David Bowie

MusicWatch Weekly: Dress up in metal

Balinese gamelan, Finnish black metal, and an early Halloween come to Portland

The present author normally adheres to a strict “no promoting your own shows” policy, but since I spent a month telling you all about band camp in Bali, I feel it’s only fair to let you know that the results of that experiment in cross-cultural music training will be on display at The Old Church this Sunday, when Gamelan Wahyu Dari Langit perfoms alongside grindcore duo Snakes, the analog oscillator witchcraft of Mulva Myasis, and Arts Watch fave Dolphin Midwives.

The next day, while gong reverberations are still echoing around the venerated old building, organist Michael Barnes plays spooky Halloweeny music on TOC’s eldritch old Hook and Hastings organ for this week’s weekly free lunchtime concert. I don’t recommend trying to hide in the belfry overnight–rumor has it Quasimodo hides up there, waiting to sing Disney tunes to unwary trespassers.

King Riddle

I can’t help thinking of Daniel Riddle as Portland’s Robert Fripp, though not as a guitarist; Mike Gamble and Ryan Miller would stylistically fit that description far better than Riddle’s Barrettesque psych-pop. Maybe it’s just the resonance if his long running band’s name: King Black Acid, the only constant member of which (like Fripp with King Crimson) has been Riddle. From their formation in the ‘80s through their quiet successes in film licensing up to their present semi-legendary status, the band’s line-up has constantly shifted. I have to confess a fondness for this sort of band history; it’s the sort of behavior that leads to Distinct Eras (consider The Fall, of Montreal, Crim themselves). KBA’s current line-up, like earlier incarnations, has its own name: The Rainbow Lounge. The band performs with The Ghost Ease and Miss Rayon at Mississippi Studios tonight–get moving!


The Complexion of the times

Bach, Bowie, and Maya Angelou: White Bird kicks off its 20th season of dance with the contemporary ballet company Complexions

The mood was festive in the Newmark Theatre in downtown Portland Thursday night: a new White Bird dance season was beginning, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet was in the house. The lobbies were bump-into-you bustling, the seats were almost all filled in, and though the jeans and casual shirts that so define Portland sartorial style were on plentiful display among the audience, plenty of fine plumage was on show, too. Dressed up or dressed down, the crowd was pumped to get this thing going again.

White Bird was embarking on its 20th season of presenting contemporary dance from around the world to Portland audiences (Thursday night’s program repeats Friday and Saturday), and Complexions, which was founded in 1994 by a pair of Alvin Ailey dancers, was on the program for the first time since 2009. It was, all in all, a welcome return.

The company, in “Star Dust” mode. Photo courtesy White Bird

All three works on Thursday’s program were choreographed by Dwight Rhoden, who founded Complexions with Desmond Richardson, and though the influences range from the purely balletic to jazz and hip hop and the theatrics of the arena rock ‘n’ roll stage, and the movements are often distinguished by a contemporary, deliberately awkward elegance, they are also classical in their centered balances and line.


ArtsWatch Weekly: Stardust among us. The week to come.

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Here at ArtsWatch we don’t have much to add to the outpourings of sorrow and reminiscence that have come with the news of David Bowie’s death from cancer, except to say that 69 years seems too few, and we, too, wish he had had more time to spend on this planet Earth. Bowie was a showman of great talent, obviously, and he had that rare ability of speaking seemingly personally to people who had never met him. His admirers felt close to him, in the way one feels close to a true friend: he seemed to reveal himself deeply, even as he hid behind his masks.

He was important, partly, because he appeared to speak so directly to what we feel about contemporary life – that it is a restless prowl, a constant reinvention, a swiftly moving shedding of skins and reemergence in new costumes with new rules but somehow, still, with some form of continuity: still David Bowie after all these years. In this sense he was like Picasso, eternally searching, changing, mastering one style and moving on to the next, unbalancing and enthralling people with the message that change itself is at the crux of art. It’s the same message that the business world sends, in a different set of clothes and with a perhaps less palatable spin: creative destruction makes the world go ’round. Except that Bowie, and Picasso, didn’t destroy, necessarily; they were serial creators, moving through sometimes deep and painful places to reappear, confidently, someplace new.