Robert Ham, Portland Mercury

Robert Ham

Portland Mercury

Portland, OR, United States

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Past articles by Robert:

Love, Victor Breaks No New Ground—But Doesn't Need To

Being the dutiful critic that I am, I spent an evening recently with Love, Simon, the thoroughly delightful 2018 film about the titular young man coming out of both his shell and the closet during a momentous year in high school. While it had a host of narrative issues, it was as cute and charming as any good romantic comedy from the past 30 years and was given the right crackle of energy by… → Read More

Where Will the Portland Protests Be Happening Tonight, June 5?

Over the past week, Portlanders have joined forces in huge numbers, taking part in rallies and protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. But as with most mass movements of this kind, it can be a challenge to keep up with the seemingly spontaneous decision-making that goes into each demonstration, leaving some folks out of the loop and… → Read More

HBO's I May Destroy You is a Fearless Portrayal of the Aftereffects of Sexual Assault

If all you know of Michaela Coel is her work in Chewing Gum, the brilliant sitcom she created for BBC Two—and was subsequently streamed on Netflix—you will be ill-prepared for this British talent’s stunning second act, I May Destroy You. In Chewing Gum, Coel was a manic presence, playing a twentysomething, hormone-crazed Londoner living in a colorful council estate and exploring the vast… → Read More

Checking Up On... Portland Musician/Artist/Time Traveler Old Grape God

The artist and musician known as Old Grape God has a thing about time travel. Time Travel was the name of the series of mixtapes he released last year—one for each month of 2019. And he still sells what he dubs “Time Travel Supplies” on his website, which includes a coloring book, a scented candle, and a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “microdose.” Most of all, listening to the music created by… → Read More

RACC and Nat Turner Project Offer a Lifeline to Regional Artists

As artists of all stripes continue to adjust to the reality of this pandemic and the impact it has had on their ability to create and earn a living from their work, two local arts organizations are stepping up with offers of financial help. Both the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), the local organization that doles out grants to artists and nonprofits in Clackamas, Multnomah, and… → Read More

Powell's Books to Offer Contact-Free Store Pickup

Bibliophiles now have a new option to snag the latest Erik Larson novel in person, as beloved Portland institution Powell's Books is finally offering customers the option of contact-free pickup at the store's Burnside location, starting today. As the renowned bookseller announced on its website, you can now choose to stop by the downtown shop and snag your online order from a table outside the… → Read More

Feast Portland 2020 Officially Canceled

Feast Portland, the annual celebration of food and drink that was set to take place this coming September, has been canceled. In an announcement posted to Feast's social media accounts, organizers said that they were holding out hope that the 2020 edition of the event would happen, but, as they write, "the recent announcement by Governor Brown to ban large public gatherings through September was… → Read More

Type Foundry Studios Closes Its Doors After 22 Years of Capturing the Sound of Portland

The normally spacious live room at Type Foundry Studios is a mess. Audio equipment, instruments, shelving units, and chairs are strewn about, much of it ready to be hauled away by prospective buyers or the three men—Adam Selzer, Jason Powers, and Dylan Magierek—taking stock of it all as they get ready to close up shop after 22 years of service. “It’s sad but it also feels like the right time,”… → Read More

Live Review: Terry Riley, Branford Marsalis, and Archie Shepp Headlined the First Weekend of the 2020 PDX Jazz Festival

With the 2020 PDX Jazz Festival in full swing, our indefatigable copy chief Robert Ham has been busy catching some of the 100+ events happening during this annual event and filed this report from the first full weekend of the fest. Terry Riley & Gyan Riley @ Winningstad TheatreHow often have Terry Riley and his son Gyan shared warm, almost secretive glances at one another throughout their lives?… → Read More

Composer Carl Stone on Tweaking, Experimenting, and Making a Glorious Musical Rumpus

The current hunger for vintage electronic sounds among record collectors and other music junkies has helped draw a number of important composers and producers closer to the pop cultural surface. One such figure is Carl Stone. His early electro-acoustic work in the ’70s and ’80s was informed by his studies at CalArts with Morton Subotnick and James Tenney, two towering names in the early… → Read More

The First Night of the PDX Jazz Fest Stirred Up Liquid Grooves and Lots of Opinions

With the departure of artistic director Don Lucoff, PDX Jazz and the PDX Jazz Festival received a long overdue shake up. During his decade-long tenure, the festival had settled into a comfortable groove of booking plenty of legacy acts alongside some young guns that rarely ruffled anyone’s feathers—many of whom, it should be said, were clients of Lucoff’s marketing business DL Media. An… → Read More

Pickathon Promises a Whole New Look and Feel For 2020

The organizers of Pickathon, the annual music fest that takes place every summer at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, revealed a new logo for the 2020 installment of the event and dropped some juicy information about what is in store for attendees this year. No, that doesn’t mean any news about who is playing Pickathon this time around. Details for that will start arriving next week on February… → Read More

Underwater Review: Under the Sea, No One Can Hear Your Monotone Voiceover

The main source of tension in Underwater isn't the claustrophobic fate of a small crew of oil workers trying to fend off bloodthirsty sea monsters after their drilling rig—stationed seven miles beneath the ocean—is destroyed. It's waiting to see when and if this thriller from director William Eubanks and screenwriters Brian Duffield and Adam Cozard will completely fall apart. → Read More

With New Album Hallowed, Doom Metal Quintet Alltar Are Hitting Their Stride

The odyssey that culminated in the release of Hallowed, the first album by Portland doom metal quintet Alltar (often stylized as A//TAR), followed a similar path that many of the band’s songs do. It started off slowly, with guitarist Tim Burke teasing out musical ideas—glassy, turgid melodies augmented by synth drones and soundscapes—as a sideline to his other band Hound The Wolves. Eventually,… → Read More

Upcoming Jazz, Classical, and Opera Events You Won't Want To Miss

With the help of our Fall Arts Guide, we've already filled our calendars for the next few months with performances and exhibitions that we just can't miss. But, as is always the case, the hits just keep on coming. Our inboxes are continually getting stuffed with announcements for new events happening in the coming months, particularly in the worlds of jazz, classical, and opera. So many that… → Read More

Portland Opera Announces Strategic Plan To Save It From Financial Doom

By their own admission, the Portland Opera has been in a dire situation over the past five years. The opera company’s efforts to find some financial stability—by switching from a fall-to-spring season to a summer calendar in 2014—had the opposite effect, resulting in a substantial decrease in subscriptions and single-ticket buyers. Combined with rising production costs and, as Interim General… → Read More

AU Releases Final Album: a Live Recording of Their 2016 Collaboration With the Camas HS Choir

It’s been about three years since a spell was cast on me. It was at the 2016 TBA Fest, where I got caught in the waves of undulating sound and exuberant wonder brought forth by the members of AU, some of their assorted musical friends, and, most crucially, the many, many young bodies that made up the Camas High School Choir. Their collaborative performance, which included some re-arranged… → Read More

Interview: Derek Hunter Wilson Discusses His Meticulous and Beautiful New Album Steel, Wood, & Air

Derek Hunter Wilson’s music falls into that same nebulous zone where artists like the Penguin Cafe Orchestra or his friend and collaborator Peter Broderick. It touches on elements of contemporary classical, jazz, New Age, and pop without every sliding completely or fitting entirely comfortably into one genre category. Wilson’s new album Steel, Wood, & Air (released August 2 by Beacon Sound) is… → Read More

Live Review: Mumford and Sons, Portugal. The Man at Moda Center, Aug 5, 2019

Let us now praise the humble touring musician—those sometimes nameless, sometimes completely obscured souls that a famous artist hires to help beef up the sound of their music so as to better fill the air inside a big venue. Go to enough arena or stadium shows and you’ll see some variation of this. When I saw Drake, he had a full band hidden away in a recessed part of the stage. Fleetwood… → Read More

“What’s Your Problem, Portland?” Rude Baristas and Bar Keeps

Dig if you will this picture: You cozy up to the bar at one of Portland’s 9,563 coffee shops or liquor establishments with a mind toward that first blast of caffeine to help get you through your miserable day or that first sting of booze to help wash away the memories of your miserable day. And what are you met with? Casual indifference. Barely masked contempt. Facial expressions that… → Read More