The Art of Listening Locally: How Portland Became an Indie-Rock Mecca

This New American Noise documentary reveals how Portland’s artists build on the past to create deeply personal music.

This New American Noise documentary reveals how Portland's artists build on the past to create deeply personal music.

Branded as the place where “young people go to retire,” Portland, Oregon, has become synonymous with hip subculture, thanks in large part to its budding music scene (and delicious coffee). A project with the Sundance Channel, this installment from the six-part New American Noise series paints the city as a safe haven for artists, a makeshift “creative collective.” Testimonials from indie artists and musical ingénues reveal why Portland produces some of today’s most popular music. Some attribute it to the weather, saying that the coastal city’s rain and cloudiness results in more sentimental lyrics, or a general melancholia. Others interviewed insist that the city’s artistic crowd is so intertwined that it is impossible to be in just one band.

Over the past three decades, the population in Portland has grown at an exponential rate, faster than even San Francisco, San Jose, or Boston. And experts expect that trend to continue for a while, despite the city’s strict anti-sprawl policies. Whether it’s the perpetual drizzle or the "Dream of the ‘90s” (or 1890s), one thing is clear: When it comes to local music, Portland means business.

As one musician in the video says, “There are things that poison your brain – in one way or another – and it’s best to just leave that out of your system and listen to organic programing.”

For more from New American Noise, visit their site.

Alessandra Ram is a former writer and producer for The Atlantic Video Channel. Her work has also appeared in Foreign Policy.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Video

Just In