The New Portland Kid on the Programming Block: Cary Clarke

Nice ta meetcha. My name, as you might have gathered, is Cary Clarke and this, as you might also have gathered, is me introducing myself as the bouncing baby boy (read: caffeine-addled 29-year-old intern) of the programming team here at Folklife. In addition to being new to Folklife, I am also new to Seattle, having moved here only three short, windswept months ago from our sister city to the south — yes, I speak of the lovely, little, delightfully weird burg of Portland, Oregon.

Portlandia

As you may have heard from a bunch of fancy-pants news sources in recent years (when they weren’t busy buzzing about food cart culture), Portland, Oregon is widely regarded as home to one of the most exciting music communities in the country. While that reputation outside of Portland has largely revolved around the presence of a handful of (admittedly great) high-profile bands and musicians like The Decemberists and The Shins, in my seven years in the city I had the pleasure of plumbing the lesser-known depths and mapping the more outre expanses of Portland’s sonic geography in the way only a local can. And though I am excited by the prospect of getting to know Seattle and its sounds, I remain a proudly unreformed booster of Portland music. So expect to hear more from me about the guitar-pickers, laptop experimentalists, string-bowers, emcees and reed-blowers of Stumptown as we turn the pages of our calendars to 2010.

Potato Champion Fry Cart (Best Poutine Any Side of the Mississippi) / (Photo from the Oregonian)

As to how my love affair with Portland music began, I moved there in 2002 out of college to play in a band called At Dusk with two friends from middle school. Coming to know it as a musician and fan, I became steadily more involved and invested in the local arts community and went on to co-found an all-volunteer non-profit organization in 2004 called PDX Pop Now! dedicated to expanding interest and participation in Portland music. Every year since then, PDX Pop Now! has put on a three-day, free, all-ages, multi-genre festival of Portland music (sound familiar?) as well as a companion double-disc compilation album. We also developed an outreach program that carried the banner of youth access to music, putting on educational events and concerts in public schools and at City Hall, as well as leading a successful statewide campaign to revise Oregon Liquor Control Commission rules so as to make more performing arts events open to people under 21.

Jeffrey Jerusalem at PDX Pop Now! 2009 Festival (photo by Ben Johnson)

In the unlikely event that my posts here at Folklife leave you oddly thirsting to know more of my thoughts on Portland music, you can find them on a biweekly basis in the column “Our Town Could Be Your Life” which I have used — hopefully as more of an insistent-enthusiastic-nephew cardboard box than a bully pulpit — since 2007 to champion local musicians.

Fittingly, introductions made, I will leave you now with a song. I haven’t thought it out completely, but this here track’s a strong contender for my favorite of the past decade. It’s by Portland’s (surprise!) circuit-bending, Appalachian noise-folk visionary Brian Mumford, otherwise known as Dragging an Ox through Water (an act I’ve written about a few times before). The song’s called “Aces.” Check it:

You can order Dragging an Ox through Water releases on vinyl and CD through his website.

Dragging an Ox through Water at PDX Pop Now! 2008 (photo by Greg Borenstein)

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