written and photographed by Jared/DJ Diamond J
As this beautiful summer draws to a close, I was fortunate enough to attend Portland’s Lose Yr Mind fest, a decidedly radical independent music showcase across 4 venues and featuring over 40 acts. This year is the festival’s 8th from starting in 2014 and has since ballooned into this beautiful, sprawling 2 day spectacle spread out all across SE Portland, featuring artists ranging from local acts to indie superstars with an emphasis on female fronted groups. I was initially dismayed to see the entire lineup would be split across 4 locations with sets that would be starting at roughly the same time, meaning I would only get to see a handful of the total artists. However as far as my coverage of the event was concerned this was undoubtedly for the best, as it dawned on me sometime during the 1st night how cumbersome and absurd a review of 30 something consecutive musical performances would be. So for both nights, I chose the venue with the most groups – the Vitalidad Movement and Arts Events Center which also featured some of the more prominent acts. Being new to the Portland music scene, I was eager to dive in and hear for myself if the festival lived up to the hype.
Kicking things off was Abronia, a local psych outfit with some interesting and unusual instrumentation. They had a lap steel player – an uncommon and interesting addition. Lead singer Keelin Mayer showed off both her incredible chops on the saxophone as well as her immensely powerful pipes, driving their set forward the entire time with her powerful vocals. Their music was an almost mysterious psych blend with overtones of surf and garage, with moments of lap steel and spaghetti western guitar sounding almost like something out of some acid drenched Ennio Morricone score. Their set, although somewhat punctuated in my opinion, was tight and felt akin to being on a massive clipper ship with all the riggings, sailing through the moonlit desert at midnight – almost primordial at times. Altogether an excellent performance from some of Portland’s own.
Next to the stage was perhaps my most anticipated performance of the lineup, Orquestra Pacifico Tropical. In my research of the lineup leading up to the festival, this group immediately jumped out at me and into my heart – I absolutely adore this band and everything about them, and you better believe they didn’t disappoint. The 10 piece group took the stage and delivered an explosive performance of their psych and fuzz flavor of cumbia that defied any person in the audience not to move their bodies. They are a band that almost compels the body to dance – it’s incredible to see in person, and the crowd (including myself) was more than happy to oblige. Married duo Papi Fimbre on percussion and lead vocalist Shana Lindbeck offered the most in the way of stage presence, between Shana’s infectious dancing and Papi’s aggressive and fast rhythms the rest of the band fills out this massive sound between a horn section, guitars and bass, an accordion, and of course, more percussion. The end result is a wonderfully tight and cohesive experience that effortlessly blends the almost contradictory heavy nature of psych music with the undeniably upbeat and danceable rhythms of cumbia. This is not a band to simply bob your head to, and I challenge anyone who listens to this group, especially live, to not uncontrollably and immediately break into frenzied dance.
I felt for anyone who had to follow up OPT’s explosive performance, but to my surprise the next group, Art D’ecco more than held their own, perhaps owing in some part to the continued danceability of the music. One thing that struck me about this group off the bat was their impeccable style – the group all wore slick jackets but Art D’ecco himself had taken it to the next level with a more androgynous look, including a killer mullet and immaculate ascot. The look all fit the music perfectly, reminiscent of that 80’s poppy sort of darkwave style – in fact the band felt something like Iggy Pop meets New Order and was similar to the OPT in that it too compelled me to dance. It was music for voguing in front of the mirror in the club on a Saturday night, and was a great performance that the crowd warmed up to easily.
Next to the stage was Roselit Bone, another local act. By now the crowd was noticeably drunker, looser, and more invested in the music. This worked well to the band’s benefit, as they had no problem connecting the crowd to their emotionally driven “western” sound. The horn section and violin added a beautiful mariachi style to the music, which to me sounded like the backdrop to an apocalyptic prairie landscape. Have you seen that picture floating around on the internet of the guy playing guitar in this little cantina, and there’s a guy in the foreground who’s drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette and crying? That’s exactly how this band made me feel.
Much of the band’s energy came sourced directly from lead singer and guitarist Charlotte McCaslin, whose SoCal punk scene influence could be immediately appreciated in her almost aggressively poetic stage presence. On paper it was not something I thought I would have dug as much as I did, but I came away enjoying their earnest and emotional performance and how well they worked together as a band onstage.
Penultimate act for the night was the more straightforward psych group Elephant Stone. They were a definite tonal shift from the last act, and it was obvious that the crowd was getting hungry for the closers. Elephant Stone was a heavy quasi stoner psych band, much more “cut and dry” to my ears than the previous acts, sort of a what you see is what you get situation. Not in a bad way necessarily, they had a very clear musical direction and worked within it well. The lead singer/bass player started the set with a solo performance on a sitar while the the projector shone a visual of a bunch of burning candles on the walls around them, a bit of a Woodstock callback (‘69, definitely not ‘99)… if OPT was the come-up, this band was definitely the peak of the trip. Heavy, distorted guitar dirges that no doubt appeal to fans of bands like Sleep or King Gizz… maybe not my favorite act of the evening, but still enjoyable stuff to nod and sway along to.
Last act of the night, the one everyone was waiting for. For the first 4 or 5 groups I didn’t have too much trouble getting a spot at the front of the stage to take pictures. By the time the Dandy Warhols took the stage, I had been relegated to the farthest left possible position in front of the stage, directly in front of the monitors and behind other, more legitimate photo and videographers who had waited around to stake out their much more centralized real estate. I stuck it out as long as my eardrums would allow before quickly ducking out to a less sonically catastrophic corner of the crowd. I snapped as many pictures as I could until it felt like my eyes were going to vibrate out of my skull. The Warhols were LOUD, louder than any of the previous acts, a quality which was a necessary choice for their particular flavor of catchy, anthemic rock. If I were more technically inclined I might suggest that this had something to do with the reason that the band was plagued by noticeable, screeching feedback throughout their entire set, a problem they tried to address multiple times in between songs but which they never were able to fully remedy. Nonetheless, they fully delivered on their set and rocked the house as the perfect “comedown” to the day. Everyone was ready to jump full tilt into the band’s easy-to-sing-along-with choruses, with lots of great heavy musical buildups and payoffs that really got the crowd going. They also seemed to have put more work into their visual effects as well, cuing up specific sequences for specific songs with the effects team throughout the set. This was to great effect, as they had a lot of cool video collages of old black and white movie clips that were a perfect visual backdrop to the music. The care and attention to detail put into blending the audio and visual aspects of their performance shone through visibly, which I appreciated. They ended on a certified banger, Godless, which had me and the crowd belting along with all the “Ba da da da da da ba ba ba” in the chorus at full blast. The Warhols ended our night around 1AM or so, closing out a night of amazing music from a very impressive lineup of artists. Heading home that night, ears ringing and with all the bands I had seen that night sloshing around in my brain, I wondered how the next day’s acts would compare with such a high bar set.
But I’m happy to write that the second evening lived up to the first. Starting off the night 2 lineup and setting the mood for the evening was !mindparade, Portland natives with perhaps the most avant garde set I’d seen at the festival. They had a very dreamy, poppy, slightly baroque quality to them with a few improvisational, dare I say Freeform, type moments. They ended on an almost eerie chamber music-esque piece that felt like an ethereal drift through the cosmos. They were very orchestral, string forward and polished… all qualities I appreciated in art rock. I would suggest checking this band out if you’re not averse to the occasional extended avant garde noodling breaks.
Next was Pool Boys, an all female quartet that also hailed from Portland. They had a snappy and fun set that followed a pretty simple but successful formula: short, punchy, poppy rock songs driven by fuzzy power chords and beautiful harmonies that, at times, impressively included every member of the band. The mood could range from upbeat to wistful to playful, and delivered a performance that to me felt like the soundtrack to an autumn road trip. They were the only band that color coordinated in blue, which I give props for, and had great chemistry between each other on stage that shone through in their playing together. Definitely a cool group and one that I hope I get to hear more from in the future.
After Pool Boys set was Tonstartssbandht, a very interesting duo from Orlando consisting only of 2 brothers, Andy on bare-footed guitar/vocals and Edwin on drums/vocals. They delivered on some bluesy electric boogie of the highest caliber. Between Andy’s impressive fingerpickin’ virtuosity on his 12-string Danelectro and his brother’s relentless rhythm and backup harmonies, they delivered a high speed, foot-tappin’ feel-good experience. The americana jam band vibe made it hard not to evoke comparisons to a kind of Jerry Garcia type element, although Tonstartsbandhht implemented a decidedly noisier, more experimental approach to this type of music. Andy’s fingerpicking on the 12 string gave him the sound of at least 2 guitarists, and Edwin was there every step of the way rhymically while singing harmony, to boot. The end result was extremely fun to watch and listen to, and they definitely stuck out to me as one of the more interesting and engaging performances of the festival, especially when considering how full their sound was for a 2 person band.
Next on the bill was Vinyl Williams, a neo-psych group out of LA. Theirs was a pleasantly mellow, spacey, dreamy sound – very bass forward, bordering on almost funky at times. Their reverb drenched vocals contrasted well with their clean, echoey almost new wavey guitar. They also had great chemistry onstage, there was a lot of joking between members and they seemed quite comfortable playing together. At one point they mentioned the Turtles, also being from LA, after which I couldn’t help but hear (imagine?) the influence from the Turtles singer’s Flo and Eddie in some of the vocal performances from the band. It had a definite “California” sound, at least to my ears. Though this group was much synthier, much spacier… They weren’t necessarily reinventing the wheel, but altogether they gave a solid and enjoyable performance, fueled primarily by the hobbit cloak sporting bass player’s frenetic dance-jumping around the stage. Plus, they got bonus points for adorning their synth stand with flowers – always a lovely touch.
For night 2 I had made an executive decision to leave Vitalidad and walk over to the Get Down to catch at least the first part of Bush Tetras’ set. It meant I would have to leave after Vinyl Williams’ set and would have to unfortunately miss Holy Wave’s performance at Vitalidad. Bush Tetras also went on something like 45 minutes before Jerry Paper, another set I didn’t want to miss, so I’d only be able to catch the first chunk of Bush Tetras set. I felt bad about missing Holy Wave, like I had double crossed them or something, but being a big fan of Bush Tetras and not being familiar with Holy Wave, it felt like a concession I had to make. And they did not disappoint. They were composed of the 2 original members, singer Cynthia Sley and guitarist Pat Place who had been playing music together for over four decades, as Cynthia pointed out during the set. Backing them up was RB Korbet on bass who had joined in 2020, apparently a veteran of the New York rock scene (notably contributing to acts like King Missile and Pussy Galore), and Steve Shelley on drums, who I learned later was the drummer for Sonic Youth. And they went off like a live wire – an explosive, pulse pounding set replete with their trademark nervous energy and frenetic rhythms. Cynthia Sley especially killed it with her powerful, wailing pipes – her jerky, janky dancing matching the band’s performance perfectly. They were an absolute spectacle, just a massive wall of music that had to be heard to be reckoned with. An unforgettable performance, and one of my most anticipated, but one I had to curtail somewhat prematurely as I headed back over (somewhat wistfully) to Vitalidad for the final set of the night and the festival, Jerry Paper.
And you couldn’t really ask for a better close to the festival. Another highly anticipated performance, Jerry was on tour promoting their laid back and liberating recent album Free Time, pulling selections for the performance like the single “U Don’t Know Me”, and the mellow samba-esque number “Shaking Ass”, as well as favorites from previous albums like “Cholla” off Abracadabra and “Grey Area”, their track with Weyes Blood from Like a Baby. It was all melty, drippy, neo-funk perfection – with Jerry’s passionate, pleading vocals and loose, freeform dancing providing much of the visual performance of the show. In contrast, Jerry’s band seemed almost….not lifeless per se, but demure? Slightly fatigued maybe? There was perhaps a restrained chemistry between Jerry and the rest of the band, who mostly seemed to be getting through the songs and never expressed more than a quick smile between them at some of Jerry’s onstage banter. Nonetheless, in spite of a backup band somewhat lacking in luster, Jerry was there to provide luster in spades and then some. Deciding at times to pick up a (killer) pink Stratocaster to provide funky, upstroke rhythm guitar to accompany their velvety smooth crooning, they would often divert into extended dance breaks in between verses, inviting the audience to feel free enough to join in – many of whom were more than happy to oblige. And after the set, Jerry practically ran offstage and immediately over to the merch table in the next room, where they were selling records and clothes and just generally taking the time to talk with appreciative fans, including myself whom they very sweetly signed a record for, after I asked for one like a total dork.
In all, this year’s festival looked at least to me like an unabashed success. I couldn’t have asked for a better baptism into the local music scene, and although I wish I had been able to see more of the lesser known acts I was still overwhelmingly impressed with the display of talent and culture put together for this year’s festival, not to mention the handful of killer local merchants, artists and food vendors that the festival had partnered with this year to provide a remarkable and uniquely Portland-centric experience. I recommend everyone reading this check out my accompanying Spotify mix to get a sense of some of these artists for yourselves – I was blown away by how much I enjoyed some of the groups that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience otherwise. Lose Yr Mind Fest is a wonderful, uniquely local experience that I feel extremely grateful and fortunate to have covered – and I for one can’t wait to see what the lineup next year looks like!
Offered here for your viewing pleasure are a few of my favorite picks of pix (and vids) I got at this year’s Lose Yr Mind fest. I tried to touch up the quality as best as I could so that you don’t notice they were taken on a cell phone! Of special note are the pictures of Bush Tetras and Jerry Paper’s sets – because I like how those turned out the most. Keep an eye out for Jerry Paper’s mad dancing skills and OPT’s incredible rhythm section! Enjoy.