Before The Decemberists or Sleater-Kinney, before Norfolk and Western or Musee Mechanique, before Laura Gibson, M Ward, Menomena, and Loch Lomond, there was a musical moment here in Portland and it rocked.
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Portland had a major punk scene that reverberated across America. One of its protagonists, Mark Sten, has written a book documenting that moment—four years, according to Sten, between 1977 and 1981—called All Ages: The Rise and Fall of Portland Punk Rock. We flipped through its hodgepodge pages of anecdotes, observations, and plenty of punk attitude, and put together this playlist with what we learned, pairing each song with some Sten commentary on the band in question.
“We walked onstage [to open for the Ramones] and a cluster of real punks in the audience all started buzzing. It was very cool. Then we played our set and they realized we were faking it.”
“Ice-9 entered 1978 as the strongest punk band in town. Polished and tight, they were way ahead of the field. “
“The Neo Boys were the prototype for Portland’s first successful New Wave bands, idiosyncratic and firmly committed to their own ideas. They were one of the two biggest punk acts in town for four years, even though they sounded nothing like punk.”
"The Wipers were astonishing. I forget it if took two shows or one to convince me they were the best band in the Northwest."
"Lotek was popular enough. Their music was definitely original, even if it was occasionally too ingenious for its own good. They were nobody’s clone.”
“The Cleavers were a special case. As good as they could be on occasion, nobody wanted to like them.”
The Bop Zombies
"As for the Bop Zombies, people claimed to like us, and I’m touched, but we were kind of up and down."
"The Stiph–Noyds sounded like slaves to classic rock whose lives were never the same after they heard the Dead Boys."
“Sado-Nation and Fred Cole’s Rat$ were the most important second-generation punk bands in Portland.”
“Fred (Cole’s) long rise really began . . . with the formation of the Rat$, a trio that represented the perfect accommodation between him and New Wave.”
Mark Sten will be reading at Powell's City of Books on Thursday, October 8