Consider yourself forewarned: This is going to make you jealous. Curt Kentner, co-founder of Magic Marker Records, has seen some of your favorite bands perform live-in his living room. Perhaps you were lucky enough to attend a performance at 4306 SE 34th Ave. between 1997 and 2004. But if not, prepare to turn green.
Kentner and college buddy Mark Rothkopf moved to Portland in 1997, started their small record label and turned their home into an all-ages venue for relatively unknown indie-pop bands. "Portland then was strictly a rock town," Curt explains. "If you weren't of the old school-Quasi, Heatmiser-crew, there was no place to build up that kind of thing." Most of Portland's all-ages venues were going out of business at the time, and hard-to-get club shows rarely even paid. So Kentner and Rothkopf took advantage of connections they'd made in college radio and started booking shows, slowly introducing feel-good pop music to a scene that was still recovering from the '90s grunge explosion.
Just a brief smattering of bands that played the house includes the Shins, the Decemberists and the Thermals. Yeah, pretty impressive. On the current success of these past house bands, Kentner says, "We basically got them right before it would've been impossible." The good news is that now you can vicariously relive the Magic Marker experience with A House Full of Friends: The Magic Marker Records Story, a collection of previously released and unreleased tracks, rarities and one live recording from the house, the gorgeous Softies tune "It's Love."
A collection of songs as sweet and youthful as Fun Dip, the record also documents the caliber of bands to play the house. And the relationships between band members, fans and the label were almost as big a part of the house as the music.
The double album also includes "how to" tips on throwing a house show-from hooking up a PA system to not providing alcohol-as well as an amazing photo album. Conveniently, one of the house regulars was photographer Jeff Mawer, who Kentner says was "always right up front with his fisheye lens." Sure, listening to the record and gawking at photos isn't being there, but it's as close as you're gonna get now that the Magic Marker men have new addresses.
A self-described "music supporter," Kentner realizes you may be jealous, but he doesn't take his experiences at the house for granted. "I felt pretty privileged," he claims. "I'm a pretty big fan, and there were certain moments when I'd think, 'It doesn't get much better than this.'"
The Lucksmiths, Tullycraft, The All Girl Summer Fun Band and Andrew Kaffer play the A House Full of Friends