Pomo Picks

10 Can't-Miss Shows Coming to Portland This Fall

John Waters, Hasan Minhaj, Perfume Genius, and more are coming to town—plus, local favorites like the Portland Book Festival and Time-Based Art Festival return.

By Conner Reed August 24, 2021 Published in the Fall 2021 issue of Portland Monthly

Fall is upon us, and with it, an exciting slate of shows and events. The arts always ramp up when the seasons change, and this year is no different, even as pandemic precautions have kept some festivals in hybrid mode. Here's what we're most excited about.

As always, proceed according to your personal comfort level, and be sure to check venue websites for the latest on vaccine requirements and/or schedule changes. 

1. Waxahatchee

Singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfied’s 2020 album, Saint Cloud, was one of early quarantine’s preeminent auditory salves. After a delay of more than a year, Crutchfield (who performs as Waxahatchee) will finally get to bring her rootsy, tough-minded songs of sobriety and self-love to Portland in mid-September, with planned dates at the Aladdin Theater and Wonder Ballroom. Looking to cry softly with a wheat beer in your hand while Crutchfield conjures the ghost of (very-much-alive) Lucinda Williams? Us, too! Sept 18–19, aladdin-theater.comwonderballroom.com

2. Time-Based Art Festival

PICA’s big, brash, always-interesting, sometimes-inscrutable two-week art party is as wide-ranging and international as it gets in the Rose City. It’s back full flame this year, with a combination of virtual and in-person events, and it's guaranteed to provide watercooler talk well into 2022. Sept 16–Oct 3, pica.org

3. Frida … A Self Portrait

Vanessa Severo’s one-woman show about the life and death of artist Frida Kahlo will kick off Portland Center Stage’s first season since the pandemic hit. When it premiered in 2019 at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Broadway World called it “near perfection.” Oct 9–Nov 7, pcs.org

4. The Chinese Lady

Artists Repertory Theatre returns to the stage with a production of Lloyd Suh’s play, which won raves when it premiered in New York back in 2018. It tells the story of Afong Moy, a 14-year-old billed as the first Chinese woman on American soil, who was put on display in New York as a curio, performing Western ideas about Chinese life. Oct 19–Nov 28, artistsrep.org

5. Portland Book Festival

Everyone’s favorite rainy, nerdy bookworm extravaganza will return this year, after 2020 saw it expand its traditional roster and move totally online. This time around, Literary Arts is going the hybrid route, presenting a shorter-than-last-year but longer-than-usual festival with a mix of online and in-person literary goodness. Nov 8–13, literary-arts.org

6. Live Wire Radio

The beloved live radio program will return to the stage in September, with four scheduled shows throughout the season at the Alberta Rose Theatre and Revolution Hall. Lineups are stacked: You’re Wrong About host Sarah Marshall, comedians Paul F. Tompkins and Mohanad Elshieky, writers Omar El Akkad and Kaveh Akbar, PNW indie rock darlings Maita and Deep Sea Diver, and more—plus a November overlap with the Portland Book Festival. All season long, livewireradio.org

7. Hasan Minhaj

After his 2018 show, Homecoming King, nabbed a Netflix special and a Peabody Award, the onetime Daily Show correspondent returns to the road this fall for an all-new hour, titled The King’s Jester. He’ll hit the Schnitz for a two-show night: expect storytelling goodness with an autobiographical and/or political bent. Nov 11, portland5.com

8. Perfume Genius

The Tacoma-affiliated musician’s last record, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, was one of 2020’s most acclaimed. In the absence of a tour, Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius is not, alas, his given name) followed it up with an elaborate remix album. Now, though, he’ll get an opportunity to give his spooky chamber pop the physical life it deserves mid-November at Revolution Hall. Nov 12, revolutionhall.com

9. John Waters

To cop a long-dead meme: could nature really heal until John Waters returned to the Aladdin for one of his regular Yuletime appearances? The ever-tasteless filmmaker, author, and actor will be back in the Rose City for his signature Christmas nastiness this season. Dreck the halls. Nov 30, aladdin-theater.com

10. The Thesis

Formed in 2014 as a response to police and venue discrimination against Portland rap shows, the Thesis has grown to become the city’s foremost hip-hop showcase. Once a month at Kelly’s Olympian, our most talented emcees gather for thrilling, high-energy, hyperlocal sets. Don’t miss out. First Thursdays, thethesispdx.com

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