An Oregon Christmas tree farm worker, photographed as part of the Pineros project.
In 100 different homes across Portland this winter, Christmas trees were adorned with unusual ornaments: instead of tiny Santas and candycanes, the evergreen branches were also graced with glass ornaments etched with the name of a farmworker who helped grow and harvest the tree.
So far in this series I've talked about women making and marketing beer, the gender politics projected onto drinks themselves and women visiting bars. But I haven't yet talked about women behind the bar.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to Mindy Kucan, the lead bartender at Hale Pele, a tiki bar in Northeast Portland. Kucan has been tending bar for 10 years, but got interested in "craft bartending" (which focuses on complex, balanced cocktails mixed on quality liquors and unusual ingredients, as well as reviving classic drinks from bygone eras) five years ago, while tending bar at a Hilton in Texas. "I wanted to get better at what I did, so I just found ways to do it," Kucan told me.
In 2008, she attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans both to meet more people in the craft cocktail scene and to watch skilled bartenders at work. Eventually, she started entering mixology competitions. Often, these are sponsored by the makers of spirits or liqueurs, and the competition centers around (quickly) building a drink with that ingredient inclusive – but they grade on personality and aplomb as well as quality of cocktail. Others are charity events asking competitors to quickly build a drink with that ingredient inclusive – such as the Iron Bartender competition I attended earlier this month, in which Kucan competed (and where she is pictured here, dressed as Angostura bitters).
I'm pleased as punch to be headed out to Pickathon, an inde and roots music festival all-weekend camp-a-thon in Portland. From this year's lineup, at least 15 bands are women or feature women prominently, including their big headliner for the festival, Neko Case. This week's Bitchtapes gives you a sampling of the folk, roots, and jams of Pickathon. If you can't make the festival, Seattle's KEXP will be livecasting the festival—check out their broadcast schedule so you can plan your viewing accordingly! Track list and more Pickathon after the jump!
I discovered Naomi Hooley's warm, powerful music a few months ago, when a friend pointed me first to her song "Tornado" and then the album that spawned it, the gorgeous It was a Great October. Her sound is earthy and approachable, and her backstory is the stuff of serendipitous musical legend. My theory is, no matter where you listen to Naomi's music, you will be reminded of home.
I have a complicated relationship with Portlandia. To start, I was born in Portland and I still live here, and I want everyone in the world to know that it's a great city with more to offer than coffee and bearded white dudes, so I am psyched that it is getting national, positive attention. However, Portlandia does little to challenge stereotypes about Portland and instead reinforces them by mocking bearded white dudes drinking coffee, causing my Facebook friends from the east coast to message me out of the blue, reminding me to "put a bird on it!" (I hate birds). And like others of you, I wish Portlandia was more critical of Portland and of white hipster culture in general, because a lot of race and class privilege is required before you can sit around all day watching Battlestar Gallactica and have audiences get the joke instead of telling you to get a job.
Founder and janitor of the Oregon Department of Kick Ass, Portland-based artist Vanessa Renwick has made over 40 films and installations. Her work ranges from towering gold-leaf BMX bike sculptures in front of Powell's Books to super 8 shorts of her hitchhike sojourn to the Native American reserves in South Dakota during a two and a half year period spent barefoot, her wolf dog by her side, a pair of tweezers to pick glass out of her feet in her pocket. In an interview with the artist, Renwick talks about her affinity for nature and repair stores, her inner voice that says: "stop walking on concrete," local history, getting shit done, and the great grey wolf.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think most of the best voices in the world come out of folk singers. Maybe that's just because you can actually HEAR the singing, instead of the beats or the effects (which both have their places in my heart, don't get me wrong). Over the last year I've immersed myself in the Pacific Northwest's stellar Celtic folk music scene, and Colleen Raney has been the clear standout on my playlists and concert-going schedule. I'ma let you finish, but her voice is the best one I've heard in years.
Earlier this week I wrote about Autry!, a Portland-based, goof-punk musician set to release her debut album A.U.T.R.Y.! on July 29th. Autry!'s unique musical style as well as the success of her personal blog Hello, My Poopies has helped her gain an impressive internet following that will no doubt continue to grow. I was lucky enough to sit down with Autry! and interview her about both her music and her growing internet presence. You can find Autry!'s music at Hello, My Poopsies,Myspace, and Youtube. A.U.T.R.Y.! will be available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. If you are in the Portland, OR area be sure to check out Autry!'s CD release party on July 29th at In Other Words Bookstore from 5 to 9pm, all ages.
I spent my weekend hanging out at FOC (Females of Color) FEST, a new Portland-based festival celebrating musicians of color from the West Coast. Two nights of bands in an empty bike shop may sound meager for a music festival, but by the time 2am rolled around on Saturday night I was completely exhausted (in a great way) from the weekend of awesome music.
Wif-pdx (Women in Film-Portland, natch) is part activist organization, part information network, and part event sponsor. This very week, for example, they are joining up with NW Documentaries, another kick-ass grassroots film center in Portland, to screen an as-yet-unfinished documentary called Austin Unbound. And if you're in town, I think you should go see it.