As PDX Presents celebrates its one-year anniversary, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what makes the Portland music scene so special and identify an artist that embodies the quintessential nature of our local music culture.
Meet Black Shelton, an artist that defies traditional labels, yet exudes a timeless quality that can only be described as fierce, passionate, sincere, and dynamic. In his music, you will hear influences of soul, 60’s psychedelia, 70’s hard rock, and 80’s synths and samples, yet Black Shelton is no retro throwback. He’s in a genre of his own. From lead guitar to bass and saxophone, his musical prowess is on constant display, but it’s the way he roars with that baritone voice that forces all crowds to pay attention. Anger, irony, and humor are key ingredients in the musical mix, enticing diverse crowds throughout the PNW to listen, relate, reflect, and enjoy what a great artist can teach to those with the ears to listen.
When PDX Presents went live in the summer of 2022, our city was just coming out of lockdown. Vaccines were still mandatory at many music venues, and facemasks were standard apparel for any crowd. There was a cautious optimisim that the “post pandemic era” had begun, and a class of musicians that had spent nearly two years writing, practicing, studying, and recording in their bedrooms were finally able to put their talents on public display.
7/27/22 – The Fixin’ To
When I first witnessed Black Shelton, at The Fixin’ To on July 27, 2022, he was a one-man show, playing home-recorded tracks under sunlit windows on a warm summer afternoon. I had not heard of him, nor had any expectations for what was to come. Yet by the end of his first song that day it was apparent, this artist was something special.
8/22/22 – Clinton Theater, PDX Pop Now
The next stop was the first performance of the PDX Pop Now Festival at Clinton Theater on August 22, 2022. The wide stage and tall ceilings could have overpowered any other solo artist, but Black Shelton’s performance that night was dominant. With barely more than a soundcheck to warm things up, he had the crowd howling by the end of his opening set.
10/7/22 – No Fun Bar
October 7th at No Fun Bar was a seminal event. Viral sensation Steel Beans had exploded online just two days prior, and what was expected to be a ‘typical’ Friday night show at a small club became a mad social scene, with a line around the block until literally the last note was played. Shelton put on a soaring performance that could barely be contained on one small stage.
3/26/23 – Polaris Hall
On March 26, 2023, Black Shelton the performer became Black Shelton and the American Dream – a full-fledged band adding exponential power and energy to the stage. We snapped a few band pics backstage to celebrate the milestone, which have since gone on to generate over 100,000 views for the Polaris Hall on Instagram, Yelp, and Google Maps.
4/13/23 – The Fixin’ To
On April 13th, 2023, the band was back at The Fixin’ To, and again on June 16th. By now, they were becoming a go-to resource for local club bookers looking to fill key slots on a moment’s notice.
6/16/23 – The Fixin’ To
7/8/23 – The Boat House
And finally, we arrive at a marque performance earlier this month at an outdoor venue affectionately referred to as The Boat House. It’s an art studio collective on the bank of the Willamette River, hidden behind train tracks in Industrial North Portland. It was a BYO, be who you wanna be kind of affair – beautiful weather and a gorgeous crowd. Again, Black Shelton and the American Dream kicked off the evening’s festivities, which included fellow Portland all-stars Lo Fives and Yuvees.
These are just a few of the dozens of shows Black Shelton has actually played over the past 12 months, up and down the west coast, but what’s special to me about him, and why he was chosen as the first-ever PDX Presents Artist of the Year, is that he does what he does so well, so often, and with such a positive and inspiring vibe, he’s truly come to represent some of the best qualities of the modern Portland musician. Once you’ve seen him once, you can’t wait to see him twice, or ten times, and for this reason, I believe we’ll be seeing Black Shelton and the American Dream on the national stage in the reasonably near future. The band is recording their first official album together as we speak, and you’d better believe we’ll be sharing the good news about its arrival once it finally drops.
Cheers to you, Black Shelton and the American Dream, and hears to you, Portland music fans, and every artist that makes this community real. It’s been a euphoric pleasure to capture photos of so many of you over this past year, and I hope there are many more years of this to come.
-J. Pinky, PDX Presents