2012 A Year in Review: Top-10 Shows at The Know

Last year’s Top 10 show “retrospective” was effectively the catalyst for regular blogging on our website. It proved to be a fun exercise and really put into perspective all of the awesome stuff that we’ve been fortunate to host at The Know.  It’s easy to forget and/or take for granted certain events when you’ve constantly got exciting stuff looming on the horizon.  For instance, we’re a little more than a week away from our 8th Anniversary show, which will undoubtedly be a front-runner in making next year’s Top-10!

I don’t remember narrowing-down last year’s Top-10 being such a chore though. I’m not saying less consideration was given, or that the quality of events was inferior.  It’s that the quantity of high-caliber/memorable events that we hosted this past year was just absurd!  After having flipped back through the calendar, the preliminary list that I attempted to narrow-down read like a book…not something that could be reduced to a Top-1o.

That said, I’m hoping people have their own memories of events in our homely venue-area that left an impression.  I was only able to skim-the-surface of note worthy shows.

Here we go (in chronological order):


The combination of our anniversary celebration with the return of beloved post-punkers, Arctic Flowers, following a rather long hiatus due to a line-up change, made for one of the most oppressively packed nights I’ve witnessed at the bar.  The music was phenomenal, with California’s raging latino-punks Mundo Muerto having timed their tour to perfection, and Portland’s youngest ‘veterans’ of Autistic Youth setting a frighteningly high precedent in the opening slot. Also: lets not forget the riotous champagne toast!



I was anticipating this show to be good based on label affiliations (Don Giovanni, Kill Rockstars, and Dirtnap Records),  but was completely unprepared for how good.  I recall this being one of the first outings for Hurry Up!, a newer project from members of The Thermals.  They absolutely lived up to their lineage, ripping through some of the most soulful rock&roll numbers, complete with sharp dual male-female vocals that kept things feeling particularly ‘fresh.’ Then it was turn for New Jersey’s Screaming Females to finish-off any non-believers, as their technical prowess in relation to pop composition left jaws agape and musicians in attendance scurrying home to practice!

5.24-30 [Memorial ‘Week’]
Ok, so I’m “cheating” in relation to this entry, but realistically listing each of the 7 unforgettable shows we hosted over the course of our “Memorial Week Show-Series” would’ve wiped out the ability to highlight much else in 2012.  I’ve written about this a bit in the past, but the advent of this “series” could be attributed to serendipity. Coinciding dates for Chaos in Tejas, Rainfest and 1234Go!’s Showcase (3 BIG festivals for ‘punk’ bands) happened to send a slew of INCREDIBLE foreign and national-caliber touring bands through our venue within a few days of one another. Each show was special, though a couple particular moments stand out to me:

  • Vanna Inget, of Sweden, played some of the most gorgeous power-pop I can recall.  Blending darkened post-punk elements with sultry and haunting female vocals, which is practically a staple export for Sweden at this point (examples: Gorilla Angreb, Mass Hysterii, Terrible Feelings)!
  • Chicago’s Weekend Nachos won my “sleeper” award (i.e. pleasant surprise/unexpected standout) of the week-long showcase. I’ve not seen a room light-up like that in over a decade!!! They’ve perfected (hardcore) musical ‘crowd-control’ by seamless parring scathingly fast tempos with punishing breakdowns, each of which somehow connects to a primordial pulse within the human body. The band functioned as a lightning rod for energy displacement into the crowd, complete with their drummer playing furiously…clad only in a studded-leather thong, assless chaps and bridled with a ball-gag!
  • Unnatural Helpers make the list for a second year-in-a-row, and deservingly so! Dean Whitmore, of Unnatural Helpers, is one of few ‘master craftsmen’ of the lo-fi garage-rock revivalists (which in my opinion are far too many).  Unnatural Helpers wrote one of the most catchy/inescapable song in recent memory with ‘Hate Your Teachers’ from their latest LP on Hardly Art Records.


What’s to say about Vancouver BC’s White Lung that hasn’t been said before? Their live shows are the stuff of legend, and they put out what could be considered one of the most stand-out/unique releases of 2012 with ‘Sorry’ on Deranged Records. White Lung is a one of few bands that truly deserves the overused phrase, “it’s hard to pin-down a genre/tidy description of the band.”  Blending a tight-wound version of melodic hardcore with post-punk ‘experimentation’ and catchy female vocal-lines that are both shouted and sang. It’s safe to say that White Lung are doing their own thing, and it happens to be damn good! A delighted audience left our venue the night of their visit.


This show sticks out in my mind more-so than most. Appleton, Wisconsin’s Tenement and Seattle’s Big Eyes are two bands who appeal to fucking EVERYONE! if you don’t like them, or can’t find enjoyment in watching/listening to them, than you ought to get your head checked. Surveying our venue-area on the night of their appearance was like taking a cross-section of Portland’s ENTIRE independent music scene! Pop-punkers, power-poppers, crusties, raw punx, hardcore kids, art school students, indie-rockers were all present.  Why, one might ask? Answer: ’cause Tenement and Big Eyes are playing music that is undeniable.  It appeals to such a large demographic without being a varied/schizophrenic-mess. It’s just simple, tuneful and strangely “familiar.”





The grandiose home-coming for acclaimed ‘locals’ Red Dons (who have members strewn across national and continental borders) served up a night of revelry and quality that would be tough to match anywhere.  It felt like an episode of Cheers or some shit…’everyone-and-their-mom’ was present (literally and figuratively), especially since the bar has been a perpetual stomping-ground for all the bands/people involved with the show.  Hugs and handshakes abounded and made for a true “Know-styled” family affair!


The iconic face (and wardrobes) of Nardwuar the Human Serviette within our venue walls was a sight to behold. When it came time for his merry-band, The Evaporators, to take the stage following the flawless and rousing power-pop of fellow Canadian’s, The Tranzmitors, few could have anticipated the interactive experience that would unfold.  A performance artist, beyond a mere musician or media personality, Nardwuar and his troops doled out a serious lesson in audience engagement and performance.  I defy anyone to avoid cracking-a-smile while witnessing a man in a latex speed-skating suit, bedecked with Canadian Maple-leaf insigna, crowd-surfing atop an ecstatic audience!

Hosting legendary UK peace-punk forebears, The Mob, was definitely one of the more rewarding moments of the year for us at the Know. It seems too often that “reunion tours” offer a castrated or hodgepodged version of the original band that had once left such a strong impression. The Mob, however, absolutely bucked this trend offering up one of the most impassioned recreations of quintessential songs from their 1982 LP ‘Let the Tribe Increase‘ along with solid new material. People were packed so tightly into the room that they were practically on top of one another to catch a glimpse of the performance on stage. Several times throughout the show the audience became an impromptu choir, as the volume with which they sang along to their favorite songs exceeded that of the sound system and band! It was a beautiful thing to watch.





Being asked to host the ageless Jonathan Richman for a second time was a remarkable honor. Jonathan has taken to The Know, explaining that he likes the idea of doing ‘stays’ (3-consecutive days in this case) at a small/intimate venue “like the old days,” he told me.  The graciousness with which he handles his cult-like ‘celebrity’ was never more obvious than upon arrival at our venue for his last performance during his tenure in Portland.  Seeing a sizable line of people who had been denied entrance to our space, which had reached capacity for the 3rd night in-a-row, Jonathan took pause on our sidewalk and unsheathed his acoustic guitar from its case.  What followed was one of the most humbling performances I’ve ever witnessed, as he played a string of songs (with accompanying dance numbers) exclusively for the forlorn fans who’d been waiting in hopes of attending. He seemed unaffected by the cold, lack of vocal warm-up, and curious passerby, completely transfixed on ‘connecting’ with each of the members of his audience…that just happened to be stranded outside.


Members of Southern California’s Toys That Kill have weathered many-a-storm within the world of melodic-punk over the past couple decades, having spent time in F.Y.P, the band’s previous incarnation.  Needless to say, with over 20 years experience crafting pogo-inducing pop-punk, they’ve dialed in their songcraft to a near-science.  It showed when they hit our stage for the first time this past year! “Captivating” would be an understatement…the audience was hinged to every single note and swell in their music. It was particularly great seeing Toys That Kill billed along with Northeast Portland’s ‘boys-done-good’ in Divers, who also possess a certain knack for exceptional songwriting and will likely outgrow the confines of The Know over the coming years.




So there you have it! 10-Shows over the course of 2012 that I hope many readers were able to attend.

Special thanks to all the folks who’ve been filling the room, making for a good time, suggesting to bands they play here…etc…etc. It sounds cliche, but the shows wouldn’t be what they are without each and every person; from attendee, to performer, to people passing out handbills or taking photos (extra thanks to Moshburn, Bryan Phippen, Jaqui Beast, Jared Prophet, Alec, Neil Rathbun and any others who contributed art content to our website/blog).

Happy New Year,