Oregon has prohibited gatherings of more than 25 people in order to fight the spread of COVID-19. This is devastating economic news for musicians, recording studios and venues alike in the state. It’s also a stark reminder of just how much we all rely on live music as a catalyst for social gatherings and general well-being.
While we recommend that you practice social distancing during this time, there are still ways to enjoy live music. And today we’re offering up another healthy alternative (and hopefully a distraction from the news cycle). opbmusic is holding a virtual festival. Unlike a real, brick-and-mortar, multi-day event, we aren’t bound by logistics or time. So, as you scroll to the videos below we’ll feature sites and venues from across our wonderful state and more bands than you’d likely ever see at one stage.
Use your imagination. Skip around. Soak up the sights. And hopefully, relax.
First up, we head out to Troutdale, Oregon, to catch a truly unique performance from Calexico. The Arizona-based rock band have set up shop in a vineyard on the gorgeous property that surrounds the Edgefield Hotel and are performing an acoustic set among the grape vines.
From there, we duck back to Portland’s Union Station and board the Amtrak Empire Builder to head up into the Columbia River Gorge. Joining us on the train is Portland-based songwriter Laura Gibson, accompanied by musician Sean Ogilvie. They perform a song named after and inspired by the train we’re currently riding on.
We hop off the train in Bingen, Washington, and cross the mighty Columbia River to watch Haley Heynderickx and Luz Elena Mendoza (of Y La Bamba) perform a song from Heynderickx’s debut EP. They are literally playing inside of Mosier’s Twin Tunnels, which sounds incredible.
Now on the Oregon side of the Gorge, we head westward toward Portland. Along the way, we pop in at the iconic Vista House at Crown Point overlook to watch Radiation City. Surprisingly, the acoustics here are almost better than the tunnels — and so are the views.
Back in Portland, we walk into Revival Drum Shop on SE Sherman and are greeted by 1939 Ensemble. They have access to virtually every rhythmic instrument on the planet in this room, and they play most of them during this kaleidoscopic performance.
From Sherman Street we head north up Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to another Southeast Portland destination, the historic Revolver Studios building. Here, we settle in for a bit to catch a double bill. Philadelphia rock band Dr. Dog opens with this energetic performance of “Go Out Fighting.”
They’re followed by hometown heroes Black Belt Eagle Scout, fronted by Katherine Paul, who perform a song from her debut record, “Mother Of My Children.”
Now on Burnside Street, we head over to Doug Fir Lounge and walk down a flight of stairs to see Other Lives playing in the basement venue. The stage is illuminated by a dozen or so Edison bulbs that are timed almost perfectly to the clockwork sounds of their song “Easy Way Out.”
We take a quick turn into Northeast Portland to catch another Philadelphia band. This time it’s Hop Along, the four-piece rock group fronted by singer Frances Quinlan. Their 2018 album, “Bark Your Head Off, Dog,” was one of opbmusic’s favorite records from the past decade. And here’s a fun, nerdy radio fact: Drummer Mark Quinlan was a long-time jazz DJ at a Philly public radio station.
Continuing northward, we arrive at Mississippi Studios which was home to opbmusic’s Stage Pass concert series in 2014-15. This venue is a converted church that proudly proclaims that it is built, owned and operated by musicians. Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver and Portland dream pop band Pure Bathing Culture put on an incredible show in this beautiful sounding room.
Famished and a little tired at this point (come on, even virtual festivals can be exhausting), we head down to the Central Eastside to grab some grub at Bunk Bar. But the music doesn’t stop there. As we’re downing our sandwiches, Canadian folk rock outfit The Deep Dark Woods perform in the back of the cramped venue.
We’re now on Water Avenue, so we take a short trip over to a dock on the east bank of the Willamette River where Portland-based sister trio Joseph are playing and filling the waterfront with their soaring harmonies.
Next up, we escape the city and go on an afternoon hike just as the sun is starting to set. We end up at Marquam Nature Park in the hills above Portland where folk singer Joan Shelley and guitarist Nathan Salsberg play us a hushed tune away from the crowds.
As we head back down the hills, we stop at the Old Church in Southwest Portland. As its name suggests, this venue is a historic site. Built in 1882, the Victorian Gothic Carpenter building is the oldest religious building in downtown. It’s also now a fantastic contemporary music venue. This afternoon, they’re hosting one of our favorite local bands Ages and Ages.
After that set, we duck into the nearby ERYST recording studios located downtown at the A/D Agency Recording Suite and catch Blossom and Ripley Snell perform a duet from their 2018 collaboration “Clout Atlas :: Dormiveglia.”
There’s only a sliver of daylight left in the sky, so we rush back across the river to catch the last few songs of Y La Bamba’s set on the rooftop of Revolution Hall, the venue located in the beautifully restored Washington High School building. The rooftop has an incredible 360-degree view of the city, including the West Hills and our earlier destination at Marquam Nature Park. The band, fronted by Luz Elena Mendoza, perform this rousing version of “Ostrich” from their album “Ojos Del Sol” as traffic and office lights twinkle in the distance.
It’s now night time, and the city’s biggest venues are abuzz. We venture into the nearly 3,000-seat Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall to catch Broken Bells. This supergroup, formed by Danger Mouse and James Mercer of the Portland-based project The Shins, play songs from their two records including the title track from their 2014 album “After The Disco.”
We pass under the marquee at the Schnitz and turn left down West Burnside on our way to Crystal Ballroom, the historic venue that’s been welcoming guests off and on since 1914. Once inside, we ramble up two flights of stairs to the cavernous performance hall where The Helio Sequence are playing to a raucous crowd. The duo, formed in Beaverton in 1999, are one of our favorite bands and a beloved local staple.
We end the evening and this virtual festival at OPB’s studios in Southwest Portland. Closing things out at the late-night after-party is one of the most beloved musicians in the Rose City: Mr. Ural Thomas. He’s joined by his band The Pain, who insure that we’ll go to bed humming this song.