To date, I have had numerous opportunities to wax poetic about the indie music scene here in Portland, but of course it is a fertile indie breeding ground in another medium as well: comics! The area is home to both Dark Horse Comics, publisher of popular titles such as Hellboy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Oni Press, the company responsible for both the somewhat overrated Scott Pilgrim series and the wildly underrated Blue Monday. It should come as no surprise then that the recent weekend-long Stumptown Comics Fest came across as such a rousing success.
My weekend with Stumptown began on Friday night, when a local comics shop hosted a special “Drink & Draw” event (great concept, by the way) with legendary underground comics illustrator Peter Bagge. Comics geeks were invited to enjoy free snacks, knock back some free local brews courtesy of Ninkasi and browse the shop, hound Bagge for autographs or sit around at the many tables of art supplies, doodling and sketching their night away.
Spirits were high for Saturday and Sunday’s events at the convention center.
The convention center floor was the type of chaotic, hyper-commercial and mildly surreal spectacle common to events like this one, especially considering that the building was being shared with a children’s dance competition whose participants were giving me eerie flashbacks to the “Sparkle Motion” scene from Donnie Darko.
In the smaller panel rooms, the vibe was overall much more interesting. Speakers from big-wig comics writers like Brian Michael Bendis to educator, former weatherman and “terrorist pal” of the president Bill Ayers gave informative workshops and speeches, sparking off some truly useful dialog with the interested and thoughtful convention-goers. The atmosphere was very intimate compared to the convention floor -- a welcome respite from all the hype, networking and sales pitches.
On the whole I’d give this convention a 6 or a 7. It was small, independent and local for which it wins points. But it wasn’t the sort of oddly bacchanalian freak parade that some of the best geek cons can be (see: Boston Anime Convention. Man can those weirdos get down... more on that another time, maybe).
Regular readers of the column will remember that the last time I wrote about the dance music culture in PDX, I was pretty disappointed. Well, I’m happy to report that the situation has been rectified, somewhat. It’s true that most American cities can’t really keep up with Boston for giving an incredibly huge scene of enthusiastic dance music fans access to world-class DJs on the regular, especially from the European and international set. A lot of people work very hard to keep that particular culture alive and thriving in the region. But the recent Addison Groove/Doc Daneeka show at Holocene proved to me that yes, Portlanders can dance. The crowd was already going wild by the climax of the opening set by Tyler Tastemaker. His sleek house and bass beats were the perfect lead-in for the two of the UK’s finest who were to come, and Holocene is a great venue... like a much more spacious Middlesex Lounge.
Well, that’s it for this go-round. I’ll be back in a couple weeks with more opining with regards to life in the wild, wild west.
John Von Bittrich is a lifelong Bostonian chronicling his new adventures in Portland, Oregon, for the Boston Phoenix. He updates the Hub Capped blog bi-weekly.