In January 2011, Camp Creek Records and the Mt. Tabor Theater rang in the new year by launching a brand new spin on “Jam Night.” Each Tuesday this month, The Family Funktion assembled 3 diverse lineups of local jammers for an evening of 100% improvisational music. The spirit of spontaneous creation of art carries over into other media, as video and digital art is projected on the walls while dancers, painters and rappers become part of a masterpiece of the moment.
There is no charge for admission, but folks are encouraged to make a donation to a local charity. January’s beneficiary was the Community Warehouse, a local non-profit that provides necessities to needy families in Portland. At the January 25th event, a raffle of jewelry and glass prizes from local artisans also benefitted the organization. Each week has attracted a sizeable crowd for a Tuesday night, even the second week, when ice storms threatened to make the roads treacherous.
Within the walls of the Mt Tabor Concert Hall is a highly innovative canvas for artists of all persuasions to make an impact on Portland’s live music scene, and on each other. Digital artist Taylor Schwartz brings exotic and shapely figures to life against vibrant and horrific backdrops on his laptop and on the South wall of the room. A dancer named Sarah Flores combines rhythmic gymnastics with impressive body control to create a kinetic whirlwind of color with a glowing hula-hoop. Jordan Inglee from Audioglobe.com captures the music and streams it to the global community, and occasionally gets on stage to get his groove on. Each beat, movement and stroke is influenced by, and impresses itself upon, all who contribute to the whole.
All of this is not necessairly a new idea. I’ve been to many festivals, parties and campgrounds over the years that have combined live music and lights with fire dancing, juggling, painting and other forms of expression. But to see this kind of scene happening indoors on a Tuesday night in January feels fresh and exciting. Seeing more people at the Tabor on these Tuesday nights than they often draw on weekends is encouraging. Jamming with musicians who have never played together before just for the fun of it is liberating. And seeing a good cause benefit directly from the scene fills me with hope and pride.
The Tabor’s exquisite sound system has provided a fertile ground for sonic explorations by members of Sauce Policy, Outpost, Jesta, Reeble Jar, The Escort Service, Stellakinesis, Juno What? and many other bands. Colin Ward does a great job harnessing these talents and putting together diverse and exciting lineups for each set. I am proud to have shared the stage with many adventurous jammers over the first month of this journey, and look forward to future Family Funktions. February’s shows will benefit Hope 4 Friends, kicking off with a lineup featuring the Motet’s Jans Ingber this Tuesday February1. Until then, enjoy this behind-the-scenes peek at a recent Funktion Jam.