Last week Berbati’s Pan shifted the way it entertains Portlanders by laying off its booker, Chantelle Hylton, and switching to outside promoters like Thrasher Presents and Monqui Presents.
Representative of the Popular Music Board, a student-fee-funded group at PSU that books concerts and provides sound reinforcement for student groups and other on-campus entities, said that this may affect how PSU deals with booking shows.
“I doubt we’ll work with Berbati’s in the future because Chantelle’s just great to work with,” said Elliot Adams, program director of the Popular Music Board.
Adams, who also spins in the area as DJ Othertempo, questions how the 600-capacity Berbati’s will fare.
“I’m not convinced Berbati’s will do well as a rental space,” he said and explained that outside promoters can be rather particular and political. Often they will put stipulations and caveats regarding the venues they will work with. “My gut instinct is to say it’s Berbati’s loss.”
The vibe of the Berbati’s venue will go from intimate shows to dance parties. A desire to distinguish itself from the plethora of Portland music venues served as the catalyst for this change. On top of the desire to become less vanilla, the venue’s space lends itself more to larger events rather than smaller shows.
Adams commented that filling such a large venue like Berbati’s is difficult, particularly in a market like Portland. Its largeness requires more familiar acts and shows.
Now that the dust has settled, PSU graduate and local-music booking maven Hylton said, “The Berbati’s development was really the kick in the pants I needed to finally start to do shows and events around town the way I’ve always wanted to.”
She will now focus her energy on the Towne Lounge, where bands keep 100 percent of the door money. “It’s a warm atmosphere and feels like an old underground jazz club,” she said.
The fact that there is no defined identity or image makes her “super excited about being able to help shape that,” she said.
Hylton, along with others, is devoting more time to Blackbird Presents, a booking company that has booked shows with such as the Electroclash Tour with Peaches, Hot Hot Heat, Iron and Wine, and Deerhoof. “I have a great group of people with whom I’ve been working for years helping me get it off the ground,” she said. “We look forward to doing the usual shows around town, but there are all kinds of things up our collective sleeve.”
Though Adams could not definitively say how these changes will affect the PSU music scene, he can see a possibility for PSU hosting more shows since Hylton will be booking more for outside venues.
“She’s great to work with,” he said. “I’ve known her for a long time.”
Hylton observes that Portland’s music scene-cycle has “come full circle” to become an innovative and welcoming place for artists. “It’s finally a really exciting time in Portland again. Portland is now a Mecca for artists, and they keep coming,” she said.
Portland’s artist friendliness can be attributed to cheap rent and clubs that cater to musicians rather than to trends, she said.
A little bird is the word, as smaller venues like the Towne Lounge allow for more creative happenings. “We can wildly experiment there, and the rent still gets paid,” Hylton said.