Winter is the hardest time to leave your house in Portland. It’s dark, it’s raining, you hopefully have a cat to snuggle with (humans are overrated). You just pulled yourself out of bed to heat up a bowl of soup and you deserve congratulations. Can you justify going back to bed? You glance at your phone. 7pm. Fuck. You are going to drive the 3 minutes to the show and feel better about your life, there is no other choice.
After a series of mundane mishaps looking for parking and almost dying crossing the street I found the door to Outside Issues, a late-night coffee pop-up located in a daytime coffeeshop (Portland you are still weird, don’t worry). I entered and after paying the door person I scurried over to my friend. They were wearing a hooded drapey urban wizard type outfit that instantly put me at ease. We started slowly dancing to the melodic rhythms created by Amy Zhen. “I feel like my soul is being soothed” I whispered in my friend’s ear and they nodded, smiling.
We sat down for Ice Pink’s set to conserve our limited supply of Vitamin D deprived energy and I closed my eyes. I wasn’t sleeping, just heightening my auditory senses to better appreciate the haunting chorus of deep tones and fluttering samples emanating from Sam’s modular synth setup. The mysterious modules were housed in a homemade box painted like a giraffe or a map. A giraffe map. The tones subtly shifted and morphed as she touched the controls.
Limanjaya was the last to take the stage (unfortunately I missed the opener Makiyat who was reportedly amazing). Josh asked people to come closer and stand for his set, a bold ask to a crowd of northwest wallflowers. As we crowded around him the space instantly felt cozier, the hanging red orb lights brighter, the tea clutched between my hands warm and fragrant. I breathed it in.
Josh started his set with tracks from his recent release Daisy Parade, a maximalist ambient vision of twinkling samples and tones that cascade over one another like water, punctuated by skittering beats and strangely uplifting rhythms. I gently swayed back and forth as the vocal sample “you must learn to love yourself” hypnotized the crowd.
Towards the end of the set Josh cued up a sample that felt different. “Oh yea that’s my favorite ambient song” the person working the door said sarcastically, causing the person next to me to giggle. I laughed too, pretending to be in the know. The soulful vocal, guitar, and piano sample began repeating and a dance beat dropped. This is it. I made sure my tea was safe and started dancing as the crowd began to move. Josh danced too, radiating joy, playing his modular setup with a flair and clear love for his craft and community.
At the end of the night I leaned over to a friend, slightly embarrassed, and asked what song that was and how everyone but me seemed to already know it. She said it was from his album earlier in the year Untitled 2023. My friends speak of the release party for that album with reverence, the unopposed night of the year, a night of dancing in an empty apartment, feeling the love of community and music.
The next morning I put on Untitled 2023 as I cooked breakfast and danced around my own empty apartment, thinking about how much my life has changed since I moved here. How special it feels to be part of a community again, creating art and giving each other reasons to live. And to leave the house.
Outside Issues Coffee – 1412 SE 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
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