Kathryn Kucera’s Exploring Portland+Music

Who else loves Fiona Apple’s version of “Across the Universe?”

“If you want to sing out, sing out! And if you want to be free, be free. Cause there’s a million things to be, you know that there are…” Cat Stevens always has a way of helping me stay optimistic about humanity in times when the stress of the world seems to emphasize the dimmest parts of the human condition. In other words, the finals-week-machine is approaching with metal jaws chomping!

 

It’s been a bit of a struggle getting my mind in the right place for the madness that is finals after having such a blissful Thanksgiving break. I braved the holiday sky traffic and ventured to Nashville, TN to visit my boyfriend, Casy. I hadn’t seen him since leaving home in August, so it was really great to spend some time with him and to see the south, a part of this country I was completely unfamiliar with. Because my flight departed at 6 a.m. on Thursday, I was not able to make use of the handy LC shuttles that go directly from campus to the airport the day before Thanksgiving. Unwilling to shell out for a cab, I decided to go the bohemian way and took the last bus downtown, and then took the MAX light rail to the airport. I arrived at about midnight, and sat in the arrival waiting area until check-in time at 4:30 a.m. Sleep was pretty impossible, so I stocked up on Newsweek, Spin, and coffee. Despite accidentally overhearing an extremely personal cell phone conversation in the dead stillness of PDX airport at 2:30 in the morning, stuffing all my necessities into one heavy backpack so as to avoid bag check fees, and the subsequent delirium from lack of sleep, I arrived safe and sound in Nashville on Thursday. And I felt almost proud of my self-sufficiency, though it did mean sore feet and greasy hair- we’re young, this is the time to rough it! casy and me casy and me again

 

Casy showed me the ins and outs of Nashville and the TN countryside. It’s amazing how different cities are from one to the next. Living in PDX is unlike living in any other metropolis, I’m realizing; it’s so clean and livable. We ate Thanksgiving dinner with some friends, and spent the rest of the weekend baking (I took full advantage of having a real kitchen and made vegan banana bread and Christmas cookies), banana bread! cookiesmore cookies cookie dough is fun to play withwatching “Seinfeld” episodes and Harold and Maude, double-dating, playing music on the porch, and dancing to Beach Boys records with friends at a cookie-decorating party we hosted. dancinIt was such a great time! It was definitely what I needed to tide me over until winter break when I finally get to see my beloved California, my darling friends and family whom I miss so much!

 

fly golden eagleSince being back in Portland, I have not been able to see any shows. However while in Nashville, Casy introduced me to his friend, Ben who has a great one-man project called Fly Golden Eagle. He loops beats and writes and plays all the rest of the instruments and vocals himself. It’s really fun dancerock music whose songs cover subject matter from the development of technology since the 1970’s to wearing dapper suits. He performs in costume- this means a head-to-toe golden unitard, golden specs, and even a gold beak and wings. Give it a listen! He is quite the charming and talented young Nashvillain, and has been my jam for the past week. www.myspace.com/flygoldeneagle

 

Tonight I am going to go to French Film Club to watch “A Very Long Engagement.” Oh yeah, I also finally found a work-study job! You are reading the words of the newest Lewis & Clark Ceramics Studio assistant! It’s hard work, and so fun. It’s basically a lot of cleaning the studio, organizing the tools, getting everything ready for the artists to use, and mixing batches of clay for which I get to wear a gas mask. Cool? Chyeah!

 

Really, y’all, I mean it. Send me emails! I would love to hear your views on the ethicality of dumpster diving, Audrey Tautou’s adorable dimples, or the spiritual medicine being with those you love provides for the soul.  kkucera@lclark.edu

3 December 2008

“I need a lover with soul power, and you ain’t got not soooul power”

Oh dear- I must apologize for my absence in the blog world last week. It’s the strangest thing, I wrote a post about how boring my week was, saved it, but then never published it! This may be to your advantage, however, because all the good stuff happened after Wednesday anyway.

 

On Thursday, I heard that the tickets to the Of Montreal show were not, in fact, sold out, as I had believed. So I made the spontaneous decision that afternoon to nab some and join my friends. This turned out be one of the few instances where spontaneity served me well. The show was at the Roseland Theater, which is located right in the middle of downtown PDX. It’s a very attractive venue- the inside sort of looks like a rock ‘n’ roll art gallery. The stage is upstairs, in a standing-room-only-room. The term “room” seems unfitting because there wasn’t any of it. The place was packed! The opening band was a noise band from LA called HEALTH. Distorted guitars, haphazard thrashing bass, thunderous double-bass drums, duels on the toms, screaming and an occasional melodious interlude… I loved them. Most of the crowd- comprised of fragile hipsters and electro-pop lovers- wasn’t too into it. The energy they put off is killer, and totally got me siked for Of Montreal If you are interested in new, loud, seizure-inducing sound, be sure to check them out. www.myspace.com/healthmusicl_9e8272405bee8db7b7f19aa7e0166f73.jpg

 

It was another hour before Of Montreal came on… The smooth jazz they played between sets didn’t exactly prevent one from becoming antsy. But soon, we saw people in gold jumpsuits creeping across the stage, attempting to be inconspicuous as they took their places behind a screen. Colored lights and psychadelic graphics swirled around, and the band took their instruments, donned in; seventies-era Native American costume, Sergeant Pepper-reminiscent coat, bright orange stockings, tiger-head mask… The music starts, the crowd begins to gyrate en masse, as if we were all contained in a massive color-changing jello mold. This all came to a climax as charismatic front man, Kevin Barnes, took the stage. n567882041_994171_3440.jpgThe energy of the show stayed at this level without faltering until the very end of the last encore song, which was a magical rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  Of Montreal’s shows are unlike any other you will go to. They are incredibly theatrical, with a whole cast of dancers, countless costume changes, surrealist skits during songs, and lots of crowd participation.n567882041_994196_9511.jpg To name a few highlights: Kevin Barnes stripping to a metallic speedo, then reemerging covered in shaving cream,n567882041_994205_1453.jpg several break-dancing buddhas, glitter, confetti, and feathers being showered on the crowd, and the ever-changing scenes enacted by the dancers. Unlike many shows in Portland, people who come to an Of Montreal show are not too cool to dance, and I don’t mean just nonchalant swaying back and forth- we got down with our bad selves! n1479420087_30143478_5654.jpgI thought I might pass out of dehydration at one point, but it was- in all truth- the most fun I have ever had at a show.n567882041_994214_9070.jpgn567882041_994217_2080.jpg

 

The weekend was more low-key. On Saturday I went to northeast PDX with some pals to eat at an incredible breakfast/lunch place called Gravy. They make delicious vegetarian gravy and an oatmeal brulee! My friend, Dick, is a very talented photographer and snapped this picture after I almost got hit by the MAX train.n567882041_1001627_5685.jpg

 

I hope everyone has safe travels and a lovely Thanksgiving! Write me about New York Times crossword puzzles, sleet (is it snow or rain?) or how vegetarians don’t need tryptophan as an excuse to nap a lot on T-day. kkucera@lclark.edu

25 November 2008

“And the Beat Don’t Stop For Nothin…”

Today is Thursday November 13, which means… Thanksgiving is exactly two weeks away! With this thought comes immense excitement because I am totally ready for a break amidst all the academic madness, and because it will be so nice to take a little breather from the rain and gloom. But then subsequent thoughts of what these next two weeks will require in my classes- papers, projects, and tests tests tests- keep my brain from flying away too soon.

 

Again, I didn’t post on Wednesday this week because that’s when all the action was happening. So here it is…

 

This week has been the Multicultural Symposium at LC, offering workshops, panels, lectures, and an art show. The theme this year was “Landscapes of Migration” and a highlight was On Wednesday, my professor walked my whole Intro to Cultural Anthropology class down the street in the blustery weather to the Law School to hear Alter Wiener, a Holocaust survivor, tell his story. He has written a book entitled “From a Name to a Number: A Holocaust Survivor’s Autobiography”, but rather than promote it, he just stood in front of the packed room and told us his story. He lost his family at 13 and was enslaved in several camps until the age of eighteen when he was liberated. With no relatives alive to speak of, he made his way to New York and went to college. Mr. Wiener now lives in Portland at a ripe 82, where he spreads his message of hope and peace.  The humility and joy with which he spoke was truly heartbreaking and inspiring. To have endured so much physically and mentally and to live so long afterward and to truly LIVE! I felt so privileged to be a member of the last generation who will probably have such an opportunity to hear such a monumental story firsthand.

 

I also attended the Multicultural Symposium Art Show. Here are some pictures of student and local art:

 Art #1Art #2Art #3Art #4

 

Alright, so I bought tickets back in September to see Old Crow Medicine show at the Crystal Ballroom downtown and last night was the much anticipated night! I had wanted to see them for years and- thankfully- was not disappointed in the least. They put on such a phenomenal show- arguably the best I have been to in Portland yet! The Crystal Ballroom is, as the name suggests, an old ballroom with bouncy-ish floors. It has a very unique ambiance, due to the rows of vintage lightbulbs on the walls and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling… the excitement in the crowd manifested itself in a hum of conversations and singing and eager foot-stomping to the Elvis songs playing while we waited for the band to come onstage. Finally the OCMS boys took their instruments; a banjo, a fiddle, a harmonica, a guitar, and a steel guitar; the crowd was so full of energy, it was contagious! We danced and sang along and had a good ol’ time… the time came when the show was over but- much to my pleasure- would not hear it! We stomped on the ground and clapped our hands off and hooted and hollered (it totally could have been a scene from “Walk the Line”!!) and they came back on! They played a bluegrassified cover of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel”- it was so rad! Then they took their final bows and left the stage to uproarious applause. Wait a second- did I say final bow? After much more rioting, they came back for a second encore! This time they played an absolute favorite of mine, “Caroline,” a sweet song about long-time lovers. It was a sweet ending.n1479420087_30142083_175.jpgn1479420087_30142084_6938.jpgn1479420087_30142086_8352.jpgn1479420087_30142087_90561.jpgn1479420087_30142090_7875.jpg

Thank you for reading all this, if you did, in fact, read all this. Have a great weekend, all!

Send emails my way if you have a favorite encore story, are experiencing a sunny gap in grey weather, or your feelings on James Bond’s influence on American society. kkucera@lclark.edu

14 November 2008

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Though today was a most typical Wednesday- full of classes, meetings, friends, work and play- I have had to step back at many moments throughout the day and remind myself that I have just been sewed into the patchwork quilt of history. Last night, students gathered in dorm lounges, classrooms, and Council Chambers (the big lecture hall) to watch the election results come in. My friends and I were a few of the dozens of students in C.C. and I wish I could express the energy that filled that room. As each state’s result came in, the volume in the room rose above the constant hum of excitement and anxiety. When Ohio’s results came in, many began to cheer, certain that the new president had been determined. I, however, was so anxious that I could not yet trust the numbers…dscn0005-1.jpgdscn0009-1.jpg

 

Unfortunately, I had to break away from the party for a while because I have Gamelan on Tuesday nights. I don’t believe I have explained Gamelan yet. It’s a music course in which we play in an Indonesian orchestra comprised of various gongs, drums, and xylophone-esque instruments. The gamelan at LC was brought over from Java by some professors. They found them stored in a cave in the middle of the jungle, and all the instruments date back about two hundred years! The gamelan looks and sounds really beautiful when all played together… it’s an eery, shimmery kind of sound that I’ve never heard in music of any other culture. We all sit on the floor to play the instruments, which are all low to the ground, and in the middle of class we take a break for tea. During this break, we tuned in to NPR to stay up to date on the election.s567882041_782745_8039.jpgs567882041_782746_8073.jpg

 

dscn0013-1.jpgdscn0017-1.jpgdscn0019-1.jpgGamelan ended at about 8:20 and we rushed back over to Council Chambers. Obama had just been announced the winner of the 2008 presidential election! The cheers in the room made it impossible to call my mom or sister to celebrate! Everyone quieted down as he delivered his speech… This is a moment I will never forget in all of my life. I looked around at my peers and felt so deeply IN that moment of hope and wonder- I am so grateful to be part of generation that is initiating this nonviolent revolution. And it was only then, as he spoke, that I could truly believe that he was actually our president! After the speech, there was much hugging and dancing and singing of “Yes We Can”. Everywhere on campus, students paraded about in celebration- it felt like Italy after winning the World Cup! It was such a beautiful night. Although, the victory is yet to come, in my mind, in the years ahead. I have hope, and long to continue being the change that we all wish to see.

 

Although it seems trivial in light of all this, I thought I should say that my Halloween night was fantastic and I hope yours was too! I dressed up as a “foul ball”- it was a pun, my specialty. I was a baseball with a black eye, dirt smudged all over my face and arms, and “foul” language written on me. Ha.. Ha…. n1273620729_31042818_6796.jpgSome friends and I went downtown and went to Chipotle dressed up as a burrito (i.e. wrapped a blanket around us all and put sticky notes on our forehead indicating which ingredient we were). And no, contrary to what you might think, we didn’t do it just for kicks. In fact, Chipotle gives out free burritos on Halloween if you come dressed up as a burrito! After eating the most delicious free burritos in the world, we went over to Portland State University to watch “Pet Sematary,” about the worst and funniest horror movie on the planet. Plus, free popcorn? Now that’s what I call a good time.

 

The rain sounds so lovely outside… This week is “La Semaine Francaise” at LC so a group of students gathered to watch “La Vie En Rose”, a French film about Edith Piaf. It’s a beautifully made movie… thought quite long. Which means, I must return to my homework- or maybe I’ll just continue marathoning “Freaks and Geeks”. We’ll see. Please email me! About inaccurate subtitles, smokers’ coughs, our new president, or anything else on your mind. kkucera@lclark.edu

6 November 2008

Happy Halloweenie!

Happy Halloween! And sorry for the delay this week, it’s been a crazy one. We usually post on Wednesdays, but this past Wednesday was my birthday! It was also the day before I had to do my first performance of a scene I have been working on in my Acting class. So Wednesday was split between frantically running through my scene with my scene partner in preparation for the next day and celebrating my birthday as well. img_0299.JPG

This birthday was made very memorable, thanks to my beautifully creative friends and family. The day got off to a good start because my earliest class, E&D, was cancelled! At lunch, my mom had conspired with my roommate JJ for the Bon to provide me with a cake, which was a slightly embarrassing but thoughtful and delicious surprise. We have been living off it for the remainder of the week. Ah, the college student’s diet. Later in the day, I walked into my room to find myself bombarded with balloons by my friends as they serenaded me, accompanied by an accordion! I was also the lucky recipient of several hilarious D.I.Y./recycled birthday cards and gifts. Some of these included a bouquet of lovely dried lavender picked down by the pool on campus by my friend Kate, a coupon for a four-hand massage from Kate and Logan, and a beautiful journal that my boyfriend, Casy, made and bound himself and sent to me in the mail! img_0313.JPGimg_03141.JPGimg_0318.JPGimg_0327.JPG

That night, a group of us took the RAZ downtown and ate dinner together at a Lebanese restaurant called Nicholas’. For those of you visiting the school, this is the first restaurant I would suggest. It’s a completely unique experience, and the food is insane, in a good way. The meal begins with a humongous, freshly baked piece of pita bread set on a platter in the middle of the table that everyone shares. If only I could begin to explain the warm bready goodness… We enjoyed a spread of baba ganoush, hummus, falafel, tabouli, and a spinach and feta pie thingy! Mmm. I definitely ate too much, but I don’t think it could have been prevented. It was too darn good. img_0320.JPGimg_0321.JPGimg_0322.JPG

Luckily, the next place we were headed was to meet up with the rest of the gang at Berbati’s Pan to dance the night away at the Yelle concert! For those who are not familiar, Yelle is a French tekktonique (French electrodancepop) artist. Passion Pit opened up for her, which was really fun to see. Picture lots of synthesizers, an electric guitar, and a gang of hyper sweaty boys onstage. www.myspace.com/passionpitjams However, nothing compared to the greatness that is Yelle because:

a)     She is adorable! She has a very distinct style of dancing that she invites everyone to join in. And who can resist, “Ah yeu ready to DANCE, Pohght-lahnd?”

b)    The amazing DJ Tepr was manning the Macbook. Such AWESOME mixing!

c)     The stereotypical shaggy haired French dude on the sparkly drum set, with purple pants provided the irresistible beats.

The venue is pretty small and it was absolutely packed. But we were near the front and, despite the many jabbing elbows and generous sharing of sweat, the show felt really intimate and engaging. It could have easily been a dance party in the Ponderosa basement! If you have not listened to Yelle and need some new music for a dance party, check out “A Cause des Garcons” and Tepr’s remix of “Ce Jeu”. www.myspace.com/iloveyelle

We emerged from the Pan at about 1 am wobbly legged from so much dancing and drenched in sweat that was probably mostly not ours. Because the RAZ only runs until 10:30 on weeknights, we divided ourselves amongst a few cabs. I had never ridden in a taxi before, and let me just say, riding in a taxi in Portland is a hysterical novelty of an experience! And, as long as you have enough people to split, it’s the most cost efficient and safe alternative late at night.

Sorry this is so long! I also wanted to mention that last night I attended a lecture on campus by Dr. Peggy McIntosh called “Waking up to White Privilege”. Dr. McIntosh’s lecture was extremely eye opening and thought provoking, and she was so funny and sweet. I highly recommend reading her articles! The lecture was packed, and today many students around campus have been discussing the concepts of racial and gender-related privilege systems ingrained in our society and the ways that we have the power to begin tipping those scales. Awesome stuff!

Okay, really, I am going to stop now. I have some pictures, so I hope those were enough of an incentive to at least skim this whole thing! Now I must go get in costume for the rest of the evening. Some friends and I are planning to go see a $2 viewing of “Pet Sematary” at PSU and then dress up as burritos to get free burritos at Chipotle. As always, please feel free to email your thoughts on French dance moves, “flesh tone” band-aids that match only a fraction of peoples’ skin, the difference between horror movies and psychological thrillers, or witty Halloween costumes! kkucera@lclark.edu img_0294.JPG 

31 October 2008