John Carpenter came to Portland to play synthesizer and chew bubblegum. And he never ran out of bubblegum.
At the Schnitz on June 15, the legendary movie director—on his first-ever concert tour, playing selections from his self-penned film scores and his two Lost Themes albums—managed to showcase his singular audio-visual genius while also proving why it's taken him so long to step out from behind the camera. Emerging through the glare of blindingly blue stage lights with his four-piece backing band, his wisps of white hair swept back, the famously cranky 68-year-old filmmaker spent the entire set in front of his keyboard, swaying a little, sometimes with one hand in his pants pocket, and constantly smacking gum. If his between-song banter seemed stilted, it's because he appeared to be reading it directly from the stand in front of him.
To his credit, though, Carpenter was self-aware enough to cede the spotlight to his collaborators—namely, Kurt Russell, Roddy Piper and Michael Myers. As the band fleshed out the simplistic analog menace of Carpenter's most famous themes—the bluesy stroll of They Live's "Coming to L.A."; the ominous burble of Assault on Precinct 13; In the Mouth of Madness's "Enter Sandman" mutation; and, of course, the plinking terror of Halloween—montages of scenes from the corresponding films were projected onto a screen above the band. Whatever Carpenter's deficiencies as a performer, the show still had the air of a special event we might not see again. And at least he knew who the true stars were. "I love horror movies," Carpenter said (or rather read) at one point. "Horror movies will live forever!"
All photos by Henry Crommet.