The Essentials

13 Things to See and Do in Portland: May 2019

Shannon Shaw plays Mississippi Studios, Hannah Gadsby comes to the Newmark, Pure Bathing Culture drops a new record, and a mermaid lands in Coos Bay.

By Rebecca Jacobson April 23, 2019 Published in the May 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

1. Shannon Shaw

May 10, Mississippi Studios
The frontwoman for garage-punk outfit Shannon and the Clams channels Roy Orbison and Dusty Springfield on her Dan Auerbach–produced solo debut, Shannon in Nashville. Live, Shaw puts on a soulful, blistering show.

2. An Inward Gaze

May 2–June 2, Blue Sky Gallery
This joint exhibit features the work of two photographers who challenge the male gaze: New York City’s Arielle Bobb-Willis, whose boldly hued images transform bodies into disjointed sculptures (right), and Portland’s Brittney Cathey-Adams, whose black-and-white self-portraits claim her right to take up space as a person of size. 

3. 21 Cartas

May 10–11, Alberta Rose Theatre/Walters Cultural Center
Two extraordinary local musicians—singer-songwriter Edna Vazquez and jazz pianist Darrell Grant—unite for a concert of songs based on letters written by mothers at an immigrant detention center in South Texas. The bilingual compositions, which will be accompanied by immigrant photos from Portlander Adolfo Cantú-Villareal, span styles from battle cries to lullabies. Sample lyric: “May they have dreams that I did not have, and may they know that they will always have me.” 

4. Hannah Gadsby

May 15–18, Newmark Theatre
The Tasmanian comedian’s Netflix special, Nanette, was a scorcher of a show: an hourlong storm about otherness and misogyny and art history (and so, so much more). How’s she following it up? With Douglas, a show named after her dog—who, in photos, seems a real fluffernutter of floof. 

5. Kiese Laymon

May 5, Powell's City of Books
The Mississippi-raised writer has earned a torrent of accolades for his recent memoir, Heavy, written in the second person as an address to his mother, a devoted woman who loved him fiercely but who also beat him. “Gorgeous, gutting,” wrote the New York Times. 

6. Sirens of Coos Bay

May 9–18, Clinton Street Theater
It’s Coos Bay in the 1990s, and the town is torn asunder by the spotted owl controversy. Also, fishers are battling with macho grunge musicians. Oh, and there’s a mermaid. This isn’t the first time Broken Planetarium has mined Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales for musical theater, and this time around, the scrappy, low-budget company promises ripped T-shirts and off-kilter humor. 

7. Shaun Keylock Company

May 10–12, New Expressive Works
Born and raised in Portland, Shaun Keylock debuts his first full-length program with his dance troupe, with four works by three Northwest choreographers. In the mix: a duet inspired by letters written by women during and after World War II, a piece exploring Walt Whitman’s writings and oral histories of Civilian Conservation Corps members, and one featuring pastel-colored wigs. 

8. Contact Dance Film Festival

May 9–11, BodyVox
For the fourth year running, BodyVox and the NW Film Center team up for a multiday celebration of dance onscreen, with three programs showcasing both shorts and feature-length films from across the globe. Think inventive, stylistically diverse stuff—nothing like those old recital VHS tapes gathering dust in your parents’ attic. 

9. Tomorrow Will Be...

May 10–11, The Old Church
Brooklyn-based experimental performance ensemble the Team joins Portland’s Boom Arts for an interactive, multigenerational evening of new arrangements of protest songs from across history, plus “devised group conversation” (each show features different community guests) and general revelry.  

10. Jo Hamilton

May 2–June 1, Russo Lee Gallery
In The Matriarchs, the Masked and the Naked Man, the Scotland-born Portland crochet artist turns her remarkable technique—intricate works made of yarn that blast apart any perceptions of the craft as dowdy—to portraits that explore the superficial judgments we pass on others. 

11. Michael Pollan

May 18, Keller Auditorium
For his latest book, How to Change Your Mind, the best-selling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire turned to very different sorts of plants and fungi: the psychedelic variety. Tonight, he’ll dig into these consciousness-changing drugs and their role in mental health care (hopefully telling some trippy personal tales along the way). 

Hear It

It’s been four long years since Pure Bathing Culture’s last studio release, but Night Pass was worth the wait: 10 tracks that merge melodic pop joy, ethereal synths, and just the right pluck of twang. Catch the Portland duo at Mississippi Studios June 1.

Read It

Portlanders David Wolman and Julian Smith have dusted off a crackerjack (and entirely true) story of three Hawaiian cowboys who showed up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1908 for one of the largest rodeos in the West. They recount the tale in Aloha Rodeo, and will be at Powell’s City of Books May 30.

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