Best Things To Do

The Top 36 Events in Portland This Week: Feb 19–25, 2024

Mahalia, Peter Pan, and More Top Picks
February 19, 2024
See Mahalia in real life at the Roseland. (Mahalia via Facebook)
We've taken stock of everything that happening this week and handpicked the very best things to do, from Mahalia: In Real Life to Blackstar Symphony: The Music Of David Bowie with John Cameron Mitchell and from Peter Pan to The Psychology of Serial Killers.

Jump to: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Multi-Day



AIDS Memorial Quilt Past Event List
Conceived in 1985 by human rights activist Cleve Jones, the AIDS Memorial Quilt aimed to honor those who died of AIDS and document the lives of those living with the devastating impacts of the disease. Today, it's a 54-ton tapestry and a living symbol of a lost generation. "As we have recently experienced, science communication, information sharing, and awareness building are crucial in combating pandemics," says OMSI in this exhibit's promotional materials. Selected panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display at OMSI; the quilt can also be viewed in its entirety online. (Before you head to OMSI, I suggest reading Duane Puryear's powerful quilt panel.) LC
(OMSI, Central Eastside; closing)



Erica Berry in Conversation With Sierra Crane-Murdoch, Rebecca Clarren, and april joseph Past Event List
Fans of Mary Roach, Helen MacDonald, and Patagonia fleece will likely dig Erica Berry's Wolfish, a buzzy new book that topped all the most-anticipated lists last year. The tome blends coming-of-age memoir with the charted trail of legendary wolf OR-7 in the Wallowa Mountains to "peel back the layers of what scares us." Sierra Crane Murdoch, author of Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country, Rebecca Clarren, author of The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American Inheritance, and poet and clarinetist april joseph will join Berry for this conversation. LC
(Powell's City of Books, Pearl District)

The Psychology of Serial Killers Past Event List
Why do people kill other people? Uh, don't ask me!! Ask Dr. Rachel Toles, a practicing clinical psychologist who has more than a little insight into the psychology of serial killers. She'll share about serial killer myths, new methods of detection, gender differences in murderers, hybristophilia, killer couples, and the different categorizations for serial killers (and here I was thinking they were all kinda lumped together). Even if you frequent true crime subreddits, you'll probably learn a creepy new factoid or two. LC
(Newmark Theatre, South Park Blocks)



Church of Film: SCENES FROM AN OCCUPATION: Films of the Palestinian Film Unit Past Event List
Show up for Palestinian resistance at Church of Film's curated series of flicks from the Palestinian Film Unit. In the late '60s, cinematographers Sulafa Jadallah, Hani Jawharieh, and Mustafa Abu Ali formed the PFU to document the Palestinian resistance. Much of the film archive has been destroyed, but this screening will showcase five of the remaining films from the PFU and shine a light on the filmmakers who risked their lives to record the revolution. LC
(Clinton Street Theater, Hosford-Abernethy)


Mahalia: In Real Life Past Event List
R&B queen Mahalia will come through town to support her sophomore album, IRL, which provides a candid take on the "break up album" trope. "I had just come through a traumatic breakup and I was looking at the woman I was becoming and wondering if I liked her or not,” she told NME. “That was a difficult space to create in. There was an emotional block.” What came after that "block" is an honest flow of songs that highlights her strength, vulnerability, and self-love. In my opinion, the album's crowning bop is "Cheat," which features pop gem (and my tween idol) JoJo. Mahalia will support the album alongside singer-songwriter Alicia Creti. AV
(Roseland Theater, Old Town-Chinatown)



Secret Aardvark Remind List
Over 30 of Portland's best improvisers will gather again for this who's who of Rose City comedy. Each Secret Aardvark event features an extra-special mystery guest (past guests have run the gamut from David Lynch to random high school theater students), and the show's so spicy that it's named after the organizers' fave local hot sauce, so it should warm your chilly bones at this time of year. LC
(Kickstand Comedy, Ladd's Addition)


Psycho Beach Party Past Event List
It's February, which means I just took my daily mental health walk in the freezing hail. What better time to watch a parody of '60s-era beach flicks and sip a fruity cocktail?! (February 24 is apparently International Margarita Night—the more ya know.) Robert Lee King's Psycho Beach Party follows a tomboy with a split personality who attempts to get in with a crowd of Malibu surfers. Tomorrow Theater will have cocktails, mocktails, and treats up for grabs. LC
(Tomorrow Theater, Richmond)


Blackstar Symphony: The Music Of David Bowie with John Cameron Mitchell Past Event List
Celebrate the Thin White Duke's "golden years" with the Oregon Symphony, which will perform a unique interpretation of David Bowie's emotionally intense final album, Blackstar. The lyrics will be sung by actor/writer/director John Cameron Mitchell, who is best known for creating the cult-classic film and Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. If you've seen his cover of "Moonage Daydream" in the TV adaptation of Lindy West's Shrill, then you probably saw this coming. AV
(Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, South Park Blocks)

Nicholas Payton with Cyrus Nabipoor Past Event List
The past few years have been difficult for artists and venues, as the pandemic put their livelihoods on hold. Portland trumpeter Cyrus Nabipoor is one of those who struggled to make ends meet during that time. On top of that, he was diagnosed with cancer and watched a dear loved one weather their own health issues, alongside him. Nabipoor chose to document this tough chapter on his new record, In Lieu of Tears, which, quite literally, was his only way of grieving and processing the past few years. It’s Nabipoor’s first album as leader and features other local musicians, including saxophonist Leon Cotter, drummer Micah Hummel, and upright bassist Garrett Baxter. The compositions on In Lieu of Tears are noticeably stripped-down, pulling from crossover jazz, with hints of Nabipoor’s more experimental tendencies. Warm production gives songs like “Fever Dreams” and “Known Entity” the immediacy of a live performance. PORTLAND MERCURY CONTRIBUTOR MARK LORE
(Newmark Theatre, South Park Blocks)

Otoboke Beaver Past Event List
Mosh along to Kyoto-based punk quartet Otoboke Beaver's fast and ferocious anti-love songs from their album Super Champion. The album soars on seething rage and masterful riffs with feminist anthems like "i am not maternal," "You’re No Hero Shut Up Fuck You Man-Whore," and "Dirty Old Fart Is Waiting for My Reaction." They get an A+ for song title creativity. AV
(Wonder Ballroom, Eliot)



Nate Jackson: Super Funny World Tour Past Event List
Eastern Washington University grad and The Young Rock star Nate Jackson is also the founder of Tacoma comedy haunt Super Funny Comedy Club, one of the only Black-owned comedy clubs in the nation. He'll stop by Portland for this show, so watch your back if you look like a Build-A-Bear. LC
(Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, South Park Blocks)


Fantasy A Gets a Mattress Past Event List
If you've spent any amount of time in Seattle, you may have spotted the fliers created by Fantasy A, aka Seattle's "Autistic Undisputed King of Hustle," plastered all over the city—he's become something of a local legend there, and his music was covered byThe Stranger back in 2015. The creativity continues: Fantasy's major motion picture stars (who other than?) himself, and charts his challenges as he attempts to become a superstar and acquire a mattress. Relatable! Fantasy Gets A Mattress won the Best Narrative Feature award at the Seattle Black Film Festival. LC
(Clinton Street Theater, Hosford-Abernethy)


Bailen Past Event List
Comprised of twin brothers Daniel and David and their sister Julia, NYC trio Bailen will come to town toting three-part harmonies, whirling guitars, and bouncing percussion. Their newest album, Tired Hearts, is their most ambitious yet with songs that span dancey future-funk ("Call It Like It Is") to uninhibited, Phoebe Bridgers-esque acoustic tracks ("These Bones"). Pop singer-songwriter John-Robert will open. AV
(Aladdin Theater, Brooklyn)


Trixie Mattel's Solid Pink Disco Past Event List
On Wednesdays we wear pink...but we also wear pink to Trixie's disco parties, where mother herself DJs (although she'll be supported by DJ Mateo Segade for this set). Listen, Trix may have grown up using an outhouse, but this performance tilts toward her more glamorous side, and yes, all guests are asked to adhere to a strict pink dress code in honor of the gay world's It Girl. LC
(Crystal Ballroom, West End)



The Siren Theater Improv Giants Past Event List
Catch Portland's quick-on-their-feet improv experts for this evening of inventive, unscripted, no-limits fun. Longstanding comedy favorites Shelley McLendon (artistic director of the Siren Theater), Jed Arkley (co-founder of the Stumptown Improv Festival), Nicholas Kessler (seen in Portlandia), Kristen Schier (of Philly Improv Theater), and Tyler Quinn (of Curious Comedy Theater) are reportedly "some of the smartest, fastest, funniest, and quite frankly the tallest" comics in town. Find out what the fuss is about when they strut their hilarious stuff on the Siren Theater stage. LC
(Siren Theater, Boise)


Portland Diary Summit Past Event List
Organized by "daily videomaker" Julie Perini, this day-long summit sounds like any writer's dream: The gathering is "for anyone who considers journaling and daily life documenting to be therapeutic, sacred, liberatory, a path to the unconscious or otherwise of interest." They'd have to pay me not to show up to this thing. It'll kick off with a writing workshop led by lifelong diarist and songwriter Cynthia Nelson, followed by "diary film" screenings at the Hollywood Theatre curated by Perini, Saint Piñero, and Sage Ó Tuama, and a "diary feast" (with Kate Bingaman-Burt's art on display!) at the colorful new-ish cocktail bar Dear Sandy. LC
(Various locations)


NIGHT OF 1000… SWAYZES // Point Break with Masks Past Event List
Surf's up! Kathryn Bigelow's SoCal criminal classic was actually shot in Cannon Beach, not Australia. Who knew?! When federal agent Johnny Utah goes undercover to investigate some bizarre bank robberies, he infiltrates a wave-loving crime gang led by the effortlessly tanned Patrick Swayze. Utah (played by Keanu Reeves) finds himself in a pickle when he falls in love with a female friend of the gang. By the way, Tomorrow Theater wants to know whether you're team Swayze or team Keanu—attendees can grab masks with either actor's face to show off their spirit. LC
(Tomorrow Theater, Richmond)


Dorian Electra Past Event List
Pop sensation Dorian Electra gained a queer cult following and critical acclaim after the release of their 2019 '80s-tinged hyperpop debut, Flamboyant. Their newest release, Fanfare, sounds like an absolutely bananas version of Charli XCX's Vroom Vroom era with elements of metal, hip-hop, and baroque. My favorite lyric on the album? "Fuck it, put it up me like puppet /  Love it, fill me to the brim like bucket / Shove it, Miss Piggy squeal like Muppet" from the track "Puppet." I'll let that poetry marinate with you for a moment. Electra will be joined by the electropop duo Frost Children and indie rock project atlgrandma. AV
(Wonder Ballroom, Eliot)

Jakki and the Pink Smudge Past Event List
Named after frontperson Jakki Wise’s lipstick (that always ends up on her mic), Jakki and the Pink Smudge is an indie fuzz-rock band based in Portland who made their debut in 2020, with eight-track EP GingerBroad. Now gearing up to release a new single called “I Go On Walks,” on January 31, Wise explained the extremely literal song title and some process behind the song in a release that accompanied the announcement. “I take daily long walks to relax and reflect on my thoughts and current events,” she wrote. Wise often draws lyrics from the walks, and with “I Go On Walks,” recorded instrumentals after one such jaunt. When the band played a fashion show the following day, Wise “recorded the models’ footsteps on gravel and crowd clapping,” for the track. Wise also mixed and mastered it, along with making a stop-motion video. On February 24, the band will play a show at Swan Dive, giving fans a chance to come hear 2020 single “Precious,” and 2023 singles “Hold My Bag,” the “Shutup Fuckup,” and “Hugh Glue”—a song about falling in love with the boy who eats glue. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch their wonderful ongoing shtick, Jakki Wise playing guitar and singing lead from atop her bandmates’ shoulders. PORTLAND MERCURY CONTRIBUTOR JENNI MOORE
(Swan Dive, Buckman)

The Blacker the Berry: A Black History Month Event Past Event List
There’s still a couple weeks more of Black History Month, so get out and support as many of those local events as possible. One show burning a hole in our calendar is the Blacker the Berry, at the Old Church next weekend. One-time Portlander and indie pop singer-songwriter Kingsley headlines the event, with special sets from soul singer Veana Baby, and DJ Ashé, & Qiddist Ashé, among other special guests. Last month Kingsley released a fresh single called “My Love,” so expect to hear fresh material, and pray she performs highlights from her 2021 sophomore album Crying On Holidays, like “I’m Fine,” and most importantly, the danceable and funky pop gem “All Me,” featuring Haley Johnsen. PORTLAND MERCURY CONTRIBUTOR JENNI MOORE
(The Old Church, Downtown)

The Oregon Symphony: Jurassic Park in Concert Past Event List
Pairing beloved flicks with live scores, the Oregon Symphony's film series is its way of enlivening the cinematic experience while drawing in new audiences that wouldn't typically attend a classical concert. This week, the ensemble will take on Jurassic Park (you know, the one about the deadly dinosaur theme park?) with John Williams' epic score.
(Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, South Park Blocks)


Matthew Fielder: Mother Goose's Advices for Her Young Ones Past Event List
Experimental performer and artist-clown Matthew Fielder channels the wisdom of good old Mother Goose in this production, which blends clowning, puppetry, music, and animation to create "parables set in motion." Expect something dream-like, irreverent, and cosmological—yes, it's gonna be that awesome. Kiddos and adults alike will find something to feel warm and fuzzy about. LC
(Performance Works NorthWest, Foster-Powell)


Polar Plunge + Polar 5K Past Event List
Maybe you missed the polar plunge on January 1st for reasons, or maybe you loved it so much you want to do it again! Either way, take a chilly dip in the Willamette to help raise money in support of Special Olympics Oregon athletes. There's a 5K fun run (to get you all warmed up), a costume contest (to lull you into a sense of humorous security), and then the icy plunge itself (for Type II fun). SL
(Willamette Park, Johns Landing)



The Night of The Hunter in 35mm Past Event List
Night of the Hunter captures the simmering horror of an old fairy tale with an eerie sense of humor. Director Charles Laughton's psychological masterwork follows a batshit traveling preacher with knuckle tattoos who unleashes hell on a sensitive widow and her children. The expressionist flick, which stars film noir player Robert Mitchum and iconic Hollywood mainstay Lillian Gish, is a must-see for any Letterboxd member—it continued to influence cinema auteurs like the Coen brothers and Spike Lee for decades after its release. This screening will be introduced by film historian Foster Hirsch, author of Hollywood and the Movies of the Fifties. (Attendees can grab signed copies of the book in the lobby.) LC
(Hollywood Theatre, Hollywood District)



34th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films Past Event List
The "longest-running annual, non-profit, non-commercial, largely volunteer-run African film festival in the United States" features works by African directors, centering non-Western perspectives on African culture with films like Burkinabé award winner Sira. Join in on the Connection, Centerpiece, and Women Filmmakers-themed weekends, or head to a Family Fest matinée screening of the French film Hawa. The after-screening Q&A sessions with directors round out the cultural event, with virtual and in-person viewing opportunities. LC
(PCC Cascade, Humboldt, Thursday-Saturday)

Perfect Days Past Event List
New German Cinema pioneer Wim Wenders, who directed Wings of Desire and a mysterious terrain of canyons and neon in Paris, Texas, is known for his deliciously "slow" cinema and emphasis on desolation. Interestingly, this film (which was shortlisted for Best International Feature at this year's Oscars) feels a little more lighthearted, but I suspect that I will still come away feeling somehow devastated. Perfect Days follows a Tokyo toilet scrubber, Hirayama, whose days are filled with contentment, cassette tapes, books, and photos of trees. May we all be so blessed. LC
(Cinema 21, Nob Hill, Monday-Thursday)

Studio Ghibli Film Festival Past Event List
Over the last 30 years, Studio Ghibli has become legendary for its lush visuals, emotional and affecting storytelling, and poetic, intelligent approach to nature and the more-than-human world. OMSI's Studio Ghibli Film Festival will return for its ninth presentation of audience faves like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, as well as underrated classics like Pom Poko and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. LC
(Empirical Theater at OMSI, Hosford-Abernethy, Monday-Sunday)


2024 Biamp Portland Jazz Festival Past Event List
Biamp PDX Jazz Festival is back for its 21st annual celebration of jazz music. The stacked lineup features a jaw-dropping mix of award-winning masters and a new wave of musicians who are innovating the genre, including Grammy-winning trumpet player Nicholas Payton, veteran jazz keyboardist Bob James, neo-soul gem Sudan Archives, experimental jazz saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, and improvisational guitarist Mary Halvorson. AV
(Various locations, Monday-Sunday)


Lunar New Year Lantern Viewing Evenings Past Event List
Hello, Year of the Dragon! Lan Su's Lunar New Year celebration (inspired by the Lantern Festival, or Yuan Xian Jie) pulls out all the stops with its glowy hanging red lanterns—the garden's sweeping rooflines cast warm shadows, and floating lanterns glide across Lake Zither, including "four never-before-seen installations of the Four Gentlemen Floral Lanterns from China." This year, Lan Su is offering two ways to celebrate; visitors can take part in the Chinese dragon dance procession, or be among the first to explore the newly reopened Lan Su teahouse, which will serve a special tasting menu on select evenings. LC
(Lan Su Chinese Garden, Old Town-Chinatown, Thursday-Sunday)


Peter Pan Past Event List
Trey McIntyre's interpretation of J.M. Barrie's 1911 novella maintains its magic, no "Clocks" required. The production boasts "spectacular flying sequences, swashbuckling sword fights, and giant puppets," all of which sounds cool as hell, and founding OBT orchestra music director Niel DePonte arranged the soaring score, so prepare yourself for a heavy dose of enchantment. I'm intrigued by Peter Pan's emphasis on punk fashions, which were inspired by the legendary Broadway costume designer Jeanne Button. LC
(Keller Auditorium, Downtown, Friday-Sunday)


Craft, Community, and Care: The Art and Legacy of Bob Shimabukuro Past Event List
Although he was a brilliant artist and social justice writer in the Pacific Northwest region, you might not have heard of Bob Shimabukuro. You can change that at Craft, Community, and Care: The Art and Legacy of Bob Shimabukuro, which centers the life of the Okinawan American activist and creative. He designed the beloved, now-shuttered sake bar Tanuki, but when Shimabukuro wasn't woodworking and building furniture, he was serving as an editor and columnist for the Pacific Citizen and the International Examiner in Seattle, and was "instrumental" in the Pacific Northwest’s Japanese American Redress movement. LC
(Japanese American Museum of Oregon, Old Town-Chinatown, Wednesday-Sunday)

Kelda Van Patten: If I had a flower for every time I think of you Past Event List
Kelda Van Pattern's still-life photography explores "species loneliness," which the botanist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer describes as "a deep unnamed sadness stemming from estrangement from the rest of creation, from the loss of relationship." In If I had a flower for every time I think of you, Van Patten includes compositions photographed during residencies in diverse landscapes, including the northern plains of Wyoming and San Francisco. The artist's layered collage approach shifts notions of reality, artifice, discord, and dissonance to achieve playful, curious results. LC
(Well Well, Kenton, Saturday-Sunday; closing)

Modern Folk Past Event List
This group exhibition spotlights eight West Coast artists whose work aims to modernize and complexify folk art traditions, from paintings of everyday objects to "whimsical ceramics," self-portraiture, and mixed-media works. I'm excited to see Portland-based fave Lisa Congdon's snazzy visual language of luminous color and patterning with a folk art twist, as well as Justin Morrison's "raw" sculptures and Godeleine de Rosamel's clay pieces. LC
(Chefas Projects, Central Eastside, Wednesday–Saturday; closing)

Nona Faustine: She was a culmination of all things in Heaven and Earth Past Event List
Brooklyn-based photographer Nona Faustine's She was a culmination of all things in Heaven and Earth encompasses a decade of her explorations into "the perseverance and strength of Black life," including selections from her lauded self-portrait series White Shoes and the new domestic life series Mitochondria. Of the fresh series, Faustine explains: "I wanted to show the quiet, normal moments of this family of African-American women: our everyday life, our happy moments, our down moments. Mitochondria is a family album, a visual diary of our intimate lives." LC
(lumber room, Pearl District, Friday-Saturday; closing)

Policing Justice Remind List
Guest curated by University of Oregon associate professor Nina Amstutz and local social design artist Cleo Davis, Policing Justice probes Portland's policing practices and their relationship to "longer local and national histories of oppression." The exhibition centers Portland artists who have seen and documented police brutality, including the George Floyd protests, and includes commissioned installations by Don't Shoot Portland, Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr., Cleo Davis, Kayin Talton Davis, and others. Works on loan by Alfredo Jaar, Sandy Rodriguez, and Carrie Mae Weems lend a wider scope to the exhibition, and Forensic Architecture's video installation details an investigation into PPB's use of tear gas during the 2020 protests. Show up for abolition and take part in one of the exhibition's several accompanying programs, including a community conversation symposium, a series of film screenings at the Clinton Street Theater, and an ethical visual storytelling workshop. LC
(PICA, Eliot, Friday-Sunday; opening)

Scrapbook Past Event List
In last year's Pathways at Seattle's Winston Wächter Fine Art, Joe Rudko focused on "hyper-specific abstraction" through found photo collages that created curious networks of memory. In Scrapbook, the Washington-based artist continues to pull at the threads of collective memory through Bauhaus-influenced photo collages and sculptures that reference textiles, mosaics, and paintings. I'm intrigued by Rudko's use of found photographs collected from shops, which he layers with scraps of his personal ephemera. LC
(PDX CONTEMPORARY ART, Slabtown, Tuesday–Saturday)

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