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(Credit: IFC)

Film

Exploring every musician to have appeared in 'Portlandia'

Portlandia is the definition of a cult comedy. From its debut in 2011 to its eighth and final season in 2018, the show garnered a reputation as being one of the finest comedy shows around and a favourite for hipsters worldwide. The brainchild of comedian Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney frontwoman Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia is, of course, set in and around the city of Portland, Oregon. 

Given that Portland has a worldwide reputation as the epicentre of hipster culture and a safe haven for the bespectacled faux-lumberjack’s everywhere, the city of Portland provided the perfect backdrop for this surreal and eccentric take on the hip new subculture. 

In fact, the show owed so much to the city from which it takes its name that it actually borrowed its title with the grand sculpture of the same name – the very one that sits majestically above the entrance of the city’s famed Portland building. A show characterised by self-awareness, the copper statue ‘Portlandia’ makes an appearance towards the end of the show’s title sequence. 

Due to its refreshing take on life and hilarious take on the futile idiosyncracies of hipster culture, the show won the coveted Peabody Award in 2011 because of its “good-natured lampooning of hipster culture, which hits the mark whether or not you’re in on the joke.”

It doesn’t matter what city you live in, Portland, New York, London, Barcelona, Athens or even Hull; the hipster subculture has been endemic for years. Unlike the city in which the show is set – where it can be seen everywhere – in other cities, it usually exists in pockets. Often, these areas are marked by the rest of society as almost no go zones for fear of retribution from the sneering hipsters. Therefore, the show’s essence is something we can all understand.

Originating from an online show that Armisen and Brownstein collaborated on in 2005, entitled ThunderAnt, the duo saw their sketches becoming increasingly successful and even more Portland-centric. Fast forward four years, and in July 2009, the team had pitched their idea for a fully-fledged sketch show to the celebrated IFC and SNL mastermind Lorne Michaels and his Broadway Video production company. The project was quickly approved, and Portlandia first aired on IFC in January 2011.

Quickly noted for its charming and hilarious style, the show became a resounding success and became one of the best comedies that helped us shift from the 2000s into the 2010s, aided by a heavy dose of irony. It gained a host of plaudits aside from the Peabody Award and was even hailed by Jerry Seinfeld in a 2014 interview, for which he commented: “I think that’s the best comedy on TV right now, and it’s easily one of the best comedies of all time”.

The one thing that genuinely marked Portlandia out, though, was the list of incredible cameos it boasted. Aside from its trademark style, this is truly its defining feature. The list of appearances from a whole host of legends is dizzying; Steve Buscemi, Kyle MacLachlan, Jeff Goldblum, Martina Navratilova, Jason Sudeikis; the list is endless.

Another feature of the show’s penchant for all-star cameos is the vast array of musicians that appeared across its eight seasons. Given that a lot of our favourite musicians are, to all intents and purposes, hipsters, it comes as little surprise to see some of music’s best and most unique artists appear in the show. 

The list is so extensive, we’ve counted 44 bands/musical artists who have appeared in the TV show. The wide array is dizzying. There’s Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Michael Nesmith of The Monkees, all of No Doubt and even Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic.

The majority of the appearances from musicians have been nothing short of classic. The sketch that instantly jumps to mind is the recording studio is from season three as the White Stripes frontman, Jack White, appears as a silent vision of himself, nodding along pleasantly to the fading sound engineer.

Another one that jumps to the forefront of the memory is the usually overtly-macho Queens of the Stone Age frontman, Josh Homme. He stars as one of the ‘Disappointing Gays’ in the sketch from the episode ‘Late in Life Drug Use’ from season four. Donning a bright orange Gillet, Homme’s character is the convention busting, ESPN watching, and super alpha partner of Carrie Brownstein’s brother.

Other classic scenes include celebrated American singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, who appears in a surprise cameo as herself and is seen cleaning Brownstein and Armisen’s house. The sketch sees the pair awkwardly fangirling over the singer before it gets hilariously intense when they tell her, “Hey Aimee! Guess who we hate? Suzanne Vega,” before proceeding to rip up Vega’s latest poster to a chorus of dread-inducing music. Referencing her ’90s contemporary in a brilliantly deadpan manner, Mann responds to the pair by saying: “I actually have no problem with Suzanne Vega at all.”

These are just three of the surreal, almost David Lynchian takes featuring some of our favourite musicians. Other fantastic takes include Johnny Marr asking for his bike back, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson and Fred Schneider of The B-52s as miniature versions of themselves and Eddie Vedder of grunge heroes Pearl Jam appearing as himself as Bronwstein’s boyfriend. Additionally, who can forget Glenn Danzig’s appearance as ‘Radu from Romania’, who gives the pair of goths tips on how to enjoy the beach?

Find a full list of musicians appearing in Portlandia below.

All the musicians who appeared in ‘Portlandia’

  • Kim Gordon
  • Jello Biafra
  • Annie Clark
  • Duff McKagan,
  • Glenn Danzig
  • Aimee Mann
  • Johnny Marr
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • KD Lang
  • Jello Biafra
  • Kurt Vile
  • Parker Posey
  • Michael Nesmith
  • Glenn Danzig
  • Eddie Vedder
  • Brigitte Nielsen
  • J Mascis
  • Kate Pierson
  • Cindy Wilson
  • Fred Schneider
  • Josh Homme
  • Joanna Newsom
  • Annie Clark
  • Jack White
  • Paul Simon
  • Henry Rollins
  • Krist Novoselic
  • Colin Meloy
  • Jenny Conlee
  • James Mercer
  • Corin Tucker
  • Janet Weiss
  • Isaac Brock
  • No Doubt
  • Run the Jewels
  • Robin Peckold
  • Jeff Tweedy
  • Corrina Repp
  • Tunde Adebimpe
  • Dirty Projectors
  • Tuck Andress
  • Steve Jones 

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