Outside of beer, coffee, and the occasional naked bicyclist, nothing embodies Portland’s self-reliant creative streak like its ever-burgeoning rock scene. Always at a steady simmer of boundary-bending, on-the-verge bands, but never likely to boil over into a major-label chum pool, indie rock in the Rose City is a world in which “success” is something you achieve on your own terms.
This through-line of self-sustainability has had many manifestations, but almost all of them can be traced back to the late 1970s, when Fred and Toody Cole were running Captain Whizeagle’s, supplying inspiration, equipment, and ideas to the city’s young punks while cranking out home recordings and handmade fliers for their latest band. (Whether the Rats, Dead Moon, or whatever its name may have been that week.) The Coles’ spirit of exploration and their hands-on work ethic is being carried on today by a handful of bands so unique and self-sufficient—so, well, Portland—that some of them don’t even need a cranked-up guitar to make their point.
Octavio, the first single from Viva Voce’s newest album, Rose City
Whether dabbling in smoky stoner rock, jangly pop, or sweet country strumming, one thing about Viva Voce remains constant: real-life married couple Anita and Kevin Robinson, who started the band 11 years ago.
“It’s a lifestyle,” Anita says, “and not one that every marriage can handle. [Fred and Toody] must get a perverse pleasure from exploding amps, vans breaking down, bad road food, and not getting sleep for days. The fact that their shows are just as gritty as ever now shouldn’t surprise anyone. They are the real thing. The kind of nonposturing, ass-kicking musicians Portland should be known for.” —Robert Runyon