#WomenCrushPDX Supports Music and a Safe Community

Last month on the evening before Thanksgiving Day I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with #WomenCrush Music, an international non-profit organization whose mission it is to support rising women songwriters by hosting showcases, workshops & networking events, all while creating a safe community. I have to admit that I was there to perform with my band, Avalanche Lily, and that I wasn’t very familiar with #WomenCrush Music before then. What I found was a warm welcoming community of musicians and an incredibly talented lineup of performers and a mission that’s about a lot more than music.

Katelyn Convery
Katelyn Convery

The November showcase at the White Eagle included several singer-songwriter performances, starting with Katelyn Convery who sings aching songs with a strong buttery voice and bass-y acoustic guitar. I also really dug the darkly seductive piano pop from Lauren Kershner, who recently released a new single and music video, Wicked, that matches her intriguing persona perfectly. Special guest, EmZee, the co-leader of the Missoula, MT chapter, closed out the night with a spirited performance. The sheer talent of these three performers was impressive, reminding me and everyone in the audience of Portland’s bounty of incredible local music.

Lauren Kershner, photo by Lambda Lion Media
Lauren Kershner, photo by Lambda Lion Media

The next #WomenCrush Music event coming up on Wednesday, December 19, at the White Eagle will be a holiday party and an educational workshop about treating music like a business, taught and sponsored by lawyer Michael Jonas of Rational Unicorn Legal Services. The event will also feature live performances from Acoustic Minds, a well-known local band led by two sisters, and Complementary Colors, a duo of brilliant married musical ladies who recently released a new EP.

Complimentary Colors
Complimentary Colors

Hannah diMo, leads the Portland chapter of #WomenCrush and wants “to help other women and women-identifying humans achieve their dreams.” Her new single is coming out on Feb 23 with a release-party at Holocene and she will be playing with her band at the White Eagle on January 3.

#WomenCrush Music was founded in Portland in January 2017 by then-local musician Ashley Kervabon. In two years the movement has expanded to 15 chapters in 12 cities across the United States and in Vancouver, BC. You can learn more about the history of #WomenCrush Music by checking out their fb page, their website, and this article in Vortex Music Magazine.

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Melancholic Dance Jams at Miss Rayon’s Album Release

The local, arty post-punk trio Miss Rayon released their new full length album Eclipse on Saturday, November 17th with a celebratory show at popular all-ages punk club, Black Water Bar.

I received some upsetting news as I was waiting for the show to start and suddenly wasn’t sure if I was going to be in the right headspace to enjoy loud music in a crowded club. However, the crowd was more warmly enthusiastic than rowdy, and each of the bands who performed that night had a special way of blending dark, brooding, and even chaotic moods with infectious beats, creating a melancholic dance grooves that felt strangely therapeutic.

WL opened the show with a big, fuzzed out rock songs and a detached stage presence. Singer/bassist Misty Mary’s hyaline dream-pop vocals fluttered above the fat chords and insistent rhythms. Their songs are simple in structure, but have a satisfying textural breadth that manages to be both heavy and hypnotic.

After WL’s set, the 6-member ensemble Conditioner Disco Group hurriedly filled the stage with an eclectic array of gear, including bongos, alto saxophone, and mini synth alongside the typical guitar, drums and bass. They quickly animated the crowd with unique no wave party jams, blending earnest hardcore didacticism with fluttering free-jazz runs and tight Motorik rhythms into a controlled frenzy.

Miss Rayon started strong right out the gate, delivering a Yoko Ono cover with tight parallel vocal harmonies, sizzling drums, and deftly intertwined synth and guitar melodies. The original material that comprised the rest of their set continued to showcase the interplay of beatific vocals over moody, angular instrumental counterpoint between guitarist Eric Sabatino and bassist Jenny Logan, and tight, hi-hat-heavy beats from prolific portland drummer Hannah Blilie. This juxtaposition was used to particularly great effect on their performance of their new album’s title track, “Eclipse,” a mournful ballad with a blues cadence in which Blilie’s gentle voice soared over the somber instrumental riffs.

Don’t Tell Mary rocks the Tigardville Station

Don't Tell MaryIf you are looking for an excuse to get out on the dance floor to some in-your-face Rock & Roll and driving Blues, then you need to seek out Don’t Tell Mary, a local full-throttle rock cover band. Drawing from their collective roots in folk, heavy metal, classic rock, grunge, and blues, this band can put together a set of music that will make you feel like a kid again. Singer-songwriter Jennifer Swick-Birkland and vocalist Beth Britton front the band with veteran players Jeff Birkland on lead guitar, Bart Kilpatrick on bass, and Mike Miller on drums.

With a name like Don’t Tell Mary, you know there’s got to be a story. However, until Mary is told, we will never know what it is, beyond Mary being Jennifer’s best friend. Saturday night, November 3rd, at the Tigardville Station Pub & Grill, I heard a set of music originally done by The Beatles, KT Tunstall, Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones, The Romantics, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Talking Heads, Tracy Chapman and Led Zeppelin. In the midst of all that, they tossed in this little gem Jennifer wrote for her daughter called Little Girl.

Link to video

Pretty Gritty plays a busy Rock Creek Tavern on a Monday!

Pretty Gritty is a Portland-based Rootsy-Americana duo formed 8 years ago in Maryland. Before moving to Portland in 2014, they sold their self-produced and self-titled CD (2012) and the River EP (2013) at shows. They were followed by the release of the Lonely Road EP in 2016 and the Full length CD Seven Year Itch in March 2018.

Sarah and Blane enjoyed a month-long Monday-evening residency at McMenamins Rock Creek Tavern in October. I was lucky enough to grab a bar stool on their final evening. They were pleased to see the larger-than-usual turnout that evening. I understand that they are already booked again for next October. Nothing like planning ahead!

There is nothing flashy or superficial about these guys. Every song in the set I heard, had a purpose and a message (which was overwhelmingly positive). No string of good-love-gone-bad songs from these two. The set was made up of about half and half originals and covers, which I like since you can learn a lot about an artist from their treatment of familiar songs, as well as their own.

So, join me at the bar for a few minutes and have a listen to “You And Me”.

Link to video

Putting on a Benefit, Putting on a Costume, Putting on a Show

Halloween tribute nights have become a beloved tradition in many live music scenes. One of the most compelling aspects of the Halloween season is the culturally sanctioned opportunity to try on a different identity. For bands, it’s an excellent opportunity to embody a band that’s inspired them -or at the very least, entertained them. For audiences, it’s a chance to revel in familiar hits and the spectacle of retro costumes and comical wigs. The Trick or Treat! Tribute Night at Turn! Turn! Turn! On Friday, October 26th was no exception. It was a fundraiser for the local non-profit Not OK PDX, a women-run organization that runs training workshops aimed at empowering local businesses and service industry staff to recognize and interrupt sexual violence, and I’m happy to report that the house was packed!

The event featured 6 different local melodic garage pop bands, all of whom are somehow involved in Portland’s Nuggets Night community, masquerading as other bands: The Shriekers performed as The Oberlin Spires, Metropolitan Farms performed as XTC, The Cool Whips performed as The Monkees, Mink Shoals performed as The Bee Gees, The Mean Reds performed as The Go-Gos, and Creature Party performed The B-52s. The event organizers ran a very tight ship, creating a smooth show going experience for such a packed bill: sets were fairly short -probably about 20 minutes, the show started at 8 on the dot, and Rachel Good, a.k.a. DJ Stonebunny kept spirits high with garage rock classics during the brief change-overs between sets. The only drawback to this was that I missed the first set by The Shriekers due to my tardiness. It also meant I had to sketch extra fast, though the pace matched the upbeat nature of most of the music.

I was excited to see Metropolitan Farms play as XTC. I’ve long been a big fan of their charismatic, jangly sound and front-man Josh Mayer’s songwriting, which features intricate melodies and counterpoint, and a wry sense of humor. Many of these qualities are reminiscent of the arty pop rock of XTC, so it seemed like a great fit, and they didn’t disappoint. They powered through tricky arrangements and delivered bright, harmonizing vocals with aplomb. They also made sure to feature some Andy Partridge style glasses, and at least one puritan costume.The Cool Whips’ tight harmonies, jaunty stage presence, and A+ wig (and beanie) game flawlessly channeled the effervescent charm of the iconic made-for-TV pop group, The Monkees. They also gave a tight yet effusive instrumental performance and wore delightfully campy late sixties garb, making for a thoroughly enjoyable set of melodic pop candy.I was really delighted by Mink Shoals’ shimmering performance of Bee Gees tunes, many from the earlier, torchier portion of their catalog. This was an excellent choice, as lead singer Melissa Bell’s smooth vocals were perfectly suited for earnest Robin Gibb style crooning. I also really appreciated the expertly tied white aviator scarves donned by multiple band members, subtly adding to the soft rock aesthetic.Next, The Mean Reds took to the stage in perfectly matching pink leotards, tutus, tiaras, and opera gloves, forming a near perfect recreation of the Go-Go’s Vacation album cover –sans waterskis. They tore through their high energy pop catalog with garage rock gusto as the audience bopped along.The evening concluded with the presence of a very tall beehive wig and a frenetic set of B-52s classics performed by the festive, local monsters in Creature Party. A driving drumbeat and jittery micro-synth immediately got the crowd moving as they opened with the classic “Rock Lobster.” This energy continued all the way through their set, including its twist ending: an original Creature Party song, which turned out to be the perfect novelty garage rock treat!

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