Even though when I was growing up in Portland I was counting the days (literally, on a piece of paper tacked to my bedroom door) until I could escape, the city has a lot to offer now that I'm old enough to enjoy it. There are all the quality dive bars, the run-down industrial look of the city, the treasure-packed thrift stores, the arty warehouse parties, and, high on the list, the music.

Although Seattle bands get a little more of the spotlight, Portland has a band scene that's definitely noteworthy. The Hunches have grown on me since their last Seattle show, the Hospitals put out a great slop garage record on In the Red (fans of the Coachwhips take note), Point Line Plane is one of the sexiest-sounding electro-punk duos around, and, after seeing them live at Chop Suey the other night, The Planet The has just joined my list of favorites from down south. The trio--which includes Charlie Salas-Humaras from one-man band Panther on vocals--plays a mix of Liars-style post-punk, Make-Up-style theatrics, and pop-styled prog, with Charlie emoting into a vocoder and shaking his hips like he's the second coming of Prince, making as big a scene out of performing as he delivered as Panther. Backed by a rhythm section of keyboards/keytars and drums, the band's set was coated with an electronically dense, quirky sound, including their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire." (If you missed them that night, they have a CD out on 54 40' or Fight! records called Physical Angel.)

Another Portland act coming to town is JonnyX and the Groadies, who describe themselves as a "symphonic-sci-fi- adventure party metal band." I've yet to see them perform live, but after checking out the stuff on their website (www.groadies.com), I'd say they sound like a mangled pop metal band with lots of sound effects (such as synthesized strings and keyboards) one song, and like a sibling of defunct Seattle sci-fi metal band Teen Cthulhu the next, with spooky, haunted-house keyboards lurking around screamy vocals and ADD beat blasts. It's all gotta be a little tongue-in-cheek, though, with song titles like "Monolith" and "Spelunking the Caverns of Torment," in which they poke fun at the steroid fantasies of classic metal bands while having the technical prowess to play power metal riffs themselves. Legend has it that live, they boost their performance with a full tackle box of visual aids, including black lights, strobe lights, lasers, and fog machines, which sounds like enough shit to completely tweak your vision for hours. Playing along with JonnyX is a melodic Portland hardcore band, Life at These Speeds, who sound a little like At the Drive-In. Both bands are playing a show on Saturday, December 20, at the Punkin House. E-mail me if you need the address.

Another foreign-city invasion will hit us in January, in the form of Flyer Magazine. The Minty-sized publication plans to cover local pop culture, from film and music to art and fashion, and is the most recent magazine from a national chain that currently has outlets in Atlanta, L.A., New York, and San Francisco. It may be pint-sized, but it's hitting Seattle in style with a launch party Friday, January 9, with legendary deejay Grandmaster Flash, who'll be performing a cozy little date at Chop Suey in Flyer's honor. Get your tickets early for that one.

And the rumors are true: Kathleen Wilson reports that mere months after closing, Playland/Noiselab is set to reopen as Uncle Neumo's. Marcus Charles, owner of the Bad Juju, is partnering with a former owner of Moe's (among others) to reopen the Capitol Hill club--at what's rumored to be a larger capacity--some time in the beginning of February.

And I am very sad to report that Pho Bang is officially over. Those of you looking for a drag queen fix of a different nature can check out Dina Martina's Christmas show at Re-bar, for a more "family-oriented" type of musical medley. I just saw Dina's holiday show last week, and the pancake-faced diva turns cheesy adult contemporary songs into Christmas material about the life and times of Santa and Missus Claus, all the while pronouncing everything with a soft "g"--including the "jifts" she bestows on the audience. Although I'd heard it was a bigger extravaganza in previous years, the performance I saw was intimate enough (especially with Dina's short silk shirt/nylons combo) to get out the laughs. But those looking for the post-holiday, monthly punk rock/drag queen/comedy-camp-cabaret that was the brilliant Pho Bang will unfortunately have to look elsewhere for now.