Arts & Culture

The Big Jewcy: Alicia J. Rose – Portland Rock Photographer

The finest rock photographer in the Rose City. Read More

By / June 8, 2011
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“Take a look around this cozy room,” sings Seattle’s Jenny O.

The irony is not lost on this small crowd of fifty or so people sitting on the floor in Room 200 of Portland’s Ace Hotel. We’ve been invited here by Alicia J. Rose, a local photographer and owner of AJR HQ Artist Management. Rose is the mastermind–along with another power Jewess, Laurel Stearns of LA’s Prospect Park—of this so-called “nano-convention.”  Aside from Jenny O’s sweet lilt, we are treated to acoustic, two-song sets from Laura Gibson (who coaches us in an a cappella sing-a-long), 4-piece Barcelona, and Holcombe Waller. It is literally a modern bed-in: all of the performers sing from atop the hotel room’s king-sized bed. We sip champagne and nibble on a selection of locally made delights while the latest craze in music plays out right in front of us.

After the performance, Rose explains how events like this are growing more of out of necessity, rather than just to create a new and precious hipster trend. Rose and client/best bud Holcombe Waller found themselves stranded without a venue at this year’s SXSW in Austin. “Laurel had this great hotel room,” Rose remembers of Stearns, “and we just kind of said, ‘Let’s invite everyone we know to hang out in the room, meet Holcombe, hear him play, and just see what happens.’ We put out food and booze, and a ton of people showed up. It was better than one of those industry things, where the booking agents never even get to speak to the artist. They can have actual conversations! It’s really the next wave in the music industry.”

It’s no surprise to find her at the forefront of another music movement. Alicia Rose first came to Portland from her native Los Angeles in 1995 and immediately found her place among Portland’s music scene. She spent four years as the talent booker for the Doug Fir Lounge, quickly creating buzz and attracting sell-out crowds. She left the Doug Fir to try her hand at building a new music venue on Portland’s up-and-coming North Mississippi Avenue. Along with her former business associate Jim Brunberg, Rose helped renovate a tiny performance space, Mississippi Studios, as well as serving as their talent booker for nearly three years. During her tenure, Rose made Mississippi Studios THE small venue in town for rising bands and established singer-songwriters. If that wasn’t keeping her busy enough, Rose also was building her music career as accordionist/singer Miss Murgatroid, performing in front of some of the very same artists she would book at her venues.

In 2010, Mississippi Studios expanded, adding Bar Bar, a restaurant/bar with a back patio that immediately drew throngs of hipsters upon its opening. Then, in a move that shocked everyone who knows her, Rose was unexpectedly fired by her partners not long after Bar Bar’s opening. To many on the Portland music scene, Rose was Mississippi Studios.

Not one to sit around and mope, Alicia Rose simply did what she does best: she picked up her camera and got back to work. She’s directed music videos for such local luminaries as Menomena, Loch Lomond, The Builders and the Butchers, and Viva Voce. An accomplished still photographer as well, Rose saw one of her shots of Portland’s Naomi Pomeroy featured on this season’s “Top Chef Masters”. Rose’s calendar is filled with projects, including her first foray into feature films that she describes as “a surreal suburban fairy tale”, and continuing this tour to get her artists in front of music industry heavyweights.  Rose is most excited about this latest venture into artist management, and hopes to continue building her talent roster.

Packing up her gear at the Ace Hotel, Alicia ticks off her plans for the next few weeks, which includes stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles with this traveling Bed-In. She reviews her calendar and sums up her life: “I’ve been having a blast,” she says. “The rest of this year is already starting to go bonkers.” Knowing Rose, it’s only going to get bigger and better from here.

(Photo by Byron Beck)