What a year it has been.
From crisscrossing the state chasing a total eclipse to the mountain of books at Wordstock, we have zoomed in and out of worlds, real and imaginary. As 2018 approaches, we wanted to take a minute to look back on the year that was, and wish it well.
Total Eclipse Of The Art
The brightest moment of 2017 came, poetically, during a magnificent moment of darkness: the total eclipse of the sun.
We spent the whole first half of the year traveling to small towns and monster festivals to report on how they were preparing for a projected one million visitors. But the real joy came during our weeklong road trip, traveling in the path of totality from the coast to central Oregon, before settling into Suttle Lodge for the music fest Funk’s Obscuration Celebration.
We stayed up all night putting together this show documenting our adventure, before crashing for a catnap on the dock:
The Year In Music
Almost on a weekly basis, one incendiary band after another burnt down the OPB studio. It’s hard to pick favorites from the dozens of opbmusic sessions we collaborated on, but we’re going to do our best:
- The absolute highlight had to be our live event celebrating the 20th anniversary of Elliott Smith’s seminal record “Either/Or.” We heard some amazing covers by local musicians like Luz Elena Mendoza and Catherine Feeney. Host April Baer also sat down to discuss Smith’s legacy with Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon and Smith’s friend and engineer Larry Crane. Watch the videos here.
- Portugal. The Man played a stripped-down set from their blockbuster “Woodstock,” including perhaps the biggest chart-topper to ever come out of Portland, “Feel It Still.”
- The Last Artful, Dodgr is a star to watch in the hip-hop world. Her debut “Bone Music” was hard to top, but if her Instagram posts with folks like superstar producer Mark Ronson are any indication, she might just do it in 2018.
- The Decemberists teamed up with the British singer Olivia Chaney to cover old folks songs under the name Offa Rex, and the project was just nominated for a Grammy!
- Wild Ones returned with the record “Parasthesia,” and we had the joy of talking with the ever-charming lead singer Danielle Sullivan about how she writes songs about fierce ladies so that she can channel all that fierceness on stage (and does she ever!).
- One of the best discoveries of the year was the preternaturally mature musician Melina Duterte, who performs as Jay Som. She can’t help but pull you aboard with her “Bus Song.”
The Year In Books
We were back at Wordstock this year for three live shows:
- For our live show, we sat down with the creators behind the runaway sci-fi podcast “Welcome to Nightvale” and then the hilarious and powerful poets Morgan Parker and Tommy Pico.
- Then we hosted the culture writer and recent Portland transplant Chuck Klosterman and the stunning novelists Katie Kitamura and Hannah Tinti.
- Finally, watch for our final hour-long episode with novelist and screenwriter Tom Perotta (“Election,” “The Leftovers,” “Mrs. Fletcher”) to come over the New Year’s Eve weekend.
As for individual interviews, we’re still thinking about the poet Samiya Bashir’s meditations on race, science and Black Bodies in “Field Theories”; young adult fantasy maven Laini Taylor’s incredible new world of floating castles and orphaned librarians, “Strange The Dreamer”; Daniel Wilson’s robot romp through history, “Clockwork Dynasty”; and Kent Nerburn’s classic about his travels with a Native American elder, “Neither Wolf Nor Dog.”
It was also an amazing year in comics, from the triumphant Wonder Woman movie (it reduced “State of Wonder” host April Baer to a squealing fangirl) to our conversations with some of the hottest local comic creators in advance of the Rose City Comic Con.
Adventures In Virtual Reality
This year, we really began to notice the ways that virtual and augmented reality stand to transform the creative professions, from allowing architects to create virtual buildings you can explore to enabling artists to imagine entirely new worlds that overlap with this real one — or ask, “What is real anyway?” You can bet we’ll be working on this series into 2018.
- Oregon Virtual Reality Incubator Takes Artists Into New Worlds
- VR Is Changing The Game For Portland Architecture
- Oregon Project Uses Holograms To Transform The Classroom
The Hollywood Theatre Saves Movie Madness
The Hollywood Theatre kicked off 2017 with the opening of the innovative mini-cinema at the Portland International Airport, which is enough to qualify for a great year. But then in October, it announced an audacious Kickstarter campaign to save one of the city’s last — and one of the country’s greatest — video stores, Movie Madness. The Hollywood needed to raise $250,000 in a matter of weeks. Instead, it raised $315,000 from 4,639 backers, making way towards a stretch goal to build a new viewing room in the store for film groups and small screenings, when it takes over Jan. 1, 2018. Long live the VHS!
In other film news, we had an amazing trip to La Grande to record a live show at the scrappy but ambitious Eastern Oregon Film Festival that had April almost getting devoured by a zombie puppet. All’s well that ends — with a dessert course of brains.