Dating back at least to 1909's "By the Banks of the Old Willamette," our stumpy little town has been memorialized in song numerous times--enough that you could soundtrack your entire Rose Festival experience with them. The soundtrack of memorable Portland songs we've chosen probably won't make your day any brighter, though; most who have sung about our city seem to have been inspired by its seedier side. But in this time of celebration, these songs serve as a reminder that, yes, every rose has its thorns. (For Rose Festival event schedule, see sidebar.)
Loretta Lynn (feat. Jack White): "Portland, Oregon" (2004)
The Lowdown: Aging country queen and ornery young punk get drunk and screw, reportedly at a Holiday Inn. Song threatens to lure droves of horny alcoholics to town in search of mythical guilt-free one-night stands and pitchers of booze to go.
Timeless Line: "In the morning when the night had sobered up/ It was much too late for the both of us in Oregon."
New Riders of the Purple Sage: "Portland Woman" (1971)
The Lowdown: In a hippie equivalent of Rose Fest shore-leave fever, these Grateful Dead-affiliated longhairs pull into town and make all sweet 'n' sensitive about getting laid. Take heed, sailors: "Portland women treat you right."
Timeless Line: "You know it's very cold in Portland town this time of year."
John Callahan: "Portland Girl" (2004)
The Lowdown: OPB's Oregon Art Beat profiled the closet songwriting of WW's quadriplegic cartoonist in February of this year (see "Hell on Wheels," WW, Feb. 4, 2004). The show focused on this surprisingly moving portrait of abuse, drugs and suicide, with a lyric as subtle as the man's cartoons can be crass and crude.
Timeless Line: "The rain has left its blood in puddles/ The red lights flash, the colors muddle."
Casey Neill: "Sisters of the Road" (2001)
The Lowdown: The story of one Portland girl who survives the streets, though not before a doomed romance with a fellow runaway who "knew every free meal in Stumptown, every dry place to keep warm," but dies an ignominious junkie's death.
Timeless Line: "When he'd offer it to her, you know, she never once took it/ Beneath the I-5 viaduct, his teeth clenched to a tourniquet."
Dead Kennedys: "Night of the Living Rednecks" (1979)
The Lowdown: Improvising over a hipster-strolling bassline, Jello Biafra recounts a harrowing and hilarious encounter with a carload of drunken yahoos outside a "phone booth by the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Burnside." Of course, when the cop arrives, he blames Jello. "So this is Oregon, huh?" he crescendoes indignantly. "Tolerant Oregon!"
Timeless Line: "A lot of people go to bed around here at 10:30 at night."
Cool Nutz (feat. G-Ism): "Portland Life" (1997)
The Lowdown: Portland's premier hip-hop personage and fellow rapper G-Ism argue that the 503 can be just as dangerous as any area code on the West Coast: "You didn't know that Portland niggas biddin' homicide."
Timeless Line: "Schemes and scandals, young niggas gettin' handled."
Allen Ginsberg: "Portland Coliseum" (1966)
The Lowdown: The poet experiences the epiphany of a Beatles concert, as "the million children of the thousand worlds/ become one animal in the new world auditorium."
Timeless Lines: "While a line of police with folded arms/ stands sentry to contain the red-sweatered ecstasy/ that rises upward to the wired roof."
The Replacements: "Portland" (1988)
The Lowdown: Paul Westerberg apologizes eloquently to Portland for an infamous drunken mess of a show, but never mails the letter. This sublime outtake, which only emerged on a posthumous compilation, knowingly traces the downward spiral that ended splat on La Luna's stage.
Timeless Line: "It's too late to turn back, here we go."
Elliott Smith: "Rose Parade" (1997)
The Lowdown: Smith's lyrical references to Portland life were documented here in the WW issue that memorialized his demise last year (see "Elliott Smith in PDX," WW, Oct. 29, 2003), but this might be his best hometown putdown.
Timeless Lines: "They say it's a sight that's well worth seeing/ It's just that everyone's interest is stronger than mine."
ROSE FESTIVAL EVENT CALENDAR
Yes, like it or not, it's that time of year again: The Rose Festival is upon us. Still, even for those born and bred Portlanders who are immune to the allures of the Scum Center and high school marching bands, there is still much on offer. What follows is a quick calendar of events covering this week's festivities.
Performances, unless otherwise listed, will start at 6 pm with headliners performing at 8 pm on most nights. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, $5 gate admission, kids free.
THURSDAY, JUNE 3
*Aaron Meyer with Bill Lamb
*3 Leg Torso
Fred Meyer Queen's Coronation presented by Portland's WB
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 227-2681. 8:30 pm.
Pepsi Waterfront Village
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 227-2681. 5-11 pm.
A Classic Tour of Portland
Holladay Park Plaza, 1300 NE 16th Ave., 280-2216. 10am.
FRIDAY, JUNE 4
*Scott Fisher Band
STARsmARM/Debit Fireworks Spectacular
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 227-2681. Dusk.
Pepsi Waterfront Village
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 227-2681. 11 am-11 pm.
SATURDAY, JUNE 5
*Third Man Out
KeyBank Starlight Run
Lincoln High School, 1600 SW Salmon St., 203-9166. 8pm.
Portland General Electric/SOLV Starlight Parade
presented by Southwest Airlines
Downtown, 227-2681. 8:30 pm.
Peninsula Park Family Fun Day
Peninsula Park, 700 North Portland Blvd., 287-6930. 11:30 am-4 pm.
SUNDAY, JUNE 6
*Melody Guy Band
Rose Art Show
Oregon Society of Artists, 2185 SW Park Place, 228-0706. 1- 4pm.
Federation of Petanque USA National Doubles Championships
Westmoreland Park, Southeast 23rd Avenue and Bybee Street, 358-8059. 8 am-6 pm.
Oregon's Run for the Roses
Sherwood High School, 1155 NW Meinecke Road, Sherwood. 925-0585. 8 am.
MONDAY, JUNE 7
*Presidents of the United States of America
Tuesday, June 8
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9
Fred Meyer Junior Parade
Hollywood District, 227-2681. 1 pm.
Rose Festival Fleet Week
Tom McCall Waterfront Park Seawall, 227-2681. 1-11pm.
THURSDAY, JUNE 10
*Yin Yang Twins
Rose Festival Fleet Week
Tom McCall Waterfront Park Seawall, 227-2681. 11 am-11 pm.
Lloyd Center/Portland Rose Society 116th Annual Spring Rose Show
Lloyd Center Ice Chalet, 777-4311. 1-9pm.
A Weekend of Roses--Golf Tournament
Heron Lakes Municipal Golf Course, 3500 N Victory Blvd., 282-4072. 9am.
A Weekend of Roses--Banquet
Multnomah Athletic Club, 1849 SW Salmon St., 282-4073. 6 pm.
Friday, June 11.
Rose Cup Races
presented by Temp*Control Mechanical Corp.
Portland International Raceway, 227-2681. 8:30 pm.
George Morlan Plumbing/1190 KEX
Festival of Bands
PGE Park, 227- 2681. 7 pm.
Washington Park Knighting Ceremony
Rose Garden Amphitheatre,Washington Park, 235-4552. 1 0am.
A Weekend of Roses Basketball Tournament
Grant High School, 2245 NE 36th Ave., 282-4073. Time TBA.