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The PDX-POP listserv was mostly for posting “my amp’s busted” or “I saw this amazing show.” Then in 2003, we started a thread noting that Portland bands were selling out shows around the country but playing to just six friends here. Thirty people showed up to a meeting at the Lucky Lab to talk about how to engage people, and the idea we rallied around was a local music festival. The concept was: lets remove as many barriers as possible to finding a way into the local music community. Let’s make it free, all ages, and in one centrally located event. —Cary Clarke, PDX Pop cofounder who went on to be the arts policy director for former Mayor Sam Adams
Image: Gary Lee
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Get Hustle on the Roturre stage in 2010
The first year was at the space that is now Branx/Rotture—at that point it was Meow Meow, an important all ages venue. We were some of the first shows there, so we were painting the walls for the venue and building a stage. It was exhilarating and disorganized. People really broke their backs. —Cary Clarke, PDX Pop cofounder
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Nurses in 2009
In the 2009 festival, Nurses was playing inside Rotture. It was at capacity, disgustingly hot, and everyone was jumping into each other in a mosh-pitty environment because it was an amazing set. When it ended, everybody walked outside into the summer night, where Laura Gibson was standing alone with her guitar on the stage. And people just sat down on the ground. It was a magical transition. It was chilling. That's one of my favorite things about PDX Pop Now: it really juxtaposes different genres to expose people to all the different types of music being made in the city. —Benna Gottfried, marketing director 2010–2013
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Two days worth of compilation submissions
When the selection committee votes on the songs on the compilation, they don’t know who the performers are—they just have a bunch of songs to listen to. And in 2008, everyone voted Y La Bamba as their favorite, and that brought a whole lot of attention to the group that was coming out of nowhere in terms of visibility. That process is so different from the music business, where you have to headline the Crystal Ballroom or pack Mississippi. —Larry Crane, owner of Jackpot Recording Studio, the only business to sponsor the festival for all 10 years
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Ages and Ages in 2010
I was in Pocatello, Idaho, working at KISU back in 2006. Even then, anything emanating from Portland had a bit of a cache. The fact that bands who are just starting out can be on a compilation alongside the Decemberists and the Shins is a big deal. It puts those acts on the national radar, at least on college radio. Bands like Point Juncture, WA’s “Cardboard Box” and Ages and Ages’ “No Nostalgia”—anybody who hears that song, it’s automatic love. —Jeremy Peterson, OPBMusic host/producer
Image: Gary Lee
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Liv Warfield in 2008
PDX Pop provides a place for artists to really play with no expectations and no rules. That was the most free I’ve ever been. If I could’ve, I would’ve played all night. I don’t know who taped our performance of “Gimme Shelter,” but Prince was looking for a singer to be part of his band, and a friend of mine sent it in. I was like, “Yeah, right.” Prince liked the video, and the rest was history. —Liv Warfield, who fronts the Liv Warfield Experience when she’s not touring with Prince as part of the New Power Generation
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Shy Girls on the road
I had released an EP of songs in late 2011 on the Internet, and [artistic director] Chris Cantino found it and asked if I played live. I didn’t have a band, so I took that as the initiative to put one together. We were nervous, but it was huge for us. Enough people were there who enjoyed it and were involved in booking other places that it instantaneously bumped us up to the next level of notoriety. —Dan Vidmar of Shy Girls, which performed in 2012 and went on to win Willamette Week’s Best New Band not a year later
Image: Shy Girls
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I didn't have a lot of social skills when I was young, so going to shows and meeting people who are interested in music is how I came out of my shell. To be part of an organization that gives kids a place to see music, which is really hard to do in Portland if you're not old enough to drink, that's really cool. —Chelsea Rice, current finance director
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When we got involved in 2008, the economy was not in a place where people right out of college had the opportunity to do things that really made a difference in the world. This was an open door that allowed us to make a difference while doing other jobs that maybe we weren't that excited about. Then, low and behold, this led to other things professionally that we would've never imagined. It’s building a structure for young people to be arts and community leaders in a way they’re not conscious of. —Ben Kubany, board member 2010–2013, whose work on PDX Pop’s Give Guide campaign so impressed Willamette Week publisher Richard Meeker that Meeker hired him as the paper’s production coordinator
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Alela Diane at Parkrose Middle School in 2007
In 2007, PDX Pop launched its outreach efforts at Parkrose Middle School on 118th and Shaver, where I was a teacher. I’d heard how many of my students were bored over the summer, and how they’d seen no live music of any kind, least of all local music. So we brought Allele Diane, Shaky Hands, and others. Watching students completely rapt for Allele Diane—one woman with an acoustic guitar in a giant gym full of hundreds of eighth graders, which could’ve gone very wrong—was the most emotional concert experience I’ve ever had. —Cary Clarke, PDX Pop cofounder who went on to be the arts policy director for former Mayor Sam Adams
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Bicycle parking outside Refuge in 2011
In 2010, we felt like we reached our capacity with how the festival was being run. We were out behind Rotture on the street, the stage setup wasn't very professional, and it felt like we were just bursting of the seams. We got a new logistics coordinator and transferred to Refuge, and the stage set up was just phenomenal. This year they’re moving again to an all-outdoor setup, which is going to be fun. —Nick Johnson, board member 2010–2013
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Menomena in 2009
I go to a lot of shows, but it’s been a place where I’ve seen tons of things for the very first time. I think that’s where I saw Menomena the first time, Brainstorm, AU. That’s a pretty awesome opportunity if you’re a fan of music. I think you take the compilation and the festival combined, and it’s a really good snapshot of the Portland music scene. —Jeremy Peterson, OPBMusic host/producer
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The audience for Menomena in 2009
The most amazing thing is something is being created that can carry on without any of the original founders. That’s something I would’ve doubted as I sat down with the people at the Lucky Lab 10 years ago. And it’s a really positive event. People frequently talk about the business of music, but to have something where we’re just talking about the band that’s playing for free, no one is looking to get paid, let’s just come and experience how great Portland music is—I believe in that. —Larry Crane, owner of Jackpot Recording Studio, the only business to sponsor the festival for all 10 years
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Y La Bamba at one of PDX Pop's City Hall showcases in 2009
I think that PDX Pop is the charger, the battery—all this really good positive energetic collaborations with people who really believe in music. Portland is what it is because something called PDX Pop hosts bands who want to start out and feel good that people out there are willing to support them. —Luz Elena Mendoza, lead singer of Y La Bamba
Image: Feb 28
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White Fang in 2008
We like to think the Portland music scene is amazing, and it is amazing. But I’ve never heard of another festival that features the range of bands that this does, does it for free, and is all ages. I think it’s completely unique. —Jeremy Peterson, OPBMusic host/producer
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