Port O'Brien
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Port O'Brien

Band Rock Acoustic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Pitchfork Track Review of "I Woke Up Today""

**** (4 STARS)

This Oakland band comes off like We're Not From Fucking Barcelona: instead of using many voices to extend a warm, scruffy, slightly creepy welcome to all listeners, these several singers (just a handful actually, not a full choir) convey a folksy, angsty isolation. Sure, they're all singing together, but the lyrics are mostly in first-person singular, evoking the feeling of being adrift on the vast ocean and powerless against its immense surges and undercurrents. The song's loose dynamic and acoustic guitar-and-tambourine shuffle make it sound like a campfire sing-along about how cold the fire is. Even though it fades, the song isn't over so soon. Tacked onto the end is an odd epilogue that begins with distant screaming before settling into a new melody, lasting not even a full minute. This unexpected punctuation on the song makes more sense in the context of the EP, but by itself the coda is still intriguing. It comes out of nowhere like a hidden track at the end of some 90s alt-radio album. Most crucially, it cleverly comments on the song that precedes it, hinting at what everybody did with their day after they woke up. - Pitchfork Media

"Polaroids of Androids"

"Enchanting slow moving acoustic-based pop... folk group with an undeniable charm. Catchy and intelligent music." - Polaroids of Androids

"New Times SLO"

"Filled with folk pop nuggets.. and a sense of immediacy that's simply irresistible." - Featured Band


Think of the way a really good late-party singalong sounds in your drunken, echoing head: a little sleepy, loosey-goosey with the timing, but ecstatic, brilliant, meaningful, epic. Even sober and by the cruel light of day, that's the sound of Port O'Brien. Praised by Pitchfork and held aloft by many college radio station DJs, the band is anchored by Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin, but the act's recordings (like the recent Nowhere to Run on Tecolote Records) and live shows get the pair's roustabout friends to do stuff like shake eggs and strum guitars. The group's rangy chanting on "I Woke Up Today" is rightfully getting a lot of attention, but the nonpareil female vocal harmonies on "Tree Bones" deserve lauding, too. - SF Weekly

"Lend Your Ears - Port O'Brien"

"Port O' Brien will be the name on everyone's lips, soon."
"It's the simple approach of... throwing ____ in the sometimes stale world of Folk. Think Grizzly Bear off the anti-depressants. Think Conor without the pretentiousness."
"If I could commission a song, as the wealthy did when Chopin roamed the earth, it would be their outrageous "I Woke Up Today."" - MusicIsNotDead.Com

"Wired Magazine - Music"

"Oakland's Port O'Brien do a dusty and smacking music that reminds me of a back-porch Shins, safe on the good side of good. Before you do anything further, go listen to "My Eyes Won't Shut" - let it knock you into your day with a smile on your face." - Wired Magazine Online

"CD Pick of the Week"

"Pierszalowski, in his early 20s, has created his own signature sound that defies todays manufactured pop." - San Luis Obispo Telegram Tribune


"They play a stylish low-fi brand of alt-rock with a production that just shouts style."
"I've had them on constant rotation since I first heard them and I cannot recommend them any more."
- Now Leaving Neverland

""Five and Dime" Track Review"

"In 'Five And Dime' they cross pollinate Conor Oberst and Will Oldham with their own sweet hand to craft a gentle stroll put to music."
"It's obvious where the influences come from: the land, the sea and the family and this makes the music all that more heartfelt. Van W. Pierszalowski is Port O'Brien's main creative force and his understated folk ditties just need a casual spotlight to highlight their worth. Just perfect for reflection time, whether than be on the water or in front of your bathroom mirror." KD
- MP3 Hugger

"Sings Like Lightening"

"Acoustic, folk...no boring moments anywhere."
- Sings Like Lightening


"When the Rain Comes" (CD-LP)
"Nowhere to Run" (CD-EP)

Both were released by DIY record labels, which are really more like groups of friends who pool resources and sell things off the same website. "When the Rain Comes" is now in its second pressing.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Port O'Brien began performing regularly since early in the year of 2005. What started as a solo project of Van Pierszalowski's has become a full on rock and roll band featuring Cambria Goodwin (banjo, vocals, baked goods), Caleb Nichols (guitar, vocals, tambourine, melodica), and Josh Barnhart (drums, vocals, egg shaker). They have played with likes of VETIVER, MAN MAN, AKRON/FAMILY, LITTLE WINGS, THANKSGIVING, VIKING MOSES, and many many others. The live shows are always different, but the key emphasis is a little old thing called FUN. Port O'Brien has two official releases, "When the Rain Comes" (the debut CD-LP, now in its 2nd pressing) and "Nowhere to Run" (CD-EP). Both releases have reached the Top 35 on KALX Berkeley, with "Nowhere to Run" reaching #3 for the week of Oct. 2, 2006, which is pretty darn good for being completely DIY, and shows the level of the following the group has attained.

Van was raised in Cambria, California - a beautiful town on the southern most tip of Big Sur that specializes in hippies, Hearst Castle tourists, and retired people that enjoy lawn bowling. It is a typical small town - it's impossible to go downtown without saying hi to everyone who is walking down the street. It is a stones throw to an amazing elephant seal beach and a really really really rich dead person's huge fucking house that is so big that it is deemed a "castle." It is also the home of Nitt Witt Ridge, a much cooler and DIY castle. Van used to think Camrbia was boring, but now he thinks it is one of the most amazing places in the world. He wants to die there. After high school, Van started going to college at Berkeley, studying Socio-cultural Anthropology. He was excited, but then realized he didn't really care much about theoretical arguments concerning the abstract nature of human existence. He would rather watch Star Wars. He now lives in Oakland, or as his housemate Colin has deemed it "The Motherfucking O-Zone." The city was very hard getting used to, but it has started to grow on him. The love of his life Cambria Goodwin (yes, named after the town) lives there with him after a few long and hard years of good ol' long distance dealings. Cambria is an amazing girl who plays a big part in Port O'Brien. She has lived in so many different cities that I couldn't even start to list them. But luckily, she ended up living in the town of her namesake. Van's father is a commercial fisherman on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The photos on this site are of his dad, John, and friends on Kodiak at Port O'Brien (obviously, in the 1970s). John hitch-hiked up to Alaska in 1969 from suburbia LA and has gone up every summer since. Van's mom Barb started going up the same year to work in the canneries. They met that summer at the cannery at Port O'Brien (which is now abandoned). Van works on the boat every summer from late May to late August. The work is insane (20 hr. work days, no shower, no toilet, no anything but WORK), but the rewards are great (beauty, inspiration, and money). Kodiak and the time spent on the boat is really the most inspirational time for Van.