Not too often does a person get to hear high pitched overweight lady screech high squeaks in agonizing horror while tip toeing in a twirl viciously attempting to mimic the tones of the frantic violin being played by her boisterous partner. Yet these bizarre and insatiable sights are more of a common aspect of the Portland scene. Every person is here; from the scrawny faced hipsters to raggedy vagabonds to the bicyclists, all marching to the beat of their own drums. No sight in this city is impossible, in fact it would seem as though randomness is encouraged! Catching a glimpse of the various masses of face painted hippies, fun loving musicians, and circus clowning hooligans can be quite the difficult task….unless you happen to find yourself on NE Alberta Street on the last Thursday of the month.
The name of this energized festival is as simple as the day it lay on and in order to get a real taste for the creativity of this city lays in a simple visit. Fifteen blocks of shut down street is bursting at the seams with utter madness, street performers, photographers, jewelers, musicians and artists -all throbbing with enthusiasm together in an eclectic mess that would seem as if it stemmed from some sort of acid trip taken back in ’69. Last Thursday has everything from flabby belly dancers, headdresses made of used bike tire tubes, capoiera ronda circles, child musicians, furry legged stilt people, a rave bike station blasting drum and bass, to flame throwing acrobats. This stripped carnival quickly captures the eye of passersby as the bohemian vibe fills the air with spontaneity that comes to life on each block. The streets fill quickly and if you suffer from claustrophobia the best outs can be found on the side streets and sidewalks where you will find other people escaping the mayhem to find a bit of sanity before heading back in for round two. This will only really happen when the weather is superb which even in summer can be a rarity.
The only way to explore is to go without expectations and see with your own eyes what kind of chaos will arise. My best advice would be to start at one end rather than in the middle and if you’re looking for more of a party show up later than sooner, that is unless you want to make a full day out of it.
Last Thursday starts at mid afternoon and goes until roughly 10:45 pm and you’ll know when it’s over as an orderly sequenced clean-up commences. In stages it is so orderly you would think you were in a convent shuffling nuns off to preach in the name of the Lord. First the police march down the road kindly telling people to close up shop, followed by garbage men picking up the trash, and then the big trucks roll in sweeping and spraying down the filth that has scattered on the streets. This neighborhood also serves up some good eats and drinks which can be found behind the wheeling and dealing vendors. Don Panchos is a grimy Mexican joint serves up cheap eats so authentic you’ll feel like you are in Mexico. They also do a $2.99 cheeseburger with fries which may wash away all their credibility as a purely Mexican joint but ‘hey its cheapo’. The Nest, on the corner of 15th and NE Alberta, is a bar that is all about the ole English pub atmosphere and pours pints of some of Oregon’s highlight breweries. Wander outside to the side yard to play some ping-pong, throw some horseshoes or continue to marvel at the peeps on the street.
Unfortunately the festival does not continue through Winter so you’re just gonna have to wait til spring arrives to really get to see the show. However when that day arrives enlighten yourself and do the Last Thursday thing because it will make you hip!