BLOWOUT GEORGE CUTRIGHT

Like most years, 2017 was bittersweet. We gained some iconic records, like Kendrick Lamar’s Damn and Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me. We lost some treasured idols, like the forever-heartbreaking Tom Petty and Portland’s own Fred Cole. And we turned to music to navigate life in a world that feels like it’s slowly imploding. Here are some of the concerts, albums, and songs that impacted the Mercury’s music writers this year.


Blowout’s existence may have been brief—the band only released one EP, 2014’s We All Float Down Here, and one LP, 2016’s No Beer, No Dad—but they left a lasting mark on Portland’s indie and punk underground. It’s only fitting that the four-piece ended things in a grimy basement packed with fans. Beer dripped like sweat from the ceiling as someone handed out PBRs to shotgun, while kids outside huddled around the window to catch a glimpse from the backyard. People tried dancing along, but that just resulted in a wave of bodies sloshing back and forth. It was so loud that bassist Laken Wright’s vocals were impossible to hear, yet somehow that was the best way to experience Blowout: surrounded by a sea of 50 people hoarsely chanting every word. Although I was sad to say goodbye to one of my favorite bands, I do hope they wound up fulfilling the hopes they expressed in “Cents Cents Money Money”: “Maybe I’ll get a job someday/Maybe I’ll find the words to say.” God knows I’m still looking. CAMERON CROWELL


I’ve outed myself as a diehard Killers fan in this paper at least twice already, but I’ll do it again here: I fell deeply in love with the Las Vegas rock band at age 11, when they released their 2004 debut, Hot Fuss. They were the first band I found independently of my parents, and I still think they’re amazing—I’m all about those huge guitar solos and broken metaphors. And I finally got to see them perform live at the Moda Center this month. It was, without a doubt, my best musical experience of 2017—I wept openly, covered in pink confetti, while Brandon Flowers shimmied around onstage like the Vegas showman he was always meant to become. Sitting in that stadium and feeling all of the same emotions I did as a preteen was surreal and wonderful. CIARA DOLAN


I was curious to find out who attends a Green Day concert in 2017. Though I’d been their biggest and most loyal fan at age 15, when songs about masturbation and getting stoned were nothing short of revolutionary, I disowned them after I reached my 20s and was faced with more important concerns. They briefly grabbed my attention again with American Idiot, but after that, it seemed like they were content to phone it in, churning out lackluster albums for whatever fans remained. I went to August’s show at the Moda Center more out of curiosity than genuine excitement. Who is Green Day’s current fan base? I wondered. Middle-aged dads? Mall punks? Preteen suburbanites? All of the above, it turns out. Every generation has its own Green Day, and for good reason, I very quickly learned. The show was, in every sense of the word, AWESOME. There was fire! There were explosions! Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt did those high-flying leaps in the air that bands 20 years younger don’t even do anymore. They played “Longview” and I lost my shit! Billie Joe invited an 11-year-old girl onstage, handed her his guitar, and taught her the chords to Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge,” and she SLAYED. And she got to keep the guitar! I’ll never doubt them again. Green Day for life. SANTI ELIJAH HOLLEY


It’s been a rough year, but 2017 brought us a new Protomartyr record, Relatives in Descent. Vocalist Joe Casey’s chesty bellow and opaque poetry sits atop serrated guitar work and pummeling post-punk grooves. With songs like the opening track, “A Private Understanding,” the Detroit band peers into the mess we’re currently stuck in while Casey repeats: “She’s just trying to reach you.” A modern masterpiece, Relatives is dystopian and nihilistic, living in the space between us and the deepest recesses of what we leave unsaid in our interconnected world. Protomartyr isn’t interested in any kind of unifying movement. Instead, they explode the society we have no choice but to live in. It can feel hopeless, but Protomartyr shows us that sometimes the only way to get over shit is to drag yourself through it. WILLIAM KENNEDY


This year flew by... poof! I suppose that’s a good thing, although I feel like I was in a daze through most of it. Not the good kind. This year I retreated mainly to older music. I bought shitloads of vinyl records—old funk and soul from Betty Davis and Shuggie Otis, metal classics by Cirith Ungol and Trance, as well as slightly weirder records from Swedish lounge act the Bloom Green Group and synth wizard Bruce Haack. With a few exceptions, I didn’t pursue any new albums or bands in 2017. That said, I’d forgotten the simple joy of spending days and even weeks with a single record without being yanked and dragged along by incessant album cycles. So here’s to that. This year I also got to meet Ace Frehley for the second time in as many years, while doubling up on live performances—one here at the Aladdin Theater, and another the next night in Seattle at the Neptune. Portland was a ripping show, but proved to be a primer for Seattle, which, perhaps on the strength of a slightly rowdier crowd, was a rip-roaring rock ’n’ roll party. Space Ace played better than ever, pulling effortlessly from his bag of licks and tricks. I may have teared up... but only two or three times. MARK LORE


Early 2017 is when I discovered Lizzo, the gorgeous singer/rapper/flautist who’s become known for shattering unrealistic beauty standards and spreading body-positivity as she absorbs the spotlight with her huge voice, killer curves and golden personality. After playing her Coconut Oil EP to death and seeing her mind-blowing show at the Doug Fir and her set at Project Pabst this past summer, I knew I couldn’t miss Lizzo’s third visit to Portland this year at Wonder Ballroom. Not only did Lizzo and her two backup dancers (the Big Girls) slay choreography to all my favorite self-love songs like “Deep,” “Worship,” and “’Scuse Me,” but she also gave me life with newer, take-me-to-church anthems like “Water Me” and “Truth Hurts.” As always, Lizzo made a strong connection with her audience, invited a fan to dance onstage, and also shared a giant gifted Voodoo Doughnut cake of her face with the crowd, so I got to paw off a corner of doughnut-Lizzo’s weave like a rabid, fangirling bear. But one of my favorite parts was when Lizzo played her Sasha Flute—named after Beyoncé’s alter-ego—that’s featured in the intro of “Coconut Oil.” My triad of Lizzo experiences was complete. JENNI MOORE


Last year, all of our heroes were dying. This year, we found out all of our heroes are creeps. It’s like the calendar refuses to let us catch a break. Despite being bombarded by continual slaps in the face, gripping the little glimmers of light in all that darkness was the only thing that made this year bearable. One of those little glimmers happened earlier this year when the Revolution played the Roseland, and of course, performed “Purple Rain.” I’ll likely be torn up about Prince’s passing for the rest of my life, but being able to see his band play “Purple Rain” in his honor brought a tear to my eye. It was amazing enough that it couldn’t even be tarnished by Fred Armisen coming onstage for the last song of the night, “Baby I’m a Star.” Still could’ve done without that, though. CERVANTE POPE


Magic is the only way to describe the Helado Negro show at the Doug Fir last March. A mere two days after (and with my clairvoyant muscles flexing), I wrote that it was the best show of 2017 in my live review for the Mercury. Spoiler alert: My prediction is still true. I’ve yet to shake the glow that resulted in an evening filled with amazing music, vibes, and an entirely Brown lineup. DJ Daniela Karina (who occasionally contributes to the Mercury) set the mood with culo-shaking electronic tracks, followed by Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba. With a crew of mostly femme musicians, Mendoza debuted new songs in Spanish and powerfully sang about overcoming trauma. I witnessed silence at Doug Fir for the first time ever when Anis Mojgani dove into a slam poetry performance that made me cry. Finally, Helado Negro and his tinsel mammals graced the stage. Colorful glowing bulbs lit up each time he sang into the mic, and the evening ended with the entire front row linking arms and swaying slowly to “Young, Latin, and Proud.” EMILLY PRADO


TACOCAT Thomas Teal

This year’s Lose Yr Mind festival was the first one I’d attended since its inaugural year, when it was staged within the cozy confines of the AudioCinema building in industrial Southeast. I’d vaguely remembered seeing Jim James walking around that year and thinking that was probably a good sign. This year’s location upgrade to the North Warehouse belied the festival’s grassroots flourishes; despite the seemingly too-large venue and the looming threat of hypothermia thanks to biblical downpours and ripping winds, the efforts of Liz Elder and her crew resonated as much as the bouncing reverberations from the PA against the sheet-metal walls. Boasting a formidable lineup that included locals Public Eye, the Ghost Ease, and Lithics, as well as Chastity Belt, Tacocat, and Wand (whose Plum is one of my favorite records of the year), both nights were an inspiring reminder of what can happen when everyone peels away from TV binging and armchair legislating to be cold and happy together. RYAN PRADO


I live in Bend. Which is a fine place to live, one with more live music than it probably should have, to be honest. But a lot of that live music is not really up my alley. So my musical moment of 2017 is the time between the February announcement of a New Pornographers show here and the end of the actual show (in April). Because when you live in a small town dominated by jammy funk bands and funky jam bands, just hearing that one of your all-time favorites will be stopping by is pretty darn exciting. I spent those six weeks revisiting what is, in my opinion, the strongest recorded catalog of the past 20 years, reminding myself of the New Pornos’ supernatural gifts for earworm melodies, variegated harmonies, tumbledown power-pop, 21st century new wave, and bubblegum krautrock. I can count on one hand the number of bands with as many great songs as Carl Newman and company, and during those weeks, I fell back in love with ’em. Looking back, the show—which was incredible—was just icing on the cake. BEN SALMON


When I caught Portland noise/rock project EMA during TBA this fall, it’d been a while since I’d seen an actual rock show. To be fair, I wasn’t sure what kind of set Erika M. Anderson was prepared to orchestrate. She’s run the gamut from spoken-word to noise to installation art. In the pre-show cacophony, I could see her sitting alone in the near-abandoned alcohol-free zone, white hair sticking up in a high ponytail, until she decisively took the stage and launched into the anthemic “I Wanna Destroy.” The confidence and poise of Anderson’s live persona is a feast. She did more with that sparse stage, in her comfortable sneakers, than I’ve seen at the most energetic of rock shows. When the five-year-old iPad she and her bandmate Leif Shackleford were using for some impossibly varied instrumental tracks needed to restart, at the midway point, she just as confidently worked the crowd—smiling as someone shouted “Danzig!” in reference to the cover of “Soul on Fire” EMA recorded in 2011. This is what rock ’n’ roll should be: genuine, exciting, and evolving. SUZETTE SMITH


Being alive is not easy. There are so many ways to hurt. Depression cracks the sky and slices down through your head, cleaving you from the things you like about yourself, your lovers, and your friends. Panic crawls down the hall and under your door. It slithers up into your bed and curls around your sleeping shape. You wake up with its claws dug deep into the soft parts inside of you that were meant to love and create and rejoice. Light seems scarce and beauty appears to have left the building, but they are still here, somehow. I needed frequent reminders of their continued existence this year, and none was more convincing than Mope Grooves’ gorgeous “Outside,” a lilting post-punk lullaby that celebrates the quiet joy of noticing small things: leaves, radio waves, your friend’s shirt, your own brain humming through space. It is a gorgeous gift of a song, glittering proof that life is worth living. CHRIS STAMM


When Sex Stains paid a visit to Mississippi Studios in January, it was exactly the inspirational spark of musical depravity I had desperately needed in 2017. Helmed by legendary riot grrrl icon Allison Wolfe with fiery assistance from a motley maelstrom of singers and players, Sex Stains’ energetic live show roiled in spasmodic directions like a demonic pep rally set in Dante’s Inferno. Sounding like the Specials feverishly performing the bonus tracks on Trout Mask Replica, their distended rock ’n’ roll unleashed an unbridled celebration of authentic punk ethos and a studied demonstration of cacophonous joy that made all my hairs stand on end. Sex Stains proved they’re a band that sows its heart on its sleeve while simultaneously scrubbing it free with a screaming Brillo Pad. CHRIS SUTTON


ACE FREELY North Star Arists

I’ve been writing for the Portland Mercury just shy of eight years now, and in that time I’ve been afforded several opportunities to interview some famed musicians and filmmakers. Most of my interviews are done over the phone or email, so I rarely get to meet my subjects face to face. But this year, a few weeks after conducting a transcendent interview with Arthur Brown, I was able to meet the psychedelic rock legend at his incredible performance at the Star Theater. I couldn’t tell you what we said to each other—I’m sure I was just a blathering ding dong—but I do know that I have never felt such inspiration and warmth emanating from a human being in my life. After walking away from Brown, I felt like I could’ve written a play or painted a masterpiece. It was like meeting the divine power of music and art incarnate. A week prior I’d met original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, and he could’ve given two fucks about me or my fandom. It was like shaking hands with a cardboard cutout.  ARIS HUNTER WALES