The Best Things We Heard and Saw at MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst

This town wasn’t big enough for two music festivals.

Let’s just admit that right up front. When MusicfestNW slimmed down from its week-long, multi-venue format to two days and one outdoor location, it opened the concert landscape up for a big, new competitor, which ended up being Project Pabst. But it turned out to be too much of a pretty good thing. Portland isn’t exactly starved for events during the summer, after all. So coming together, pooling resources and maybe canceling out a few of each other’s respective flaws made sense. And the city responded: MFNWpPP—that’s MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst—completely sold out before the gates at Waterfront Park opened.

Related: “Welcome to MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst.”

We always admit it’s hard for us to seem unbiased, but the debut of the conjoined festival went off considerably better than the first installments of either Project Pabst or the new-look MFNW. Only at a few peak moments did the size of the crowd feel overwhelming. Beer was cheap and (mostly) accessible. And the fact that there wasn’t a forest-fire raging nearby and blanketing the city with ash certainly helped. But really, it was the lineup that did it. Combining Pabst’s focus toward legacy acts with MFNW’s emphasis on new music, it somehow ended up being the biggest festival the city has possibly ever seen while at the same time offering plenty of opportunities for discovery.

Here’s the best of what we saw.

Best Channeling of a Classic-Rock God: Kyle Craft

Portland-based Sub Pop signee Kyle Craft has a serious Stevie Ray Vaughn vibe going on—I’m pretty sure his hat was outfitted with matchsticks, feathers and foreign currency of some kind. It’s the kind of getup that says, “I’m a rock star and always will be.” His band mostly kept up, matching his intense vocal presence with parlor-room guitar riffs and shifting time signatures. But when Craft stepped into the singer-songwriter role with tracks like “Lady Of The Ark,” he’s on another plane entirely. MARK A. STOCK.

Best Drum Kit Destruction: The Coathangers

Coathangers drummer Stephanie Luke annihilated her kit during a roughly hour-long, high-tempo beatdown that, amazingly, didn’t yield any broken sticks or drum heads. The Atlanta trio’s surf-punk sound was the perfect flesh for this punishing percussive skeleton but the average fan couldn’t keep up without resorting to strange, convulsive shaking. I’ve heard of drummers who play so hard it’s practically a form of fitness but this is one of the few times I’ve actually witnessed it. The level of badassery on display here was off the charts. (MAS)

Best Substitute: Liv Warfield

Stepping in at the last minute to replace rapper Lizzo, who scored a gig hosting the MTV Video Music Awards pre-show, Warfield delivered a set suggesting she should’ve been in that spot all along. Abetted by an ace rock’n’soul backing band and rocking a long black wig that extended to the small of her back, the Portland-bred R&B singer gave off some serious Tina Turner vibes. Other than a quick aside—“I’ve got a purple heart, in case you didn’t know”—Warfield didn’t mention her Prince connections, but she did close with an eruptive cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” the same song that won her a spot in the New Power Generation a decade ago. If there was a roof covering Waterfront Park, her pipes would’ve blown it straight into the Willamette. MATTHEW P. SINGER.

Related: “The Spirit of Prince Lives On in Portland Soul Queen Liv Warfield.”

Best Cult of Personality: Andrew W.K.

You’ve got to hand it to Andrew W.K.: When the dude kicked, punched and headbanged his way into public consciousness a decade and a half ago, I don’t know if anyone could’ve predicted we’d still be talking about him in 2016. Somehow, the guy has managed to establish a permanent place in the zeitgeist, and he’s done so without ever really moving on from his first album, I Get Wet—his bloody visage from the cover still adorns his drummer’s bass drum and the shirts he tosses into the crowd. Shoot, he hasn’t even changed his damn outfit, wearing the same white shirt, white jeans combo wherever he goes. Of course, the rub is that people care less about Andrew W.K. the musician than they do Andrew W.K. the goofball polymath. So seeing him in concert actually feels like more of a novelty than, say, his upcoming speaking tour on “the Power of Partying.” Here, he kicked, punched and headbanged exactly like he did in the “Party Hard” video (which the dudes he pulled onstage dutifully mimicked, motion for motion), impressively mashed a keyboard and dropped philosophical bon mots such as, “Just because life is hard doesn’t mean it can’t be a party,” and the crowd ate up all of it. Or rather, drank it: It’s no coincidence that the beer lines were at their longest beginning soon after his set. Party on, Andrew—though you probably don’t need to hear that from me. (MPS)

Andrew W.K. IMAGE: Thomas Teal.
Andrew W.K. IMAGE: Thomas Teal.

Best Rude Awakening: A$AP Ferg

And then, around 4:10 in the afternoon, the phrase “She sucked my dick!” echoed through downtown Portland. True, the taunting chorus of Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg’s “Dump Dump” is almost like a parody of hip-hop brashness. But MFNW is often such an overly polite festival that sometimes it’s refreshing to hear someone come through with no damn manners at all. And with Ferg—who wore an Ice Cube shirt in tribute to the night’s co-headliner—there was much more where that come from. “Feel free to crowd surf, feel free to mosh pit!” he told the crowd. “I saw a naked woman outside the gate. Feel free to get naked!” No one obliged him, but it was nice to know we had the option. (MPS)

Best Props: STRFKR

Since they are frequently in hiding, it’s easy to forget that STRFKR has been a bonafide hit-machine over the last decade. Hearing “German Love” live was about the most comforting thing at Project Pabst—better still, Portland’s favorite space-pop band raided the wardrobe and prop department for its set, a move that would fill Wayne Coyne with pride, if not envy. We witnessed dancing astronauts, confetti cannons, inflatable flamingos for crowd-surfing and a Blazers hat I’m pretty sure I donated to Goodwill circa 1995. (MAS)

Related: “Starfucker Figures Itself Out—Maybe.”

A member of the crowd commandeers one of STRFKR's inflatable flamingoes. IMAGE: Daniel Cole.
A member of the crowd commandeers one of STRFKR’s inflatable flamingoes. IMAGE: Daniel Cole.

Best Dad: Ice Cube

Ice Cube has heard your Are We There Yet? jokes, and he’s none too pleased. “A lot of people got mad that I was doing too many movies,” he bellowed to the tightly-packed crowd at MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst. “A lot of people got mad that I was doing those dumbass Coors commercials—I should’ve been doing Pabst commercials!” Well, can you blame us? In 20 years, “the [epithet redacted] you love to hate” went from Amerikkka’s Most Wanted to America’s dad, from selling malt liquor on the promise of its aphrodisiacal properties to allowing a bottle of beer to blast him in the face with a load of frost. Cash those chickity-checks, but don’t be surprised when people assume you’ve gone too Hollywood to go back to rapping about sawed-offs and sexual conquests. At Waterfront Park, though, Cube showed no concern for reclaiming his gangsta bonafides. Instead, he proved that, at this stage in the game, he no longer needs them. Coming out to the menacing squeals of “Natural Born Killaz,” he delivered each line like a chin-check, running through a greatest-hits set—including an N.W.A. mini-set with cameos from MC Ren and DJ Yella—that touched on all aspects of his multifaceted career, from brash voice of protest (“Fuck the Police,” accompanied by images of Michael Brown) to dance-club profiteer (“We Be Clubbing’”), and apologizing for none of it. He even doubled down on his parental image, bringing out his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and referring to him as “a chip off the old cube.” Yes, at age 47, Ice Cube is as embarrassing as your own father. And if you ask him, he’d surely tell you he doesn’t give a fuck. (MPS)

Best Security Guard: The One Waving His Hands Through Ice Cube’s Set

Actually, this was the most enthusiastic security staff I may have ever encountered at a festival, who throughout the weekend acted like they were just volunteering for the free tickets. But the main dude monitoring the front of the stage during Ice Cube deserves a special shout-out. He got especially turned up at “Fuck the Police,” which makes me wonder what he would’ve done had a riot broken out right at that moment. (MPS)

Ice Cube (left) with MC Ren. IMAGE: Daniel Cole.
Ice Cube (left) with MC Ren. IMAGE: Daniel Cole.

Best Unfrozen Synth-Pop Gods: Duran Duran

Although the beer lines got absurdly long earlier in the day, I didn’t really feel the enormity of the crowd until the transition between Ice Cube and Duran Duran. Seemingly all 10,000 people attempted to traverse from one side of Waterfront Park to the other at the same time, creating a brutal bottleneck around the middle section of the field. By the time I made it out there, I was a bit zoned out, thus I don’t have much to say about Duran Duran other than that their massive stage production looked inspired by the virtual reality scenes from The Lawnmower Man. So how about we let the hardcore Durannies handle this one, then?

Related: Portland’s Most Dedicated Duran Duran Fans Are Still Hungry After All These Years.”

Karyn Smith: Regarding the setlist and the band—they were on point. Simon’s voice was strong, clear, rested; John Taylor’s funky bass always astounds me, but I really really paid attention to it yesterday—spot on. Erin and Anna, the backup singers, are essential to the new songs and brought it! Same with sax player Simon Willescroft—he just fits right it, like lead guitarist Dom Brown, who also needs a big shout out. The band has really got their setlist down to a great mix of old and new; “Pressure Off,” from Paper Gods, is just an absolute blast to hear and dance to. The “Space Oddity” Bowie tribute had me in tears. “Save a Prayer” was magical.

Scott Dally: Their performance at Project Pabst was great, probably in my top three DD shows based on performance. Nick Rhodes was not there due to personal reasons, so that made a difference style-wise. They were well rested from a mini-vacation as they kicked off the second leg of their North American tour. So they were ready to kill it, and they did. What made the experience itself great was the fact that I was surrounded by friends who would normally not see a Duran Duran show. The fact that they were all around me singing and dancing to all the songs was something special and makes for a concert I will never forget.

P.S. On a side note, festival fans in Portland are generally pretty cool.  Seems a lot more assholes in the crowd this time around. Kind of ashamed at many Portland Duran Duran fans.  Be nice, man—we are all there to have fun.

Amanda Taplin: After 16 shows, you’d think I’d seen what Duran Duran had to give. There is nothing more that I love than being wrong. As a super Duranie I was particularly concerned about the lack of founding member Nick Rhodes. Known as “the Controller,” he is integral to the functioning of the band and it is clear by their performance that they knew that. This has to have been one of the most high energy performances I’ve ever seen. SIMON HIGH KICKS, BITCHES! That man is almost 60, and is killing the stage with his signature awkward dancing, snarky banter, and pure love of front-manning. Sex sells and I’ve got cash.

John’s bass was funky and loud and on point as always—something he never got enough credit for in the ‘80s, but there is no denying it now. His interaction with the crowd was full of hot-smug-goofball. The perfect John, in my opinion. Roger is never wrong. Ever. And when meeting him after the show, he was silly and sweet and grateful for our collective hatred of the “selfie,” as we had the doorman take our photo. F my hair for having too much fun at the show!

I was in the very front for the first few songs, but the negative vibe from the audience forced me out. As much as I tried to steer the conversation towards mutual love of music, or Duran specifically, or enjoyment of the festival in general, people were catty and on their fucking phones editing pictures and posting on sites while Simon Le Bon was 10 feet from them! He was right there live in person and they missed it because of screen time.

My night got exponentially better when I joined my hubs—who is now regretting that it took him 30 years to see the band; he’s a grumpy old man who was seriously impressed—and the group of good friends I had who had gathered together just off to the side. We danced and sang and laughed and they were so happy to see Scott and I see the band, but even more importantly, these “not really, just sorta, I only know the hit songs” fans were stunned by the awesomeness of the show.

Simon sounded great; the energy was extra high as the band knew they had to make up for the absence of Nick; they were fresh off a tour vacation. I’m now suffering from Post-Duran Duran Depression.

Best Bucket Drummer: The One Across the Street from Waterfront Park Playing Along to “Rio”

I don’t know what his name was, but he was definitely shining, and showing everyone heading out to their Ubers at the close of Duran Duran’s set all he…uh, can.

Shout out to the bucket drummer outside Waterfront Park playing along to “Rio.” #projectpabst

A video posted by Matt Singer (@mpsinger) on

 

Best Little Band on a Big Stage: Hop Along

Philadelphia’s Hop Along isn’t a quiet band by any means, but it is one that thrives on up-front emotional intimacy—which is why it was almost comically incongruous to see them cloistered together on the giant MFNWpPP main stage, accompanied by nothing more than their instruments and amps. That’s not to say they ended up seeming out of place, though: Drawing from its 2015 breakthrough Painted Shut, the band’s inward-bending punk was loud enough to project far back enough to register with the small but appreciative early afternoon crowd. And singer-guitarist Frances Quinlan’s distinctive voice—which switches from a sweet whisper to an exhausted rasp so suddenly it can make you think there’s something wrong with your speakers listening at home—has at least a strand of Axl Rose in its DNA. Truth be told, the band is good enough that these are kind of stages it should get used to performing on. Because as Quinlan herself acknowledged, once you get to this point, you can’t go back to playing homes again. “One time we played a basement with a ferret running around. It was tight,” she said, reminiscing about an early house show in Portland, before adding, almost under her breath, “We can’t do that anymore.” (MPS)

Best Move to the Majors: Sheer Mag

As rendered on its first three EPs, Sheer Mag’s brand of scrappy, punked up-classic rock seems designed to blow minds in tiny basements. I had doubts about how far the band’s power could travel, but Sheer Mag’s Sunday afternoon set demolished any misgivings. The muted, muddy quality of the band’s recordings was replaced by a bright and glittering hugeness, and singer Tina Halladay’s voice managed to match the sun’s scorch. This wasn’t shtick or gimmickry or winking appropriation. This was the real thing—big and bold and bent on reaching the back row. CHRIS STAMM.

Best Cheap Heat: Parquet Courts

Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts are one of the best rock’n’roll bands in America right now, but its jangly, deadpan post-punk isn’t exactly the kind of thing that plays well to a midday festival crowd. So singer-guitarist Austin Brown took another tact to get a rise out of the audience, drawn straight from the pro-wrestling heel playbook: insult the local sports club. “I had all this stuff planned about how your basketball team sucks,” he said, responding to bandmate Andrew Savage’s assertion that they were shelving their usual stage banter in order to cram more songs into their limited set time.“I mean, you guys could’ve had Kevin Durant, and instead you took Greg Oden,” Brown continued one song later. “You must think about that every day.” Harsh, bro. Although presumed fans of the Nets—a team that not only sucks, but sucks in the most boring way possible—shouldn’t throw many stones. In any event, the tactic seemed to work: After some scattered “Blazers” chants, the crowd swayed and bopped to the stretch run of “Human Performance,” “Outside” and “Light Up Gold,” probably to shake out the frustration of realizing Portland is going to be paying Evan Turner $70 million to shoot midrange jumpers for the next four years. (MPS)

Best Remembrance Of Things To Come: Drive Like Jehu

Drive Like Jehu’s 1994 swan song Yank Crime was the sound of post-hardcore’s future. In the twenty-two years since its release, the album’s magic has been mined by pretty much every knucklehead with a guitar and an idea about how to complicate punk rock. But Drive Like Jehu’s Sunday evening set was not a period piece. The tangling and wrangling guitar lines conjured by John Reis and Rick Froberg just don’t jibe with complacent retrospection, and Froberg’s exasperated howl still sounds like some pissed kid’s pledge of allegiance to a distant calamity. Those of us singing along to “Luau” weren’t trying to capture faded glory. We were still dreaming about the kind of music that might be made after Drive Like Jehu stops being amazing. (CS)

Best Classic-Rock Band: Ween

When I was in high school, around the Chocolate and Cheese era, a lot of my druggie friends were into Ween. As I can’t even smoke pot without curling into the fetal position and waiting for it to be over, I never really got it, outside of the few songs that didn’t seem to be deliberately trying to get me to break the CD in half in annoyance. In the many years since I stopped paying them any mind, though, something funny happened: Ween went from a band that delighted in goosing—or, rather, dosing—rock classicism to becoming a classic-rock band itself. Playing Portland for the first time since reconvening after a four-year mental health break for singer Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman, fans packed in early, leaving me way in the back, and from that vantage point, whatever mischievousness that defined the band in those earlier years has been replaced by an obsession with endless guitar solos and other feats of instrumental virtuosity. Even totally bugged-out shit like “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)” turned into chugging, fist-pumping anthems. It never occurred to me that this is what anyone would want from Ween, but clearly they do. Strangely enough, I think I might dig them more now if they had remained ‘shroom-eating insurrectionists fucking around with a drum machine. As it turns out, I still don’t get Ween, only for totally different reasons from when I was 16. (MPS)

Related: “How Ween Became Alt-Rock’s Ultimate Anti-Heroes.”

Ween. IMAGE: Thomas Teal.
Ween. IMAGE: Thomas Teal.

Best Transition To Pop: Tame Impala

When Aussie psych-rockers went mainstream with Currents, I wanted to root against them. But their sound is just too smooth not to respect, and the band culled an energetic set from records past. It may not be quite as fuzzy sonically anymore as its trippy background media suggests, but it’s incredibly pleasing and still out-there enough to satisfy stoner fans. It could have just been Kevin Parker turning dials on stage, but he’s held onto the full-band approach for the better, even if it means his mates have to trade in some of the lava-lamp rock for crowd-pleasing pop. (MAS)

Tame Impala's confetti 'splosion. IMAGE: Thomas Teal.
Tame Impala’s confetti ‘splosion. IMAGE: Thomas Teal.

See more photos from MFNW presents Project Pabst here.

Airbnb Has Started Donating to the Campaigns of Portland Politicians

Airbnb is catching political heat.

Last week, WW reported that a manager at the company was flouting city rules by listing several of her properties as short-term rentals. That revelation fueled criticism that scofflaw Airbnb listings are adding to the city’s rent crunch by removing units from the city’s housing stock.

Airbnb has also been making political donations. In May, the company formally founded a political action committee in San Francisco called the Committee to Expand the Middle Class. It has donated to four Oregon campaigns—all in Portland.

“The Committee to Expand the Middle Class is one part of our efforts to help strengthen communities that Airbnb hosts and guests call home,” says Airbnb spokeswoman Laura Rillos. “We’re proud to support principled community leaders who understand the economic benefits of home sharing and proposals that will make communities stronger.”

Steve Novick

$2,000

May 16 and Aug. 8

Novick told WW he didn’t solicit the donations, offering the company a warning before we gave: “We’re not always going to agree,” he recalls telling a company representative.

“I think we need stronger enforcement,” Novick added.

Ted Wheeler

$1,000

March 25

Wheeler spokesman Michael Cox downplayed the significance of a $1,000 donations.

“Ted has more than 1,500 contributors from all corners of Portland: workers, businesses, non-profit leaders, educators, and everyday citizens,” he says. “We’re proud of the broad base of support we’ve built.”

Fix Our Streets (the Portland gas-tax campaign)

$1,000

May 17

Airbnb officials say their donations went in part to support a Portland gas tax because it’s “public infrastructure” for the 350 employees who need to commute to work.

Jules Bailey

$250

March 31

Where Guy Fieri Just Ate in Portland, According to Random People on the Internet

The muff-faced flameshirt of Flavortown, Guy Fieri, rode the fart car into Portland this weekend.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 10.47.53 AM

The sometimes Smashmouth frontman, known for his permanently surprised hair and fertility-goddess physique, has of course been shutting the front door in Portland for years on his show Diners, Dive-Ins and Dives—declaring that the following shotgun-blast-to-the-map of restaurants were “money,” “off da chain and/or hook,” and, especially, “gangsta”:

Pine State Biscuits, Bunk Sandwiches, Podnah’s Pit, Otto’s Sausages, Pok Pok, Byways Cafe, Blueplate Lunch Counter, Tin Shed Garden Cafe, Frank’s Noodle House, Arleta Library Bakery and Cafe (thus, obviously, launching Sarah Iannarone’s mayoral campaign), Edelweiss Sausage and Delicatessen, The Country Cat, Industrial Cafe and Saloon, Shirley’s Tippy Canoe, and PDX 671.

Well, here are the next generation of Portland DDDs that might now fill with types of people you didn’t think you’d ever see in person—as curated by random people who took pictures of the bleached, anthropomorphic chia pet.

Sure, Fieri was partying with Festus a bit.

But that’s a normal human activity, one that any human person would do if given the chance—including, apparently, Cider Riot owner Abram Goldman-Armstrong.

Detail
Detail of Cody Sharett photo for NBA.com

But Ezeli apparently went also on-shoot with the Famous Flame.

Look closely, and you’ll discover that the spot where they were eating contains the signage of downtown Portland’s Original Dinerant.

Donut sliders, originaldinerant.com
Donut sliders, originaldinerant.com

The downtown hotel “modern all-day diner” features such innovations as a donut slider appetizer, a chicken-and-waffle sandwich, a croissant Monte Cristo with marionberry jam, six different $10 boozy milkshakes including a bourbon salted caramel, and a hamburger whose patty is 50% bacon. Fifty. Percent. Bacon. We have to anticipate that being very, very gangsta.

….Aaand here is Guy hanging outside of Swiss Hibiscus on Alberta—a homegrown Swiss-by-way-of-Hawaii restaurant serving up sausage, schnitzel, snails and Swiss-style spaghetti (the Swiss, as it turns out, are a multifarious people).

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 9.29.58 AM

And here’s a young Californian tourist following Guy’s apparent advice and rolling into Grassa, the Lardo pasta satellite serving up fast-casual squid-ink pasta, porkbelly mac and cheese and grilled chicken picatta with fried skin on top. (Among the porkbelly dishes, get the porkbelly carbonara, though.)

UPDATE 3:25 pm: One of Fieri’s producers filled in the other three spots Fieri stopped in, on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 3.20.17 PM

Ataula is a fine, fine Spanish casual-modernist tapas restaurant with a killer salmon montadito, and very far from being a diner, a drive-In, or a dive. Matt’s is our co-food cart of the year—and by far my favorite ‘cue cart in Portland. P’s and Q’s also has very nice brisket, but theirs might come in a picnic basket.

Anyway, that’s all we know about Porkbelly Fieri’s activities in town—although we’re happy to hear about more sightings/warnings in the comments.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 9.47.42 AM

Enjoy these restaurants while you can, if that’s what you were doing before.

But while we’re on the subject, that same Californian tourist outside Grassa stopped in, of course, at Screen Door—its front door still somehow undarkened by Fieri—and took note that the restaurant’s specials menu was devoted to Gene Wilder, who is sadly no longer with us,

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 10.23.57 AM

The menu features a Snozzberry Shortcake, a little top hat on the letter S, and a quote from the song that we imagine Guy Fieri sings to himself in the shower:

So shines a good deed in a weary world. Goodbye, Mr. Wilder. We’ll miss you horribly.

Where Can Homeless People Evicted From the Springwater Corridor Go Next?

Arguments over the location of homeless camps and shelters are a perennial feature of Portland life. But rarely have the fights been as loud as they were this month.

On Sept. 1, Mayor Charlie Hales is poised to sweep the remaining homeless people out of the sprawling camps along East Portland’s Springwater Corridor—a site that ranks among the largest concentrations of tents in the nation.

It’s not clear where people can go. Between the start of 2016 and mid-October, Multnomah County will have added more than 460 shelter beds, more than in any year in the past decade, say county officials. Yet that doesn’t cover the nearly 1,900-bed shortfall the county reported last year.

Local officials are publicly squabbling over a few new ideas for large-scale shelters and organized camps—all demanding the same limited resources, all of them with vocal opponents. Meanwhile, smaller-scale shelters are provoking less backlash—and actually opening.

Proposed sites:

Terminal 1

Capacity: 500

Advantages: Real estate developer Homer Williams is championing the site and promises to bring in private funding; it could offer social services at the same location.

Drawbacks: Two legal challenges to the location are already underway from business groups; the scale of the project has already shrunk to initially serving 100 people.

Wapato Jail

Capacity: 525

Advantages: Already built, complete with some beds; Multnomah County isn’t doing anything else with it; has a champion in County Commissioner Loretta Smith.

Drawbacks: Operating expenses start at $136,000 a month; isolated and far from social services; opposed by County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury.

Reedway

Capacity: 100

Advantages: Money is earmarked in the city budget for organized outdoor campsites like this empty lot in Lents; located near the Springwater Corridor.

Drawbacks: Environmental pollution at the site; furious Lentils want fewer homeless in the neighborhood.

Opened recently:

Do good Multnomah

Capacity: 25 veterans

Advantages: Welcomed by neighbors.

Drawbacks: Small.

Hansen Shelter

Capacity: 200

Advantages: Came at a critical moment as a downtown shelter space closed.

Disadvantages: Possibly temporary.

Opening soon:

Gresham Women’s Shelter

Capacity: 90 single women and domestic violence victims

Opening: Sept. 8

McLoughlin Shelter

Capacity: 120 women or people in couples

Opening: Mid-October

(Cameron Browne)
(Cameron Browne)

Where have homeless people aleady gone?

The official sweep of the Springwater Corridor is slated for Sept. 1. But for the past six weeks, Multnomah County has been helping homeless people move from the trail to new places to sleep. These are the minimum numbers county officials could confirm at press deadlines.

8: Moved to live with family in another city through the “ticket home” program

14: Moved to Hansen Shelter in the Gateway neighborhood

41: Moved to motels, permanent homes or other shelter

Measure 97 Is Wrong About Where Its Corporate Tax Dollars Would Go

The Oregon Legislative Counsel’s office has provided the answer to a burning question about Measure 97, the November ballot measure that would raise about $3 billion in new tax revenue annually by imposing a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax on C corporations that have Oregon sales of more than $25 million.

In a 17-page opinion dated Aug. 30, Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson answered the question originally posed by state Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas): Would all the funds raised by Measure 97 actually go to the state’s general fund?

The general fund is primarily spent on education, healthcare and services to seniors—and those are the uses laid out in the ballot measure’s language, which says, “all of the revenue generated from the increase in the tax created by this 2016 Act shall be used to provide additional funding for: public early childhood and kindergarten through twelfth grade education; healthcare; and, services for senior citizens.”

The Salem Statesman Journal first reported on Boquist’s concerns.

Related: Measure 97 may have unintended consequences.

In his legal analysis, Johnson determined that in fact the ballot measure’s assertion about where Measure 97’s proceeds would be spent is incorrect.

Instead, Johnson wrote, about $250 million—the amount that state officials estimate could come from transportation-fuel related sales at gas stations, convenience stores, groceries and other sellers—would be dedicated to the state Highway Fund.

That’s because of the constitutional provision in article IX, section 3a that requires taxes generated from motor fuels to go to that fund to be used for highway projects.

Johnson says that he believes courts would find that money raised from taxes on motor fuel sales cannot be used for the purposes stated in Measure 97.

“Expenditure for uses unrelated to public highways [is] invalid,” Johnson wrote.

Katherine Driessen, a spokeswoman for A Better Oregon, the group sponsoring Measure 97, says the opinion will not change the campaign’s approach.

“Measure 97 requires the money to go to schools, healthcare, and senior services. That’s what the statute requires,” Driesen says. “If the Constitution requires some diversion away from the will of the voters—directing the money to schools, healthcare, and senior services—that’s for the courts to decide.”

Why Chinese Women Come to Portland to Freeze Their Eggs

The Chinese government doesn’t allow unmarried women to seek fertility treatments in China under its decades-old policies designed to control the country’s population.

Monday, The New York Times looked at the policy and the new way that Chinese women who want to freeze their eggs are subverting it—by traveling abroad.

The story also offered an intriguing Portland connection.

A Shanghai agency that helps Chinese women seek medical treatments outside the country works with fertility experts in Southwest Portland, at a practice called Oregon Reproductive Medicine.

China’s population control is our economic development, it seems.

Inbox: Welcome to MusicfestNW Presents Project Pabst

Breaking the Airbnb Rules

How is it that the city of Portland is relying on complaints to identify Airbnb rentals that don’t have permits? [“Air Supply,WW, Aug. 24, 2016.] There is literally a list of them online!

How about crosschecking with your list of permittees and going from there? It doesn’t seem that hard, and actually enforcing the weak rules is a start.

—Amy Van Saun

Because of Airbnb, dwellings that would be occupied by long-term residents are disappearing from the housing inventory. Nobody’s saying it’s the main cause of rising housing prices, but it’s a factor.

And it has all kinds of other negative impacts (livability, privacy, safety) on top of its impacts on housing affordability.

—“K15”

The article fails to mention that many listings on Airbnb are hosted by individuals who are tenants themselves and not owners of the properties.

I stayed at six Airbnb apartments while I was in the process of relocating to Portland. All of them were listed by tenants who were renting their units. I do not know if the owners consented.

Clearly, these aren’t units that were taken off the rental market.

—“Truth Be Told”

Licensing Pot Businesses

That multiple other Portland dispensaries had the same problem only highlights the fact that the city has failed at creating a licensing process that can be navigated successfully [“Tokin’ Resistance,WW, Aug. 24, 2016].

If Chris Schaaf was the only one who didn’t understand he needed both licenses, then it would be on him.

—“econoline”

The majority of dispensaries navigated the licensing process quite successfully. We have speed limits, yet more than one person exceeds those speed limits daily. Does that invalidate the speed limit?

No, it just means some people are less capable of understanding how things are done.

—John Retzlaff

Rising Rents in Portland

We are not L.A. We do not have the L.A. job market or salary range. The city needs to block these greedy vultures of landlords [“What’s the Deal With Portland’s Rising Rents?” wweek.com, Aug. 19, 2016].

Portland might have been cool because we always had weird shit to do, but now we can’t afford to do any of that shit. Instead, we get to pay bills and die while the rich get richer.

—“Valeriewhy”

Markets always correct, and so will Portland’s. The word will get out about how expensive it is, so fewer people will move here. And there will continue to be more construction, because real estate people never know when to stop.

But the new equilibrium will be higher than it’s been, and Portland’s allure for 20-something slackers will fade.

—“New Columbian”

Letters to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: 2220 NW Quimby St., Portland, OR 97210. Email: mzusman@wweek.com.

Murmurs: Hip-Hop is Back on Portland School Buses

Steve Novick Wants to Tax Companies That Pay CEOs Big Salaries

Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick is pushing a proposal to tax publicly traded companies that give big salaries to their CEOs. The idea is to add a surcharge to the business license tax that companies pay in Portland, if they pay their CEOs more than 100 times what they pay a typical employee—information that will be disclosed publicly starting in 2017 under federal Wall Street reforms. The proposal could generate about $2.5 million a year to help Portland address its homelessness problem, Novick says. Business leaders, including those at the Portland Business Alliance, aren’t on board. “We’re very skeptical,” says Sandra McDonough, PBA president, “that doing this is going to have any effect on pay equity nationally.” Novick’s proposal comes as he faces a tough re-election challenge from progressive candidate Chloe Eudaly—and the proposal looks like a defense of his left flank. But Novick says he’s proposing it to place a larger spotlight on pay inequality—and because he thinks he might lose to Eudaly, and wants to tackle the issue before December. “This, for me, is a legacy issue,” he says.

District Reverses Its Hip-Hop Ban on School Buses

Uproar over whether school bus drivers on duty should be allowed to play hip-hop has resulted in Portland Public Schools reversing its ban on rap. The district now allows bus drivers to tune the radio to hip-hop, assuming they deem it appropriate. As first reported on wweek.com last week, the district issued a memo in March ruling out stations that play rap or religious programs, but allowing those that play pop or jazz. The policy fueled charges of racism, and the district hastily withdrew it. A new memo, released Aug. 30, still urges caution. “It is our responsibility to limit the exposure of our students to religious teachings, profanity, violent lyrics and sexually explicit content while they are on our bus,” writes Teri Brady, PPS’s director of student transportation.

Oregon’s Senators Endorse Sharon Meieran

As the traditional Labor Day kickoff of fall election season approaches, the arms race for endorsements is heating up between Multnomah County Commission candidates Eric Zimmerman and Sharon Meieran. Zimmerman, chief of staff for Commissioner Diane McKeel, announced in July he’d been endorsed by former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts. Now Meieran, an emergency room doctor, says she has the support of U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Wyden and Merkley join U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici—meaning Meieran has swept Portland’s congressional delegation. “As an ER doctor, Sharon knows how to set priorities and make tough decisions,” Wyden said in a statement. “She’ll make the most out of our county’s limited resources.”

A Chinese-Owned Company Donated Thousands of Dollars to Oregon Candidates. Was That Illegal?

Four years ago, American Pacific International Capital cast a long shadow over Portland—literally.

The Chinese-owned investment company’s holdings included the 35-story KOIN Center skyscraper and the Oregon Pacific Building, a five-story downtown edifice that once housed the Greek Cusina nightclub and the iconic purple octopus perched above the front door.

But American Pacific International Capital, or APIC, also made forays into another landscape: politics.

From 2010 through 2012, Oregon campaigns and politicians—including Ted Wheeler, Charlie Hales, Tobias Read and John Kitzhaber—accepted nearly $25,000 in donations from APIC, which was incorporated in Portland.

The company has since moved to San Francisco and sold its Portland holdings. But its political contributions now face renewed scrutiny, thanks to a federal elections complaint. It alleges APIC violated a federal law that prohibits foreign nationals from making campaign contributions.

The complaint, filed Aug. 10 with the Federal Election Commission, claims that APIC violated these rules when Chinese nationals on APIC’s board decided to donate $1.3 million to Right to Rise USA, the super-PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid.

“This is an extraordinary case,” Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C., campaign finance reform nonprofit that filed the complaint against APIC. “We have the evidence. This was a contribution that violated the foreign national contribution ban.”

In an emailed statement, APIC tells WW it did nothing wrong.

“American Pacific International Capital takes compliance with federal campaign finance laws seriously,” the statement reads.  “The company looks forward to discussing these allegations with the Federal Election Commission should the commission decide to proceed.”

Local watchdogs say it’s unclear whether APIC broke any federal laws with its contributions to Wheeler, Hales and Kitzhaber. But they say the federal complaint raises questions about whether Oregon’s notoriously loose campaign finance laws are allowing foreign nationals to influence elections.

“It’s a big deal,” says Daniel Lewkow, political director of Common Cause Oregon, an election reform nonprofit. “This discovery about APIC is scary. It makes us all really nervous about the integrity of our elections.”

Molly Woon, spokeswoman for the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, tells WW that unlike the feds, Oregon has no rules against political donations from foreign nationals.

“Oregon election law is silent on the matter of foreign contributions,” Woon tells WW in an email. “Thus, there has been no clear violation of Oregon election law in this case.

“There was nothing to raise suspicion at the time of these contributions,” Woon adds. “They were received from a company with an Oregon address.”

APIC moved its headquarters to San Francisco in 2014. Its last Oregon properties were sold in 2015, although Wilson Chen, its founder and longtime president, still owns a home in Lake Oswego. Chen, an American citizen, founded Wilson Environmental Consulting, the company that would become APIC, in 1998.

Now, the company’s portfolio consists largely of factories and luxury hotels in China and residential and commercial real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Chen did not respond to WW’s requests for comment.

Campaign finance records show that between 2010 and 2012, APIC gave a total of $24,100 to Oregon candidates and campaigns.

The donations included $3,100 to Mayor Charlie Hales, $1,000 to Oregon Treasurer and Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler, $1,000 to state Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton), and $6,500 to then-Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Other recipients included mayoral candidate Eileen Brady, Metro candidate Helen Ying, Portland City Council candidate Mary Nolan, and state Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem).

Oregon politicians who received APIC’s money say they have no connections to the company.

“Treasurer Wheeler does not recall anything in particular about APIC, aside from an introduction and donation in 2010,” says Michael Cox, spokesman for Wheeler. “There was no continuing contact.”

Wheeler’s staff says he has no plans to return the money.

“Had I known then what I know now, I would have directed my campaign not to take money from APIC in 2010,” Read, who is running for state treasurer, tells WW in an emailed statement.

Hales’ office declined to comment because the mayor is traveling.

The contributions to Bush’s campaign were first reported by the Intercept, an online media outlet that focuses on government wrongdoing.

APIC donated a total of $1.3 million to Right to Rise USA, a super-PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s presidential run, in the spring and summer of 2015. The donation did not come out of the blue—Jeb Bush’s brother, Neil, sits on the company’s board.

The complaint filed with the FEC alleges that the decision to donate to Right to Rise ultimately—and illegally—came from a board of directors that included Chinese citizens.

Federal campaign finance laws bar foreign nationals from making any contribution, donation, or expenditure in any way associated with any U.S. election. Foreign-owned companies may only contribute to U.S. elections if the donated money comes solely from business in the U.S. and if the decision to donate comes from a committee of legal U.S. residents.

But it’s unclear if APIC’s committee followed those rules. The federal complaint alleges the board included Chinese citizens. APIC declined to discuss the makeup of its board, either at the time of the donation to Bush or when it gave money to Oregon candidates.

“As for the company’s political donations, we will not discuss them beyond the required disclosures which we believe were made in compliance with federal campaign finance laws and regulations,” the company’s statement says.

Though the FEC complaint does not concern APIC’s Oregon contributions, Fischer says there’s still cause for suspicion.

“If APIC didn’t follow the correct procedures in making the contributions to the super-PAC supporting Jeb Bush, it’s reasonable to question whether they followed the proper procedures in making contributions to Oregon politicians,” Fischer says.

Lewkow, of Common Cause Oregon, says his organization has never seen a case like this before in Oregon—and it shows the need for statewide elections reform.

“People should be able to run and win based on the support they have from people that actually live in their districts,” Lewkow tells WW.

 

Correction: This story originally misidentified Daniel Lewkow’s position with Common Cause Oregon. He is the political director, not the director. WW regrets the error.

 

Local Dad Ranks Every Wilco Album

I’ve got a weird theory about Wilco’s downbeat and heavily acoustic new record, Schmilco.

After a dozen or so listens, the only way this sharp turn back toward alt-country makes sense to me is if it’s supposed to be concert filler—a way to give a break between the soaring guitar solos of the Dad Rock era without simultaneously stimulating the raw nerve of nostalgia that accompanies the strummy stuff from the band’s first two records.

Regardless, Schmilco marks the end of an era for Wilco. Twenty years after Being There, the band has again unplugged, retreating to the subdued sound of its earliest days.

To mark the occasion, here’s the definitive ranking of Wilco records, from best to worst.

1. Sky Blue Sky (2007)

Upon its release, the Dark Side of the Moon of American Dad Rock was the most harshly reviewed record of Wilco’s career—Pitchfork called it “the stylistic equivalent of a wardrobe change into sweatpants and a tank top.” And yet, a decade later, the first record with Cline is pretty much perfect, with some of the band’s best tracks in “Impossible Germany,” “Hate It Here” and “You Are My Face.”

2. A Ghost Is Born (2004)

Tweedy was hopped up on goofballs while making this record and played the twitchy solos himself after firing Jay Bennett, who later died from a painkiller overdose. That lends the album an almost disorienting dynamism, with tracks like “At Least That’s What You Said” and “Handshake Drugs” meandering before exploding into chaotic soloing.

3. The Whole Love (2011)

If you like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, its spiritual sequel has loads of humming electronic loops (“Art of Almost”) and dalliances with arena rock (“Standing O,” “Born Alone”) but presented with the polish you only get from the band’s post-opiate works.

4. Being There (1996)

This double album—it runs 76 minutes; a CD of that era held 74—is the most varied in the catalog, with honky-tonk (“Forget the Flowers,” Wilco’s best-ever country song) and cacophonous noise rock (“Misunderstood”) somehow sitting easily next to each other.

5. Wilco (The Album) (2009)

The goofiest Wilco record has a definite midperiod Dead vibe to it. You can pretty much boil it down to three songs, though: “Country Disappeared,” “I’ll Fight” and “Wilco (The Song).”

6. Star Wars (2015)

Apparently the last album of the Dad Rock era, Star Wars soars with tracks like “Taste the Ceiling” and “King of You.” It appears to have been heavily influenced by Tweedy’s wife’s cancer diagnosis, with an instrumental noise opener, “EKG,” and the intense ballad “Magnetized.”

7. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)

Overpraised, but the era gave us some incredible B-sides, like “A Magazine Called Sunset” and “Venus Stop the Train.”

8. Summerteeth (1999)

The weird, Byrds-y, Bennett-and-morphine-influenced pop album seemed to make sense at the time but now feels wildly out of place in the catalog. The creepy murder ballad “Via Chicago” and the moody “A Shot in the Arm” are common live offerings.

9. A.M. (1994)

This is really the final record of Tweedy’s previous alt-country band, Uncle Tupelo, which split into Wilco and Son Volt. The best songs are mostly good for opening an encore set.

10. Schmilco (2016)

It sure seems like filler to me—we’ll know more after Sunday’s show.