Look for foot traffic in Portland’s South Park Blocks to surge starting today as the Portland’5 summer arts and music series gets underway. Along with family-friendly noontime art and music events, free concerts start at 5 p.m. today and each Wednesday evening until August 27th.
Swan Sovereign’s Lara Michell, who is part of this year’s music series, likes performing for the huge festive crowd and the feeling of being nestled in the city’s “urban canyon.”
“It’s really fun when people sort of discover it as they’re getting off work; they see something’s going on, come over to have a look and end up hanging out all evening,” says Michell.
Oregon Art Beat viewers may be familiar with several in this year’s lineup through recent show profiles. If you haven’t been watching, that’s OK too; follow the links to see each story.
July 16, the Nowhere Band plays the perennially popular music of the Beatles, which is rarely played live.
“The Beatles are a lot more difficult to cover than say the Rolling Stones, but every member of the band is on it,” says the Nowhere Band’s John Averill. “I think another reason people like these performances is because everybody knows the music, but the Beatles didn’t tour after 1966 and so people never heard their later music played live.”
Averill also likes the change of pace the outdoor music event offers. “It’s great to play for families and kids when most of the time we’re in clubs.”
“It is a treat to have the Nowhere Band play the series for the second time. The crowd loves them and since they don’t play very many gigs throughout the year, we consider ourselves lucky to have them,” says Heather Wilton of Portland’5 Center for the Arts.
To get a preview, you can see the Nowhere Band performing with Wanderlust Circus in the OPB special “Oregon Art Beat Goes to the Circus.” But the band is actually a hybrid group, whose members are plucked from some of Portland’s most innovative groups, including the March Fourth Marching Band, Trashcan Joe, Titans of Oblivion, Solovox, Love Gigantic, Stolen Sweets and others, several of which have also been individually profiled on Oregon Art Beat.
July 30, Vagabond Opera headlines with their entertaining mix of bohemian, opera, re-jiggered cabaret favorites and original material. Their ranks include members of the Portland Cello Project, also profiled on Art Beat.
August 6, Morning Ritual features the Shook Twins. The Sandpoint, Idaho natives relocated to Portland several years ago and have earned a devoted following for their warm, whimsical stories and room-vibrating harmonies.
August 20, Swan Sovereign takes the stage with Stephanie Schneiderman stepping behind the drums, Christine McKinley on bass and Lara Michell on guitars. If these names sound familiar, it’s likely because the trio also make up the popular Portland band Dirty Martini.
“Dirty Martini was the three of us on guitars and sometimes we’d add bass and drums. With Stephanie and McKinley taking those parts, Swan Sovereign just felt different, so we wanted to choose a new name and a new theme,” says Lara Michell. The band has written a batch of new songs and developed a sound that Michell describes as “more upbeat and rock-oriented, but still retaining our signature three-part harmonies.”
August 27, the series winds up with traditional Ghanaian dance music from Obo Addy’s Okropong. Master drummer Obo Addy came to Portland in 1986 with the mission of bringing African music and culture to America. The band continues his legacy.
Portland’5 Music on Main Street
Free Concerts on Wednesdays at 5 p.m.
Downtown Portland on Main Street, between Southwest Broadway & Park Avenue