A typical New Year's Eve tradition is to write down something you'd like to forget from the previous year and toss it in the fireplace. Burn to Shine, an ongoing series of short videos produced by Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and directed by Christoph Green, has a premise as simple: visit towns with robust music scenes, gather several bands to play one song each in a house scheduled for demolition, then watch as the house combusts. Canty coaxes out each band's work in progress, rather than something old or forgettable, to capture the perishable moment.
It works, but on a peculiar level. In Portland (Tualatin really, 12 miles south), the third installment after Washington, D.C., and Chicago, the house isn't the abandoned shack you might expect, but a sprawling estate with a view of Mount Hood. Despite the fact that knocking down this dump seems foolish at best, we learn that a 12,000-square-foot villa will be taking its place. So is Burn to Shine a comment on wealth, waste, and capitalism? Maybe—Canty is producing, but his politics take a backseat to the performances. They're curated by the Decemberists' guitarist Chris Funk, who invites diverse Portland groups from the Gossip to Lifesavas to the Ready, an unknown band from the Smoosh/Rentals school of rock. Some, like the Planet The, are so Portland hipster-cool it hurts to watch them writhe and wail. Green has written that he was afraid the bigger names would make the project "blingy," and those bands (the Decemberists, the Shins, Sleater-Kinney) do give the most professional performances (also the most incongruous, since their small venue days are decidedly over).
Then it all goes up in flames. (Mirah's choice of "Light a Match" is perfect in this regard.) Canty and Green celebrate places where a musical spirit—like the proverbial phoenix—always rises. After Louisville, Kent., Seattle's rumored to be next. We have the talent for sure—and even more houses being razed to make way for condos. (NR) RACHEL SHIMP