By Karrigan Monk
While the opening act plays, the crowd slowly inches closer to the stage, eagerly waiting for Portugal. The Man to come on stage. With the last note from the opener, the crowd surges forward, hoping to get as close as possible to the Alaskan rock quintet.
Stagehands move quickly, setting up the stage. The audience dances to a myriad of music, from Metallica to Cyndi Lauper, waiting for their favorite band to grace the stage.
Finally, The Orange Peel stage lights go dark. Four men walk onto the stage while the fifth is pushed. As they take their places, a psychedelic backdrop erupts in color behind them. Several pairs of 3-D glasses are passed around the crowd as each audience member takes in the hallucinogenic effect the band already has on the crowd before they even begin to play.
Drummer Jason Sechrist counts down and all at once Portugal. The Man has arrived at The Orange Peel. The acid trip behind them is replaced by adult bodies sporting childlike facial features in a constantly changing rotation. These creepy figures are soon replaced by flashing geometric patterns. This constantly changing backdrop is as integral to their performance as their instruments.
While Sechrist and keyboardist and synthesizer Kyle O’Quin are confined to their spots by their instruments and guitarist Eric Howk by his wheelchair, vocalist and guitarist John Gourley and bassist Zachary Carothers move around the stage, often becoming part of the artistic backdrop themselves with the projection washing over them. Other times their larger than life shadows dance across the screen.
As the band moves seamlessly from the
first song to the next, their backdrop fades to black and a message spills across it: “We are Portugal. The Man. Just making sure you’re at the right concert.”
With this, the audience cheers and attempts to get even closer to the stage. Despite the wild cheering audience in front of them, Portugal. The Man hardly seem fazed. Having not looked up or acknowledged the audience once, they prefer to focus more on their flawless performance than the crowd enjoying it.
Portugal. The Man is touring throughout the summer and fall in support of their latest effort, Woodstock, released in mid-June. Although the album produced the band’s biggest mainstream hit to date, “Feel It Still,” Woodstock left some fans and critics feeling as if they had missed the mark in redefining themselves. Pitchfork rated the album a mediocre 6.6. The band poked fun of this rating by displaying, “Pitchfork gave our album a 9.9” on the screen behind them, to a roar from the audience.
Despite this, Portugal. The Man had no problem selling out two nights at The Orange Peel and countless other stops on their tour. The Asheville audience certainly took no offense to what Pitchfork accused of selling out. The thumping bass rose through the floor to meet the stomping of the crowd’s feet. This audience was just here to have a good time and listen to good music.
As the show moved to a close, another message appeared on the screen to deafening cheers from the audience: “Y’all like smoking weed? Getting fucked up? Discussing politics at a family gathering? That’s badass.”
For a few more moments, the audience danced as one until the band finally seemed to realize they were playing to a packed venue rather than jamming out with each other at home.
“Thank you guys again so much, goddammit,” Carothers said. “It’s been a wonderful two days. We’re going to fuck these next few songs up.”
Before the audience could even respond, Carothers had cast his gaze down, once more becoming one with his fellow band members. As they played the last few songs of their set as well as an electric encore, the audience jumped higher and screamed louder than they had before.
The final notes of the last song rang out into the streets of Asheville, marking the end of Portugal. The Man’s two-night reign.