Whether you have been to Portland, Oregon, before or not, you have definitely heard of the progressive ways that one of the greenest cities in America is making strides to reclaim the “neighborhood” and more sustainable and earth-conscious ways to live. The City Repair Project is an organization doing just this. Their mission fosters thriving, inclusive and sustainable communities through the creative reclamation of public space.
The many projects of City Repair have been accomplished by a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists. Their biggest project, The Village Building Convergence, has been held annually for the last 15 years, and for this 16th year, The altruistic Polish Ambassador and Wildlight helped kick off the amazing 10 day event.
Friday night, June 3rd, at the Star Theater, we all gathered for what was sure to be an energetic, love-filled night to begin VBC 2016 on the right note! Since joining forces in 2014, Wildlight, an incredible duo made up of the shining songstress Ayla Nereo and intergalactic soundmaster David Sugalski, have been on a mission to spread their musical passions while also promoting the idea of harnessing the energy at their shows and grounding it back into the local communities they play in–in the form of community permaculture action days. This idea was originated by TPA a few years ago, but now all of his musical projects take on this concept.
The night began with Portland’s Sol Nectar, a sultry trio who is definitely on my ‘must-see over and over again’ list now. Kyrstyn Pixton graced the stage next. Never having the chance to see Pixton perform but loving her vocals on TPA tracks, her presence was a real treat. She masterfully blends piano, her lovely voice, electronics and random improvisations to create playful and blissful soundscapes.
Next up was an epic and inspiring presentation from Mark Lakeman, Co-founder of both The City Repair Project and the Village Building Convergence and a true pioneer in reclaiming our ancestral ways to cultivate the community connections that should have never been compromised in the first place. Once everyone was pumped up and tuned in to the energy and focus behind VBC, Wildlight graced the stage, this time with their friend and violin extraordinaire, Lydia Violet Harutoonian. Nereo and Sugalski are definitely 100% in-sync with one another, and you can see it through every move, gesture and song they play together.
Their love-fueled music fills the space with notes and lyrics bringing us back to our ancestral roots and reasons why we grace this wondrous, magical Earth. Everytime I see them, I am whisked far away past all the worldly, materialistic nonsense that consumes our every day and taken to that place where all I feel is passion, love and movement. Their new album, The Tide, is a true testament to this and their dedication to making the movement move. Such a powerful night one to kick off VBC 2016!
Saturday marked day 2 of VBC and a night of music I knew would be unforgettable. We strolled into the famous Crystal Ballroom to the sounds of Lapa, Russia born Ilya Goldberg, who is as a classical violinist turned producer weaving together musical stories with expansive harmonies, complex melodies and precisely layered beats. Following Lapa, came Jumpsuit Record’s, saQi. This other wordly producer and trumpeter brings to fruition deep, dirty and funkalicious jams that equally fuse healthy booty-droppin’ with sophisticated comfort. My highlight of the set was without a doubt when saQi and friends dropped Outkast’s ‘SpottieOttieDopaliscious,’ which I had never before seen played live. Life = made.
Peaking the night was the jumpsuited diplomat himself, The Polish Ambassador, a.k.a. David Sugalski, a.k.a. the inspiring man behind the Permaculture Action Tour who is paving an example of how to bring sustainability and music together. In all of his funkiness, TPA broke the space waves of the sonic landscape, opening with Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam,’ and continuing with the sweatiest tunes to get down to that I’d been a part of since…well, since the last time I saw TPA at Euphoria in Austin, Texas. It truly was a family affair- with Ayla, Lydia, saQi and an array of talented musicians merging full creative forces into a delicious melting pot of an eargasmic ooze of audible forces that definitely took a few showers to wash away.
It was a little difficult to wake up Sunday morning, but I was determined to get my hands dirty and participate in the action day fun. We went to the beautiful Jean’s Farm, a privately owned educational permaculture farm in urban Portland, where we learned of land and the goodness happening at the home of the Mother Earth School. We were treated to a pleathora of knownledge in a workshop dedicated to ‘Envisioning a City-Wide Neighborhood Bill of Rights Ballot Initiative Campaign to Design the City for ‘We the People,’’ by local community rights hero, Paul Cienfuegos and Theatre of the Oppressed’s Sarabell Eisenfeld.
We skipped on over to the heart of The City Repair Project and VBC in Sellwood and worked on various projects throughout the afternoon. It was so inspiring, refreshing and exciting to be involved in honest and sustainable transformation for families and the neighborhood that will be long lasting and fruitful for the earth and US! If you missed out on any of this and want to get a taste…do not fret, for TPA, Wildlight, The City Repair Project, VBC and all the passionate humans behind these incredible forces are not stopping anytime soon.
VBC 2016 is having events of ALL kinds ALL over Portland for a few more days and TPA is losing his Red Rocks Amphitheatre virginity THIS SUNDAY, June 12th, so throw on those gardening gloves and your freshest onesie and GET YOU SOME!