Pacific Northwest tradition, best summarized as "down for whatever." They all came up playing anywhere they could—garages, pizza parlors, street corners—whether or not there was a stage, lights, a sound system or even people watching.
Our top band is a group of heart-on-sleeve punks who honed themselves into one of Portland's best live acts playing local living-room eviction parties, VFW halls in Missoula and pinball palaces in Ottawa, and will still take a gig at a downtown taco shop. Another had its best show at a house the size of a walk-in closet. One found its sound from the stage of a creaky dive in Eugene, while another cut its teeth performing for children. And then there are the three rappers—the most we've ever had on this list—each of whom has managed to grab attention in a city where hip-hop is practically outlawed.
This process, as we often confess, is not perfect. Many genres remain sorely underrepresented. Women, in general, are regrettably lacking this year. But the Best New Band issue is never meant to be the end of the conversation. It's the ice-breaker. As always, our hope is that, whether or not you're thrilled by the artists we're about to introduce you to, you'll be inspired to get up, go down to the nearest coffee shop or art gallery or burger chain, and discover the great music being made right in your backyard.
Now, if you excuse me, I've got a show in someone's backyard to attend.
— Matthew S