Patti Smith at the Crystal Ballroom

Vortex Music Magazine

The punk poet laureate returns to Portland on January 20.

Patti Smith at the Bite of Oregon in August 2007: Photo by Miri StebivkaPatti Smith at the Bite of Oregon in August 2007: Photo by Miri Stebivka

For my first live pick of the year, I hoped to introduce some readers to the punk folk of Waxahatchee. It is fitting then that, for my second pick of 2015, I’m recommending listeners go see the artist who has influenced a generation of female rockers, the punk rock poet herself, Patti Smith.  

While Patti Smith will always be recognized as an influential component of the New York City punk movement of the 1970s (her own initial contribution being the 1975 debut Horses), she has perhaps gained more mainstream recognition (at least among millennials) in the past half-decade for her 2010 National Book Award-winning memoir Just Kids, which documented the beginnings of that (punk) movement through the eyes of her and fellow artist Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship and friendship. There is hardly a plane ride where I don’t see a millennial with his or her nose buried in a copy of Just Kids, navigating their way through the creative circles of New York City in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to do so.

Yet, while perhaps being more notable to a generation for her authorship than her musicianship, Smith is still making great music. In 2012, at the age of 65, Smith released her 11th studio album, Banga, to critical acclaim. Dave Smith of The Guardian awarded the album four out of five stars, describing it as "a mixture of pop songs and poetic explorations, aided by the instantly resumed chemistry between [guitarist Lenny] Kaye's shimmering hooks and Smith's sensual vocals," while noting that "the collision of sound and language is exhilarating."

Now, Smith will fill a sold-out Crystal Ballroom with her rock poetry on Tuesday, January 20. Based on the buzz emanating from her New York shows this past December, which included an opening set by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and a cover of a song by Seattle’s Perfume Genius, it will be an experience you won’t want to miss.

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