Saturday July 22nd, Troutdale, OR, McMenamins Edgefield. The sun was beating down at a solid 90° on a sold-out crowd of just under 1,400. Scattered across the lawn were an eclectic mix of indie-goers ranging from flower-crowned millennials, to hip rocker yuppies, to a handful of high waist-pantsed and seemingly lost seniors (maybe they thought this was a Willie Nelson concert?). The grass was soft and the beer lines moved quickly as people got settled in for a night with one of the most accomplished bands to grow out of Portland.
Kicking off the event was Cat Hoch, a Portland-based psych-jazz-rock ensemble headed by a floaty-voiced melodist of the same name. Their echoey instrumentals strung together waves of trance-inducing guitar solos and ghostly themes of celestial proportion. The night then shifted to the surf rock stylings of The Shivas. Channeling the spirit of early southwestern 60’s blues and a wicked-shaggy haircut that Joey Ramone himself would’ve been proud of, The Shivas ramped up the tempo and got heads bobbing faster than you could say ’90’s Quentin Tarantino soundtrack candidate.’
Then, it was time for the main event. As the sun faded, the background music was cut and the crowd erupted in anticipation. A booming backtrack of church bells led into an instrumental cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” After several bars of headbanging fervor, the apparent medley progressed into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2,” then seamlessly into their own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” In my personal opinion, live covers are a tricky thing, especially when you’re choosing to play songs by such influential artists as Metallica and Pink Floyd. There’s a delicate balance in paying homage to your heroes without loftily assuming the same prestige as such titans, but in this case the shortened mixtures were right on target. Portugal. The Man came out strong and got the crowd interested early.
After the preface, PTM moved right into their 2017 summer pop controversy, “Feel It Still.” I’ve gotta say though, despite the faddish nature of the song, it really is catchy as hell, and pretty hard not to groove to, especially given the summery setting (a healthy handful of drinks helped too). The lights and visuals did most of the work, as there was little movement on stage. This, however, was mostly the result of multiple members carrying on frequent vocal parts and/or stationary instruments (and a guitarist in a wheelchair, so I’ll let that one slide).
After flowing through the likes of “Got it All,” “Wave,” “So Young,” “Modern Jesus,” and “All Your Light,” they closed the first act with a loud and climactic swell of sound that then flopped into a stripped-down but dance-y musical break. On the projected backdrop, text began to cycle. “Ya’ll like smokin’ weed? Gettin’ fucked up? Discussing politics at family gatherings? That’s badass. Kyle’s got a boner.” After the jesting interlude reminiscent of a 2002 Blink-182 concert, they re-employed the cover tactic, ramping things back up with The Beatles‘ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” followed by “So American” and “Live In the Moment” (btw Fall Out Boy called and they want their song back).
Then, things got weird, as requested by more text on the screen. PTM proceeded to play “Feel It Still” again. I kept waiting for some altered bridge or stylistic reprise, but as far as I could tell, it was literally just the same song over again. Maybe it was a marketing move to really ingrain their most recent single into our skulls? Or, potentially it was a statement more along the lines of, ‘we don’t give a shit about the recent criticism we’ve gotten for this album, this is who we are now and we’re going to own it.’ Despite the Kanye-esque gesture, I felt inclined to lean toward the latter, especially since it seemed more in line with the shirts in their merch tent.
Afterward we were treated with “Hip Hop Kids,” “Holy Roller,” and a their last song, which they called their ‘best song ever,’ also which I had never heard and didn’t think was even close to their best song ever. They returned for their encore (holy shit, WHAAT?!? DIDN’T EXPECT THAT!!! (oh wait, yes I did)) with a t-shirt cannon and “Number One.”
All in all, it really was a fantastic show. PTM were lively, visually exciting, and most importantly, they sounded incredible. There were a few quirky bits, but ultimately they provided an audile experience that could never sound the same through a pair of headphones. There are times when a band sounds exactly like their record in impressive fashion, and then there are times like this when they sound adversely organic and extant with equally precise and commendable artistry. It was the kind of performance that seemed completely unique in that moment and left you feeling like there was nowhere else in the world you’d rather be. And hell, that’s the best you can ever hope to get from a show. Well done, guys.