That maniacal finale summed up the point of the avant-punk, seasonal music festivals--called Tropix in the summer, Arctix in the winter--which feature some of the most interesting and/or extreme musical acts from Portland and across America. Curated by a rotating cast of local musicians and fans from such bands as Yellow Swans, Sleetmute, Die Monitrr Battsss, and Point Line Plane, the Tropix/Arctix fests are meant to showcase exactly how freaky, ingenious, and straight-up experimental music fits within the loosely defined idiom of underground punk music. Says one Tropix curator, Gabriel Mindel of Yellow Swans, "I want people from the art community to know there's this advanced art movement coming from the rock community."
Certainly many of the bands on the Tropix bill, if not expressly tropical, at least know how to put the "art" in "party." Abrasive, noisy, electronically fucked music is increasingly popular with the rise of bands like Troubleman-gone-DFA's Black Dice and Bulb-gone-Sub Pop's Wolf Eyes (whose popularity can, in turn, be traced back to Andrew WK and Stockhausen's comments on 9/11). Similarly, the performance-art aspect of underground music--funky costumes, buck wild delivery, body-slams, theatrics, choreographed dance moves worthy of a Britney concert, general over-the-topness--is almost expected at this point. Here, the lines between art and music are blurred. Says Mindel, "This is a combination of free electronic noise, and a sort of neo-psychedelic, almost folk music that's happening--I say 'folk' because it's really [representative of] the community where it's coming from. It's reflective of post-graffiti psych art that's happening on the East and West Coasts." This kinship is what prompted Tropix 2K3's organizers (also including Morgan Dye, and Alarmist's James Squeaky and Eva Pox) to hold the festival at the Modern Zoo, the amazing art gymnasium in North Portland. Mindel notes that some of the exhibitors at Modern Zoo play in bands at Tropix.
From a broader perspective, Tropix organizers really just want to emphasize and support local art and music. Says Mindel, "Tropix reflects the party vibe of the Portland underground music scene--this culmination of performance-art freak-out and good-time rock and roll." He continues, "One of the ideas behind the original Tropix was that it's a kind of 'Portland Now' show; like, 'These are your neighbors, and they're making really creative music right now.' It's not about being recognized by the world at large so much as recognition in the community. That's why it's really inexpensive. The idea is to have it be as homespun as possible."
Which brings us to audience participation. You knew it was coming; you're wearing something tropical, right? Says Mindel, "The idea is to recreate elements of the Heatwave Party last winter [wherein the heat in a house was cranked to 95 and the party's denizens wore swimsuits, drank Midori, and lounged in kiddie pools]. We want to recreate the debauchery, nudity, sweat, and the idea of having a really great dance party. I think people should dress tropically and exuberantly. The more costumes people wear, the more tropical it will be--and the more people will get into the vibe and let loose."
Fri Aug 22
Heatwave Party Part Two! Headlining: Seattle's synth-pop, conceptual, aerobics-and-vibrato queen Anna Oxygen, who releases All Your Faded Things tonight on Cold Crush Records. First, though, peep the special, secret guest DJs and the unhinged electro-screamo band Snowsuit, aka Steve from XBXRX and K.I.T.
Million, 120 NE Russell, 9 pm, donation at door
Sat Aug 23
Friends Forever--One of the best live shows ever. Denver band plugs into generators and delivers an extreme guitar shakedown from their actual van, plus all other sorts of spectacle you wouldn't dream of.
Curse of the Birthmark--Bash your head on the noise-punk is pretty much literal with this SF power trio.
Lionheart Mirth--Featuring members of Crack: WAR and Zeek Sheck.
Alarmist--Screamy guitar noise, plus James Squeaky gleefully throwing himself around like a ragdoll.
Headphone--Headphone's on the three-synth tip with loud, operatic and danceable hardcore. Giving keyboards a metal edge.
Unsounds--Furries unite! A plushy frogsuit and a bearsuit playing extra-tuff punk rock.
Djin Teeth Fangs--Middle-Eastern influenced, free chamber music.
[[[VRRSSNN]]]--Is he ironic unironic ironically? [[[VRRSSNN]]]'s Adam Forkner is an enigma, but his talent at dreamy songwriting makes good feelings.
Jonny X and the Groadies--Fantastical yet serious, Jonny X and the Groadies may be the only strobe-laden, drum-machine black metal band with groupies doing the bump-and-grind at every show.
DJ Maxamillion--Ron No of Get Hustle and Chromatics, who spins a mélange of noisy dance musics for the avant-getdown in between bands.
Modern Zoo, 6635 N Baltimore, 6 pm, $5
Afterwards, get all latenight with the dark, screamy Point Line Plane and Sleetmute. Location TBA.
Sun Aug 24
Josh Plague of Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live has written a vegan cookbook called Something Delicious This Way Comes. Starting at noon, he'll present a Medieval Vegan Café for cheap. Tempeh muttoncakes, anyone? Location TBA.
The Planet The--This trio puts the "blog" in "prog," meaning tons of nerdy/ great solos on guitar, keytar, indecipherable lyrics, and unchecked anxiety.
Desert-Animal Yellow Swans--Local duo deconstructs sound on guitar, samplers, drum machines, other scary-looking electronics, all the while transgressing/molesting the space-time continuum, or at least the balance mechanism in your eardrums.
Cardinal--Dark noise from Bellingham.
B-18--Get Hustle's M. Evan Burden on solo piano.
Glass Candy and the Shattered Theater--Glammy duo got a drum machine, went more disco, perform like they're playing to thousands but could care less.
Nudge--Local three-piece uses electronics, drum pads, bass and trumpet for explorations into rhythm and ambiance, depending on their moods.
The Formless--Minimalist, garagey Portland duo.
Blind Date--B-ham trio with modulated synths and a "foot-tar."
Modern Zoo, 6635 N. Baltimore, 7 pm, $5