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MusicWatch Monthly: Second Summer

Out-of-town festivals, funk at the zoo, opera ‘bout Guthrie, we’re all Kulululu.


Oregon, as everyone knows, has two summers every year. The first lasts from the first hot weekend in May until the end of Chamber Music Northwest. The second summer—the one you’re in right now—occupies all of August and lasts until Oregon Symphony gets rolling for real at the end of September (their annual Zoo show on the 7th doesn’t count).

If you want to hear live classical music during Second Oregon Summer, you’ll have to head down to Jacksonville for the Britt Music & Arts Festival, happening right now through the 11th, or else head out to wine country for the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival, happening right now through the 18th. You can read Alice Hardesty’s previw of Britt right here, and Angela Allen’s preview of the WVCMF right here.

Other than that, you’re out of luck. There’s no music happening in Portland during Second Summer, so you might as well stay home, stay hydrated, catch up on your reading, and dig into that 10-disc Lutosławski boxed set.

Polish composer Witold Lutosławski.

But this, dear readers, is a lie. You should still dive feet first into the Lutosphere, but throw those cds into your antiquated discman and try out some of the local and touring shows burning up the Second Summer this month.


We’re always going on about how “classical” is a “problematic word,” and that’s another part of the lie I just told you. Classical music in the 21st century (i.e., post-1989) has largely been concerned with smashing the boundaries between “classical” and the rest of the musical world, and one good example of that is the integration of folk and other populist musicks into nominally classical settings.

You can get a taste of this type of classical music at Alberta Rose Theater with Opera Theater Oregon on the 24th and 25th. Their summer production, This Land Sings: Songs of Wandering, Love and Protest Inspired by the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie, pays homage to Guthrie—who once called Portland “the deadest spot you ever walked through”—with a song cycle for singers, ensemble, and radio announcer composed by Grammy-winner Michael Daugherty. One of Guthrie’s labor-activist-songwriter precursors, Joe Hill (“Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”), gets his own song cycle in Michael Lanci’s Songs for Joe Hill.


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Both works receive their Northwest premiere this month, as OTO Artistic Director Justin Ralls continues introducing Portland audiences to “work that is in English, works from diverse composers, and works that aren’t necessarily represented.” Read Art Watch’s interview with Ralls, discussing last year’s OTO production of Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince. This Land Sings stars bass-baritone Daniel Mobbs, mezzo-sopranos Lisa Neher (also a Cascadia composer) and Hannah Penn (who so thrilled Portland Opera audiences in As One earlier this year), baritone and OTO Artistic Co-Director Nicholas Meyer, and radio celebrity Thom Hartmann (coiner of the ADHD farmer-hunter hypothesis) as the announcer.

Or, you can pop down to The Waypost on North Williams (try to ignore all the gentrification) and make your own classical music at Classical Revolution PDX’s August Chamber Jam on the 11.

Funking the zoo

Oregon Zoo hosts a whole bunch of the biggest-name concerts every summer, and the setting couldn’t be more perfect. You can read the full lineup right here, but I want to call attention to two particular concerts.

On the 10th, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic roll into town (with Fishbone, Dumpstaphunk and Miss Velvet & the Blue Wolf) on the 40th anniversary One Nation Under A Groove Tour—and if you think you can miss this show without kicking yourself about it for the rest of your life you’re a damn fool.

Because this, dear reader, is Clinton’s final tour before he retires and hands the P-Funk reins to the next generation of his family. Go drink some local beer, eat some local food, and solemnly swear to funk the whole funk and nothing but the funk.

The other Zoo show you ought to catch—though it’s less urgent than kicking it with Clinton and family—is a week later, on the 17th. Keyboard legend Herbie Hancock and hot shit newcomer saxophonist Kamasi Washington share the bill, and to be perfectly honest it’s hard to imagine how you’ll recover from so much pure badassery condensed into one lovely Second Summer evening.


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We admit that Hancock and his recorded output can be a little cheesy at times (check out the synthax!), but that’s completely not the point. The electric jazz crossover superstar has come a long way since getting scowled at by Miles Davis, and he’s been putting on terrifically entertaining shows for coming up on five decades now.

Also, his touring band features a drummer whose name may sound familiar, even if you don’t know how to pronounce it: Vinnie “Zappa’s Favorite Drummer” Colaiuta. You really ought to go just for the drum solos, and for the inevitable moments when Hancock’s band and Washington’s sit in with each other (no guarantees, but that’s what these jazz cats usually do).

As for Kamasi Washington—pop out a few of those Lutosławski cds and have a listen to Washington’s appropriately titled debut, The Epic, and then decide whether the prospect of hearing him and his crazy big band playing a bunch of this psychedelic modern jazz is worth going and spending an evening at the Zoo for.


Speaking of psychedelia, there’s plenty of the “rock” variety happening this month. Québécois drone-rock nonet Godspeed You! Black Emperor comes to Revolution Hall on the 22nd. I’d love to tell you all about GY!BE and their weird, radical, evening-length-crescendo wall-of-sound schtick, but it’s one of those ineffable things—you just have to go experience it for yourself. Don’t forget the [redacted].

Oregon’s thriving indie music scene has produced several far-out local artists you can trust for ecstatic inner space journeys. Revered Portland psych-pop auteur Daniel John Riddle—better known as King Black Acid—brings his newest music and his latest band, The Rainbow Lodge, to Holocene on the 15th.

Dolphin Midwives (composer/harpist/singer Sage Fisher) combines looping and delay pedal technology with harp and voice to create cascading gossamer layers of shiny musical mirrors, and she’s among the best acts in town for those times when you can’t decide whether to jump around and dance your ass off or lie down and take a voyage to fairyland. That happens at Holocene on the 22nd, with Seattle trance-pop band somesurprises and Abronia—the only band in Portland to feature saxophones, pedal steel guitars, and gigantic 32-inch marching drum.


MYS Oregon to Iberia

Nasalrod vocalist Chairman demonstrates his prowess.

Meanwhile, over at Mississippi Studios, two of our favorite local psychedelic post-punk bands are sharing a bill. We talked all about Kulululu and Nasalrod a couple weeks ago after getting our minds melted at Doug Fir, and you can read about that right here. So I wept, dear reader, when I realized I’d be in Bali while they’re playing Mississippi Studios together on the 21st. You’re just going to have to go check it out for me.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Music editor Matthew Neil Andrews is a composer, writer, and alchemist specializing in the intersection of The Weird and The Beautiful. An incorrigible wanderer who spent his teens climbing mountains and his twenties driving 18-wheelers around the country, Matthew can often be found taking his nightly dérive walks all over whichever Oregon city he happens to be in. He and his music can be reached at monogeite.bandcamp.com.


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