There has never been a stranger year for Portland music.
Clubs have closed, tours have been canceled, entire festivals have been cut. Groups couldn’t even meet in the same room to practice. Of course, it was still possible to upload a quarantine chamber project to Bandcamp. But Portland is a city that thrives on live music, and for over a year the city has been silent.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Portlanders has stopped making music. This only made it harder to find.
That’s why we’ve approached our annual Best New Bands edition a little differently this year. Instead of a massive survey of music industry insiders, we reached out to 10 of the most obsessive local experts – musicians, talent recruiters, journalists and curators who always have their ears down, even during a health crisis – and asked them to share Portland’s best artists they discovered during the pandemic.
This year’s artists are listed alphabetically rather than categorized, which is totally fitting: this is probably our most diverse class yet, and it has never been so difficult to compare them.
It has long been evident that the music of Portland is much more than just guys in jeans jackets playing the guitar, and this problem clearly shows it. We’ll introduce you to the rising stars of the city’s thriving jazz and hip-hop scenes, as well as artists in a class of their own. There’s a neo-soul singer who exploded on TikTok and a rising rapper who developed an online following in Germany. There’s a DJ who mixes indie rock with go-go music and a sound artist who builds songs from the electrical impulses of flowers.
Hopefully when we start over the roster will come together as usual, from a year of stumbling into a house show and finding your new favorite band, or being blown away by a recommendation from a friend of ours. a friend, or get to a show early and watch the local opening eclipse the headliner.
But this year’s issue isn’t just a placeholder. We hope it brings back the thrill of musical discovery and a reminder that in Portland, that thrill has never gone away.