It’s thrilling to hear new music live and up close. Details you thought you heard on the record become more vivid, you feel the emotions in the music, you get the lyrics in a new way. It was our pleasure this year to partner with more than 40 bands for opbmusic sessions, many in the OPB studio, some in venues and natural places around Portland. We asked opbmusic staff, DJs and video crew members to tell us about their favorites.

Tank and the Bangas

“2017 belonged to Tank and the Bangas, the New Orleans-based, funk-and-spoken word group led by Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball. After winning the 2017 Tiny Desk Contest, they became instantly known outside their home region, dropping jaws and winning fans with their uniquely theatrical live shows, including a stop at Pickathon last summer. Right after winning the Tiny Desk Contest, they made their first stop in Portland and joined us in the studio for a memorable set.”

— David Christensen, opbmusic Program Director

Either/Or - Celebrating the Music of Elliott Smith

“At the end of March, OPB celebrated arguably the most important album ever made by a Portland artist, Elliott Smith’s ‘Either/OR.’ The 1997 album was Smith’s third solo project while still in the band Heatmiser, and while it never charted, it caught the ear of director Gus Van Sant, who included three of its songs in the soundtrack to ‘Good Will Hunting.’ This collection of songs are considered Elliott’s best and the cover versions performed by Luz Elena Mendoza, Catherine Feeny, The Secret Sea, Matt Drenik and Sean Croghan are equally special. April Baer’s conversation with label owner Slim Moon and audio engineer Larry Crane explores this album’s portrait of the artist: an intimate document of a life both beautiful and gritty.”

— JT Griffith, opbmusic DJ

Filthy Friends

“It’s not every day that you get a chance to shoot a session with indie rock royalty. Filthy Friends was definitely one of those ‘pinch me’ moments. I’ve never seen our crew as excited as when we noticed Peter Buck’s R.E.M. road case against a wall in the studio. Multiple smartphone pictures were snapped.

“Once Peter, Corin, Scott, Kurt and Linda plugged in to play a short set for our live studio audience, they blew the doors off. When a band comes out with that kind of energy, it pushes us to try to match them, and I really think it shows in the final videos.”

— Nate Sjol, opbmusic videographer/editor

Horse Thief

“The very last show I saw at SXSW in 2016 was in a church at 1 a.m. during a thunderstorm. The band was Horse Thief, and their atmospheric, melodic indie rock ricocheted off the walls as lightning flashed outside. After the performance I spoke with lead singer Cameron Neal and told him I was determined to have them in for a session. Less than a year later we made that happen. The Oklahoma City-based band stopped by our studio to showcase some new tracks and talk about how those songs came together. After years of touring, the group of friends grew tighter as a band and sporadically pieced together what would become ‘Trials and Truths,’ their 2017 sophomore album. Even after lots of time together, the group was jovial during our chat, and it was a great way to kick off the year.”

— Matthew Casebeer, opbmusic DJ

Jay Som

“For a band that seems to grow by leaps and bounds each time I see them, I’m amazed at how unassuming Jay Som is on stage. Clearly vibing off one another and their various inside jokes, their live shows feel like a organic expansion of their practice space. It’s wholly endearing, and hugely effective: Their sets creep up on you. Their visit to our studio was no different, playing tracks off their tightly produced ‘Everybody Works,’ they would slow parts down, then speed them up, sometimes seemingly in an attempt to amuse themselves and throw each other off, until each song would come crashing back together at exactly the right moment. Finding a balance between Pavement and Deerhoof that I never knew existed, and offering up a unique and different take on their sound across each and every performance, I genuinely can’t wait to hear what they come up with next. In other words, they are not to be missed.”

— Mike Dempsey - opbmusic DJ

Deer Tick

“Watching Deer Tick’s session is like sitting front row in a tiny, dimly lit neighborhood bar. It’s perfect for an afternoon when you want to sink into being reflective but not zone out so hard you start to drift to sleep. After playing three songs, John McCauley and Ian O’Neil gave the most honest and intriguing responses during an interview that I’ve heard in a long time. They talked candidly with Jerad Walker about their life and music, and those answers — unveiled and without the air of being too cool — made me even more of a fan.”

— Morgan McDonald - opbmusic DJ

Joan Shelley

“Louisville native Joan Shelley enlisted Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy to record her newest record, but kept to the bright, graceful palette that has colored her folk music through over five albums. Ahead of her July tour stop in Portland, we’d planned to record a couple of songs on Marquam Hill with a view of Mount Hood. But the day she arrived in Portland, smoke from forest fires had obscured not only the mountains but even the East side of the Willamette River. So we walked up the trail in Marquam Park — Shelley, guitarist Nathan Salsburg and our crew — and recorded two gorgeous songs with the mid-afternoon light filtered through the forest.”

— David Christensen, opbmusic Program Director

L.A. Salami

“The opbmusic team returned to Austin for SXSW in 2017, and along the way we had some guests over to the house to record simple, acoustic sessions. When L.A. Salami stopped by, we chatted for a few minutes while he made a cup of tea. Then he picked up his guitar and began to run through a few tunes in the living room. His clever, intricate lyrics were perfect for the setting, and he treated us to songs from his 2016 album as well as a previously unreleased song. We were all impressed. He may be a seasoned performer in his native London, but isn’t well known in the U.S. That’ll change with his forthcoming music in 2018.”

— Matthew Casebeer, opbmusic DJ

1939 Ensemble

“We caught up with 1939 Ensemble at Revival Drum Shop, owned by their drummer Jose Medeles. The quartet performed a handful of tunes with vibes, horns, synths and guitars that is reminiscent of the minimalist style, but at the same time not forgetting melody and harmony. The steady groove of the drums take the helm, and vintage drums scattered throughout the room created a nice backdrop for a truly unique session.”

— Arthur Lee, opbmusic DJ

Wild Ones

Wild Ones performed in front of an audience at the opbmusic studio in October this year. The Portland-based dream pop band played songs from their 2017 release of ‘Mirror Touch.’ The album is named for ‘a rare condition which causes individuals to experience the same sensation (such as touch) that another person feels.’ Themes of making a deep human connection resonate in the lyrics of the album and came through in the live performance as well. Standing in the audience, watching Danielle Sullivan sing, I realized our eyes were locked for what seemed an uncomfortable length of time. Typically concertgoers remain relatively anonymous while all eyes are on the performers. However, during the interview portion of the session, Sullivan confessed to spontaneously challenging audience members to a staring competition while singing as a way to overcome performance anxiety. The Wild Ones session is a must watch, and the performance of ‘No Money’ captures how capable and well-practiced they’ve become, delivering a haunting song with beautiful complexities.”

— Mike Baden, opbmusic DJ and contributor

The Last Artful, Dodgr

“One of the most compelling Portland newcomers we saw in 2017, The Last Artful, Dodgr (aka Alana Chenevert) and DJ Neill Von Tally released their debut album, ‘Bone Music,’ in February on local startup label Eyrst. In an afternoon session, Von Tally builds up organic and electronic textures that breathe like living creatures, from sparse groans and creaks over subsonic bass to quivering organs and blips. Dodgr spins out vivid verses including her anguished ‘Oofda’ in one of my favorite sessions of the year.”

— David Christensen, opbmusic Program Director