On the occasion of the Cherry City Music Festival, which showcases Salem-bred bands in venues around our state's capital the weekend of October 12-13, I asked several Portland musicians who spent their formative years in our statehouse-hosting neighbor to the south (most of whom are playing the festival as part of a sizeable ex-pat contingent) to reflect on their hometown.
Eric Earley (Blitzen Trapper, Singer/Guitarist):Wherever you spend your formative years will affect you regardless. It was for me, looking back, a fairly rural Middle American place to live, with a river passing through it and mountains on the borders, good fishing in the mountains, and forests of blackberry [brambles] filled with rusty train parts.
Devin Gallagher (Boy Gorilla Records, Co-Owner; the Black Black Black, Vocals Guitar; Typhoon, Guitar/Drums):My favorite thing was how many people truly loved and cared about Salem music. My least favorite thing was that the city's administration and a lot of its middle-aged residents didn't love it, or care about it, and often worked to hinder it.Tyler Ferrin (Boy Gorilla Records, Co-Owner; Typhoon, Guitar/Trumpet):For the most part, the music scene is very tightly knit in the high schools. Those kids only go to Portland to see bigger bands play. It's hard for a Salem band to come play Portland, since no one knows of them, and most likely they are working with horrible promoters like BigTime or someone else. Bands play for a couple of years and then drop off the scene. There isn't much for Salem musicians after high school. Nobody is offering any bands an opportunity. If a band has the will and desire to do something with music, they always move to Portland. A few have broken that mold, but it's generally the case.Josh Blanchard (Towne Lounge, Someday Lounge, Booker; Plants, Singer/Guitarist):My favorite Salem band right now is called the Nodding Tree Remedies. They are an eight- to 12-piece psychedelic party collective, and every set is different from the last. Imagine a mixture of Amon Düül, the Happy Mondays, and the Merry Pranksters and you'll get a loose idea of what these guys have going on. Sometimes living in a bubble [like Portland] doesn't create the natural tension needed to make "honest" art. Portland, god bless it, is often a big hipster circle jerk, where everyone you meet is a self-stylized artist of some kind. Salem, for good and ill, is free from the pressures of fashion and trends, and the music that comes out of the city is refreshing precisely because of that.Typhoon and the Black Black Black play at Ike Box as part of the Boy Gorilla label showcase from 6 pm-1 am on Friday, October 12. Plants play at Coffee House Café at 11 pm on Saturday, October 13 followed by Nodding Tree Remedies.