Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Birds, the Bees & a busy, busy Me

OK, so I know I’ve been a bad blogger of late. Two months (yesterday) since my last post. But, there is a reason (OK, an excuse) why I have been so delinquent in updating for the interested parties. You see, two months ago my world drastically changed, and quite suddenly. I became all too employed and the long awaited spring finally hit Portland. The first meant that my free time was exponentially divided down to a very small slice, and that my energy level (due to the nature of my current employment) was also drastically reduced during said free time. The second meant that, in addition to all the bloom, pollination and making of honey (or perhaps because of) Portland exploded into a wild storm releasing much of its pent up energy and there were so many events, that I literally can’t currently recall them all. In truth, a great deal of the shows and what not I attended were put on by bands and at venues that I have previously detailed. I did, however, make some new discoveries, and I will cover them in a bit, but first I want to talk about this weekend.

For those who are not aware, the Gorge Amphitheatre (754 Silica Road NW George, WA 98824) is arguably the greatest outdoor venue in the states, particularly considering the scale of events which occur there. Every year, during Memorial Day weekend, the Gorge hosts Sasquatch (, three days of music in the scenic Columbia River gorge. I’ve wanted to go previous years, but the 4 & ½ hour commute and spendy prices (this year it was $65/day or $150 for all three) have prevented me from making it there. This year, however, the Cure (do I really need to link to them? I think we are all well aware who they are.) were the headliners on Sunday night. As it happens, despite my rigorous work schedule, I was a good $40 short of the ticket price, but that meant I had just enough money to pay my share of the gas round trip to the far off venue. What good is traveling several hundred miles if you can’t afford to get in, you might ask. Well as it happens, the first fourteen years of the Cure’s existence marked some of my favorite (and most repeatedly purchased) recordings. About the time that period ended, I was just getting old enough to develop a taste for the old school British alt-rockers. Sixteen years later, I still had not seen them in concert and they were coming what is by far my favorite venue large enough to book them. Thus, when my, also broke, partner in mischief (this time, criminal) suggested that we go for broke and try to sneak in, I said “Fuck it. Why not?” What ensued was one of the best experiences I have had in a while. First off, one should know that the drive from PDX to the Gorge in late May is incredibly gorgeous. I am not going into detail as to how we got in, for I would like that it remain an option for those daring enough to attempt it and smart enough to plan it right; but let’s just say, if you’re willing to risk life, limb and personal freedom to achieve entrance, no facility of that size and remote location can actually be completely impenetrable. I will say that I felt as if my friend and I were Sam & Frodo making our way to Mount Doom. It ruled! They were even playing the song To Wish Impossible Things when we made our way onto the grounds. By the end of the third and final encore, as a light rain began to fall on our desert location, I was standing just feet away from Robert Smith. It was amazing. They went on at about ¼ after 10 PM I believe (I’m not really sure, we were still dealing with a vast and dramatic, darkened landscape in our attempt to gain entry at that point), and the house lights came on at about ¼ to 1 AM. In the two and half hours on stage, Robert and the boys covered the whole gambit of their career. Does that mean they played every song I wanted to hear? Not at all (that would be ~7-8 hour set). But they did play a lot of their old, great material for all of us whose fandom spans to the earlier portions of the 30 year career, and the live versions of newer stuff came off some much better and more inspiring than it would have off the records. It had been a long time since I had engaged in activity so brilliantly inspired/insanely stupid, and besides fulfilling decade and half long goal of seeing one of my all-time favorite bands live, it revived a long dormant part of my spirit, one that I have been missing for a great long while. I honestly feel like a new man. Then, of course, as with all Gorge shows, was party in the parking lot. The catch with seeing massive shows at venue hundreds of miles from most of its patrons’ homes, is that many of those patrons spend the night (or in the case of many Sasquatchers, three nights) on the adjacent grounds. After my long, exhausting/exhilarating experience, I got wasted and talked till almost dawn with interesting strangers from various places in multiple countries. Yeah, it was a long weekend well spent.

Now, I realize that the Cure hardly qualify as Northwest music, but Sasquatch definitely does have a distinctively PNW status, and it was high time I, as patron of local music happenings, checked it out. But I do want to spend what little time I have left this evening (indeed, the outside world calls again) speaking about a few occurrences of note over the last two months.

Out of the uncountable shows and events I have seen in the last two months, there were two PNW acts I had not previously heard that I definitely want to mention. The first was Romanteek (, the new and enlarged offshoot of longtime, controversially named, Olympia standard act Romantic Retard Nation. The former understated, sultry, soulful, bluesy duo has been reborn as a vibrant, swinging, funky, dance pop quintet, with some of OlyWa’s most respected musicians added to their roster. I had just read a MySpace bulletin posted by musician I had great deal of artistic respect for that he was playing at Rotture (315 SE 3rd Avenue). I noticed no mention of the specific act he would be performing as/with. In fact, I was not even aware that he had joined the band. Needless to say, when asking the doorperson who had played, in order to find out if I’d missed my friend’s set, I was most surprised to discover that Romanteek was the Olympia band on the bill. The show was by no means packed, even for a Tuesday (I think it was a Tuesday), but Ruby Valentine’s exuberant crooning and the tight ensemble of musicians kept the audience shaking it quite thoroughly. The show was the kickoff of the band’s tour of the Northern half (or so) of the West coast. They ended it around a week later with a show at Slabtown (1033 NW 16th Avenue), but I did not make it too that one. Before I left Rotture that night, however, I did find out about another show taking place in Portland with other heavy-hitters of Olympia talent. Problems ( another Portland/Olympia spanning band was playing a show at Valentines (232 SW Ankeny Street). As it happened, that was a very busy night for me, and despite my regular urging, my friends/ride kept delaying our arrival at the show. Unfortunately, Problems had already performed. We caught a bit of one bands set, interesting to be sure, but I don’t recall the act’s name. After it, however, our plans to call it a night were derailed by the incredible performance from a duo by the name of Why I Must be Careful ( It was a completely enthralling experience, led by a distorted Rhode’s 88 key (which was making noises I did not know electric pianos could make), jazz-esque drums and strange, arty, poetic vocal ejaculations. It was rather awe inspiring really. I have wanted to catch their sets since, but unfortunately my other obligations in life have kept me from making it to view a second performance by the powerful pair.

It would seem that the moment has come where the outside world calls me presently away from my computer, so I must again away, though I promise to try not to let it be so long until I return. But before I do depart, I want to say that one of my favorite local acts, Kickball (previously mentioned, see Gotta Love PDX), is playing the first show after their long hiatus. It is scheduled of the 30th of this month (May) at Olympia legacy the ABC House. It is the only show they currently have scheduled, and unfortunately, I will not be able to attend. But to those who can, do. They will be playing with Francois Virot ( of Lyon, France who they have shared several tours spanning Europe and the US with. Francois will also be playing here in Portland the following night at the Funky Church (2456 SE Tamarack) with longtime contributor to the Olympia music scene Jenny Jenkins. Again, I won’t be able to make it, but I’m sure it will be a great representation of the global DIY community and its place here in the great Northwest. Check it if you can.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

God Bless the NorthWest.

So, it’s been some week. For starters, I am now gainfully employed, at least by PDX standards. Woo-Hoo! Now I can start to focus my mental energies on the more fulfilling parts of life. Of course, now I have to start spending time and energy doing stuff, like going to work, but it seems that this will be the least soul-crushing regular work I have had for some time. Plus, I can now afford to go to shows. That is crucial concerning my abilities as an observer of music happening in my town.

But really, let us get on to the music, because I am feeling rather self conscious about the long rant of personal detail I went into not long ago to an audience looking for show reviews and band/venue information. But hey, sometimes you just got to say some shit.

One week ago tonight, I accompanied a friend to a little, unpromoted, house show in a basement in the far West portion of Northeast Portland. I have yet to give the necessary geography breakdown, for those readers who are not familiar with Portland as a city in a practical way. But I am not in that space right now, so I am instead going to just get on with details of the event. The house was small and unassuming, and though the basement was really a remarkable acoustic space for loud music, I definitely got the impression that it is not at all a regularly practicing venue. But there was a keg of beer in an ice filled bathtub in the corner and a surprising amount of talent I’d never really heard of.

The band I was drawn to see was Knox Harrington (no relevant info available, sorry), a band that my friend had recorded the demo for. Knox Harrington is an ironic butt-rock band in terms of sound and homoerotic antics, though not so much in personal appearance. They play loud, cheesy hard rock music through expensive half-stacks, but they play it well and with a great sense of humor and performance. The highlight of their set, to me, was a cover of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, to which I believe they paid proper respect. Their act seemed far more suited to a dive bar on SE 170th (for those not familiar with the location, picture anywhere in America that is not metropolitan or distinctively Northwest), or some such place, than it did to a well lit, unsmokey, carpeted basement in inner-Northeast. The music felt like it should have been accompanied by the drunken cheers and breast baring of aging, All-American women; and the beer should have been cheap, foul smelling domestic instead of a microbrew produced less than two miles away. But outside of the mismatch between setting and set, I enjoyed the band and would highly recommend them to any booking agents at outskirt dive bars, or any group of aging rockers seeking some live entertainment to fuel some good old fashioned beer-guzzling, tit-showing fun.

After Knox Harrington’s set, came a totally different kind of musical entertainment. A rap act/collective (I’m not actually sure what to categorize them as) by the name of Salmon River Project ( teamed up with an unnamed, but very talented jazz-funk quartet. The result was a long running freestyle jam, reminiscent of early and mid 90’s Beastie Boys instrumentals, but with rap styling’s which made me think of Zach de la Rocha. Granted, I was fairly drunk from the potent contents of cooled keg, and stoned from the continuously circulating joints, but I must say that I could not help but get down to this act. When I inquired as to the title of the band, I was informed that it wasn’t really a band. The group had never played together before that very performance. Wow! If they can recreate that energy, refine their sound a bit and perhaps acquire a more enticing name, I think they could totally be one of those bands to ride the party circuit to great deal of notoriety, and possibly even wealth. Hippies and stoners across America would cough back into their bongs if they caught a set like that in their basement, living room or backyard.

Yeah, it was a weirdly paired evening in a most unexpected setting, for sure. But it had been a good long while since I had gone to a show and it was just a jumble of talent ranging through a vast array of taste demographics (if not so much cultural ones). Things get pigeonholed very easily in Portland. Because there are just so many different bands in any given style/genre, it easy to book a whole show for one taste. It’s not to say that in a smaller community, such as Olympia, that you don’t get a lot of hand picked nights with a continuous sound, but you also get a lot of grab bag nights where friends’ bands’ are just called in randomly to fill the bill. You really get exposed to a lot of different shit that way.

The next show I went to was the previously mentioned (see my last two posts) Explodeintocolors show. Dekum Manor, and the show I witnessed inside are the most picturesque Northwest things I could imagine. I was in a house I’d never been to, seeing bands I’d never heard, surrounded, primarily, by people I’d never met. But I can tell you that I’d been there and done that more times than I can count. It was like I had been transported back to my early 20’s. That’s not to say the music inside was all unoriginal and done-before however. Explodeintocolors really surprised me with their set. It was an interesting, well crafted, expertly played set of original music. That didn’t surprise me one bit. What surprised me was the nature of the sound itself. I went in expecting a huge sound, where every beat was filled with more beats and twisting harmonics than a person can really process, though with an uncanny pop-sensibility to match its uber-arty veneer. For that is really the only common ground that I tend to find in the projects and playing of guitarist Claudia Meza and drummer Lisa Schonberg. I don’t know much about the third member, Heather Treadway, except that she is apparently a local fashion designer under the name Paper Doll. The last part of my expectations about the set were definitely fulfilled. However, I was amazed at the relatively stripped down nature of the sound. I say relatively because, don’t get me wrong, it was fairly busy stuff indeed. But in truth, there was an almost garagy touch to the aethstetic. Certainly good stuff, but not at all what I expected. I imagine there was a bit of spill over in influence from some more recent projects these ladies have been involved in.

I saw another band’s set that night at Dekum Manor, but honestly, I don’t know who it was. I know it wasn’t Fist Fite ( because I saw them drinking in the kitchen when the other band was playing. Besides, I am pretty sure I would recognize their sound, even if I’m not that familiar with their music. Whoever they were, they had a tight set and a fairly grooving garage-pop sound. But my partner in misadventure and myself had a set to check out elsewhere that night.

π-Rem (433 NW 4th Avenue*) is a little underground (literally) club in what I guess is Chinatown. Whatever the case, it is by the train station and has gone through a cycle of names of late, coming back eventually to the first name that I knew it by. The ambiance is generally enjoyable, with comfy furniture and well placed lighting of appropriate brightness for such a setting. The music is often pretty good, always at least decent, in my experience. I think that it is perhaps a club specifically for electronic music, for I haven’t seen anything else there ever. π-Rem’s biggest problem, as far as I can tell, is that they rarely, if ever, pack the house with sufficient people to sustain requisite energy for a hot dance floor. There could be numerous reasons for this. One might be the location, it is certainly not the kind of place one is likely to just stumble into. One could be that the electronic music scene in this town is just not big enough to support the amount of venues there are for it. My personal theory has to do more with drink selection. π-Rem, thus far has opted for an extensive selection of high-end, high alcohol content (which is listed on the menu next to price and size of bottle) primarily imported (Belgium, etc.) beers, and a few wines rather than a full liquor bar. A tasteful choice to be sure, and one that almost certainly makes life quite a bit easier for the bar staff, especially in terms of the type of clientele and how drunk they are likely to get. However, I believe it probably hurts their business as a venue. People, in my experience, when going out to see music, tend to want either the non-filling, high alcohol content of liquor drinks, or the cheap, drink all-night eir business as a venue. y are likely to get. asier for ly imported (Belgium, etc.) for itqualities of domestic and lower end microbrew beers. $9 for 12 oz. of 9% beer is not really a shake your shit till the DJ runs out of steam tonic. None the less, on the third Saturday of every month, Zentz (again, I could find no info), one of the better techno DJs to spin regularly in this town, has a set at π-Rem. As is often the case, a quorum was not met on the dance floor, and thus the energy was generally well below the heat of the set. I was turned onto Zentz when he subbed for a sick M-Quiet one night at Kulturszene. However, in spite of the disappointing turnout for his set, there were cues pointing to a possibly brighter future for this talented spinmeister. Several faces, including other prominent local DJs, that I presume to be far more in the know concerning this aspect of Portland culture than myself, made appearances at π-Rem on Saturday. You’d have to be dead to deny the heat of Zentz set, though he does not make himself a slave to the beat. He takes it where ever he feels like taking it, but it seems to work for him. Whatever the case, perhaps these new faces at this site are just the leaders of a new train of fan base. Let’s hope, because I’d hate to see a talented DJ stop spinning his night because no one ever showed.

Last night was a surprise kicker to finish off the long week. I got off work at 11 PM, and saw that I’d missed a call from my social companion extraordinaire. As it turned out, there was a sold out show at Holocene (1001 SE Morrison Street), and my boy had checked out the music, approved and believed that despite the sold out status we could get in, and that due to the sold out status we could do it on the cheap. I guess that’s just how we roll, because we actually run that play fairly often, and it tends to work. The difference this time, was that I’d never heard of the band and had no idea the show was going on. Holocene is not a small place, and selling it out on a Monday night is no small feet. The band we went to see was Phosphorescent (, a band from Brooklyn. As it happens, Phosphorescent had a break down of vehicular transport in the distant city of San Francisco, and just the lead singer Matthew Houck was present to perform his set. So I can’t speak to the quality of the band, but for having been stripped of all but the bare essentials, Mr. Houck certainly gave an enthralling performance. His raspy, folky vocals were nothing new to me stylistically, and his songwriting seemed familiar. But he played with a passion and poise that a great deal of like performers lack. I was particularly moved by his rendition of Dire Straits So Far Away From Me, and I was most impressed by his creative use of vocal harmonies and a loop pedal to create a growing chorus of one, which stood as a towering wall of quite musical sound.

Well, that’s about all that I have to report for this week. I can’t think of any must see shows in coming to town, except to say that I’d really LOVE to check out Bruce Springsteen’s set when he come here in the very near future. I don’t know if that is going to be a realistic possibility for me though. Well, until next I have something to report, later.

*{I think, their front door has moved, so I don’t know if the address is still accurate, because the entrance is no longer on 4th}

Monday, March 17, 2008


OK, so I didn’t have the specs on the Explodeintocolors show on the 22nd, but now I do, so here you are:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What a Weird Weekend!

Holy Shit! Ok, so it has been a crazy weekend. Yesterday, I woke to my phone ringing at 9 in the morning. No one calls me at nine in the morning but debt collectors and other businesses I’d rather not speak with; or so I thought. As it happens, it was a former lover, in tears from the weight of her anxieties. Her (ex-con) husband, it seems, had just recently been kicked out of methadone treatment for an altercation he had with some woman in the parking lot of the clinic, and the treatment center would not take him in because of the incredibly high dosage the clinic had him on due to his two decade stint as an addict. At the time of the call, he was on route to Tacoma. It’s possible a resident of Thurston County would be going to Tacoma at nine in the morning on a Saturday if they wanted to get first dibs on the weekend’s knick-knack, antique and record shopping. None of those are amongst his hobbies. Too boot, she was having to cope with life as the parent of a first grader in a society where such little emphasis is put on developmental education that any reasonably intelligent person has to question whether the school system is going to help or hurt their child more. She was finishing her internship phase for a steady state job which would enable her (the definite breadwinner in her family) to bring her family’s socio-economic status up above the poverty level, and the crippling emotional/psychological issues she has dealt with for much longer than I have known her were bringing the burden of stress to a crushing point. She needed a release. So of course she called me. We hadn’t spoken in I don’t know how long, and I don’t think we’d seen each other in person since I moved to Portland several years ago. We talked for three quarters of an hour, and then, once we were both laughing and jovial, she let me go and try to get a tiny bit more sleep before I had to begin running the hustle of interviews and job hunting which I am hoping will enable me to avoid a return to the state of destitute homelessness in a city which has lost the magical glamour of newness for me. Whenever I think of this former lover, my first real one in the developed romantic sense of two persons emotionally mature enough to have a real adult relationship, part of me thinks of pain. The anguish of the dark times in the cold, grey, strip-mall covered hell that is Lacey, Washington. Lacey is really a place more fit to be a prison for politicians, meter maids and other reprehensible folk than it is to be a working/middle class suburb of the little bubble of arts, politics and utopic, progressive culture that is Olympia. The most pain I have ever endured I felt in that dark and torturous place, but for some reason the fates kept leading me back for more (and I kept following). A lot of people would be upset to hear from a person who plays so heavily in such memories in a time of their own need and emotional crisis. As it happens, I smile in a way my face could never really express, and feel warmth deep in my heart. For there are other memories which this woman conjures in me as well. Those of one of the strongest, most noble people I have ever had the honor of knowing, whose strength of both spirit and conviction, depth of loyalty and love, warmth and purity of heart can’t help but enchant and inspire those few individuals who posses both the opportunity to experience and wisdom to perceive them. The poetic beauty of the fact that she lives a life of all-American obscurity with the little ragtag family she has built for herself in a grubby little apartment right next to I-5 transcends the expressive capability of any artist I have ever known the work of. The fact that I can do her any good deed is one of the things that prove to me that I will always have a vital role in this world. As I hang up the phone and lie down to attempt (unsuccessfully) grab another three quarters of an hour of sleep before I have to rush out, I am not dwelling on the impending bummer of being back on the streets without access to the resources I have come to rely on in my relative comfort. No, I am smiling deep inside, and thanking the cosmos for my favorite facet of the Pacific Northwest, its women. The quantity of transcendent beauty, not just of body, but also of mind soul, is the number one reason I find myself still here, struggling to find the higher ground in the flooded valley of wonders. Be they artsy or all-American, indigenous or imported, so many women possessed of such wondrous magic are to be found here. So this little block of sentimentality is, I guess, a shout out to all those marvelous creatures who reside here and remind me that there truly are great things in this world, which make it all worth doing, and inspire me to be the best I can so as to do such wonder what justice I might.

On that note, it has come to my attention very recently, that there is actually a notable readership of this blog in Portland. I swear that the timing of my reception of this information and the urge to expound upon the notion of the preceding paragraph are (at least mostly) coincidental. But I mention the former because, well, frankly I had imagine any readers that I might have to be suburban highschoolers, college kids and young adults in various mid-Atlantic states either wanting to learn about the artistic trends in far off progressive places or dreaming of picking up and moving in search of utopic idealism and an environment full of creative energy. The thought that this might not be the case raises in me an instinct to become extremely self conscious about the content of my writing on here. A bunch of folks reading this in far off lands don’t have much personal stake in what I have to say, nor a close physical proximity to myself. If those reading this are actually in Portland and knowledgeable about/attached to any particular parts, it could be that someone could actually desire to hold me accountable for what I say. Not that it is likely but my (some would say, inflated) sense of self importance makes me paranoid like that; like what I say and do actually affects people. Should anybody actually take offense to my loose language, it’s not like there is any direct link to who I am upon this blog site, but any resourceful, net-culturally savvy person, or maybe just someone who does the footwork of tracking my interests could probably discover my identity rather easily. There is also of course the risk that circulation of the information I disclose could increase local interest in particular pockets of local arts scene faster than the general culture can progress, bringing undesirable energy into what I find to be sacred space. Does that make me an elitist asshole in this regard? Probably. But let’s face it: live music is an experience of and for everyone involved, the performers and the audience have an important part to play, and the energy of the crowd can have as much effect as the mood of the performers on the quality of the experience. I shudder to think that I could be responsible for the desiccation of the only oasis’s I currently know how to find in the desolation of the desert that is the world I must reside in. But oh well. I have agreed to do my part to report on my experiences in this precious little meadow of magic in the big, scary forest of life. Besides, if I can possibly benefit the artists I write about by increasing their fan base and potentially the earnings their art brings them, well then I am doing my part to support the culture, since I have done very little of a tangible nature in recent years.

But enough of my indulgent mental masturbation in the mire of sentiment, prediction and fear. It is high time this longwinded rant come around to the reason anyone reads it: MUSIC! So it’s been a while since I have gone out to any event that I felt needed to be covered in here, more because I’m broke than because there weren’t any worthy occurrences. But Friday I had some bills to pay and knew of some shows that I felt should definitely receive my attention. So I pawned my prized guitar (the less prized ones of any financial value were already in hock) and with the little money left over after catching up a bit with my debtors, I bought myself a burrito and admission to two shows. It’s really the little things that make life livable. Friday night was Glass Candy (, Chromatics (, Loose Control (, and DJ Beyonda ( at Rotture (315 SE 3rd Avenue). It was a night of 21st century fashionistas and new wave. I can’t recall the last time I saw so many meticulously manicured bangs in one room. I wasn’t present for the first act, Loose Control, and thus cannot comment on their set, but I can say that hip and pretty Portland sure does give it up for Glass Candy and Chromatics. Chromatics are a dance-pop quartet reminiscent of Blondie in sound and presence. A mixture of punk and disco, glam and grit, they weave four on the floor beats with cool, ethereal vocals. Not the most original thing anyone has ever seen or heard, but they put on a good show and keep the crowd moving with their solid sound and performance. Glass Candy is definitely a closely related act. Both bands are on the Italians Do It Better ( label, and both seem to have a fairly large following locally, nationally and abroad, I’ve even been told Chromatics have had some success on the club charts. Glass Candy is a duo of producer Johnny Jewel (bassist for Chromatics) and singer Idano. Their set is a bit more energized, with slightly more complex sequenced and recorded beats (or so I presume) and livelier, dancier vocal stylings. Idano bounces and sways about the stage like a high-fashion elven priestess, and Johnny holds it down in an iconic posture of urban-hip. The result is a roomful of oh-so pretty people working up a sweat together. As far as I can tell, the frequency of shows these local bands play here in PDX is neither regular nor rare. Whatever the case, I find them worth checking out, and Rotture is perhaps the perfect venue for them. They certainly fill the place out, both in terms of people and energy, in a way I’ve never seen any other acts accomplish. I’ll be sure to check out their next sets here in Portland (they appear to be about to embark on a world tour), provided I have the cash in my pocket to get in the door.

Saturday was a much stranger day. It was the day whose beginning was detailed at the top of this entry, and though I shan’t go into all the details, it really just got weirder. The important part for my readers was definitely Starfucker at the Someday Lounge (125 NW 5th Avenue). I have previously done a bit of detailing on the awesomeness that is Starfucker (see my entry: Gotta love PDX) and I mentioned that I had checked out the Someday Lounge (Wow!) and was curious to see it in full effect. Well I imagine that now I can say that I have. Starfucker’s well deserved local popularity was enough to pack the house with people on Saturday at the Someday. As always, their act was hot, but something is always lost when you take a band you are used to seeing in super intimate settings and put them up on a big-ass stage in a larger venue. The crowd was not so much the crowd I typically see at a Starfucker show, but then again I guess I have mostly seen them at all ages events. It is impressive when a fairly new band can pull in full crowds from completely separate demographics. After their set, a DJ came on, I didn’t catch their name, but they kept the people dancing at least until I left. My friend was curious about what he referred to as a “Burner” event (meaning geared towards the Burning Man crowd) at a joint that as far as I can tell was called Hippodrome. A search of the phonebook for a specific address has failed to yield results, but I can tell you that the back door is located under the door to Rotture, meaning that the front must be somewhere near Branx (320 SE 2nd Avenue). However, the high cover and tapped status of our finances conspired with a few other factors I shan’t go into to lead us to the decision that it was not in our best interest to gain entrance. Thus that affair, the name of which I do not even know, garners only the briefest mention in this entry.

So that has been my weekend thus far. Nudity (, a psychedelic rock band from Olympia, with some of the town’s oldest and most established remaining talent, is playing tonight at Rotture. Unfortunately, I have no money for the door, and I’m too old to keep haggling my way into shows. Besides, this is Portland, not Olympia; bands need to make a dollar here. So I guess that pretty much ends this longwinded rant of a blog post. But before I go, I should address the fact that I now have knowledge of a local readership, and plug some shit. The next show that I know that I will do what I can to make it to is Explodeintocolors ( the new project of Claudia Meza of Hornet Leg ( fame (most recently), Lisa Schonberg of Kickball and Strangers fame and a bassist, Heather Treadway, who’s name I’m familiar with, if not specifically her work. They are playing on the 22nd of March at Dekum Manor, a good old fashioned house show in NE Portland, the address of which I lack. I haven’t heard them yet, but knowing the musicians in the band, and recalling the now defunct Thunder! Thunder! Thunder! which comprised Claudia, Lisa and few other then stars of Oly talent (all have since moved to Portland), it is sure to be a damned hot set. Also, if any of you readers are or have peeps between PDX and Santa Rosa, CA, Starfucker embarks on a tour of that region on the 19th of March, spread the word, see the show or whatever is applicable. They don’t, in my experience, disappoint. All right my incredibly patient patrons of words, herein lies the end of another post of Scenes From the Black Lodge (try to imagine it spoken aloud with lots of really spacious reverb, it sounds so much more dramatic that way). Hope you’ve found it informative, enlightening, entertaining, etc. Later…

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gotta love PDX

I know it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to update this thing, and let me introduce this one with a little explanation of why, for it relates very much to the Portland arts scene. Portland is currently, as you probably know if you’re bothering to read this blog, America’s answer to the artists’ refuge. Rent is still affordable, by West coast standards, and there is an arts’ community which is extremely supportive of their own. It’s also an incredibly beautiful city, with close access to just about any type of natural beauty you can imagine. Though it started as a fairly industrial, with a large emphasis on, as the name implies, shipping (it’s still a major river trade hub as far as I can tell) city, Portland’s economy if recent years has really been a white collar and creative industry driven affair; tech and sporting goods companies have large offices in the area . There is a lot of money in this town, allowing Portland to possess many of the metropolitan amenities that a lot of much larger cities lack. That is compounded by the fact that it is the major city for a very large (geographically if not in terms of population mass) state. But the fact remains, that Portland is really not a very large city. The massive influx of population, largely white and highly educated, can not easily be sustained on the existing economic infrastructure. I read an article not long ago, I believe it was in the Willamette Week (, but it might have been the Mercury (, Tribune ( some other local weekly. Anyways, it was on the labor market in Portland. The statistics they gave listed one job for every five people living in Portland, and Portland has large portion of population living well under the radar and off the grid, making them harder to count. Well, according to this article, out of every five of these infrequent jobs, one paid what was referred to as a living wage (I’ve lived for years without ever earning anywhere near the figure). For those not so quick at multiplication, that leaves one living wage job for every twenty-five residents. I’ve come to sum up the socio-economic situation here by saying that Portland is where people come after college to work in food service. And it’s pretty much true. That said, I have been deep into searching for employment which both pays me well enough to live somewhat comfortably, or at least not in constant fear of losing access to my material world, and is tolerable enough that I don’t have to spend all of my mental energies keeping my soul from being crushed by oppressive weight of modern society. I know, I a make it sound dramatic, but I’m a Leo, what can I do(?). However, after weeks of neglect, a particularly rad night last night reminded me how much I love living in Portland, and now I feel compelled to spill about it, and do a bit of back updating as well.

I have seen the future of music, and its name is starfucker. starfucker ( is an amazing Portland trio whose music I was introduced to when they played a few shows with one of my favorite favorite favorite Northwest (or anywhere else for that matter) acts to see play, Kickball* ( Anyways, last night an old friend prompted me to meet up with them, and I decided to tag along to a show they had helped arrange, for a bit. Upon arriving, I saw starfucker’s name on the billing (a piece of notebook paper with names in black Sharpie, crossed out as they played), and I knew I’d be staying. The show was at a rather large coffee shop near I-84 called Urban Grind (2214 NE Oregon St). My friend was responsible for providing Rature (, an interesting, arty duo from Lyon, France, with the contact information necessary to book their Olympia and Portland dates. Their act was hoppin’ combination of live drums, some sort of sequenced synth parts and spastic (in Jon Spencer sense), dramatic rap styled vocals. Definitely worth seeing. Starfucker, as I understand it, is the side project of one of the members of Sexton Blake (, whom I’ve been lead to believe is a fairly large, in the sense of popularity and prestige, local act. I honestly can’t comment on their music because, though I’m aware of their existence, I’ve never heard their music or caught their act. It’s possible that they just exist a bit above my radar. Well whatever the case, starfucker is fucking awesome! The trio is comprised of a varying mélange of instruments, with each member playing multiple mediums, sometimes simultaneously. I’d try to explain, but it must be seen to be understood. The result is an amazingly fluid sound which vacillates between jagged, arty noise and throbbing, bouncing melodic dance pop. Fuck! They really bring it. Actually they’re playing again tonight at the Artistery (4315 SE Division St), a cool little art space/venue in Southeast, and I was considering checking them two nights in a row, largely to introduce others to their utter sweetness, but a friend has popped in from Olympia, and I will likely just kick it with him; they do have a lot of Portland shows scheduled in the near future after all. And as it happens, the evening is wearing on, and I’ve yet to take off my house pants or put on a shirt. With that in mind, you’ll have to excuse (or perhaps praise) the brevity with which I attempt to cover the last week and half.

When last I wrote, I was about to head off to see Loch Lomond at the Funky Church. In short, it was awesome. The crowd there seems to consistently be the most respectful sort, and the natural ambiance of the old church hall was perfect for soft lushness of the largely acoustic act. If I hear about that pairing of people and place occurring again, take my word that I will try to be there. Before Loch Lomond went on, Brooklyn, NY singer/songwriter Paleo ( performed. I’d never heard of him, but apparently he’s of some renown on the national DIY circuit. I understand he has a bit more reputation even than that actually; I’m told they did a spot on him on NPR because of a songwriting experiment he did. Apparently he wrote a song a day for an entire year, while traveling constantly. He has released the entire collection as an audio diary of sorts. It’s seventeen and a half hours of MP3s collected on one DVD. As my oftentimes companion in socialization commented, “Now that’s progressive.” His set was soft and sentimental, expressive and entrancing. Not the most original style I’ve ever encountered, but totally proficient in its field, and creative in its own right.

The next night was of course Valentine’s Day, the night where commerce and romance attempt to intertwine. I bid a new friend farewell as she prepared to leave to garner a higher income in a less favorable place. The night after, however, was a Friday, and in the spirit of holiday, Holocene (1001 SE Morrison St) played home to dance showcase NIGHTCLUBBING ( NIGHTCLUBBING is another night hosted by DJ M. Quiet, or actually his alter ego Quiet, of DJ’ing duo Linger & Quiet (I believe they both actually act as hosts). Whereas M. Quiet’s set, as I understand it, consists of the arty and cutting edge of techno music (I’ve been corrected, I guess Minimal is not a label applied to the music) as do the sets of those performing at Kulturszene, Linger & Quiet, and Nightclubbing, are more heavy into disco and other dance pop influences. Occurring at the more upscale and established location, this night draws very different elements to join its crowd. I primarily caught the Linger & Quiet set, and thus cannot really comment on the sets of the other DJs, but what I experienced of L&Q kept the dance floor bumping the whole time I heard it.

I’m not sure, but can’t presently recall checking any local entertainment between Friday and the following Thursday, two nights ago, when I went to check out the comedy showcase at Holman’s (15 SE 28th Avenue). It seems that those responsible for hosting comedy at the Hungry Tiger Too, have added another night to their little circuit one night later and sixteen blocks to the East. Holman’s, the Burnside bastion of late night food on the weekends, and home of the famous Food Wheel (like the wheel of fortune, but you spin to get your food free), is located, ironically enough, right across the street from the construction site which was once the original Hungry Tiger, and as I understand it, might eventually be home to an all new Hungry Tiger. The side room was filled by spectators of the comics, and though many of the local showcase talent is out of town on tour, some of those remaining were in peak form, or at least comedicaly. Some new faces (at least to me) appeared in the open mic portion of the evening as well.

I think that brings us up to date on my recent explorations of art and music in Portland, OR. Spring is coming, so I can’t imagine it will be too long before I get back out there, but more activity means less time to blog. Well, I hope you’ll wish this stranger luck on his quest for more satisfactory employment, for more money and mental energy means more prolific explorations, or at least more opportunity for them, in my case. Until the next time…

* A note on Kickball: This Olympia born, but now one third migrated to Portland, trio is a true gem of the Northwest DIY scene. If you are interested in what is happening in this part of the world, they are it. Do it themselves to very core, and all the way back out, Kickball is the picture of what everything in these weird little freak/artist enclaves like Olympia and Portland are really supposed to be. I’d try to go into a description of the magic and ecstatic sets or their long standing tradition of uber-artistic integrity, but I’ve read too many great one’s in other places, many of which are posted on their MySpace page. Besides, when they play near me again, I’ll be there, and I’ll write about it. Their most recent album, Everything is a Miracle Nothing is a Miracle Everything is, is one of the best attempts I’ve seen yet to capture the magic of a great band in the studio on a DIY budget. If you are interested in the current Northwest music scene and you haven’t heard of Kickball, you need to start from scratch. The wave of arty, independent pop that has grown in their wake over the last half decade will largely shape what is to become of music in this place; or so I predict.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More, more, more…

So it’s Wednesday night. If I didn’t have other plans, I might be making my way over to the Hungry Tiger Too (207 SE 12th Avenue), satellite of what was until recently one of hip Portland’s favorite dive bars. Now it is a big lot where they’re building condos. Anyways, on Wednesdays, they have a comedy night which begins with professional comics, either local, or touring. It’s a place for them to try out new material, and since it’s a free show, there’s no real pressure. After their sets, there’s an open mic for armature comics, and there are some surprisingly funny folks who get up and do their thing. As it happens, I am actually going to a show at one of my favorite little venues in Portland, the Funky Church (2456 SE Tamarack). I have only been to one other show there, but it was such a cool venue, that I have longed for a set to check out there ever since. Tonight I am going to see local Portland band, Loch Lomond ( I was first introduced to them when singer/guitarist Ritchie Young played a set at Mississippi Studios (3939 N Mississippi Avenue), with viola player Amanda Lawrence and a vibraphone player whom I do not know the name of. Anyways, the brilliant sound and intimate setting made me want to hear more. I checked out the whole band at the Doug Fir (830 E Burnside St), where the show was sold out, but the audience would not shut up and appreciate the headlining act. My hope is that the more arts attuned crowd at the Funky Church will be more respectful and I will be able to really check out their set without distraction. I will report back on it of course in my next post.

This post, however, needs to fill y’all in on the promised details of the punk show at Valentines on Sunday night. It was pretty sweet. GoGo Simba was a straight down and dirty punk act. Not the kind of thing that will usually pull me out of the house, but not a disappointment at all either. Dim Rocket Delta was also a straight ahead punk band, but a little bit more in the classic LA punk vein. This was a little weird for me to see, because lead singer Justin Leach has long been known to me as sort of Folk/Rock singer songwriter, both as a solo artist and as the front man of the former unsigned Olympia super group The Strangers. From the first time I caught one of Justin’s sets, way back in the fall of 2000, his lyrics marked him as a poignant but unheard voice for our generation. With lines about things like green skinned girls on the scrambled porn stations, he possessed a unique insight into weird nooks of universally experienced culture particular to our (he and I are of similar ages) age. To boot, he often occasioned to play 2½ hour solo sets for very demanding audiences. Now he’s in a punk band, screaming over drums and electric instrumentation, make his lyrics unintelligible to the listener and his sophisticated chord progressions get lost in a wall of fuzz. This is not to say I did not enjoy their set, DRD was definitely rocking, and full of punk piss and vinegar. It was just a huge departure from the previous work of his, with which I was so intimately familiar. There is more history to be covered regarding this band, but I am running low on time and still have one more band to address. Purple Rhinestone Eagle ( was the middle act of that set, and were quite the find. The all female, psychedelic-garage rock trio was incredibly tight, super rocking and the Tony Iommi-esque lead guitars bring it home in a most, to quote GoGo Simba guitarist/Dim Rocket Delta bassist Dane, “unfuckwithable” way. I highly recommend you check them out if you are in need of a good old fashioned rockin’. OK, time is gettin’ on, so I gotta get to goin’. Later.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


OK, so last night I opted out of the world, excepting old friends and classic films on VHS. The night before, however, I spent on the outskirts of a foreign land. And on this particular night, it was a populated place indeed.

I don’t know anything about electronic music. Well, that’s not entirely true; I have a vague knowledge as to how it is produced, the slightest notion what constitutes markers in the gradation between its various genres and subcategories and have amassed a short list of names which I associate with it. Locally, the name that tops that list is M. Quiet.

2½ years ago, if you told me I would actually start going to clubs and paying to hear DJs’ sets, I would have laughed at you. As a man who just finished a several year stretch as an unpaid radio DJ and recording engineer, who saw live music at least once week and rarely paid for it, the concept of paying to get into a loud room to hear someone spin records was just absurd. If you’d told me a year ago, I would not have been so quick to judge, but I still would have had a hard time realistically picturing it. About six months ago, I found myself trying to climb my way out of some dark and disappointing times, and realized that I needed some manner of visceral diversion from certain habits which I found to be weighing me down. A good friend of mine was an old fan of electronic music, having been party to the Northwest rave scene in the early 90’s. He had decided to reacquaint with the genre and scene after a long hiatus. Being Aquarian of age, if nothing else, I possess the foresight to know that much of the future of the arts will exist primarily in the digital realm, and one must grasp the fundamentals of what these changes will mean, if one hopes to maintain cultural and artistic relevance. Music has been at the forefront of this wave of change. It occurred to me that the fortuitousness of my being around when my friend decided to plunge back into a world I was intrigued by but knew little about was perhaps just the opportunity to educate myself and simultaneously end a long stint of self imposed isolation. Quickly I learned that when the undeniable dance-ability of a good set met with the heat and energy produced once critical mass was achieved on the dance floor, I had the very visceral distraction I was much in need of; need is not a word I like to use lightly. Well that is plenty about my little journey of self discovery, let us examine how the places it has led me affect my ability to “report” on the state of the arts in Portland.

Kulturszene ( is, as far as I can tell, a semi-regularly occurring showcase of talent, hosted by 31 Avas ( and M. Quiet ( at Branx (320 SE 2nd Avenue). In the six months or so that I have been patronizing clubs for the purpose of hearing electronic music and DJs of electronic music I would say the single most regularly attended night or event for me has been Kulterszene. The music, I am told, can generally be classified as “minimal”; that’s not the first adjective I’d use to describe it, but as I said, I know very little about electronic music. However, I have been around music for the whole of my adult life, and I can tell when something is picking up momentum. Last night’s headline DJ was Arohan (, a local face I certainly recognize, but whose set I had only heard once before. Well I don’t know if it was his personal fan base, or just the word getting out about Kulturszene, but Friday, February 8th, 2008 was hot. Just about any face I could recognize from this pocket of culture was present, and many, many more. Branx is not a big club; being the back entrance/downstairs of Rotture (315 SE 3rd Avenue), or maybe vice-versa. It was all Loveland when I moved to this town. Anyways, the stripped down interior and no frills furnishing tend to blend easily with the jeans and hoodie aesthetic so popular in the Portland arts culture. Friday, however, I thought I saw a hint of glamour standing out against the bare brick walls and steel support beams. It’s possible that this was just an influx of whatever is fashionable in more glamorous places, but something tells me that maybe Portland is starting find a polished finish to accompany the matte one on its underground.

The opening set, five record tradeoffs between 31 Avas and M. Quiet, which I believe is a fairly common Kulturszene practice, warmed up the dance floor and built the tension necessary for the climax to come. Curiosity about another facet of Portland lead my companion in potential mischief, mayhem and other forms of cultural interloping and I to depart briefly from the affair. A free show at Someday Lounge (125 NW 5th Avenue) drew our attention because: a.) we had yet to check out the venue, & b.) it was free, which does not seem to be SOP at this establishment. We caught about 3 full songs by a band called Chores (, a rock quartet in the psychedelic/garage tradition. I’d never heard of them, but they were a tight ensemble who clearly took their art seriously, but without an air of pretense. It seemed that with steady gigging and properly focused marketing, they could probably build a solid fan base. My companion and I concurred that they would be excellently matched for a show with Glass Elevator. The venue itself felt to me like an Old Town answer to the Doug Fir (830 E Burnside St), only with the focus being on the venue and no isolated bar section. I lacked the funds for proper patronization, and thus cannot comment on the drinks’ price or quality nor really report on the service of the staff. I’ll say it was a comfy joint, and if the right act came and the cover was one I could afford, I see no hard/fast reason to object to attending events there.

Upon returning to Branx, Arohan was spinning his set, and the place was throbbing. The dance floor was well beyond the quorum of active bodies for an energetic set, people were generally getting down and more were arriving by the minute. I’d say the peak of the night was around the end of Arohan’s set and the beginning of the solo M. Quiet set which followed. The crowd was in deep in thrall to the DJs’ whim, and the field of energy created by the unified throng of dancers was absolutely rhapsodic. Though, as the night waned, so did the population of the dance floor, M. Quiet kept bumping out hot beats, and people kept grooving till the club staff made the universally acknowledged sign of “get the fuck out, we want to go home”, which is the turning on of bright, overhead (in the case of Branx, fluorescent) lights.

I may not know much about this slice of culture, but I tend to be able to intuitively track trends, and I definitely have watched little things grow and explode a time or two in Northwest music. It looks like something might actually be taking shape to hold down a newly established scene in PDX. The influx of people to Kulturszene and other clearly related events over the last several months, and even weeks, certainly does point towards exponential growth. Well, we shall see. My readers shall accompany me on my own explorations of new territory. It’s fun actually, in both an exciting and disconcerting way. I can’t recall the last time I was regularly exposed to some subcultural movement, but still remained almost entirely outside on a social level.

Anyways, soon I must away, for several older strains of Olympia and Portland music culture have converged, and tonight they are playing at my favorite Westside venue: Valentines (232 SW Ankeny St). A cute, intimate little art bar with tasty, original drink items, good taste in music for both playing and booking (from what I’ve heard), and some incredibly enchanting bar staff. Dim Rocket Delta ( a Portland band, in the punk tradition as far as I can tell, comprised of longtime contributors to the Olympia music scene, is kicking off their West coast tour with Olympia act GoGo Simba ( tonight. I can’t claim to be particularly familiar with either act, but I have heard some recordings of DRD, and was a well versed fan of previous work by some of its members. Whatever the case, it should be educational. I will go into more detail on the matter with my next post. Until then…