"Never underestimate the power of the repeated note" was a dictum drilled into my head by the first of many music composition teachers. It's a theory that holds true more often than you might think, and the bands at SPACE gallery on Saturday night employed this method liberally, and to great success. These bands were part of the first 48 Hour Music Festival, an event tirelessly organized by Portland's own Leif Curtis (Conifer).
The show was the culmination of an immense challenge posed to 30 local musicians, chosen from an array of local scenes. Their names were tossed into (and drawn back out of) a hat. Nascent bands were assigned members in this chance fashion, and given two days to create a 25-minute set of music. What resulted was unexpected by all measures — the bands didn't simply accomplish the goal set out for them, these bands were good.
The weird confluence of resulting music was most engaging to attentive Portland listeners — seeing these members in their original bands meant being able to pinpoint their contributions to the bands they played with on Saturday. Rock bands placed balls firmly to the wall, summery guitar-picking met doom-metal drums, two trombones were blasting in harmony at one point, and one unlucky theremin was destroyed.
Prism Camp, a brooding, surprisingly polished stoner-rock band, was popular enough to sell out of their merchandise, a one-time run of goofy T-shirts. A notable standout was the final act, Vicious Blow, presented with a unique hurdle by virtue of their makeup: three drummers (Jason Stewart, Andrew Barron, Mike Hutchinson) and two guitarists (Nanl Meiklejohn, Ryan Gillespie). Within this context, the members eschewed melody in favor of battering, complex, and primal rhythmic repetition. The result was post-rock catharsis, a tightly orchestrated maelstrom of fingertapped jazz guitars, heavily distorted minor chords, and synchronized three-way drum-set interplay. The audience response to the evening was overwhelming, and I join them here in saying one thing: We Want More.
Portland felt an important if somewhat subtle sea change Saturday night — by peeling away the divisionist tendencies that have so long plagued the music scenes here, these musicians discovered in one another a seemingly bottomless wellspring of talent. Let's hope this new development in Portland's musical history will become manifesto rather than devolving into elegy. Word is that by the time the after-parties ended, a few of the bands already had more shows booked. Keep an eye out for them.