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Our Town Could be Your Life

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What is the opposite of protest? Acceptance? Affirmation? Whatever the case, Awareness Is Free, a two-day all-ages festival of Portland-bred experimental music taking place on the PSU Park Blocks from noon to 9 pm on Thursday, September 13 and Friday, September 14, is a celebration of it. Funded by KPSU, and organized by Rhenne Miles, host of the station's marginal-music-minded program "Cacophony," the event is, as the name indicates, free to the public, and possessed of a communalist ethic inspired by Miles' experiences with congregation and music growing up in the Midwest's rave subculture (which I think was kind of like the Grange, but with more drum machines and glow sticks). Among the festival's wide-ranging 23 local acts are house music bigwig Strategy, Euro-famous guitar-loop princess Grouper, as well as clarinet-accordion-and-drums pop deconstructionists Au, and the peerless Evolutionary Jass Band (both of whom I can't shut up about these days). It's nice to see the experimental music community—which I once associated strongly with the elitism of my buddy's older brother, who made fun of me for preferring Steve Shelley to Tom Surgal—continuing to put its friendly foot forward. More info at myspace.com/awarenessisfree.

As summer—and with it festival season—draws to a close, we might as well drink down every last drop of multi-artist happenings, no? Music snobs intimidated by art snobs can test the high-concept waters with two song-oriented pieces by locals as part of TBA:07. Those of the singer/songwriter persuasion are referred to Holcombe Waller (described by fan and Doug Fir booker Alicia Rose as an "intimate exhibitionist"), whose Into the Dark Unknown: The Hope Chest, performed at Someday Lounge on September 13-15, is a richly orchestrated, staged presentation of the honey-voiced troubadour's introspective folk set to filmed visuals. DIYers would do better to rock on over to the Singer Project Space (429 SW 10th) through September 16, and record their own rendition of any song from the (in)famous 1977 Foghat LIVE double album as part of Portland-based conceptual art duo Sincerely, John Head's Studio Sessions project, which explores the boundaries between performer and fan. Drums, mics, a guitar, and bass are there waiting for you—just call for an appointment first (888-774-7456).

Speaking of art, there's a pretty swell little exhibit of Portland music photography and posters up at city hall through September spanning, albeit sporadically, the past 75 years of local sonic history. The work is installed in the commissioners' offices to reflect their own tastes and interests: Sten/jazz, Adams/indie, Leonard/blues. There is talk of expanding the exhibit into a full-fledged history of Portland music show at the Oregon Historical Society in 2009. Pop by between 7 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday and have a look around. And while you're there, see if you can find out who's running for mayor.

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