Thursday, June 28, 2012

impossible to get 'out of my head' : a q/a with shadows on stars

The best introduction you could possibly have to Shadows On Stars is the gritty, Santigold/M.I.A.-esque banger "Out Of My Head." It's two minutes and nine seconds of ear-worming beats, hyperactive synth lines, and crackling call outs. And if you watch even the first 20 seconds of the video for this track, you'll witness a polished sex appeal that's much more LA than PDX.

But that's the beauty of Portland's dynamic music scene: The duo of producer-vocalist Brian Vincent and singer Randa Leigh fit in just as well here as they would anywhere else. And now it's time for you to learn, know and remember their name.

The two PDX transplants met "in college nearly seven years ago. We were both songwriters and started creating music and writing songs in the dorms, most of them sucked," they joke. "In 2010, we decided to try and put some real demos together and that’s when Shadows On Stars was born."

Fast forward to July 2012 and Shadows On Stars are continuing efforts to promote their self-titled debut, which covers much more musical territory than the above dance cut. In fact, according the band, it's more of an “anything goes” effort; "more of an experiment than a studio album." And this ethos is clearly reflected in the mixture the two have concocted.

There's plenty of grit and tenacity, à la "Out Of My Head," on the record, but the depth and variety display hip-hop influences mixed with glittering indie rock as the harsh tracks give way, teetering towards indie rock beauty.

Tracks like "Pay The Rent"—with its minimalist beat and echoey, rapped vocals—and "Punk Kids"—which almost sounds like two songs laid on top of each other as the underlying guitar riff holds together the scattered beats and raps that fly across the surface—are jarring and brazen. The screaming guitars and muffled wailing of "Never Let Me Down" that precede these songs are almost reminiscent of a beat-focused, less-intense Sigur Rós.

And all of that is contrasted yet again but the beautifully soaring "Here," which pays homage to late '90s indie rock icons like Death Cab, or the delicacy of "I'll Be The Light," which combines a dance beat with wispy marimba tones.

The intensity of the headstrong jams and the diversity of placid yet danceable pop songs are tempered by a childish nature and the duo's immature exploits, like staying inside all day on "Sweat Pant Bandits" or young, carefree love on "Whiskey & Cigarettes."

While Shadows On Stars' record has been available streaming on their website since March 26th, the actual release date for purchase was this past Tuesday, June 26th, and the duo will celebrate the physical CD release at Dig A Pony on the Fourth of July with Street Nights.

The pair also just unveiled the new video for the latest single "Here" and say this about it:

"The video for 'Here' was filmed while we were in New York this past February. Most of the footage was captured at a restaurant in Manhattan called The Lion. It was probably one of the most lavish days of our young careers. Wonderful food, bourbon a plenty and absolutely incredible decor. The video was directed by Crooked Engine and they did an amazing job at capturing how beautiful the scenery was that day."

Read the interview on OMN.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

electronic dance music takes the big stage in the nw at paradiso this weekend

It's hardly a secret that the popularity of electronic music is growing exponentially in the US. From new bursts of dubstep to archetypal, Midwest-born styles like techno and house to Euro permutations like trance and IDM, the overarching handle for all of the unclassifiable genres and subgenres is EDM, or electronic dance music.

Each year the Northwest's most stunning concert venue sees its fair share of electronic music grace its stages, but this summer the Gorge Amphitheatre looks increase its offerings with the first-ever Paradiso Festival, which is being billed as "the largest electronic dance music event ever staged in the Pacific Northwest," on Saturday, June 23rd.

The PacNW has a proud tradition of supporting electronic musicians, especially with Seattle's Decibel Festival now in its ninth year and the swelling numbers of electronic artists appearing on mainstream festival bills, including Coachella and the upcoming Lollapalooza. Last year, Bumbershoot had a Decibel-curated stage (which featured several PDXers) in the EMP Sky Church and the connection will continue again this year with the Bumbershoot After Dark series of electronic sets organized by Decibel.

Portland's MFNW includes more and more electronic acts each year, and this September Girl Talk will headline one of three coveted nights in Pioneer Square with Portlanders Starfucker and AU. Plenty of other homegrown fests are also in their nascent years, like Closer (also this weekend) in its second and What The Festival in its inaugural year.

The Gorge's Sasquatch! may have expanded its electro offerings with each year, but the Gorge needed its own dedicated electronic fest. In the absence of last year's touring Identity Festival—purportedly the first electronic touring festival, which skips the NW this year as it has five fewer dates than last—Seattle's United State of Consciousness, or USC Events, led by Chad Anderson decided to organize its own—with a little help from Live Nation.

Welcome to Paradiso.

Read the rest on OMN.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

bibi mcgill : bio

I recently wrote a brief bio for Bibi McGill—the yogi, kale chip empress and guitar player for Beyoncé.

Bibi McGill is so much more than the woman behind the blazing guitar riffs that have elevated Beyoncé's live performances to the next level. As the touring guitarist and Musical Director of Suga Mama, Beyoncé’s 10-piece, all-female band, Bibi showcases her ability to rock her own original compositions within the framework of Beyoncé hits, all while overseeing the rest of the musicians and production elements onstage.

After cutting her teeth in the clubs of LA, Bibi developed her impressive stage persona and indispensable expertise on the massive stages of Latin American with the likes of Paulina Rubio—often dubbed Mexico's Madonna—and Chilean rockers La Ley before joining Beyoncé’s team.

Making her home in Portland, Oregon, Bibi's healthy lifestyle is what keeps the afroed and intricately tattooed guitarist balanced. Focusing her entrepreneurial energy on her own line of handmade, organic Bibi Kale Chips, she is also an accomplished yogi who strives to make yoga available to everyone.

Read my interview with Bibi McGill from the fall 2011 issue of About Face Magazine.

Monday, June 18, 2012

goals + guidance for creating your neighborhood brand

This is the third article in a series about neighborhood branding. After exploring the perceptions of your neighborhood and determining what to change, we will now provide tips on how to create your neighborhood’s brand.

What image comes to mind when you think of your neighborhood?

If you live in St. Johns, it's likely the verdant green rivets lining the contours two distinctive Gothic, cathedral-like towers, which jut skyward flanked by lush hills on either side and flowing water below.

The most easily recognizable and instantly understandable aspect of a brand is often a visual identity. But as discussed before, you can’t simply slap branded stickers on windows or hang logo banners from light poles and expect people to change their perception of your neighborhood. In fact, if you did, you’d likely have a lot of displeased neighbors.

But once you’ve collected feedback from your community, what does it actually take to create a brand?

To bring your neighborhood’s identity to life, begin by defining realistic, measurable goals.

What Are Your Goals?

“Creating and documenting measurable goals, in regards to branding or rebranding, may not be the easiest task for neighborhoods or business districts, in part due to the fact that the impact may not be immediate,” says graphic designer Jeff Fisher of LogoMotives. “It takes time to initiate the branding effort, go through the research and design phase, determine how to introduce the new identity, and then measure actual results.”

Setting goals and documenting them is nevertheless important. Common goals for a neighborhood or business district often include instilling a sense of pride in the area while “project[ing] a polished and professional public image,” Fisher explains.

But in an areas with “a rich and long history” like St. Johns, one of the main goals is preservation, according to Josh Guerra, the design chair for St. Johns Main Street Coalition (SJMSC).

“The fine line we have to walk is somewhere between respecting and preserving the architectural character of the district, but also encourage responsible development,” Guerra says. “The design committee in particular is working on creating [a] cohesive vision for how community members want the district to ‘look’ based on our vision session, which took place in January 2011.”

For Dee Heffernan of Sol Identity, a brand strategist and designer who is currently leading the St. Johns branding effort, this vision must address, "How are we going to attract people from outside of St. Johns to live in and to invest in our community?"

In order for St. Johns to get on the map, "there needs to be some kind of demand," she continues. She believes St. Johns is deserving of the “special trek” it takes to get there, but part of the branding goal is to show others why.

Citing historic landmarks and natural areas like the bridge, Cathedral Park, and access to the river, Heffernan says there are plenty of “untapped properties” that deserve to be highlighted. The main challenge is defining the intangible quality of community for a diverse and changing community.

But Heffernan believes the kind of community St. Johns has is unique. “It's a little bit simpler out here,” she says. But, in terms of branding, "How do we communicate that sense of community—old school community?” she asks. How does a brand convey a concept like acquaintanceship—everyone knows their neighbors in St. Johns?

The people have "a lot of pride" and "are protective of it [St. Johns]," Heffernan says, and the appropriate brand can rejuvenate and unite the community.

While Heffernan says she, SJMSC and the community are still determining the exact goals they’d like to achieve, it’s important to "start with values. What I want to try to get to are a set of core values that the community can basically agree upon." By listening to her neighbors, she’s documenting early trends such as: "‘I want to know who my neighbors are.’ That's a real value—feeling connected to the people that live next door to you."

For more guidelines on how to create your brand, read the rest on Neighborhood Notes.

pdx pop now! announces 2012 festival lineup

The ninth annual, all-ages, free music fest is back again this year at Refuge. From Friday, July 20th through Sunday the 22nd, PDX Pop Now! 2012 will showcase 45 acts spanning every imaginable genre. Acts that played midday sets last year, like Radiation City and Onuinu, will now close the fest down, while plenty of newcomers will look to impress.

Check out the full lineup on OMN.

Friday, June 15, 2012

using 'voice as an instrument' : a q/a with mbrascatu's andrea algieri

From Calabria to Firenze to Portland, Andrea Algieri's Mbrascatu is a fusion of the cobbled streets and cafés of the Old World and the creative melting pot of Portland, which brought the artists that play on the self-titled debut together.

If you've ever spent some time in Italy, Algieri's spirited vocals, expelling lyric after lyric in Italian, are enough to guide you down the winding alleyways and rich aromas of your memory. Even if you've only listened to a few Italian folk records, his strumming, alongside the distinctive bowing the violin and plucking of several other stringed instruments, will transport you to another place, and maybe even another time or season.

Pronounced mm-brah-ska-too, the name is actually the nickname of Algieri's grandfather, the man who gave him his first guitar, influencing Algieri's arc in more way than one.

Growing up in Southern Italy, band leader, singer and guitarist Algieri started to play music at age 8 "when my grandfather bought me my first guitar and I began composing," he says. "When I was 12, I started singing with a band and when I was 16, started writing lyrics to go with my music. I left my small village of Luzzi, in Calabria, when I was 18 and moved north to Florence, where I spent much time in live music venues. Together with a friend, I began to play and sing cover songs in local bars and restaurants. At the same time, off stage, I was focusing on songwriting and looking for opportunities to bring my original songs to the music scene.

"When I moved to the United States, I wanted to communicate that Italian music can be more than the same old favorites so I presented a set list that was entirely my own, and I found audiences with open minds that welcomed my songs. Thanks to the expansive Portland musical influence, my music has matured to a sound that is a mix of my Italian roots with my experience in the US."

That maturation also includes the release of Mbrascatu's debut record, and a band that includes Mathieu Lewis-Rolland (drums), Michael Doherty (bass), Dylan Dean (violin, viola), and John Sabestinas (banjo, ukulele, electric guitar, lap steel). The five will celebrate at The Secret Society on Thursday, June 28th.

Until then, Algieri answered a few questions for OMN about the himself, the band and their self-titled album, which you can stream below.

Who is Mbrascatu?

Mbrascatu is the family nickname of my grandfather, Gerardo Algieri, the same person who gave me my first guitar and one of the most important people in my life. Mbrascatu, the band, is a group of talented musicians that draw from very different musical backgrounds to create the band’s unique sound. Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, our drummer (who prefers to refer to himself as a "rhythmic choreographer"), was born in Quebec, Canada, but raised in Hawaii and Australia. He moved to Portland to pursue music and draws his skill set from many different musical genres. He also plays in two other Portland based bands, Glassbones and A Happy Death.

Michael Doherty, the bass guitarist on our album, likes to keeps us laughing with his clever sense of humor. He is originally from New York and currently also plays with the band Future Historians. Dylan Dean, our violinist, is an incredibly gifted human being. Although he has studied classical violin, his passion for all types of music is pretty abundant. He has a very "free" style of playing and is always coming up with great ideas for vocal lines and guitar parts. You would never guess that most of the time, you will find him saving lives in the ER at OHSU (seriously!). John Sabestinas, formerly of Sick Pony, is one of the first people I started playing music with in Portland, even before the formation of Mbrascatu. He plays anything with strings: banjo, ukulele, electric guitar, and lap steel just to name a few. It's really quite an impressive combination of very diverse musicians.

Read the rest on OMN.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

indie business collaborations : sharing beers, bathrooms + burritos

Attention entrepreneurs: Many of you have great ideas for new businesses. Some of you even have the wherewithal to navigate the technical, legal and governmental landscapes, and a lot are capable of gathering the funds and support needed to get it all off the ground.

But, plenty of you may run into a few stumbling blocks along the way. There’s the obvious difficulty of finding the perfect, and affordable, space in the ideal neighborhood surrounded by the right businesses. And then there's the matter of the right amenities, products and marketing, among other business challenges.

A host of innovative Portland business people are solving these problems in inventive ways by collaborating with other businesses through space sharing.

Neighborhood Notes has dug up a variety of ways local businesses are sharing spaces and shaving expenses to give the next wave of indie entrepreneurs some fresh ideas on how to collaborate and thrive.

Sharing With Your Neighbors Makes Sense

As you should’ve learned in kindergarten, sharing is a good thing. And for a lot of Portlanders in the food industry, it just makes sense.

For Prost!, a bar that’s driven more by German beer than its food offerings, it was a natural decision for owner Dan Hart to design a restaurant and deck area that would not only coexist but also reinforce the neighboring Mississippi Marketplace cart pod.

“We’ll allow people to bring in cart food, we just want people to drink our beer,” Hart spells out.

As both the bar and the carts came to fruition around the same time, his goal was to create a neighborhood bar and community space. So, why not include the adjacent food vendors?

Taking advantage of the resources at his disposal, Hart established an open door policy with the carts that share the same lot. Although Hart admits that he might sell more food if the agreement didn’t exist, he stresses community and thinks it’s been “mutually beneficial,” plus he relishes the idea that everyone can get exactly what they want and still enjoy a quality German beer—his true focus.

“The whole idea was born out of [the fact that] I didn’t want to eat bratwurst and kraut every day,” Hart says, but he still wanted everyone in the neighborhood to enjoy the patio (and hopefully a beer).

Read about more Portland businesses that are creatively sharing space, amenities, food, and booze on Neighborhood Notes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

sasquatch! 2012 : four bountiful days on the hill at the gorge

Another year and another whirlwind weekend at the 2012 Sasquatch! Music Festival is now in the books. The amount of phenomenal talent on all five stages (including the new "Maine" stage that featured NW hip-hop) spanned genres, intensities, and states of mind and being.

The weather was blissful and while the Banana Shack dance tent was consistently raging and often packed during all four days with the likes of Nero, SBTRKT, Awesome Tapes Africa, Tycho, Beardyman, LA Riots, Wolfgang Gartner, Purity Ring, Araabmuzik, Beats Antique, and Portland's very own Starfucker taking the stage, the best spot at the fest was on the hill soaking up the sun, the action on the mainstage, and the ridiculousness of wine guzzling Waldos, pants off dance offs, and the general mayhem that ensures when thousands of Sasquatchers start freaking out simultaneously to everything from energetic and schizophrenic dance makers like Santigold, Pretty Lights and Girl Talk (who dropped several Beastie Boys cuts into his mix) on night one; to indie rockers The Shins and Metric on night two; to harmony-filled groups of singer/songwriters like M. Ward, The Head and the Heart, Beirut and Bon Iver on night three; to Canadians and jokesters and a musical chameleon with Feist, Tenacious D and Beck on the final night.

But back to the beginning. The truncated day on Friday, May 25th may not have started until 4pm, but the fest packed in 18 bands, including many of our picks. Beatsmiths Pretty Lights, Beats Antique and Little People set their stages on fire as did the epic and beautiful sounds of Poliça and Explosions In The Sky.

But most importantly, our local love Starfucker had the Banana Shack so crowded you couldn't see the stage and the kids bouncing not only their feet to the drops but also an army of au naturel blow up dolls above their heads.

And that was just day one.

Read the rest on OMN.