These guys are fucking obsessed with burgers. All we talked about the whole time was burgers. Burgers burgers burgers. And not some fancy shit just regular-ass cheeseburgers. Meat, cheese, lettuce, cheeseburger.
The Woolen Men.
• Directed by Chris Cantino • Cinematography by Rodrigo Melgarejo • Edited by Rodrigo Melgarejo • Camera by Chris Cantino, Rodrigo Melgarejo,Gary Tyler, Josiah Marshall • Audio by Mike Elliot
Directed & Edited by Rodrigo Melgarejo
Additional Camera by Hannah Gregg, Thomas Oliver, and Steve Wyshywaniuk
Audio Engineering by Jeff Hylton Simmons, Mike Elliott, and Trevor Oatts
Audio Mixing by Jeff Hylton Simmons
AAN performs “I Don’t Need Love” from their forthcoming LP Amor Ad Nauseum in drummer Jon Lewis’ bedroom.
Directed by Rodrigo Melgarejo
Camera by Matthew Gamlen and Tom Oliver
Audio by Miliken Gardner
Words by Rodrigo Melgarejo
Sugar skulls burning, smiling skeletons, and the brassy popcorn of a mariachi band. It's the Day of the Dead in Portland, OR and the parade starts at Sunnyside Elementary and ends at Holocene, where Edna Vazquez will honor the family spirits with her commanding-yet-gentle voice and guitar.
For Edna, a Colima, Mexico native and Portlander of 17 years, Día de los Muertos is not only a chance to remember those close to her who've passed on-- it's a connection to her geographically distant heritage. In a city that rarely sees large displays of international culture, the celebration is emotional. For me, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, today's Día de los Muertos march provides an opportunity to express a part of myself that's at times closed off, allowing me to get back to my roots. It's an experience Edna and I share.
And, truth is, I wouldn't have this bridge to my past if it wasn't for musicians from the local Mexican community like Edna (and Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba), who organized this procession for all of us. It's a sight to see: people of all ages and cultural backgrounds donning the bright colors of traditional Mexican garb, painting their faces with the customary Day of the Dead symbol-- the skeleton-- and gathering together with candles, candy, music, and dance to march through the streets of Portland and remember friends and family members who have passed. Though centered around death, the Day of the Dead isn't mournful; to the contrary, it's a joyous honoring of lost loved ones. The atmosphere is carnival, not funeral.
The celebration continues into the next day, when we meet up with Edna at Luz Elena's house. Upon entering, we hear music customary to homes in Latin America. Incense burns in the distance and traditional decorations are on the walls and windows, signaling the importance Hispanics put on honoring their holidays. Edna quickly dresses herself in traditional Mexican clothing, and we set the stage for her performance. Behind us, Luz burns sage as a way to bless the house and provide a spiritual ambiance.
Edna plays a song called "Piensa en Mí," or "Think of Me"-- originally written by the late-1920s Mexican musician Agustín Lara. Her voice cuts through the room like a smooth blade. Instantly, I'm mesmerized.
She has a habit of doing this to people: stunning them with her guitar and voice. It's no wonder why acts like Y La Bamba, Death Songs, and Pigeons bring her in as a guest from time to time. She's in perfect control of herself and therefor her audience.
Regardless of the performer, it's an honor to share these ancient sights and sounds-- to give Portlanders a deeper and more intimate moment with a remarkable Mexican tradition-- and I'm proud to do so through a refreshing local voice.
Dusk came on the heels of noon and the post-holiday glow of Laura Gibson's living room is a warming counterpoint. A neat cage of instruments line the red walls: those keyboarded and gourded and stringed. Paper chains wrap the Christmas tree like a winding mountain road. Strings of lights twinkle. It's a document of the quaint and gentle customs of the artist, her partner, and his teenage daughter; a gathering place for their Christmas of handmade paper chains.
We don't spend much time in here-- just long enough to make tea and get organized. We're headed outside. On to the backyard, where Gibson's sky blue Shasta trailer is parked.
The low sky arrives with an insignificant but persistent mist, and a tire swing hangs in the center of the yard. A tangle of bikes and plywood and barrels line the house. The little blue trailer sits lengthwise beside the fence.
Laura and two bandmates file inside, bringing with them guitar, floor tom, and tambourine. The trailer isn't much shelter in weather like this, but they'll warm their hands between takes with a plug-in heater.
“La Grande” is the song, from Gibson's new album of the same name. It's a tune for dirtfoots and campfire outlaws. For a hen in the oven and feathers in the yard; hounds under the porch, shotgun behind the door. Her voice is a rocking chair in a tin can, her lyrics, a bit of pioneer romanticism harkening to the song's titular Eastern Oregon city of La Grande, an old gold rush-era travelers' hub settled for its agricultural potential and proximity to natural resource, like many cities and towns of Western America. If you wanted to name it quickly, “La Grande” is music of place.
And where Laura's musical places have in the past held mirrors to a rainy, Pacific Northwest environment, her newest crop of songs seem less of the air and more of the land-- favoring a full-band experience over longer stretches of lonesome voice and guitar, or the unidentifiable atmospheric scrapes and clicks of her earlier sound experiments. No more does Laura perch like a lone bird with her orchestra of raindrops. The nest is filling, and inside the parting mists you can just barely see a paper chain running through it.
(Laura Gibson plays tomorrow, Friday, February 3, at Portland's Mississippi Studios. The sold-out late show starts at 9:15 pm, featuring openers Breathe Owl Breathe and Mike Midlo. The just-announced early show starts at 6:30 pm, though you'll have to go without the supporting acts. $10 adv. $12 door.)
Directed by Hannah Gregg
Edited by Rodrigo Melgarejo and Jordan Kinley
Audio by Miliken Gardner
Text by Matt Stangel and Chris Cantino
“This is the Portland Police Bureau,” echoes the loudspeaker, “Under the authority of Oregon law, Southwest Main Street is being re-opened to vehicular traffic.”
Tiered riot cops are buffed faceless behind masks and shields; batons across chests and tear gas rifles (“less lethal launchers”) made ready. Some officers mount horses and others stand in rows, blocking Main Street at SW 3rd.
Persistent threats from mobile loudspeakers gnaw into the chants and side-chants of Occupy protesters, identifying the PPB's legal right to use force up to and including the use of chemical agents, should Occupy protesters remain in the street.
If the cops have a voice, this is it. The litigious orchestration of power.
Behind the riot squad, bulldozers and cleanup crews dump tents, food, and occupiers’ personal belongings into behemoth trash receptacles. Amidst are those most dedicated to the movement, those who've refused to leave the park. They are being arrested. Some sit quietly with their hands cuffed behind park benches; others are thrown to the ground.
Occupy Portland's encampment, which for five weeks was pitched tent-city fashion in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares, was issued an eviction some fourteen hours ago at midnight on Sunday, November 13. The protesters' reaction to the eviction was to occupy the streets-- a tactical maneuver which has effectively rerouted the flow of traffic and renewed the movement's central visibility. It's a last ditch effort to pressure the city into honoring their encampment-model of protest and free speech.
Into the Woods is here with Michael “Griff” Griffith-- a musician best known as Archers' synth player-- to help reflect what feels like a defining moment in the political identity of the echo boomer generation; us twentysomethings who came up between 9-11 and the bank meltdown of 2008. The crew is operating under a strict, self-imposed “don't be a pussy” mandate, though Griff never even hints at backing out.
He stands at the dividing line with his unassuming acoustic. In front of him, cops guard the foot-tilled mud of the parks where dead tents sag and dimple the ground. Behind, a moderately-populated city block has amassed with protesters and spectators. Smirking Guy Fawkes masks and anarchist bandanas. Grandfathers and near-homeless soccer moms. Local news affiliates in matching blue rain jackets. The ritual of force and compromise.
“I didn't come here to get maced or arrested,” explains Griff, “I came here because of the people.” Each one of them is something to this abstract collective identity, and this music is his contributing ingredient. His performance is as much for the cops as it is for the protesters.
The song he plays into the wall of riot police is called “Woods of Error”-- the title borrowed from Dante's Inferno, the lyrical content inspired by the loss of love. A very personal loss.
An event so tragic that Griff began struggling with an associative crisis. He saw his loss in everything. Each object from his life related back to the way things were. The experience pushed him overseas to live in Geneva where he walked dogs for money and had nothing to read pain from. He stopped making music.
After he returned to California, he wrote “Woods of Error,” and when performing the song he seems to relive the storied emotional nuances at its foundation. Lyrics tell the same tale: “Dry your eyes/when the sun doesn't shine/it still stings/on and on.”
It doesn't sound like a protest song as you’d expect one to be, but there’s certainly a message there for occupiers, officers, and bystanders alike: within great personal loss, there is beauty to unpack.
“It’s like medicine for the people,” says Griff.
As he fingerpicks and sings, someone shouts the Declaration of Independence through a megaphone, line by line. The resultant human mic seems to be getting weaker as fewer and fewer protesters repeat each phrase in unison-- ostensibly distracted with the threat of violence, or hesitant to vigorously associate with the most dedicated Occupiers who are prepared to get arrested.
Griff seems appropriately shaken by the experience. He is at once excitable and nonplussed, but the aftershock uncoils. We walk past the restaurant where earlier we dropped in for a pit stop and the guitar was passively noodled over chart-topper country music. We’re struggling to remember where we parked, and slowly retracing our steps back into a world where Occupy exists only on tweetstreams and media feeds.
The day is different now.
We continue on to a parking deck where, for audio purposes, we record Griff's song in an elevator; nature's isolation booth. We perch on the fifth floor and the air feels thin in the glass box. He's singing his loss into it, emotional postures congruent to his previous performance at the standoff; as if this thorny, aching memory-- lived through and resolved with music-- has become an even memory to put the world against. A stone rubbed into a mirror. A trapdoor greater than riot gear.
Loss is a hole you carry, available when the odds are against you. Occupiers are coming to know it too, with evictions spreading West to East on a widening memory: it’s these moments we keep with us and revisit for strength. They allow us to let go, to move on. Through the Woods of Error.