HOUSE SHOWS and Portland go together like mustaches and non-prescription Buddy Holly specs. It's practically written into the DIY manifesto that to foster a fertile music scene, you optimize the venue field. With a bevy of basements and huge living rooms, plus an influx of creative, music-loving migrants, it stands to reason that the Portland house-show circuit should remain healthy for a long time. But in an era where everyone knows everything about everything, intimate gatherings are few and far between.
Banana Stand Media knows a thing or two about all of this, and after spending most of the past year in stealth mode, they're ready to brag about the amazing behind-the-scenes work they've been doing for Portland's vibrant music community. They're releasing a 20-track compilation showcasing some of their best live recording moments—Live from the Banana Stand, Vol. 1—and celebrating it with a free all-day release show at the Hawthorne Theatre. This show marks the first publicized Banana Stand event since a summer 2011 show at their headquarters ended in a theft, forcing them to adopt the secret-show model that they've been using since.
"We wanted to give back to music supporters in some way and also create a high-quality item for the bands that have been so wonderful to work with," says Banana Stand co-founder Aaron Colter. "The [release show] is really our make-good on having so many secret shows."
With an emphasis placed squarely on the music and the musicians, the underground mentality of the Stand has appealed to a wide swath of Portland bands. Since late 2007, when a group of Indiana transplants conceived the Stand's mission, there have been more than 90 live sets recorded at their private hideout, and nearly 40 live albums released via the Stand's website on a pay-what-you-want basis. In addition, a video production contingent was recently forged via partnership with video crew Collective-47.
"Banana Stand is probably the coolest DIY thing in Portland right now," says Boone Howard, guitarist/vocalist for the We Shared Milk, whose live track "Drag" is featured on the compilation.
Jesse Tranfo of PDX rock crew the Hague agrees. "They are a huge part of what makes the Portland music scene stand out to us," says Tranfo. "Personally, they helped us kind of revitalize ourselves when we were going through a rough patch."
"Their enthusiasm is infectious," says Ryan Northrop, drummer for metal underlords Sons of Huns, whose "Super Kanpai Rainbow" graces the compilation. "We always feel fortunate to do something with folks that are as pumped about our art as we are."
Testimonials like these are a huge reason why Banana Stand has persevered, even while remaining somewhat invisible. They've grown their operation organically, and in turn have gained the trust of a legion of local musicians.
"We want people to know about the music and the bands themselves more than our events or us or what we do," explains Colter. "I remember having to call up the Mercury one time when we were hosting Explode into Colors to ask that they remove the listing for our show. We were so freaked that 200 kids would show up, we'd have no room for everyone and total fucking chaos would break out."