It's a little bittersweet that this weekend's Lose Yr Mind festival—which spans four venues and over 30 performances—won't fill out a freshly renovated Lollipop Shoppe. However the festival's longtime organizers Elizabeth Elder and Bryan Wollen (both Lollipop Shoppe co-owners) had already expanded this year's programming to multiple venues. So, when it became apparent Lollipop (which is a new lease on life for nightlife mainstay Dig A Pony) wouldn't finish renovations in time, Lose Yr Mind moved those shows to Swan Dive—located directly across Southeast Grand and itself a reincarnation of Bit House Saloon.
"A lot of people are like 'oh, what is Swan Dive?'" Elder told the Mercury. "It's like, 'oh that opened up in May, and it's new.'"
Co-founded by Elder and Wollen in 2014, Lose Yr Mind was partially inspired by Musicfest NW—a now defunct multi-venue fest that packed bars across Portland. All of Lose Yr Mind's venues are within walking distance, in the city's Southeast industrial district. This was was important to Elder, and she took a phone call from the Mercury to explain the reasoning behind the proximity and epic expansion of Lose Yr Mind 2022.
PORTLAND MERCURY: What are the key differences between this year’s Lose Yr Mind fest and those of the past?
ELIZABETH ELDER: Largely, it's a lot more bands. It's a lot more music. We have twice as many artists, over four stages, so we had to learn how to balance multiple stages at the same time. It's been a learning curve, but we have lots of peers, who also run festivals, offering their support. I've been reaching out to a lot of people to get support—bringing in more community partners, and, you know, making sure that we have the resources to pull this off.
What would you say the hardest part of pulling off a festival of this scope?
Having the money to pay people what they're worth and the positions that they are doing. The margins are just so thin, and it's hard to find the money to pay people to do the jobs that we need done, to the level that we need them. So we have a lot of volunteer support. I think that we struggle also with the fact that a lot of the venues we're using have either just opened or aren't conventional spaces, so getting the word out about it is also kind of difficult.
“What the hell is Swan Dive?” is exactly what I said.
Yeah, we're definitely breaking into a lot of new water, and I think that that gives us a lot of opportunity too, but it also means that you have to really show people—lead them to the water. You have to be like: ‘It's all walkable, and it's all in this neighborhood. Just trust us.’ That's been a difficult aspect. When I'm explaining to people, I can see it’s hard for them to understand what the experience is like. But if they've been to Lose Yr Mind previously, they kind of know what they're in for: a lot of projection art, a lot of community, a lot of really great Portland bands.
This year, you invited The Thesis to curate a hip hop showcase. What went into that decision?
Historically, we've been more of a psych-rock and garage rock [festival]. But as we decided to book more stages, I didn't want to have just one genre, so I thought it would be cool to bring in some different sounds. [Wollen] is an audio engineer at Kelly's Olympian, where the Thesis is normally held. Rather than me trying to navigate that on my own, we partnered with them. The thing is: I don’t need to learn about all of Portland hip-hop and try to master it overnight. There are other people already doing that, so let's collaborate and work together on it, and everyone wins.
The last time we talked, you two were about to takeover Dig a Pony with Tulip Shop's Devon and Tyler Treadwell. We saw Lollipop Shoppe won't be open in time for the fest. How's everything going?
Yeah, it's still under construction, as it goes with opening a bar during a time of massive supply chain shortages. We're planning to be open this month.
Why the name Lollipop Shoppe?
Lollipop shop is actually a band from the ’60s. It has a connection to Portland through Fred Cole of Dead Moon—that was one of his early projects. So it's a little bit of a nod to Dead Moon and to Fred Cole, and to the garage rock that we all really love. We asked Toody for permission to use it, and it rolls off the tongue nicely. But also, they have a really great record, if you’re looking for some new music.
What are you most excited about at this year's Lose Yr Mind?
Back when I moved here in 2012, there was a really vibrant house show scene, and it felt like you could just step out your front door and go see a bunch of live music. The idea of walking around and discovering 40 bands over two days is just really exciting. I hope that people can find their new favorite bands or see their already-favorite band at this year's festival.
Lose Yr Mind takes place Fri Sept 2 & Sat Sept 3, music begins at 6 pm nightly, various venues, $35-70, tickets here.