Embracing the Unexpected: Pop-Up Magazine Returns to Portland

As a general rule, I do not like surprises. I suppose it’s a flaw of mine, but I like to know what I’m getting into. I consume movie and television spoilers the same way I down gas station snacks on a long roadtrip – ravenously and without remorse. I’m the same way about dating – if I sit down for a cocktail with you at Interurban, chances are I’ve already formed some opinion about your overuse of Instagram’s Gingham filter circa 2013 and your sophomore-year Livejournal posts. (On the plus side, it looks like you got over that time that Joey wouldn’t go to the prom with you, so good for you.)

Imagine my trepidation then, when I was invited to be a guest of Bulleit Frontier Whiskey at the winter edition of Pop-Up Magazine, a live journalism & storytelling event known for keeping its exact lineup a secret all the way until the final curtain. There are no spoilers for Pop-Up Magazine, because they never use the same program twice. There’s nothing to Google, nothing to preview, nothing to watch on YouTube. In other words: my worst nightmare. (Ok, second worst nightmare – my first involves finding out that my date has kept her felony record as well-hidden as her passion for Live Action Role-Playing.) However, I learned a long time ago that if Bulleit invites you to something, you go. As usual, this proved to be sage advice.


This program was obsolete the moment they printed it. (Photo Credit: Erin Brethauer / Pop-Up Magazine.)

Structurally, Pop-Up Magazine feels like a cross between a variety show and a live-taping of your favorite podcast. Each piece is a self-contained work of non-fiction, accompanied by poetry, artwork, and live orchestral music. Co-founder Chas Edwards described it to me as the live version of the classic general interest magazine – a cornucopia of long-reads in a TL;DR world.

I could spend a great deal of time recounting the segments I saw at Pop-Up Magazine, but I think that kind of defeats the point. What makes Pop-Up so compelling is not necessarily the specifics what you see and hear, but rather how the event makes you feel. Although each story is different (one minute you’re hearing about the ratification of the 27th Amendment, the next minute you’re hearing about drug addiction), they’re woven together in masterful fashion – abstractly intellectual topics paired with the profoundly personal; moments of humor juxtaposed against heartbreak, all building to a mental crescendo that will leave you overwhelmed but uplifted at the end.

There’s also something viscerally satisfying about seeing some of the nation’s best journalists and creatives come together for an evening that celebrates their craft. These people are continuing to do their best in an era where journalism seems to be giving way to punditry. What’s more, you can actually meet these people and have a beer with them after the show, which is a lot more intimate than the three seconds you might get with them at a book signing.

FALL17_Tour Annoucement_INSTA

Pop-Up Magazine returns to Revolution Hall on Monday, October 23, 2017. You can get tickets here, but we have a couple of exciting opportunities for PretentiousPDX readers, as well:

  • PretentiousPDX readers can get $5 off their ticket purchase. I don’t believe in doing email-blasts to our readers, so if you want a code, just send me a DM on any of our social media channels or email me: pretentiouspdx [@] gmail.com.
  • We’re also doing our first social media giveway! To enter to win a pair of tickets to the Portland show, simply head over to our Facebook or Instagram pages, make sure you’re following us, like the post, and comment with the name of a friend you’d like to take to the event. Winner will be chosen at random on September 22. Good luck!

There are no spoilers here, guys. As I learned, sometimes you have to embrace the unexpected and just go. It’ll be worth it. I promise.


Pop-Up Magazine (popupmagazine.com)
Monday, October 23, 2017 – Doors at 7 PM, Show at 8 PM
Revolution Hall – 1300 Southeast Stark Street, Portland



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