As someone who is relatively new to the unrivaled treasure of the Portland music scene, I find myself constantly reacting in awe to the performances that grace our local stages. Regardless of crowd size, every band, artist, and/or performer gives it their all. You see familiar faces at each show supporting one another and forming, in the most authentic sense, a community.
Usually I find myself laying on my floor, well aware of a show that evening and trying to find motivation to put on real-clothes and head out. This time it was seeing a post from Jason Unterreiner’s Instagram promoting the show, noting that he and his fellow band-mates were performing at Sun Tiki’s punk showcase on December 4th, The Return of Portland Punk. Jason has been one of the aforementioned familiar faces I’ve noticed at every show. It’s impossible not to recognize him, what with his frequent role in admissions at Sun Tiki Studios. I’ve only known him as a fellow photographer so when I learned he’d be on stage I tossed my camera batteries on the charger and cleared my SD cards. Jason is a gem of an artist and I didn’t want to miss a chance to photograph a photographer. After all, who cuts the barber’s hair?
First to take the stage, the Gubs absolutely exceeded my expectations for the night within the first few songs. Their intensely catchy skater-punk machinations inspired thoughts of LA evenings spent cruising around the park under a pink sunset. The beauty of their performance was that they fit so many songs into a relatively short time slot. This made it feel like they were on stage much longer than they actually were, which is absolutely a positive thing. Among my favorites was My Baby’s on Bath Salts which is exactly what you might expect it to be. Clocking in at a 43 second performance, it was just as manic and energetic as its face-chewing subject matter. By the end of their performance the entire audience was primed and ready for Crunchcoat to take the stage. Make sure to check out their Bandcamp, their most recent release Daisy Cutter Genocide is an absolute treasure. In the words of the Gubs, punk por vida, punk para siempre!
As Crunchcoat began setting up, I was very pleasantly surprised to see bassist Danny Bailey take the stage. I am familiar with her work with Peachier, another local pop-punk band. Danny’s ability to craft crunchy, distorted bass tones without compromising technical clarity is truly a marvel. Quite literally, her bass playing was shaking the walls of Sun Tiki Studios. After some friendly inter-bandmate banter, Crunchcoat started their set and immediately won me over. As an absolute sucker for power metal shredding, I was thoroughly excited to find out that Jason’s punky solos were sprinkled with the perfect amount of pinch harmonics. Pulling off pinch harmonics without coming across as boisterously flashy is no easy task and Jason did this effortlessly. Forming the backbone and rhythmic integrity of the band was their drummer, Lydia. She was perfectly in sync and flexed some impressively ambitious, yet flawlessly executed, drum fills.
In particular, Crunchcoat’s song TV from their album Jellyfish struck a cord with me. Here Jason sings about the dance that is self-care while trying to not feel so guilty about putting the world on pause while doing so. There’s something about the line “If I have to choose, I choose to fall off of the surface of the Earth” that perfectly encapsulates how romantic the idea of disappearing from and resurfacing to my social circles when I’m capable of exerting the necessary energy truly is. Sometimes all it takes is binging half of Star Trek: The Next Generation to keep you going, and that’s okay.
Headlining the show was Borderlines. They took the stage and immediately drew the crowd in both physically and emotionally. Every member of the band was able to deliver an excitingly energetic and dynamic performance. Harkening back to what I mentioned earlier, the house was not packed. By no means is that a dig against the band, it’s just the nature of local shows. In fact, it made it even more special. Borderlines made us, the audience, feel like we were back at Warped Tour. In my books the hallmark of a truly passionate band is found in their ability to deliver their highest caliber performances regardless of crowd-size. Their already charismatic stage presence was amplified tenfold by their powerfully harmonious sound, with everyone providing vocals at one point or another. Every song felt like it could fit within the soundtrack of a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game – this is praise of the highest caliber.
Borderlines’ anthemic soundscape came to a peak with their penultimate song of the evening, White Flag. Their front-man, Matt Anderson, introduced this song by letting us know it’s about surrendering oneself to love. Sometimes we know we’re going to get hurt but that’s just a part of the magic. Esteemed as we may be, who among us hasn’t leapt feet first into chaos? White Flag perfectly captures the exhilaration and prophetic intuition at the outset of some of our not-so-great relationships. Seriously though you should head over to their Bandcamp site and check it out.
As far as I’m concerned, I will leave critical commentary to the musical professionals. My musical palate is not (yet) nearly expansive or deep enough to pick apart the nuances of each performance in an effort to offer counterpoints to my praise. More than anything I want to encourage fence-sitters to make the jump and go to a local show, so long as you are responsibly and safely able to do so in terms of health, transportation, and intent. The Gubs are refreshingly fun. Crunchcoat is a veritable supergroup of local titans. Borderlines belong on your next playlist. Go see all of them and tell them you love them.