Portland’s best kept secret this Friday and Saturday night is probably Quiet Music Festival. It boasts some heavyweight music headliners for two nights in a supremely intimate venue, at a price on the cheap. It even gets good press, but maybe only 50 people will be in the room at a given time, and a good portion will be children. The setting is entirely special. Founded five years ago by multidisciplinary artist, Chris Johanson, it blends all the elements of an art show with punk. Suffering from the hearing disorder, tinnitus, the idea came to Johanson as a way of proving that it’s possible to have a show that didn’t simply open its doors to all ages, but actually created an environment suitable for all generations.
The cold expansive warehouse of Disjecta will be transformed into Grandma’s giant living room. People will sit on blankets and pillows, listening attentively, and if anyone gets too loud, Grandma is going to put the lid on it. It’s not fun-prohibitive, in fact, kids are all over the place, and who’s more fun than them? I rarely see kids at a show and when I do, it’s easy to think that the parents are horrible (or can’t afford childcare) but there is a sense that these kids are being exposed to something important, that will give them an impression of civilized behavior and culture. It is fun, but it’s just more subdued than your average show.
The range of music works because it’s not actually quiet music. Sometimes, the players don’t change their act at all, it just isn’t amplified so Goddamn much. The range of work usually includes ambient, noise, singer-songwriter, and various smatterings of rock n’ roll. In the case of Portland’s own indie rock legends, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks have “curated” an acoustic set especially for Saturday. I have no idea what that really means other than a different set list than they might usually use at, for example, The Crystal Ballroom, where this band usually plays, at a higher ticket cost and for hundreds of people. It is a special performance indeed for fans like me.
Linda Hagood is legendary in her own right, being a sort of intergalactic traveler on Earth, playing shows all over the world with the mission of transmitting love with her innocent songs. She was once part of the band, Smack Dab, in the nineties. We are coordinating a podcast recording session, so look forward to that.
There are several other notable performances to come. UK’s Irma Vep will evolve a drama on stage, Tom Greenwood (Jacki O) has an art-music project called Conditioner, with Morgan Ritter. Secret Drum Band has replaced the drum kits with something quieter and apparently more textural. Johanson’s band, Sun Foot, will play again, being the funny guys, playing the softest punk rock you’ve ever heard.
The lineup is definitely solid, good stuff, but I still have the same complaint as last year: this is the Quiet White Music Festival. To really embrace the idea, hip-hop should be part of this, and no reason to stop there, it should embrace traditional music. I’d love to hear some Indian vocal music or African percussion. But this is about contemporary art and indie rock. As a curator, I understand Johanson’s approach, it keeps things simple and concentrated, but I am entitled to my opinion, because I’m still going to enjoy this concert.
The festival performances are captured onto analog tape and sold for just a buck a piece on BandCamp, sometime after the big weekend. We will be capturing photos from the concert and presenting them next week as a photo gallery. Oh, and in the Portland Heatwave of 2015, I think you’ll like the cold concrete, air-conditioned warehouse, and cold Deschutes beer.
Here is Marisa Anderson, from last year, to get in the mood.