The call of Siren Nation

I was wrong before. I am much too cynical and have experienced the world in a much different way at 26 than I had at 19 at Ladyfest. And Siren Nation was no Ladyfest for me. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t profound. Any time you mix serious contemplative thought and activism with music and joy you are bound to experience something intense. And so I did.

Although I still have a social consciousness and voice my opinions often and publicly actual activist activities have lessened greatly since I left the safe haven of academia for the wide world of work. And I find often myself entrenched more in entertainment and cultural news than political. Even today, as I decided which workshop to attend I decided on one focused on the concepts of genderqueerness and a spectrum of gender presentation and identification. But instead I ended up in “Radical Women Fight the Encroaching Police State.” This conversation reminded me of what I’ve been missing when I stay within my queerly defined comfort zone. And that is the true purpose of a festival like this, to make you think as much as enjoy. To come together with people and create change, even as you celebrate, in this case through music, the good things in life.

Team Dresch

And let me get to those good things, which include 2 nights of diverse artistry and toe-tapping rock at the Wonder. As always, Team Dresch is a source of inspiration and a great way to start of any music fest. Before they went on Friday night the space was bopping along just fine, though not nearly as busy as one could have hoped for this good cause. And indeed, I think the steep price may have kept many folks who would have liked to attend away. But by the time the hometown heroes took the stage the reverence, the excitement, the crowd, was back. Siren Nation had truly begun.

Saturday night was a bit less fantastical for me personally, but the show ran just as smoothly and the musicians were every bit as talented. I got to see folk, hip hop and indie rock back to back, and I do appreciate that this was not a fest of a single musical genre. But at the same time I could sense some frustration in the shifting and somewhat unusual crowd. There was not the same connection and comraderie as the previous night. And I think SN would do well to have a slightly longer festival wherein you could group some of the more similar acts closer together and have more show options. If you missed one night here, you missed half the fest.

But maybe I’m just justifying the fact that I missed the entire film portion of the fest. Besides the impediment of shelling out 50 bucks for only 2 shows that would normally be under $15 a piece the fact that so many different venues in so many different parts of town were used also made things more difficult. There is a loss of a sense of cohesiveness when the events are spread out over the city.

The DIY aspect of a festival like Siren Nation can be both empowering and frustrating. But even through it’s faults SN was extremely well-organized, which is saying something in a town of chronically late-starting events. Here’s to hoping that next year more of our community will show (maybe if The Gossip decide to again grace us with their presence), more assistance will be available for lower income folks to attend and more attention will be given to this event that truly deserves a place in Portland’s political and cultural calendar. At least as much as TBA…

1 comment to The call of Siren Nation

  • liza1

    I went to the show on Saturday night and my perception of “I could sense some frustration in the shifting and somewhat unusual crowd” was: EVERYONE WAS TALKING!!!! It was impossible to hear the music because of the folks standing around and talking. In between sets you could really hear the noise level.

    I didn’t really get it. I mean – even if you don’t dig the music that is playing, you still are respectful, right?? Evidently not. Really disappointing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m jazzed that Siren Nation happened, know that it took a lot of work, and I don’t mean to rain on the parade. I’m hoping next year we can split the venues up, so that folk / acoustic can be in a different location from rock / hip hop. Also – larger sizes in T-shirts!!!