Bands take stage at new university music venue

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Singer David Bello and keyboardist Katie Shanholtzer-Dvorak of The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die perform for a student audience at PSU's new Parkway North venue. Photo by Jeoffry Ray

Portland State students and music fans citywide poured into the Smith Memorial Student Union on a frigid Saturday night, Nov. 15, to hear The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die headline a loud quintet of bands in Parkway North.

Parkway North is the newly renovated on-campus, all-ages venue located on the first floor of the SMSU.

The show, which was free for PSU students and $15 at the door for general admission, was presented by the Seattle-based promoter Take Warning Presents, with both KPSU and Portland State Professional Sound in charge of hosting and operating the show.

The night began with Snow Roller, a moody indie-punk band with deliciously fuzzy garage rock guitar solos and the occasional shoegaze undertones. Collin Kritz, the lead singer, hailed Connecticut as their home while on stage, but later admitted they’re actually a Portland-based band.

Tyler and Collin became Portland transplants this past May. Tyler Bussey is one of the founding members of The World, and the band invited him on stage to play some of their earlier cuts during their set.

Up next were Posture & The Grizzly, another band with pedigrees from The World. The intensity and speed with which they played their melodic punk sounded fantastic on stage, with the gritty, fierce snarling vocals of lead singer JNasty layered on top of it all.

Following Posture & The Grizzly was the West Virginian dynamic indie-rock band Rozwell Kid. Their dual-guitar attack incorporates melodic power-pop while hearkening back to the sounds of Pinkerton-era Weezer. This was their first visit to Portland.

Before The World finally got on stage, the Massachusetts punk band The Hotelier performed in support of their fantastic 2014 album, Home, Like Noplace Is There. At this point in the show the venue and its patrons were starting to liven up, and the band’s anti-pop sound fit the mood perfectly.

Finally, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die brought their ensemble of musicians on stage at the end of the night. Their set spanned songs throughout their whole discography, including earlier songs featuring Tyler Bussey, songs from their breakthrough LP, Whenever, If Ever, and a few tracks from their recently released Between Bodies EP, their collaboration with poet Chris Zizzamia.

What’s most surprising about the whole show is how it all came together at the last minute. Originally the show was to be held at the now defunct all-ages venue Slabtown, and the process of getting it moved to a brand new venue like Parkway North wasn’t always a graceful one.

Before this show, Parkway North had only hosted one other event the weekend prior, featuring Phone Call and Portland legends And And And, so hosting a nationally touring bill was quite the leap for the space.

Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. Ian Cheshire of Take Warning Presents said he encountered communication problems prior to the event.

“I had to change door times earlier than what I was told, so that part’s been difficult, but we’re making it work,” Cheshire said.

Nonetheless, the show went on without a hitch.

“[The venue] sounds good and it looks clean as hell,” said Greg Horbal, guitarist for The World.

Both Blake Hickman, KPSU’s promotions director, and Cheshire expressed optimism for the space. With local all-ages venues like Slabtown and Backspace closing down recently, the demand for a financially secure all-ages venue in Portland is currently at a high watermark.

Hickman said Parkway North is the exact kind of all-ages venue space that Portland needs. Not only does the venue house roughly 250 seats, it also has the benefit of being financially protected by the university.

Cheshire said he would be hesitant to host future shows at Parkway North due to the various setbacks he encountered with the new venue.

“Other tours and bands wouldn’t be so easy going, so I’m going to stay away until it gets figured out,” Cheshire said.
PSU has a wonderful opportunity on its hands, the chance to build a successful all-ages venue on campus similar to the Vera Project in Seattle, a venue that both Hickman and Cheshire mentioned.

If KPSU can figure out how to use the space properly, not only will the university benefit from an increased presence in the Portland music scene, Parkway North could be a selling point for future students.

“Having a venue like this for just local performers, and bringing national performers in, would just do so much to increase the footprint of PSU across the community,” Hickman said. “It’s easy to envision a 15-year-old going to PSU for one of these all-ages shows, and that 15-year-old seeing the campus. And maybe when he graduates he ends up going to PSU instead of [University of Oregon] because he knows he can see awesome shows there every weekend.”

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