Monday, September 6, 2010

Portland Cello Project on Musicfest NW

Posted By on September 6, 2010, 9:11 PM

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Portland is weird and they like it that way. The city's immaculate beer, thriving artistic community and musical diversity warrants attention, which is what Musicfest NW is all about.---

The four-day (plus a little) festival takes over Portland's musical venues in a way, not too unlike, South by Southwest's little brother. City Weekly interviewed a couple of local bands—Portland Cello Project and Weinland—to share the lowdown on "The City of Bridges," give an insider's perspective to the festival and, of course, talk about themselves. It's not too late for Salt Lakers to head up, but if you can't make it, City Weekly will be there, providing daily updates of the debauchery and damn good tunes.

Portland Cello Project

What's Musicfest NW all about?
Well, many music festivals have become the fast food of live music. Short sets on a big stage in a field with bad sound, with maybe some small stages close by that there's no point in going to because of the bleed from the sound of the big stage. But MFNW is not only a showcase of bands, but a showcase of the music venues in Portland, with the house sound people close by who know how to make the bands sound good. It's easy to hop between venues because of light rail (which is free in some places), and cabs aren't expensive because it's really not a very big city. So, it's a unique way to not only get to see a bunch of bands you've been wanting to see in ideal venues, but a unique way to get to know the city of Portland.

What bands/ venues are you looking forward to checking out?
The Decemberisms... National Panda Bears... Melanamia...

Any advice for must-see stops outside of the music festival?
Portland's reputation as a food city is definitely well-deserved. Most of the venues have great restaurants around them. Toro Bravo or Queen of Sheba by the Wonder Ballroom... a bunch of places on Mississippi... if you're downtown for a show at the Crystal there's a lot of good stuff in the Pearl... the screen door is not too far from The Doug Fir... and breakfast... places... definitely get up by noon to grab brunch somewhere.

It seems there's more cello-laden bands in Portland than in other musical markets. What gives? We're just ahead of the curve... the rest of the country will catch up soon enough.

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Why write entirely new arrangements for each performance cycle?
Because if we didn't, we'd be that cello band that plays Britney Spears Toxic at every show and I'd shoot myself in the head. Committing myself to do a completely different show each series is the best way to make sure we're always doing quality stuff and growing. Otherwise we'd just be a gimmick.

Our set for MFNW will be unique. We're playing a very loud dancy set with guest singers and a big rhythm section. Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, the Jicks) will be playing drums with us and Adam Thompson (Thao) will be playing bass. I feel like that'll be the right energy for 11pm on Saturday night. So, it'll be a big party at Mississippi Studios. After our showcase, Eric Bachmann is playing (Crooked Fingers) and we're going to join him for 4 more mellow songs of his (which I'm completely stoked about).

You've collaborated with a number of Portland greats (Horse Feathers, The Dandy Warhols, Laura Gibson, etc.). How is PCP reversing the typical role of symphony-band collaboration?
I try to work withe bands as collaboratively as possible, ask for feedback on what they want out of the arrangement. It's not unusual to re-write things in rehearsals, cut things out or add things. There's a lot more communication. It helps that we don't play with a conductor, so everyone kind of has a voice. No offense to symphonies, but we're hopefully less intimidating and more welcoming. We also don't ever charge anyone to write arrangements for them or whatever.

And, you'll be in Utah soon. We're bringing our largest touring production ever to Ogden, Utah November 5 at Peery's Egyptian Theater. We'll have Justin Powerwith us as our featured guest collaborator. We're very much looking forward to it!

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