Mr. Beautiful is destined for stardom. This seven-piece band composed of current and former Lewis & Clark students has been playing to larger and larger audiences since they were founded in mid-summer 2021. Concert-goers can now hear their long, energetic instrumental songs at venues across Portland.
“We played nine shows over the summer, and we’ve had four or five since then,” bassist John Wallent ’22 said, describing the band’s sound as “Dance music with a capital D.”
Most of Mr. Beautiful’s performances have been at house parties around Portland, in a loose affiliation of venues that the band’s saxophonist Fabian Guerrero ’23 refers to as “the Mr. Beautiful archipelago.”
The band is a product of Sap Haus, a collective household near the LC campus that is home to artists and musicians of every stripe. In June 2021, Wallent began jamming with drummer Charlie Oakes ’23 and keyboardist Danny Charvat ’21 at Sap Haus. They came up with original songs influenced by 1970s funk bands such as Parliament-Funkadelic, contemporary funk artists The Funk Ark and Antibalas and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.
Mr. Beautiful quickly added members they knew from jazz groups at LC in pursuit of Oakes’ vision of founding “a large-ensemble funk band.” Initially named Young Charles after Oakes, the band began looking for a new name after Oakes said he did not want to be the center of attention.
The name Mr. Beautiful came about in reference to an event that occurred months before the band was founded, when Wallent and Guerrero came across a local stray cat who would come sleep on their porch.
“We were on a walk one night and we met this cat and he followed us home, and Fabian looked at him and was like ‘Ah, yes. Mr. Beautiful’,” Wallent said. Mr. Beautiful became the cat’s name, and Guerrero later realized it would also make a good band name. The cat is now used as the band’s logo on Instagram.
During the summer, Mr. Beautiful played gigs nearly every weekend. After doing several shows at Sap Haus, one of which literally broke the floor, Mr. Beautiful began to be invited to house shows throughout Portland, drawing massive crowds at each one. Photographer Evan Yerian ’22, a close friend of the band members, publicized each gig.
As time went on, however, Mr. Beautiful’s success began to get the better of them.
“Wherever we end up playing shows, the neighbors no longer welcome us to play shows there, because they end up being so big,” Guerrero said.
Wallent described the crowd at one of their recent shows, at a house venue nicknamed the Treehouse, as “a sea of people spilling out into the street,” likening it to the evacuation of Dunkirk, France in World War II.
Wallent, as well as guitarist Max Simon ’23, are co-managers of KLC Radio, and Mr. Beautiful has been active on campus, too. At the beginning of the school year, they played at the welcome dance on the lawn outside Pamplin Sports Center, introducing themselves to hundreds of LC students. They also appeared as the house band for the inaugural episode of “Abdo’s Late Show.”
According to Wallent, being in a band with so many members comes with its unique triumphs and struggles. The best thing about the numerous musicians is that all of them bring different influences to the table, resulting in Mr. Beautiful’s eclectic sound. The band’s two lead guitarists, Simon and Chris Clark-Johnson ’21, have completely different playing styles, according to Wallent.
“Chris is like the jazz virtuoso, and Max is like the sonic architect,” Wallent said. “They might as well be playing two different instruments.”
But there are downsides to being in a seven-member band, the largest of which is finding a time when everybody is free to meet.
“We’ve only had time to rehearse before gigs,” Wallent says. “No time to just get together and work on new material.”
Even as Mr. Beautiful’s audience grows, their future is in doubt. Charvat might move out of Portland in December, and Guerrero is studying abroad next semester.
“It would not be Mr. Beautiful without Danny on the keys,” Oakes said. “There’s a very good chance that Mr. Beautiful just spectacularly implodes after this semester.”
For now, though, Mr. Beautiful is still going strong. Their next show will be Friday, Nov. 19, at a location to be announced on their Instagram @mr.beautiful.band. Mr. Beautiful is not on Spotify, though there is an unrelated artist on Spotify by that name. The band members recommend that students listen to other LC-based artists, too, including Jakki and the Pink Smudge, 3x Tuk and the singer-songwriter Gyatso.