The Essentials

13 Things to See and Do in Portland: August 2019

Pickathon returns to Pendarvis Farm, Michelle Wolf plays Helium, Lost Lander drops a new album, and Lents hosts its fifth annual Chicken Beauty Contest.

By Rebecca Jacobson July 24, 2019 Published in the August 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

1. Pickathon

Aug 2–4, Pendarvis Farm
Happy 21st birthday to Oregon’s most joyous music festival (above), where the drinking water is free, the Galaxy Barn is solar-powered, and the bros are few and far between. Highlights of this year’s Happy Valley hootenanny: Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band, Nathaniel Rateliff (appearing both solo and with his band the Night Sweats), Mandolin Orange, and Texas trio Khruangbin (including bassist Laura Lee, pictured above), which draws on psychedelic rock, soul, dub, and Thai funk.

Cordon Bleu, last year's first place winner at the Lents Chicken Beauty Contest

2. Lents Chicken Beauty Contest

Aug 11, Lents Street Fair
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most beautiful clucker of them all? That’s up to visitors to the Lents Fair, which holds its fifth annual poultry pageant this month. Past years have featured a broad array of fowl, from dramatically crested Polish chickens to glam Silkies to Naked Necks (which cofounder Jonah Willbach says rarely come close to winning).

3. Japanese Breakfast

Aug 23, Crystal Ballroom
If melancholy, shimmery, oh-so-affecting indie pop is what you’re after, look no further than the Eugene-raised Michelle Zauner, who performs under the name Japanese Breakfast. She’s also at work on a memoir, something of a full-length follow-up to her 2018 New Yorker essay about H Mart and grappling with grief after her mother’s death. 

4. The Chunta

Aug 15, Whitsell Auditorium 
It’s called the Fiesta Grande, and it goes down every January in the southern Mexican town of Chiapa de Corzo: men don skirts, glue on fake eyelashes, and twirl down the streets. Once the domain of straight men, the tradition of the chuntá has more recently become a flashpoint for questions around sexuality, gender, and expression. Portland filmmaker Genevieve Roudané’s documentary follows two groups in the runup to the event. 

5. Portland Biennial

Aug 24–Nov 3, Disjecta
Founded in 2010, the Portland Biennial showcases the work of visual and performing artists from across Oregon—consider it an eye-popping opportunity to check the pulse of contemporary art in our state. Expect 18 artists at different stages in their careers, with work taking on indigenous identity, black life in Portland, traffic sound, and more. 

6. Téa Obreht

Aug 20, Powell's City of Books
In 2011, the Belgrade-born author drew a flurry of attention when she became, at 25, the youngest-ever winner of the Orange Prize for her debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife. In Inland, she abandons the Balkans for the Arizona Territory in 1893, where the tales of a former outlaw and tough frontierswoman converge. 

7. Anonymous Theatre

Aug 12, The Armory
Each year, auditions and rehearsals for this show happen in secret, and actors roll up to the performance in street clothes, unaware of the identities of their fellow cast members. They deliver their first lines from their seats, and the performance—this year it’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (a musical!)—begins. 

8. Michelle Wolf

Aug 1–3, Helium Comedy Club
Yes, there was Wolf’s much-contested performance at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, with her smoky-eye jokes flinging everyone from Fox News hosts to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman into a tizzy. Portlanders weren’t so scandalized: the comedian’s most recent local appearance, last August, sold out. 

9. Beth Macy

Aug 13, Powell's City of Books
In Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America, the journalist chronicles how the opioid epidemic has thrown the country—particularly central Appalachia, where Macy lives—into crisis. 

10. Stumptown Improv Festival

Aug 8–11, Curious Comedy Theater
This perennially popular, tightly curated comedy fest showcases both killer homegrown talent—among others, expect Curious Comedy house team Filbert, the multigenerational Broad Selection, and teen troupe Impulse—alongside groups from Los Angeles, Atlanta, and beyond. 

11. Art in the Dark

July 26–Aug 4, Mary S. Young Park, West Linn
A-WOL Dance Collective takes to the trees of West Linn’s Mary S. Young Park for an illuminated, aerial performance—
this time inspired by snow leopards, with original music by Eels guitarist Chet Lyster.

Read It

Portlander Kimberly King Parsons’s debut short story collection, Black Light, transports readers, in electric prose, to her home state of Texas: a place of cheap highway motels and boarding schools where the girls swap gossip about handsy Frenchmen. Parsons reads at Powell’s City of Books Aug 15.

Hear It

In 2008, musician Matt Sheehy moved into a cabin in the woods near Aberdeen, in part to write about a breakup and the death of his mother. A decade later, Sheehy—now the frontman of Portland indie-rockers Lost Lander—has finally released Aberdeen, a lush, layered musing on his time there.

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