Formed in 2018 by longtime DIY musician Jordan LeVeque (lead vocals, guitar), whose punk rock bonafides include a stint as the final resident/booker of North Portland standby Fail House, Slender Gems are a murderer’s row of some of the city’s finest musical talents: rounding out the group are Malcolm Gillooly (bass), Ben Bilotti (guitar), Jack Stringer (drums). Equally influenced by the big, opened-tuned chords of 90s slacker-rock and the elegant shredding of 70s AOR, they are at once grandiose and intimate, with LeVeque’s acerbic observations of our spiritually bankrupt world, a resounding clarion call over their guitar pyrotechnics.
Neilson Family is a guitar rock band from Southeast Portland. Founded in the summer of 2018, they recorded an album (Double Life), released said album, recorded another album (Be Normal), and went on tour. Then the pandemic happened. As is the case with so many in this world, it made them weird. After releasing what was perhaps their finest effort into a quarantined void, recording hundreds of demos, suffering dozens of existential crises per member, learning, forgetting and subsequently relearning innumerable songs, they grew into a new sound. It retains the chiming guitars, sweet vocal harmonies, and wry lyrics of their previous efforts, but adds new elements that reflect this frenetic, fractured age: shifting tempos, odd time signatures, and international flavors.