Portland to Vashon featuring Chris Pureka, Laura Gibson, Ara Lee and Beth Wood
Vashon Center for the Arts and Debra Heesch are bringing Portland to Vashon with the exceptional talents of Chris Pureka, Laura Gibson, Ara Lee James, and Beth Wood, for an unforgettable evening of music.
It’s rare for an artist to bridge the divide between critical acclaim and dedicated fan engagement. Chris Pureka is a Portland-based singer-songwriter whose body of work has resonated deeply with these seemingly disparate milieus. Her bold vulnerability in processing the intimacies of her life in song has long appealed to those listeners who crave authenticity. Now, five years coming, she shares with us another powerful entry in her life’s work, her sixth release, the aptly titled, Back in the Ring.
Chris’s elegant emotionality as a vocalist, and her flair and immediacy as a lyricist have garnered her favorable comparisons to Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, and Patty Griffin. She’s earned accolades from such distinguished taste-making outlets as The New York Times, Paste, Magnet, Billboard.com, and The All Music Guide. She’s shared the stage with such diverse and esteemed artists as Dar Williams, The Lumineers, The Cowboy Junkies, Gregory Alan Isakov, Martin Sexton, and Ani DiFranco. Along the way, Chris has remained fiercely independent, selling nearly 50,000 albums through her own label, Sad Rabbit Records.
Chris’s journey in music mirrors her path toward self-discovery. At 16, writing songs became a way of journaling. “I was shy and introverted, and songwriting was a very personal process. I never had any intention of performing,” she shares. Post high school, she went on to complete a biology degree at Wesleyan University, and afterwards, worked in a microbiology research lab at Smith College. Meanwhile, she established a music career parallel to her biology work through touring and issuing a clutch of well-received indie releases. In 2006, when Chris found herself turning down too many opportunities as a musician, she shifted her priorities to become a full-time artist.
Her latest album, Back in the Ring, is Chris’s first studio full length since 2010’s critically acclaimed How I Learned to See in the Dark. “I’m not interested in releasing songs I can’t get behind or records I don’t love,” she says of the five-year span between albums. The title of her latest playfully suggests something of an artistic comeback, but it also references the album’s themes of relationship conflict and making the decision to fight back against dark inner demons.
“My music is the outward expression of the work I’m doing internally. What I do comes from my experiences, and I strive to express these experiences authentically. Speaking my truth, and being myself, is the way that I connect with people,” Chris confides. Her rise as an esteemed artist with captivating emotional integrity has been organic and always on her own terms. For someone who never had an intention of being a professional musician, it’s been a life of far-reaching changes and unexpected rewards.
Laura Gibson is an internationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and producer, born and raised in the small Oregon logging town of Coquille. Her most recent album Goners (Barsuk/City Slang) is a meditation on grief and empathy which The Fader described as, “so incessantly beautiful that one cannot help but want to gently crack it open to get to its beating core.” The New York Times summarized its themes: “longing and instinct, and whether they can ever converge.”
Both literary and raw, with a love of traditional folk music and a bent toward experimentation, Gibson has toured four continents and had the distinct honor of performing the very first NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Between albums, Gibson earned an MFA in fiction writing from Hunter College, completing her thesis in the back of a tour van. She’s been awarded residencies at Yaddo, Ucross, and AIRIE Everglades; is the recipient of a Hertog fellowship and a RACC Grant; and remains a frequent collaborator with both major arts organizations and her indie rock peers.
Texan-raised, Oregon-based singer-songwriter Beth Wood has won almost every major songwriting competition in the United States, and with 20 years of touring and 11 studio albums under her belt, she’s done. With anything that doesn’t bring her joy. So she’s added writing books and publishing poetry and teaching songwriting to pass the torch of music for music’s sake. Beth’s second book of poetry, Ladder to the Light, is the winner of the 2019 Oregon Book Awards Readers’ Choice Award and was a finalist for the Stafford/Hall award for poetry. Beth’s mission is to raise the vibration through word and sound – through creativity and music as a spiritual practice. When you see her live you’ll taste this, and you’ll understand why Beth has long been one of the most beloved singer-songwriters in the industry.
Ara Lee James
Appalachia-raised, Washington-based Ara Lee James is a singer, poet, and truth-teller with an unmistakable sound, commanding presence, and a voice that will leave you speechless. Ara has been singing professionally for over 20 years as an award-winning soloist, studio vocalist, and songwriter (formerly Ara Lee). Often called a “force of nature,” Lee believes the human voice has the power to reach through walls of dogma and speak beauty to power. Rooted in the traditions of gospel and deep South soul, Ara holds court on stage like a modern-day mystic. When you see her live you’ll wonder what just happened to you, and you will understand why Beth grabbed her after a show and said “We have to work together.”
Thursday, October 24 | 7:30pm
Advance Sales: $15/Student, $20/VCA Members, $22/Seniors, $25/General
$30/VIP – first 2 rows