Few people in this city have a relationship with music that can rival Nathan Carson's. While he might wear many hats—booking agent, promoter, one-time Mercury freelancer, outspoken all-ages show supporter, and musician—his main role is that of a staunch and militantly devoted fan of music, primarily anything under the umbrella of metal. His latest undertaking is a three-day music festival, March into Darkness, which pays homage to the volume and intelligence that music can offer.
Is the concept behind March into Darkness different than the previous festivals you've curated (Stoner Hands of Doom, Children of the Revolution)?
March into Darkness is my baby from start to finish. No compromises have been made. It's fewer artists, over more days, at one of my favorite clubs in the city. Since there are only 12 bands, production is smoother, and the ticket price is really reasonable.
You have a very long and established history of involvement in the Portland music scene—especially metal. Are things better now (with increased national attention toward local acts, numerous clubs, etc.) than they used to be? Or is the genre still overlooked?
I have lived here for 11 years now (I used to drive up here regularly from hometown Corvallis to see early Nirvana and Hitting Birth shows). I'd say the music scene is the strongest it's been since the early '90s. Portland has the rare fortune of having a larger metal audience than there are bands to provide for it. There does seem to be a consensus that local press tends to write about metal in an "ironic" fashion since it is a genre so easily misunderstood by those who don't follow it passionately. But I will always argue that all press is good press. It's important to me to give equal opportunity to other styles, but artistic metal music is a personal favorite of mine, so I am happy to concentrate my efforts on assembling events like March into Darkness. In fact, the buzz is so strong on this one that I'm already making plans for a follow-up festival called Fall into Darkness.
Was it important to make at least one of the festival's days an all ages event?
The short answer is that Agalloch are only playing two shows in the US this year and it was important to the band and myself to make those inclusive. I would have made the entire event all ages except that there are so many curfews and regulations that have to be observed, and this kind of metal tends to be consumed mostly by an older, drinking audience. Having said all that, I am politically aligned with all the folks who are encouraging the OLCC to rethink their stringent policies regarding minors. I started playing live music in Oregon clubs at the age of 17 and recall firsthand what it was like to sit on the curb before and after my performances. It was a drag, and proof that we have still have a long way to go when it comes to liberating people based on age—let alone race and gender/sexuality—in this country.
March into Darkness runs Friday, March 21-Sunday, March 23 at Berbati's Pan, 10 SW 3rd, $10-14 per night or $25 for a three-day pass. Friday and Sunday are 21 and over, Saturday is all ages.