Here is the reason why the rest of the country is envious of Portland: The PDX Pop Now! Festival (PPN!)—and the jealously is understandable. When PPN! set up shop in 2004, it changed our city's musical landscape, and the city of Portland became known the world over for being the adoptive home to numerous national bands (the Shins, Modest Mouse), and the soil from which a seemingly endless crop of upcoming acts (Blitzen Trapper, the Shaky Hands) emerge.
Nonprofit, volunteer run, and passionately concerned with the upkeep of future generations, PPN! the machine runs with great ease, acting as a patron saint of all things local music. In addition to the ever-expanding festival, they also release a popular series of local compilation CDs, which act as a perfect cheat sheet in case you fall out of step with the constant goings-on of the local scene. PPN! also works alongside our local government to hold free, all-ages (the two constants of all their events) concerts on the front steps of city hall. Plus, in the past few weeks they have even gone as far as to meet with the dreaded Evil Empire known as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, to lobby for increased all-ages conscious music options at local establishments.
Since the festival is loaded with nearly 50 bands, no two of which sound alike, we gathered a small cross-section of performers and asked them to speak about the importance of all-ages music and culture. [Full disclosure: Cary Clarke, a member of PPN!, writes a weekly music column for this paper.]
When it comes to local hiphop, few local acts can muster the draw of Sandpeople. But if the venue is crowded, so is the stage, with Sandpeople boasting 10 members, two of whom—Ethic and Goldini Bagwell—shared their feelings regarding Portland's all-ages scene.
No one is more qualified to speak about Portland's all-ages scene than Todd Fadel. For five years, Fadel carried the all-ages burden, while he nearly single-handedly ran the Meow Meow showspace. While his club-owner days are in the past, Fadel now spends his time onstage crooning for glitch-pop band the Beauty.
Anne Adams performs under the name Per Se, strumming delicate folk songs that swell with affection and poise.
A onetime PPN! planning committee member (who also held the job titled of "Décor Coordinator" for the festival in 2004), Anne is a very intelligent commentator when it comes to the impact of all-ages music.
MERCURY: As an artist, how important do you feel it is to perform all-ages shows?
ANNE ADAMS: It depends what you want, and who you consider your community to be. Some bands only want to play to people like themselves. Often, that means over 21, urban, stylish people with esoteric taste and rad record collections. You can find these people at places like the Tube and Beulahland. You can recruit them to come see your band on nights when their own band isn't playing. And when neither of you are playing, you can engage them in witty repartee, and possibly date them. And that, kids, is how you make a "scene."
But then you have to remember how you got into this scene. Years ago, you were exposed—probably by accident, likely by an older sibling or random radio—to indierock bands who were older and cooler than you, and these bands blew your young mind. Just because you're all grownup now doesn't mean you should forget that it was by glimpsing into someone else's "scene" that you originally became so cool. The people who are now where you were then (namely, on the cusp of epiphany) are kicking around the pizza parlors and surfing the MySpace pages, looking for an all-ages show. They're hungry for the kind of enlightenment, emotion, and empowerment that's found in high doses in great indierock. Those bands that decide to nourish this need will become tomorrow's "influences."
GOLDINI BAGWELL: Teens need to have a place to go and divert their attention from the common teenage cold—drinking, smoking, sex, and depression—they have the rest of their lives to go through all that shit! I feel like live shows can be a real positive outlet. I also think the younger crowd should be made aware that there is good music coming out of Portland.
Do you feel that PDX Pop Now! can make a difference with future generations of music fans?
ADAMS: Can. Has. Should and will do more. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of people—even in the music scene—who've never heard of PDX Pop Now! I think it will be great if Beaverteens can swarm downtown and experience Portland indierock. And I want those of us who are in bands to experience the privilege of playing to people who are still capable of being impressed. I hate to sound like a businessman, but it's a "win-win."
TODD FADEL: I like the free concert they [PPN!] did this year with Parkrose Middle School. I really thought that was great. I feel like any way they can be an advocate for the schools and for the artists is a step in the right direction for them.
What was your first all-ages concert? Did it have an impact on your musical upbringing?
FADEL: I went to my first show in Portland as a 19-year-old. I think it's incredibly important to be exposed to the richness of this community. It really gives them a sense that they can contribute. Immediately, when I went to the [long-defunct] X-Ray Café, it was like—I can do this.
BAGWELL: My first all ages show at a venue was at La Luna back when I was 14 or 15 years old. It had an impact on the relationships I have in the Portland music scene today. I was able to mesh with the older crowd as a young'un and build with the hiphop acts that were already doing their thing. Having that guidance as an aspiring hiphop artist was a big plus for me. And, It kept me out of trouble here and there.
Friday, August 3
6:40-7:10: the High Violets
8:05-8:35: Pocket Parade
8:45-9:15: the Beauty
10:10-10:40: the Blow
11:30-Midnight: Hey Lover
12:10-12:40: MarchFourth Marching Band
Saturday, August 4
Noon-12:30: the Pink Snowflakes
12:40-1:10: Hurah Hurah
1:20-1:50: the Vonneguts
2:05-2:35: Dragging an Ox through Water
2:45-3:15: Corrina Repp and Tu Fawning
4:50-5:20: the Soda Pop Kids
5:30-6:00: Point Juncture, WA
6:15-6:45: Per Se
6:55-7:25: Ethan Rose
8:20-8:50: the Maybe Happening
9:00-9:30: Swim Swam Swum
9:40-10:10: Hungry Mob
10:25-10:55: the Ocean Floor
11:05-11:35: Black Elk
12:25-12:55: the Snuggle Ups
Sunday, August 5
Noon-12:30: the Sort Ofs
1:20-1:50: Here Comes a Big Black Cloud
2:05-2:35: Bright Red Paper
2:45-3:15: Kele Goodwin
4:10-4:40: Ape Shape
4:50-5:20: Blue Skies for Black Hearts
5:30-6:00: System and Station
6:15-6:45: Blue Cranes
6:55-7:25: the Robot Ate Me
7:35-8:05: Laura Gibson
8:20-8:50: Nice Boys
9:40-10:10: the Shaky Hands
10:25-10:55: Evolutionary Jass Band
11:05-11:35: Yellow Swans
12:25-12:55: Blitzen Trapper