Portugal. The Man
The Republican National Convention hardly attracted as many glitterati as its Democratic counterpart did a week earlier. Thus were Americans watching the St. Paul drama deprived of the insightful political commentary that only celebrities such as, say, Sean Penn and John Legend could provide. It’s important to know what creative folks are thinking about the candidates, so the Phoenix reached out to prominent indie rockers from Wasilla, Alaska, for wisdom on vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s sexy brand of promiscuous and vengeful conservatism.
“This whole thing is crazy,” Portugal. The Man [Ed. Note: Yes, there is a period in the middle of the band’s annoying name] guitarist John Baldwin Gourley says by phone from Wasilla this past Thursday. “I was watching her speech last night and I couldn’t believe that people were cheering for her being a hockey mom from Alaska. This is the woman who tried getting our small-town librarian fired because she wouldn’t ban certain books. This whole thing blows my mind.”
Ryan “The Alaskan” Brown, a Wasilla native, former member of Portugal. The Man, and now a bassist in the Boston band Ho-Ag, was equally flabbergasted: “This sucks. I first became conscious of politics when she became mayor, so I’ve been fairly vocal about her since I was 16. She’s like Ann Coulter without the balls. . . . I was always the person at the state fair yelling at her with a megaphone.”
Neither Brown nor Gourley have “Coldest State, Hottest Governor” bumper stickers on their cars. They both speak lowly of Palin’s gubernatorial efforts, and especially disapprove of her mayoral bulldozing in Wasilla, where she invited controversially costly commercial and infrastructural projects, and fired the police chief, finance director, and city attorney soon after taking office.
“It was so Wasilla to have her as this young pretty woman mayor,” says Gourley, explaining that his city is more or less a cliché upper-middle-class American Pie prom kingdom. “She ran the town like a high school — helping her friends and getting rid of everyone else who was in her way.”
“She kept taking out bonds to build roads for the city,” says Brown. “When she ran as a ‘fiscal conservative,’ the town had no debt, and when she left our debt was ridiculous.” Brown also claims that Palin was instrumental in closing down the pool hall — his one spot to hang out — “because there were a few noise complaints.”
This is the first interview that either musician has given since Senator John McCain selected Palin. Still, reporters had already phoned Gourley’s brother, who shares a first name with the ass-kicking hockey stud who impregnated Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol.
“We’ve been getting calls all week because my younger brother’s name is Levi,” says Gourley, adding that “Levi” is not necessarily a popular name in Alaska. “It’s just a coincidence — I don’t know that many Levis.”
One Palin-backed issue that outsiders might imagine won over Wasilla’s indie-rock community is closing time of bars: as mayor, the moose-killer insisted bars remain open until 5 am, despite pleas from local authorities — who witness regular drunk-driving carnage there — to move it back a few hours in order to prevent accidents. But it turns out that musicians care little about her last-call hard line; it seems that, at least according to Gourley and Brown, artist types mostly avoid Wasilla bars for fear of getting pummeled by real men like Palin’s union worker husband or her future self-described “redneck” son-in-law.