Standing in the wings of the Aladdin Theater last Thursday during a taping of the OPB radio show Live Wire!, I was sweating. And I don't sweat unless I'm dancing.
It wasn't the fact that I would soon be speaking in front of 600 people that was freaking me out. It was what I was about to tell all those strangers, and the statewide radio audience that will hear the interview when it airs Saturday, Sept. 24.
But first, let's rewind a month or so to the PDX Pop Now! festival at Loveland on a hot, sticky early-August weekend. That festival-free, all-ages, all Portland-was an oasis at a time when I hated my job.
As music editor of this fine alternative weekly, I was being buried alive by the very thing I loved: music. The jewel cases for CDs from far and wide piled up on my desk, weighing down my shoulders. My attention span for new music had dwindled to about 20 seconds; if a band's music couldn't hook me by then, the album would go into the pile intended for the used-CD store and I'd grab the next. While I believe in everyone's right to make music, the massive amount of it being created today is simply too much for a writer to digest without some kind of focus. And the number of writers out there already covering national and international stars like the Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen and Juana Molina is overwhelming. Writing a review of a CD that had been reviewed in 100 other online magazines that my readers could access from their laptops was demoralizing. I might as well have been spending that time polishing a pebble to throw into the ocean.
This was my mindset when I walked into the Loveland for PDX Pop Now! last month. After watching dozens of bands play that weekend, I walked away transformed. There, unfolding over three days, was the story of a music community that was complex, conflicted, invigorating, intertwined and-most importantly-good. Insanely good, like nothing I had seen before, even in my days in Minneapolis. I had written and edited a number of articles on Portland bands in the past two years, but that coverage was unpredictable. It just didn't connect the dots of this town's music culture. Portland's music scene needs a paper of record, and Willamette Week will be that paper. This was what I told the Live Wire! audience.
Then, during last weekend's MusicfestNW (see page 33 for more on MFNW), I told my plan to dozens of other people. Some of them, in turn, told me how music in this town has changed their lives. Or they'd tell me about a band they saw the night before that made them feel like a part of this city, be it the glam rockers in the Nice Boys, bucket-blues heroes Hillstomp, or the psych pop of Viva Voce. My find was Dykeritz, an outfit I now love more than any band whose music comes delivered to my office complete with raving press clips from every major rag in the country.
Each of those bands has a story and is a part of a bigger story, and this paper will be the place where you will read about both. We will still be running comprehensive listings and the occasional feature on the most notable national and international acts to come though town, but every live review, show preview, CD review, and even this column-now dubbed Riff City-will be about Portland music. Because the story of Portland music is my story. And it's yours, too.