Portugal. The Man at the Avalon

Levi Michaels

Portugal. The Man at the Avalon

Worth the Drive: Portugal. The Man at the Avalon

Portland Rockers Step Into Adulthood on Saturday, October 1

Portugal. The Man is not the same band that was born nearly a decade ago in the Alaskan tundra from the ashes of post-hardcore project Anatomy of a Ghost. The members are not the same musicians who moved to Portland to find bolstering support from the hardcore and math-rock communities there. Yet, images of the band’s past still linger in their music, as they would in the thoughts of somebody growing up and looking for coherence in a strange, disjointed world. Portugal. The Man, it seems, is no longer a boy.

It is perhaps not surprising that the idea for all of this began as a novel in the mind of vocalist John Gourley, because every one of the band’s performances could fill a chapter of a book. If last Saturday’s show at the Avalon in Hollywood was one such chapter, it would tell of a happy crowd and a band clearly in awe of the overwhelming response that filled every silence between new and old material alike.

Surely it would also speak of the profound changes that have shaped Portugal. The Man’s sound, most recently in the form of their latest album In the Mountain, In the Cloud, which reigned heavily over the set list along with 2009’s The Satanic Satanist. Like most of its predecessors, the new album is a dazzling confluence of acoustic tones, electronic experimentation, singer-songwriter prowess, and the personal narrative style that seems to align Gourley’s lyrics in perfect continuity with his listeners. It is both euphoric and poignant, and it is every bit as detailed as the psychotropic artwork that pervades the cover art, logos, and merch associated with the music.

While In the Mountain maintains Portugal’s prowess for electronica-tinged experimentation on record, their live presence has changed indelibly. On stage, they now favor uplifting, chant-laden compositions and extended mid-tempo jams, aided by the recent addition of a cello and violin, instead of the older, more experimental material. They tend to neglect 2007’s Church Mouth almost entirely, although they did give it a nod during the encore with “My Mind,” following a rare cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Clearly overwhelmed by the love from the crowd, Gourley sheepishly proclaimed, “I’m going to sing this song even if you all don’t know the words,” before launching into the psych-laden refrain. There are novels to be written about this band’s relationship with the mind and the nature of reality, but for now, I think it is suffice to say that Portugal. The Man’s music still makes sense, even if the world it describes does not.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Senior Fair Hosts the ‘Young at Heart’

The Senior Fair brought together more than 25 organizations to match needs with services.

City College Ranked #1 by Value Colleges

High graduation rate, community service, and online degree programs made SBCC a 'flawless investment.'

News Commentary: Ribbon Cutting Is Not As Easy As It Looks

Grand opening for new Eastside bridge conveys a tingle of progress.

Santa Barbara Rental Prices Have Skyrocketed Over the Last Five Years

The average rent for a South Coast studio is $1,553.

Trio Stops the Show at Board of Education

More than a dozen appeal to Santa Barbara Unified School District to maintain music classes and programs.