Insights & Impetus on Artists & Cultural Adventures in Portland

Archive for June, 2009

Reina Collins ~ Music in Motion

Posted by Nicole Lane on 06/22/2009

photo credit Jimmy Martin

photo credit Jimmy Martin

When you met someone who is pure light, you know it – a feeling of open warmth washes over you.  If you’ve been around the Portland music scene for a while, you’ve likely met or heard the exuberant, Roots Rock’in songstress Reina Collins and know what I’m talking about.

I remember the first time I heard Reina (Ray-na).  I was working with local Americana rocker Paula Sinclair on her CD Release of “The Good Horse.”  We were at the CD Release Party at Vino Vixens a couple years ago and Reina (along with Kate Mann) joined Paula for the event.  As I listened to Reina I felt like I was on a journey with her.  In part, it was lyrical but in large part it was watching her flow on stage, in body, voice and energy.  

So, I got my hands on her CD.  The song that hooked me off her most recent CD “Austin to Boston” is one called Songs I Haven’t Sung, where she sings about “Roseburg in her rearview mirror” and the nuances of being on a big roadtrip — I think I can actually feel the wind when I hear it.  Then there is Mae Belle Road, a tale of honoring a love that has past; and Ruby, another favorite about the beauty of a stripper; and one with so much inspiration of what lies ahead Keep Your Heart Fed…ah, there are so many!  Really, the entire album is gold.  

Have a listen at Reina’s MySpace.  Buy the CD, support Reina’s music and trust me that you’ll own the perfect rock’in roadtrip tunes for summer travels, or for just kick’in back with a margarita in the backyard.  Her voice travels time, the music lays down some serious rhythm and you feel like your are moving through genres into a very unique convergence of just damn good music.  Don’t believe me?  Read some great reviews click here.

Reina has recorded two other CDs: “Even if I Fall” with Portland songwriter extraordinaire Rob Barteletti and her maiden CD “Kitchen Sink.”  Truly, I don’t know why I haven’t bought these yet, but I will.  She is currently recording a new CD in Nashville with Phil Madeira – I can hardly wait!

Photo credit Ian Weintraub

Photo credit Ian Weintraub

Everyone knows Reina.  Unless you’ve been under a rock or not tapped into the local music scene, certainly you’ve crossed paths with her or something she has been involved with.  A true PDX music gem, Reina has played absolutely everywhere. Along with her Reina Collins Band gigs, she regularly partners with other local musicians on stage or as part of an evening, like Paula Sinclair, Pilar French, Kate Mann, Wayne Richards & Southern Nights and many, many others.  With her heart of gold in giving to the music community and others, Reina has been an integral part of launching two major Portland female focused music ventures: Women Who Rock and the now enormous Siren Nation Music and Arts Festival.

I have another, more personal, illustration of Reina’s generous heart.  I recently attended the “Shaker’s Ball” — an annual benefit for Parkinson ’s disease, coordinated by Rob Barteletti at the Kennedy School – with my two sons.  Reina came to them and shared some very kind words about me.  It often feels like I live two lives, betwixt Portland Arts promoter and Motherhood in Suburbia, my kiddos don’t always see both, so her words to them went a long way to ford that river.

To listen to her music you’ll hear that Reina is a Free Spirit.  She has lived and toured all over the country.  With family in Florida, at one time owning a music store in Wyoming, living in California and now Oregon, at the end of the summer, it will be time Reina to continue her journey back toward her roots in Florida.

We aren’t ready to say goodbye to Reina yet, she has a full summer of concerts to catch — listed below.  Particularly if you haven’t seen her perform, I hope you take the opportunity to see her music in motion!

Friday June 13 Biddy McGraws
Reina Collins Band, Matt Cadenelli of Don of Division Street & James Sasser Band. Three Acts, No Cover.  It’s the Reina Collins Band debut.  Jeff Porter, Eric Kotila, Nick Foltz & Jeff Grauzer.  Yes, we’ll be rockin’.
6000 NE Glisan.  Music starts at 9pm.  We’re playing 2nd.

Saturday June 14 Gresham Farmer’s Market
I’ll be harmonzing with Wayne Richards & Southern Nights.
Located on Miller Street at 3rd in historic downtown Gresham.  10am.  Free.

Thursday June 18 McMenamins Sand Trap
It’s the Portland Rockwriter’s Tour with Pilar French & Josh Slamp (and Eric Kotila & Jeff Koch).  Pilar, Josh & I share the night!
1157 N. Marion Ave., Gearhart, OR.  7-9pm.  Free.

Friday June 20 San Dune Pub
2nd Night of Portland Rockwriter’s Tour!
127 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR. 9pm-Midnight. $5 cover.

Thursday June 25 McMenamins Edgefield (Little Red Shed)
And it’s one more Portland Rockwriter’s Night!
2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale, OR.  6pm.  Free.

Saturday June 27 Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts
I’ll be harmonizing with Wayne Richards & Southern Nights.
368 S. State St, Lake Oswego, OR.  4pm.  Free.



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Kaaren Pixton reaches young artists on their own turf

Posted by Nicole Lane on 06/11/2009

We who support the Arts collectively cringe with the most recent axe wielding budget cuts for art programs in schools.  Music and theatre are the first specialists to go, leaving classroom teachers to do their best to implement some semblance of Arts education for their students with varying success.  [But kudos to them who make the effort and bring in parent pros to help.] 

Run for the Arts.  Have you heard of this program?  This is one Arts-centric program that is alive and kicking vigorously.  Administered by Young Audiences of Oregon & Southwest Washington, the program asks students to fundraise in their local communities.  Their website says that last year 24,000 students at 100 schools participated in Run for the Arts and collectively raised over $770,000!  Wow.  Funds raised are used to subsidize arts related field trips, artists to campus and arts projects in their schools.


 And so, it was through Run for the Arts funding that I recently met muralist and visual artist Kaaren Pixton.

pixton1Kaaren was commissioned as an artists-in-residence, via Run for the Arts, to help second grade students at Prune Hill Elementary in Camas, Washington, create a “sea life” mural.  Luckily, I got to help.  In asking her questions about her work and experience, I decided that I wanted to write about her.  After all, it is people like her, working with young people who are cultivating and inspiring future generations Arts lovers, appreciators and maybe even fertilizing budding artists.

Kaaren is the mistress of murals, particularly school murals all over the region.  She couldn’t even give me a number of how many she has worked on over the years.  The pure joy she exudes when working with students, gently caressing their art work and knowing their intention with it was powerful to behold.  She absolutely loves her work…that enthusiasm alone makes my heart smile.
muralDoes she have a website? Not exactly for her work as a muralist, but she does have this link to her work as an illustrator of baby books. Her work on these books is the same style as the work she does with students. Colorful, creative and visually fascinating: it is intricate layering of painted paper. In the case of student murals, the students paint the specialty paper, then layer it to make an object, like a pufferfish/seaweed/fish. This stepped process allows creative thought to take a variety of forms.

Off-handedly as we worked on the mural and I asked her about herself, Kaaren mentioned that she had illustrated baby books, something that she works on with her daughter-in-law. Kaarencover_tww What an understatement!  She has published three books and is working on more.  Check out Ty Book Inc – as mother and past educator I love the chew-toy-meets-education nature of these books.  And, if you look at the Ty Book Blog, so does everyone else – they’ve been hurrahed by all the mommy mags.  With babies, everything goes in the mouth, gets pulled and dropped…that is how babies learn, the idea of making books that can take that saliva and abuse is brilliant.  The website even says you can wash them – really?

tybookslogoOver the summer break, Kaaren is planning to finish another three books.  She is also very open to working with any group or school, and in a business or home.  She can be contacted through Ty Book Inc.  Read a little more about Kaaren Pixton, the heart-warming artist in our schools who is tenderly ushering many children into their imaginative space through art!

photos by Holly Metzner

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Take the Action Adventure

Posted by Nicole Lane on 06/07/2009

Reality TV is what’s hot if you watch the boob tube.  Personally, I’m not a big fan as I skew toward the more interactive or in-person forms of entertainment, but the networks have determined that most watchers are. 

So, if you like live entertainment AND reality TV then you’ll love Action/Adventure’s quirky Fall of the House show.  If you take the real-to-life, episodic sitcom concept and apply it to a theatre style that is somewhat improv comedy, then you’ll get this highly contemporary amalgamation of the two.

How they set it up:  A general story plot is planned out and written, but actors work without a script, improvising the dialogue that tells the audience the story.  Fall of the House is currently in its Fifth Season, each season has four episodes over four weeks time.  The seasons draw on the drama and character development covered in the previous season/s and then the episodes play out upon each other weekly.  Don’t worry, you won’t be lost if you jump in mid-season.  It’s just like watching a TV show, they will catch you up and it will all make sense no matter when you tune in.

I recently attended my first Fall of House show and found it to be well produced, endearing, giggle AND guffaw funny and quite interesting, albeit a bit rough around the edges.  Before the show I’d chatted with Tamara Carroll (Artistic Director/co-Writer) and learned more about how the show works.  Knowing more about the premise and process involved in Fall of the House, I walked away with a lot of respect for the 15 actors and seven writers involved, as well as Director Miranda King.  You can learn more about them here.

It sounds like an innovative theatrical idea (you say) but what’s the show about?  I say: think cultural relevance and reality situations of 20-somethings in Portland (clothing styles, sexual relationships, PBRs, bongs, quirky set pieces), think lowbrow theatre (like lowbrow art), think comic book plot and you’ll come close to visualizing this work.

How Portlandesque is such an idea?  Good question.  I did a little Google Search to see if I could find other theatre companies doing similar work, it is notable I didn’t find any.  However, this format made me think of a hilarious “choose your own adventure” web series my friend Hannah Bos is doing in NYC called The Mimi & Flo Show.  Click the link, truly a riot!  Maybe the next step for Fall of the House is choose your own adventure…live?

I like that Action/Adventure is a little off-beat.  I like it a lot.  I like that their Pay What You Can night is every Friday night – no one else does that on a Friday.  I like that show time is 10:30.  I like that the costumes look like what the actors actually wear in real life.  I like that they plop onto someone else’s set with only their couch and coffee table for a set.  I like that it is honest work.  

Jump off the couch folks…



Episode 1: June 5 – 7
Episode 2: June 12 – 14
Episode 3: June 19 – 21
Episode 4: June 26 – 28

The Arena Stage at Theater! Theatre!
3430 SE Belmont St
Portland, OR 97214

One Episode – $12
4-Week pass – $30
> $2 off with each previous week seen
> Fridays are always “Pay what you will.”

Reservations: 503.425.9176 or actionadventuretheater@gmail.com.

All showtimes 10:30 p.m. except Sundays, at 8:00 p.m.

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Blitzen Trapper & the Portland Village

Posted by Nicole Lane on 06/01/2009

photo credit Betsy Cross

photo credit Betsy Cross

It was a beautiful night.  Up on a rooftop above the traffic fray, the moon shone and a cool breeze blew as eclectic artist-types gathered around a carpeted oasis, lounging and leaning on couches and tables.  I felt like I was on a movie set on top of the world…or at least Portland.

Really, I was on the roof of a parking garage across the street from the Crystal Ballroom for the very first showing of the upward rocketing Portland band Blitzen Trapper’s new music video “Black River Killer” — that song isn’t up but listen to other great tunes here.

With this music video, there is a story I must tell:  this is a project that took the village of Portland.

Who knows when I first heard about it, but it was months ago – could have been from Luke Norby, who earned producer credit on the video.  But I think the project really got my attention mid-April, when my inbox had three messages from Tony Fuemmeler [email list, Facebook, pdxbackstage] asking for mask-making help to make 60 masks ASAP for video shoot in a week.  Tony, along with fellow mask maker Jen LaMastra, created four mask designs and generated the 60 masks for the shoot with the help of a small army of volunteers (my family included), in the space of that week.

Truly a Portlandesque feat.

Next was Luke’s email call looking for 75 for video extras for an afternoon shoot at Artists Repertory Theatre’s stage – we would be wearing the masks.  Sign me up – and my kiddos too!  Four sweaty, hurry-up-and-wait, masked hours after we all arrived, we’d shot three scenes – probably a total of maybe 30 seconds in the final cut.  But all 75 of us got to witness the painstaking creation of art … and be a part of the process.

Have I mentioned that I’d never heard of Blitzen Trapper before this?

Now I’m a huge fan. It is not only that now I’ve heard of them and really like their sound, but instead it is that I got to be a part of something bigger. Collaboration is powerful marketing. Humans are joiners, remember? This wasn’t that, but proves both that point and why this project was such a community (um, dare I say again, Portlandesque) project.

photo credit Betsy Cross

photo credit Betsy Cross

So I haven’t told you about the video itself yet.  It is magic.  It is dark and creepy (it is about the Black River Killer after all), but also oddly dance-like, grittily textured and undeniably FLUID.  The music floats the visuals in way that makes you hold your breath.  Director Daniel Elkayam’s vision on this video was brilliant, as was the work of Director of Photography Brian McKee. In addition to the 75 peeps off the street, the video was perfectly cast right off local stages with such actors as Jonathan Walters of Hand2Mouth Theatre, Rolin Carlson, plus Stephanie Blair, Jeff Gorham, Tony Green and Tom Mounsey (all part of Re-Theatre’s Much Ado production), and many more.

Producers will now hand in the final video cut to Sub Pop Records, who represent the band. Their PR/Marketing machine will take it from here.  So now, let’s hope this video is a launching pad: for the folks who poured everything they had into the production; for Portland-grown Blitzen Trapper; and for the film and video industry in Portland.

I tell ya what, our Portland is becoming “the” place for film and music videos.  It seems like every time you turn around you hear (often from celeb watch Byron Beck) about a “star” in town or another movie being filmed here. Even I [insert raised eyebrows here] was in two music videos in the space of a week – this one and Storm Large’s “8 Miles Wide” directed by James Westby and produced by Katie O’Grady. It was a fun week!

So maybe that movie set feeling I had atop the roof last night was actually me remembering the future?

This pre-release shindig was hosted by the fabulous portrait photographer Scott James of Captivus Studios.  His industrial chic space is essentially wallpapered with the world’s most beautiful people…sexy eyes, velvet curves and shimmering skin you want to lick. Scott has a knack for creating eye candy with his camera, don’t hesitate to click his links and see for yourself.

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