In the book that will one day be written about this decade in Portland music, 2008 will likely be deemed the year that the heavy-hitting national music media (or what's left of it) really started screaming from the mountaintops that our city is home to the country's most exciting music community. First there was the MTV featurette Everyone Is in a Band: Portland's Organic Music Scene, then the full October issue of magazine XLR8R dedicated to our town, and now, completing the trifecta, there is PDX@CMJ.
On Friday, October 24, as part of the annual, taste-making CMJ Music Marathon (the East Coast equivalent of SXSW), venerable New York City music venue the Knitting Factory will host a showcase of contemporary Portland music, featuring 31 acts—from Laura Gibson to Animal Farm, Au to the Helio Sequence—on three stages over seven hours. Throwing this party are ex-Portland music maven and current Knitting Factory booker Chantelle Hylton and former New Yorker (and occasional Mercury freelancer) Hannah Carlen of Portland-based radio promotion company, and PDX@CMJ co-presenter, SPECTRE. Both took a minute to share their pre-festival thoughts with the Mercury.
MERCURY: How did the idea for PDX@CMJ come about?
HYLTON: Honestly, the first inkling was totally selfish—I'm gettin' hitched the day before and wanted to find a way to bring my Portland friends to New York. But people are bonkers for Portland out here, and I really wanted to start to sort of declare Portland to the world in a more cohesive way.
You both have been involved professionally in independent music in New York and Portland. How do the cultures and economies of music making in these two cities differ?
CARLEN: The main difference, the one I probably spend the most time thinking about, actually, is how the economy of each city shapes the time people spend on their art. In New York, I feel like once you get to a certain point with an undertaking it's "put up or shut up." Portland frees us up to do both really easily, so you see a lot of artists, labels, projects, and side-projects doing their thing really well while holding an often full-time day job. On the one hand, this is absolutely part of what makes Portland possible; people can afford to work a 30-hour week and still hustle like mad on what they really love. On the other hand, I think this ease makes people maybe more comfortable than they otherwise could/should be. Setting the possible consequences/scene-changers aside, I think it'd be amazing if more of Portland's labels and undertakings became full-time operations, thereby letting more of their artists be full-time artists as well.
Do you think it's possible to "export" Portland music to other cities with this kind of showcase? Would a traveling road show or festival of Portland bands be viable?
HYLTON: That's in the works, a traveling Portland festival, actually! Fall 2009.