As steward of the legendary community-oriented music venue Meow Meow, Todd Fadel did more than anyone else in the early 2000s to keep all-ages music alive in Portland. But after five years of tireless involvement in local culture, Fadel bowed out of the business when his volunteer-run, famously hospitable club closed in February of 2005. I was therefore delighted to learn that he would be throwing his hat back in the booking ring, organizing all-ages concert events at comfy Northeast coffeehouse Urban Grind (2214 NE Oregon). The first, free Meow Meow Presents show begins at 3 pm on Saturday, October 20 and features Asthmatic Kitty's Half-Handed Cloud, Olympia's fantastic feel-good collective LAKE, local songsmiths Upsidedown Cat and Kelli Schaefer, as well as Fadel's own glitch-soul dude-party, the Beauty. We discussed his new curatorial endeavor:
How is booking for someone else's place different from booking for your own?
I'm treating it like my own place. In fact, even at Meow Meow I had to defer to rental nights and outside promoters, which made it feel like the venue "wasn't mine." So, I'm trying to be more "hands on," like I was able to be at the beginning years of Meow Meow, hoping to pick up where I left off.
How do you feel the world of Portland music has changed since Meow Meow?
I'm so proud of those that have gotten famous, because I think they represent our community perfectly. What Portland has is charm and personality. If you look at all of the artists here, that's what seems to "stick" as our community identity. I spent a lot of time trying to get everyone to "get along," but that just is an impossible task to try to undertake. 2000-2004 was a fun time in Portland, since then I think things have settled down, but people are friendlier, community is stronger, and we're all a bit more appreciative.
What kind of atmosphere and booking aesthetic are you looking to build at Urban Grind?
Urban Grind Eastside is a great place to hang out. I want to experiment with different show approaches to see what would make folks feel the most like it was a house party. Boy Gorilla and Marriage Records bands (and their respective label heads) are totally in sync with that idea. I want to start out stuff with label showcases, cause we did that in the early days of Meow Meow.
I'm tired of the model of show-going. It's set up to put the artists on a pedestal. My theory is that if that boundary was gently but forcibly shoved aside everyone will get more from the event. I'm going to do everything I can muster to ensure that the events are set up to allow that to happen.