This week, Portland-born label Psychic Sounds celebrates its 10th anniversary with avant-garde music, a tribute to Portland punk, and something called "amorphous light totems." It promises to be one of the year's freakiest throwdowns, but it will hardly be the label's most raucous party.
For years, label founder Grant Corum and the rest of the Psychic Sounds collective held Fun Hog, an annual Dionysian gathering in a house on Northeast 82nd Avenue at Glisan Street.
"Every year in October, we would get together to celebrate having the property and heading into fall," says Corum. "It quickly became a really wild happening."
Though Fun Hog started as a local freak-out, it quickly began attracting guests and performers from up and down the West Coast and, eventually, from around the world.
"The house itself was pretty labyrinthine, so in all these various rooms across the property there would be all these wild performances going on," says Corum. "Things would get pretty bizarre, and it was very psychedelic, but not in the hippie sense. More in the 'this is really out there' sense."
Corum and his label moved to Maine a few years ago, leaving behind the house on 82nd and its Fun Hogs. But on Feb. 27, Psychic Sounds returns to Portland to take over the Hollywood Theatre to celebrate its first decade. The party promises to be as gloriously unconventional as the label itself, famed for putting out underground music by the likes of Sufi mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, Ethiopian soul singer Tilahun Gessesse, and electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire.
Mississippi Records founder Eric Isaacson will MC the event and give a retrospective slideshow covering the past decade of Psychic Sounds madness. "Amorphous light totems" created by set designer James Devereux Tait will set the far-out vibe for the night, along with a video collage by local underground film curator Church of Film.
Of course, musical acts will vary wildly: far-out jazz, psych rock and a tribute to Portland punk new and old. Inspired School of Astral Music will provide spaced-out ambient meanderings, and avant-garde ensemble Million Brazilians will perform with their original lineup for the first time in eight years.
Before the anniversary party, WW talked to Corum about his wildest, strangest memories of the 82nd Avenue Fun Hogs and Psychic Sounds' time in Portland.
The Nine-Hour Diaper Performance
At one Fun Hog, someone took it upon themselves to perform a single song for nine hours without cease, in a diaper. Ask him to expound on the performance, and Corum replies as if it were as common as a soundcheck: "It was a sustained vocal piece, and it was wild. Somebody just throwing on a pair of Huggies and going for it, you know?"
Smoke on the Water's Leisure Hive
"We would host musicians coming through town, and this younger guy who called himself Smoke on the Water stayed with us," says Corum between chuckles. "We had this performance room called the Leisure Hive, and Smoke on the Water's performance consisted of him on a guitar and a giant bong. He would play the 'Smoke on the Water' riff and then take a bong hit—like, a big one—and then he'd go back into the riff. He'd repeat that over and over, and as the room totally filled up with bong smoke, the song just degenerated over the course of about an hour. That was a weird one."
The Michael Jackson Transmutation Votive Shrine
Then there was the time the King of Pop's spirit was conjured at Fun Hog. "There was a kind of shack we had made out of votive candles, and after Michael Jackson died, it became what we called the Votive Transmutation Shrine, with a full-bodied Jackson figure inside with candles, statuary and audio tape loops playing," says Corum. "It was real smoked out, and people could go in there and just kind of sit with that whole situation and think about whatever came to mind, I guess."
Gecko Wine at Dungeon Jazz Ceremony Nights
Unsurprisingly, some creative libations have been consumed at Psychic Sounds gatherings, particularly at a summer improv and jazz series called the Dungeon Jazz Ceremony Nights. "We served up some pretty wild concoctions at those. Like, one was a gecko-infused plum wine." Asked to elaborate, Corum's response was characteristically nonchalant: "Yes, it was a tokay gecko. A friend from Sacramento gave it to us."
SEE IT: Psychic Sounds' 10 Year Anniversary Showcase is at Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., hollywoodtheatre.org, on Thursday, Feb. 27. 9 pm. $10. All ages.