School of Rock's Best of Portland

Sat Jan 31, 8 pm, Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell
with appearances by Stephen Malkmus, Red Fang, Aan, Wild Ones, Musée Mécanique, Natasha Kmeto, Guantanamo Baywatch, 1939 Ensemble, Gaytheist, the Shivas, Summer Cannibals, the Body, Like a Villain, Tiburones, WL, Modern Kin, Bearcubbin', Lee Corey Oswald, Ripley Snell, TxE, the Stops, the Cry!, Sama Dams

It's hard to overstate the value to the community of the Portland chapter of School of Rock. It's one of the only institutionalized sanctuaries for music-inclined youth who might not thrive in other extracurricular environments. It's a fairly rigorous music school, to boot—several of its "graduates" have gone on to attend the Berklee College of Music or become involved in the industry in some other capacity—but its primary educational focus is reflected in the name. Students are heartily encouraged to start bands, rehearse, and play shows—the rock 'n' roll game that most of us received no formal instruction on. The results, as anyone who's been to a School of Rock-produced show can attest to, are consistently staggering.

That being said, the school's relationship to local music has been oddly tenuous—that is, until the first Best of Portland show three years ago.

"Before I worked at School of Rock, we did a Best of the Northwest show, which was similar to Best of Portland in some ways, but different in that it represented multiple points in history and featured bands from all over the Pacific Northwest," says Dani Fish, the curator and overall director of Best of Portland. "I wanted to do something that I thought could legitimize local, relevant music. Plus all the kids are really into local music, so a show like this seemed to make a lot of sense."

Best of Portland additionally serves as a benefit show. In the past, proceeds have gone to PDX Pop Now!, Music in the Schools, and the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls. This year's show will benefit PROWUS (Portland Rock on with Us) and the Pride Foundation. "It's a rare opportunity for us to host a benefit, and I think it connects us with the community in this other cool way," says Fish.

Each year, students are invited on stage to perform one song with any number of the local bands selected to play. This year's diverse roster, featuring everyone from Red Fang to Wild Ones to Bearcubbin' and even Stephen Malkmus—who will be performing a special, four-song set—is so impressive it resembles a stand-alone local music festival.

"It's been neat to see these kids get more and more into local music," Fish says. "There's this crew of kids I've been working with, specifically the kids who now play in the band Dad Rock, and as they've grown older they've developed more of an interest in local music. And I think Best of Portland gave them that connection in that they've seen all the ways in which you can make music—you can be super punk, or obsessive and produced, or it can just be a laptop. But I think they realize that literally anyone can be in a band. You just have to do it."