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11 Fun Things to Do in Portland This Winter

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Portland winters aren't easy, and it can be tempting to hole up at home or hunker down at the bar. But while we hold nothing against curling up with your cats and 40 episodes of Arrested Development, your options, my friend, are far greater.

Portland's burgeoning arts and culture scene stops for no season. With over 120 live-music venues, more than 50 theater companies, and the occasional world-class art exhibit, the city offers a staggering array of fun outings. From top-notch dance productions to edgy art shows to buzz-building bands, Portland's steady pulse gives you few excuses for boredom.

It might take a little (gasp) effort, but livening up your life--or at least your social calendar--is not really so hard. As my father once told me: Be like the dog--sniff out the good times, and go where they are.

Not sure where to start? GoLocalPDX offers this shortlist of events sure to stir your heart, make you laugh, move your booty, and stretch your restless mind.


Related Slideshow: 11 Fun Things To Do In Portland This Winter

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Hot Folking Rock

Portland is widely appreciated for the continuous stream of quality bands bubbling up through its ever-rising sea of music venues. But as we all know, shows can be hit or miss. And every once in a while, you need a good, solid hit.

One of Portland's tightest and most impassioned Folk-Rock outfits, The Builders & The Butchers, plays Saturday, Jan. 10 at Doug Fir Lounge. After three years of prolific touring, the band performs cuts from its album Dead Reckoning, among others. In its review of the 2011 album, Pitchfork Magazine noted The Builders & The Butchers' "fondness for big shoutalong choruses and the sweaty live-in-a-room feel of their arrangements," as well as lauding the band's "furious intensity." 

Doug Fir Lounge itself is one of Portland's more exciting venues for live music. Its crisply tuned acoustics and smallish (around 300-) capacity make it both intimate and--when a band like this comes to the stage--thriving with raucous energy. So shake off your winter blues, grab a pint of some strong Northwest brew, and get your clappin' hands ready. One day, you may very well say, "Hey--I saw those guys before they were world-famous. In Portland. At the Doug Fir!"

The Builders & The Butchers headline, and perform with openers Nick Jaina, as well as The Super Saturated Sugar Strings, at Doug Fir Lounge, 830 East Burnside St., Saturday, Jan. 10. Doors at 8:00 p.m., show at 9:00 p.m. For information on tickets and more, click here.

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Spontaneous Combusting-Up

If you're looking for some Sunday sponteneity, but NFL quarterbacks making audibles at the line of scrimmage only make you yawn--you may just want to check out the improv comedy stylings of The Brody Theater in downtown Portland. 

The homegrown comedy company is both a school (check out their many accessible classes) and a hub for experimental, edgy entertainment. Every Sunday in January, The Brody hosts Diabolical Experiments, a fast-paced improvisational jam session featuring some of Portland's hottest comics alongside Brody Theater veterans.

For the measly price of 7 bucks and your short attention span, you can scratch that itchy funny-bone, laughing away the last of Saturday night's hangover. On your way to the show make a point to stop by what many long-time Portlanders considers the hands-down, finest cheap sushi joint in the city, Sushi Ichiban--right next door to The Brody theater.

Diabolical Experiments runs Sundays in January at The Brody Theater, 16 Northwest Broadway. Show at 7:00 p.m., doors at 6:30. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Printmaking Paradise

Japanese printmaking was long the exclusive domain of male artists. But after WWII, as Japanese culture rapidly transformed, women began to light up this traditional art form--creating cutting-edge works and styles that were anything but conventional.

The Portland Art Museum's Breaking Barriers: Japanese Women Print Artists 1950-2000 highlights the innovative work of 5 internationally-reknowned printmakers, offering a luscious variety of styles and techniques.

Fans and artistic descendents of Reed College's late great calligraphy teacher Lloyd Reynolds will be especially intrigued by the work of Shinoda Tōkō, whose lithographic techniques combine modern abstract expressionism with spontaneous calligraphic brushstrokes. Also quite stunning are the intricately detailed woodblock carvings of Matsubara Naoko. Overall, the exhibit is a fascinating display of subtlety, technical savvy, and raw artistic power. 

Breaking Barriers: Japanese Women Print Artists 1950-2000 runs through April 12 at the Portland Art Museum, 1129 Southwest Park Ave. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday 10-5 p.m., staying open until 8 p.m. on Thursday/Friday. Admission FREE from 5-8 p.m. every 4th Friday of the month. More information here.

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A Symphony in Space

She wants to watch Star Trek. You want a classy night on the town. There seems no alternative, save for an alternate universe. But there is a solution, right here in our very own.

On Friday, Jan. 30, the Oregon Symphony will present a special, one-night-only performance of composer Michael Giacchino's riveting score to J.J. Abrams' critically acclaimed Star Trek (2009)--performed live to a complete, full-length screening of the film. 

Giacchino, nominated for a Grammy for his Star Trek score, has won countless awards for his work, including an Academy Award in 2010 for Best Original Score (Up).

Conductor Erik Ochsner is no ensign (that's "rookie" to all you non-Trekkies) when it comes to leading symphonic performances of movie scores; Ochsner has led up to 300 performers in renditions of two Lord of the Rings symphonies as well as performances of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

So you can leave the disagreements at home and the mechanical monkey toy in its box; this figures to an amazing performance in which cymbals--and symbols--work in perfect harmony.

Friday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m., Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 Southwest Main St., Portland. $55-125. Tickets and more information here.

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Sexy Sauce

It's been said that sex is like pizza--even when it's bad, it's still kind of good.

But for a good slice of Portlanders, expectations are higher. That we are a city of foodies almost goes without saying. And Portland's almost limitless diversity of sexual inclinations--not to mention its staggering number of strip clubs--evidence the city's irrepressible yen for flirtation and titillation. But we are inventive with our obsessions, creating combinations far more risqué than pornographic donuts.

Catering to a panoply of primordial urges, Southeast Portland's Crush Bar presents Shake-N-Bake: A Foodie Burlesque Show, on Friday, Jan. 30. Billed on its Facebook page as "delicious striptease with food-based performances in a gastronomical delightful night!", the show is the brain-child of Zora Phoenix, Crush's events and promotions manager, executive director at Rose City School of Burlesque--and gender illusionist extraordinaire. Shake-N-Bake continues Phoenix's impressive support for burlesque in all its sexy, funny, engaging glory. 

Crush Bar, which serves accessible gourmet fare, has long been known for its upbeat, inclusive atmosphere, friendly staff and stiff...drinks. So if your sensual organs need just a little more flavor, head down to Crush and tease yourself just a little bit harder. This ain't no heat-lamp pizza.

Shake-N-Bake: A Foodie Burlesque Show runs one night only, Friday, Jan. 30, 8:30 p.m at Crush Bar, 1400 Southeast Morrison. $12 general admission, $15 VIP reserved seating. For more info, click here.

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The Writing Life and the Living Writer

As all too many of Portland's creative types know, it's not easy pursuing artistic ambitions in the face of life's little surprises (like, you know, children?). The daily grind can turn weekly, monthly, yearly until one's dreams of a creative career appear only distantly in the rearview mirror.

On Jan. 20, Powell's City of Books presents I Think You're Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, by David Shields and Caleb Powell. The book is based on a 4-day mountain retreat in which Powell, committed father of 3, and his former professor, prolific author Shields, hung out and discussed a broad range of topics, from family to betrayal, sex to death, and nearly everything in between. Aiming to re-complicate the traditional distinctions between "life" and "art," the book eschews the Q & A format for a more nuanced discussion that seeks not to answer life's big questions so much as to deepen them.

Shields and Powell will read selections from I Think You're Totally Wrong (incidentally, adapted by James Franco into a movie slated for release sometime this year), talk about their experience, and offer insight into how their journeys have affected them--as well as answer audience questions and, of course, make available signed copies of the book.

For those of us torn by the inevitable tensions among the (ostensibly) competing desires for creativity and procreation, loyalty and independence--among many others--this reading stands out as a timely and welcome anathema to easy answers and black-and-white thinking.

7:30 p.m., Tuesday Jan. 20th, Powell's City of Books, 1005 West Burnside St., Portland. Free to the public, but arrive early for a seat! More info here.

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Cherish Thy Liberty

As the drama of Edward Snowden's shocking revelations unfolded, and the former CIA systems administrator disappeared into political asylum, most Americans followed the story through major media outlets. But rarely have we heard directly from the man himself.

Now, in the powerful documentary film Citizenfour, Snowden himself--along with Editor-in-Chief of Wikileaks, Julian Assange--appears to tell his story. This riveting work is directed by award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras, who, along with reporter Glenn Greenwald, flew to Hong Kong to meet and interview Snowden, who initially fled there seeking safety.

Scoring an impressive 97 percent on the gold-standard review compendium Rotten Tomatoes, Citizenfour plays out, according to some reviews, more like a well-crafted thriller than a stuffy political documentary. So whether you consider Snowden hero or traitor--or if you refuse to be drawn into choosing between such labels--the film offers a rare and electrifying inside view of a story involving not just one man, but quite possibly our freedom itself, both collective and individual. 

Citizenfour currently plays daily at Living Room Theaters, 341 Southwest 10th Ave. See the theater's website here for an updated schedule of showtimes.

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Grey Skies and Bright Eyes

As new Portland transplants arrive, seemingly in droves, they add their hometown roots and sensibilities to the city's collective consciousness. But sometimes, caught up in the New York Times' recent hipster love affair with Portland, our fair city's cosmopolitan blossom can overshadow the more desolate midwestern landscapes from which many Portlanders emerged.

In her book My Dakota, photographer Rebecca Norris Webb presents images of her native South Dakota. Sometimes stark, sometimes almost surreal, these photographs speak of loss and solitude in a landscape dominated by vast spaces and more wild animals than people. For the month of February, Blue Sky Gallery, one of Portland's premiere showcases for fine photography, will present selections of Webb's work from this collection. 

Featured in both Time Magazine and The New Yorker, among others, Webb's work here may very well transport you out of Portland's provincial bubble, straight into a vast, new--or should we say, a vast old--world, at once hauntingly beautiful and written in the the images of loss. 

Slow down. Take time to look, to see, to feel--you might just remember some long-forgotten part of your own inner landscape.

Rebecca Norris Webb shows My Dakota throughout February at Blue Sky Gallery, 122 Northwest 8th. Open Tuesday-Sunday 12-5 p.m, and the first Thursday of each month from 6-9 p.m. For ticket and other information, click here.

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A Threesome, Perhaps?

Many have fantasized about adding a third to spice up a relationship--and in Portland's wildly diverse sexual climate, many make it a reality. But what happens when the tryst adds more than its participants bargained for?

Beginning Jan. 24, Portland Center Stage presents the world premiere of Threesome, written by Yusef El Guindi and directed by Chris Coleman. Starring Alia Attallah, Dominic Rains and Quinn Franzen, this play tells the story of an Egyptian-American couple who, with notions of solving their relationship troubles, invite a stranger into their bedroom. Threesome begins with expectedly amusing awkwardness but soon delves deeper into the complications of secrets, coded language, and our most primal insecurities.

Portland Center Stage, founded in 1988, is perhaps Portland's top professional theater company, and was most recently lauded for its irreverent, hilarious holiday production, Twist Your Dickens.

While you may walk away from this play forever altered, at least you can walk away cleanly--unlike that ill-fated game of naked Twister last weekend.

Threesome, presented by Portland Center Stage, shows Jan. 24-March 8, Tuesday-Sunday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Saturday & Sunday at 2 p.m. and Thursdays at noon at the Portland Armory, 128 Northwest 11th. For tickets and more information click here.

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Laugh Laboratory

Nothing chases out the post-holiday blues better than a good laugh, or twenty. If you need a healthy dose of nature's best medicine, Portland abounds with comedic fare, ranging from the snackworthy (and free!) open mic night at Curious Comedy Theater to premium entrees like Amy Schumer at the Schnitz.

But if you're like most Portlanders, you want something in the middle--reasonably-priced but far from mediocre. Enter Helium Comedy Club, Ptown's 2010 entry into the city's comedy scene. In addition to drawing big-name stars like Dave Chapelle and others, Helium presents Test-Tube: Experimental Comedy! Hosted by Steven Wilbur, 2014 winner of Helium's Funniest Person Contest, this showcase features established local comics trying out their weirdest, most out-there skits, bits and characters.

Whether you need cheering up or just fodder for your own demented sense of humor, check out Helium's uniquely Portlandian comedic foray--which promises 'funny weird' and 'funny ha hah' all at the same time.

Helium Presents: Test-tube--Experimental Comedy! runs Wednesday, Feb. 11, 8:00 p.m at Helium Comedy Club, 1510 Southeast 9th Ave. $10 GA, $18 Reserved. More information here.

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This Fairy Tale Comes True

With courtship turned on its head by the online dating world, it may be tempting to think that chivalry is dead. Can't Portland men just step up and ask a girl on a date, for a change? But lest you give up on romantic fantasies so easily, Oregon Ballet Theater comes to the rescue.

With its first ever production of the classic tale Cinderella, OBT's gorgeous and talented dancers will take on reknowned choreographer Ben Stevenson's masterful version of the story. Set to Sergei Prokofiev's lavish score, this coming production by Portland's premiere ballet company promises to thrill your eyes and warm your cool winter heart. 

There are just 6 performances, beginning Saturday, Feb. 28, so when the inevitable highs and lows of Valentine's Day settle down to a mild memory, reinvigorate your sense of romance and fantasy by treating yourself to OBT's unparalleled poise and technical acumen.

Oregon Ballet Theater performs Cinderella at the Keller Auditorium, 222 Southwest Clay in Portland. The show runs Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday, March 7, with 2:00 p.m. daytime shows on Sunday, March 1 and Saturday, March 7 as well. More information, and opportunities for discounted tickets, here. 


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