August 29th, 2007 Ethan Smith | Special Section Stories
 

GIVE IT UP

Good is the new bad. Huh?

     
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In Portland, everyone’s a do-gooder. Whether we’re saving the ice caps one fixie at a time or just sticking infuriatingly close to the speed limit, Portlanders are nothing if not socially responsible. It’s sweet in a sickening sort of way, kind of like cough syrup. Yet somehow—despite the traditional reign of bad boys (and girls)—the good guys are the cool guys around P-town. Take Greg Glover, a KNRK DJ (and owner of Arena Rock Recording Co.) who joined forces with art-based youth outreach p:ear to release a bitchin’ covers comp (Bridging the Distance ) earlier this year. Or even Phil Knight, whose cool shoe empire has built basketball courts around Portland and fundraised for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Since MusicfestNW is the definition of cool (go ahead, look it up), we want to do our part: Fittingly, Willamette Week is giving back to the local music scene.

This year, a portion of every $40 MusicfestNW wristband goes to both the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame . And you can bet your ass these respective do-gooders will channel that money right back into local music, spawning the next crop of Portland bands to fill our venues for years to come. Let the circle be unbroken.

Part of this particular circle started when Misty McElroy began Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls in 2001 as her senior thesis at Portland State University. Then it exploded, expanding from a single August session into a summer-long day camp, after-school programs, private lessons, a practice space and an internal record label. Now, six years later, its girl-power chords are playing on The Today Show and Nightline —Nickelodeon even wants reality-show rights.

But why do music lessons—even with a badass rockstar spin—deserve such glowing national press? It’s simple: “We teach instruments, but that only thinly veils what we really teach—self-esteem,” says Connie Wohn, the camp’s publicist and artist-relations guru. Wohn (who also serves as marketing director for MFNW) also schools campers on the business of music, and she wrote the curriculum for RnRC4G’s latest course, Hip-Hop Elements. “It’s especially important for girls to realize they can do whatever they want,” say Wohn. “We tell them, ‘You don’t have to be cute. You don’t have to wear a skirt. You can develop a skill set that’s not based on being pretty.’”

While RnRC4G is bringing along Portland’s musical newbies, the Oregon Music Hall of Fame is honoring its veterans. In 2004, Music Millennium owner Terry Currier revived the OMHF, which was originally started by the now-defunct Oregon Music Coalition. Currier’s new incarnation continues to honor the OMC’s original 50 inductees. And this October, at a huge Roseland show, the OMHF will add five more to that list, with a twist: Two will be non-performing music professionals. “There are a lot of people in the wings who are instrumental in Portland’s scene,” say Currier. “Sound and lighting guys, promoters, bookers.”

Among the 30 candidates on 2007’s ballot are Elliott Smith, early P-town rappers the U-Krew, and promoters Mike Quinn (owner of the Doug Fir ) and Chris Monlux, who together make Monqui Presents.

But honoring old-timers is only part of OMHF’s mission: “We want to raise awareness of the local scene,” says Currier. So OMHF is planning an “Emerging Artist Showcase” to get up-and-coming Portland bands onstage, as well. As if that weren’t enough, profits from October’s induction concert will fund music education at local schools. “If kids aren’t exposed to music when they’re young, they may not even appreciate it when they’re older,” says Currier. And that, dear fest-goers, would not bode well for MFNW’s future ticket sales. All right, all right—or the city’s children, you damn do-gooders.

 
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