A Closer look at the Closer Festival 2012 – June 21-24, 2012

Words by: Sean-Michael Yoder
Posted: 30/5/12 9:23

A Closer look at the Closer Festival 2012 – June 21-24, 2012 Last year’s Closer Festival in Portland, OR was one of those rare alignments of kismet, good old fashion market-based capitalism, and some highly organized folks from the scene stepping up into a leadership role to tame the beast that is a multi-day music festival.

While the city of roses may still be known to the masses as the beating heart of today’s indie rock scene, organizers Jack Coleman and Gustavo Lanzas have found that the response to the first Closer Festival was so strong they were able to make the second year a bigger, more inclusive installment that is indicative of the sheer diversity of electronic music found all over both Portland and the West Coast.

Closer Festival is back for round two this year - who is the production team for this event and what was the inspiration to start doing this?
Closer is the creation of myself (Jack Coleman) and Gustavo Lanzas. We met in late 2010 through our labels SubSensory Recordings and Nude Photo Music and Closer developed out of a series of conversations surrounding the rapidly growing electronic music talent pool in Portland and the Pacific Northwest.

While running the labels we’d discovered a lot of great local talent and connected with other labels and crews in different musical spaces who were having the same experience. We saw the festival as an opportunity to showcase all this talent and all of the energy that’s been building up here.

It’s also a way to bring it all together -- hence the name Closer. We want the festival to build stronger connections between the various genres and micro-scenes and to serve as a means of broadcasting what’s happening in Portland to a broader audience.

This year we’ve also teamed up with Nathaniel Bachelder aka DJ Tronic, a local dj, radio show host and creator of the popular Dancefloor Mayhem blog. Gustavo, Nathaniel and I are doing most of the planning, promotion, etc. but we also have a ton of support from key individuals and local crews around the area.

Jack ColemanCan you give a few examples of artists, labels, etc. coming out of Portland right now?
Well, of course there’s Plus 8 artist Bryan Zentz, who moved here a few years back. SubSensory is approaching 50 releases and Nude Photo Music just celebrated its two year anniversary with parties in SF and Portland. Our labels are very distinct in terms of style but in addition to releasing international and national talent, we’ve both released many of the same PDX-based artists like Centrikal, Chris Firenze, LilRoj and of course Audioelectronic and I. The Nude Photo Music connection with SF artists like Gold Code, Mutor and Caltrop has strengthened both labels’ connections in California. LoDubs, the West Coast’s original dubstep/grime/garage label, is based in Portland and is participating in Closer 2012.

Rising Costa Rican artist Mario Maroto of labels like Seta and Killing Machine has relocated here via Miami. Half of the techno duo Piltdown Sound is in Portland now as well. A house-focused collective called All Ours has become a key player in the Pacific Northwest scene with their monthlies in Seattle and Portland. Prolific breaks producer Dj Vize is in PDX. Plus, looking up and down the West Coast there’s a relationship with Seattle based label From 0-1 and their artists like John Massey, Cyanwave and Milkplant. That’s just a few highlights to be honest. There’s so much going on in our little city and it’s quite hard to keep up!

What things did you learn after last year’s production that helped to improve this year’s festival?
We certainly learned a lot last year but all in all it went very smoothly and the feedback was extremely positive. What we’ve known all along is that we want to grow this thing organically, feature local artists and build support for the festival within the local scene, with the venues, etc. That approach has enabled us to grow to more than double last year’s size and fold in six of Portland’s top electronic music venues for Closer 2012. There are more labels and crews involved, bringing more diverse music to the festival. Basically, it really comes back to the “Closer” theme. By bringing those who are passionate about Portland’s scene and about serious music to the table, we are making it a better festival. That’s also why the single pass, multi-event access formula makes so much sense here. We really want to encourage cross pollination both with the artists and attendees.

Gustavo LanzasWhat bigger and better things can we expect?
We’ve definitely stepped it up in terms of headliners, venues, events and more genres.

This year’s lineup features some great headliners such as [a]pendics.[s]huffle, Raiz, Audio Soul Project, 6blocc, Barry Weaver, eLan, Bryan Zentz, Dave Aju, and Piltdown Sound.

There are 10 official nightclub events at six venues this year, and they’re all fantastic spaces. There’s the cavernous East Portland industrial bar/warehouse space Refuge; downtown underground staple Groove Suite; classic Portland spaces like the Someday Lounge and Whiskey Bar; old town haunt The Crown room; and downtown lounge space Element. Plus there will be a daytime outdoor event again this year as well as VIP events such as afterhours.

In terms of genres, events will feature various strains of house -- deep, funky, tech, etc. -- techno, minimal, bass, dubstep, skweee, breakbeats, experimental and more. So yeah, there’s a lot going on!

Is Closer part of a larger movement of regional DIY gatherings like Great American Techno Fest, and Movement or is the US techno scene hopelessly isolated?
It’s certainly true that Portland is a bit isolated from the international scenes and big cities like LA, SF, and Seattle are more often in the spotlight. However, this isolation is what made the scene what it is today -- which we think is a good thing. Actually, one of this year’s participants, Jon AD, founder of labels LoDubs and losonofono, shared some words that I think are particularly applicable here.
Portland is the perfect place for electronic music to develop its own language. Being a city known for music, A great many styles and movements in sound arts have germinated in its half dozen zip codes over the years. At the same time, and particularly with regards to electronic music, Portland lacks many of the pressures of other places under the watchful eye of constant publicity and marketing to make the ideas emitted purpose driven. Thus, the end ideas and sounds of Portland labels and artists tend to be more reflective of the desires and love for and of the community, and therefore tend to have their own sound and cultural touchstones.”

As far as DIY, that’s a long-standing Portland theme which goes far beyond electronic music. It’s definitely part of our ethos. We just refuse to accept the current paradigm of festivals featuring the same mega-pop-electronic headliners and completely ignoring what’s happening in the local scene. We live here, work here, make music here: why would we want to put all this work into something that doesn’t celebrate that?

What do you have planned after the festival for 2012?
Continuing to grow our labels and managing our ongoing events like my reoccurring party STATIC @ Groove Suite and the various Closer one-offs as well. We’ll probably dive right in to planning for Closer 2013 as well. Planning this kind of event takes a lot of time and thought. Gustavo and I have also been djing frequently, with West Coast gigs in San Francisco, Seattle, Eugene and locally, and we hope to see that continue as well.

Closer // 2012 // Electronic Music Festival // Portland, Oregon // June 21-24

Thursday 21st June
Closer Kick-Off @ Groove Suite - More Info Here
Mixer Showcase @ Someday Lounge - More Info Here

Friday 22nd June
Closer PDX Broken Beat Showcase @ Groove Suite - More Info Here
Dropping Gems Presents @ The Crown Room - More Info Here
Nude Photo Music Showcase @ Someday Lounge - More Info Here
SubSensory Recordings Showcase @ Refuge - More Info Here

Saturday 23rd June
Closer in the Park - More Info Here
Dancefloor Mayhem Showcase @ Element Lounge - More Info Here
LoDubs | Various | losonofono Showcase @ Whiskey Bar - More Info Here
Closer PDX Showcase @ Groove Suite - More Info Here
All Ours Showcase @ Someday Lounge - More Info Here
A Closer look at the Closer Festival 2012 – June 21-24, 2012

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