Incredible Fortunes.

You ever wake up and just briefly consider the reality of your situation could simply be that Pam Ewing is really out there somewhere, dreaming nightmare versions of people’s lives?

To refresh memories or fill in pop culture voids…Pam Ewing was Bobby Ewing’s wife on Dallas. No, the original version. Season one ended with Bobby being killed. Season two was a shit show and season three started with Pam waking up to find her husband showering after a particularly vivid dream…of the entire second season.

The audacity!

Or that maybe you are her, and one morning you come to wake up to find that the worst was all in your subconscious?

Absolutely insane. It was almost enough to wipe our collective consciousness clean of Fonzi jumping a shark on water skis. Almost.

Anywho. I swear that’s me lately. And, frankly, I don’t know why I haven’t made time to buy a lottery ticket.

This life that I deride and take for granted…well, it’s serving me constant reminders lately that while the bad stuff may not be going on in Pam Ewing’s dreams, it’s not the star of The Xtopher Show that I call my life.

Cases in point:

I think I mentioned I was going to another free concert a week or so back. I was incredulous to have notched another free pass onto my 2022 entertainment belt.

And it was incredible…despite a rocky start.

The Shins were playing two shows downtown and I had won tickets from a local radio station. I had said I wanted tickets to the Friday night show, giving them Thursday night to warm up. I got my winner’s waiver the Monday after winning my tickets and was told further info would follow. It did not. Well, by the day before the show, I finally double-checked that I’d submitted the waiver correctly and then sent an email to the station that I’d won the tickets from using the “contact us” link on their website.

Several hours later, at around 2:30, I got a BCC email from the station saying “Congrats Winners!”, leading me to believe someone was having a really long Monday at the station. It went on to tell us that our tickets would be at Will Call and the gates were at 5, show at 6…that evening.

My mental needle skipped.

Luckily, I live about 9 blocks from the venue. I worked until 4:45 and then set out on foot for the show.

Turns out, the venue is all General Admission. Still, when the guy asked if I needed both tickets – after watching me walk up alone and casually scanning my area as he went through my info – I said “Yes”.

What? I wanted them both. I was definitely going to find a way to take up two spots in GA. Plus, that was just rude, right? It’s not like I had a bogey hanging out of my nose and he asked if I wanted a Kleenex. No, this was him rubbing my nose in my solo-ness. Boo, sir.

Because it’s Portland and this venue is a public plaza when it’s not a venue, there were food carts on the periphery of the fence. I hadn’t eaten, so I grabbed a huge sandwich for $12 and a 16 ounce beer for the same price. That amphitheater where I saw Styx can shove it’s $18 beers right up it…area.

I sat on the brick wall at the back of the venue and ate my sammie and drank my beer while the opening band did its thing. It was another Portland band (I know, The Shins are from New Mexico, but they’ve been in Portland long enough to be called locals) named Joseph. Two sisters with a third woman make up the band named for the Oregon town the sisters’ grandfather was from. I’d heard a couple of their sons on the radio before and liked them, but their 45 minute set was amazing. It’s really just guitar with the sisters’ amazing vocals and that’s it.

I was so mesmerized that I barely noticed the Guy Candy that was obviously hitting on me sat right next to me to nosh on his own sando from one of the carts.

Joseph’s set ended and the roadies started prepping the stage for The Shins. I figured I better grab another beer and stake out a place to take up two places near the stage. While I was in line, a true Portland weirdo native offered me a picture of her cat out of the blue.

My guideline when dealing with Portland’s kookier kooks is “humor them, they might be dangerous”, so I took the proffered pic. It’s now hanging over Myrtle’s food station, just to keep her on her toes. A reminder that there are other cats in the world – versus mine, who seems to believe a week isn’t complete without at least one protest poop or other non-litter box evacuation.

This was me, sipping my fresh beer in my taking-up-two-spaces space by the stage; reflecting on the Guy Candy, the Crazy Cat Lady and watching the sun set while nervously eyeballing the 20,000 crows flying around looking for a place to roost when someone tapped my shoulder.

No, it wasn’t Guy Candy guy. I’m lucky…but not that fucking lucky.

It was Sarizzle, someone I’d worked at Sur la Table with when I lived in Shittatle. I ran the market’s hero store in Kirkland (yes, it’s a real place!) and she ran the original store in the Pike Place Market. I knew she’d moved back to our mutual hometown, but we’d never managed to connect. Just two natives catching up on social media now and again. We hugged and caught up in real life a bit – while I behaved awkwardly because I was still in all my WFH glory and now turn into that person who runs into people they know wherever they go. Eventually, she said her goodbye to go back to her husband as the roadies started wrapping up and the stage hands started turning instruments.

Actually, after running into not one, but two groups I knew at the Bonnie Raitt show…maybe I am one of those people who runs into people I know figuratively everywhere I go.

Not long after Sarizzle left my to my own devices, The Shins took the stage and didn’t give it a rest for about 90 minutes. Their music has a pretty chill vibe, but the lead singer’s voice is haunting, something I figured was a product of some sort of modulator. I still think that, but was impressed that they were able to replicate it in real life.

Their set was so good that for about the first half, I was convinced at a minimum the lead vocals we lip synced. Joseph had come out to sing back up after the first few songs, so I knew it wasn’t the whole setup, but just how was it possible to recreate the lead singer’s otherworldly vocals?!? I enjoyed clicking off the hallmarks of live music that occurred in the set to disprove my suspicion that the lead was dubbed. Just crazy little tics, like singing toward Joseph at the back of the stage and losing the mic’s pickup briefly – nothing too overt.

I enjoyed watching the crowd really get pulled into some of their bigger hits and take over the heavy lifting of vocals or just get caught up in a call and response with the band.

But I’m a native Portlander and I go to shows to watch the show, not be a part of them. To that end, I stood there and tapped my foot, swayed a little and clapped after every song. That’s it. A true Portlander would never risk diminishing someone else’s experience by being overly enthusiastic. I’ve actually been to some fantastic shows where virtually all the crowd did until the end of the show was sit there and clap between songs.

Playing Portland must be an interesting experience for musicians. Well, not as weird as it was back in the day…there’s so many transplants now that the overly polite Portland crowds have been somewhat diluted. Sarizzle and her husband eventually crept closer to the stage and I saw her being true to our concert-going DNA, too. Her husband would occasionally throw an arm toward the sky or do that rhythmic hopping that people do at concerts, but she was doing pretty much the same low key sway in place as I.

The tour was basically a 21st birthday party for the band’s first breakout album, and they played it all, with a few extras sprinkled in here and there. At one point, the band riffed on Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy for a few lines between songs. Just, out of nowhere fun – for them as much as us. No one knew where the idle strumming was going until it careened into that pleasant little surprise.

Another fun moment happened during the encore – unlike Bonnie Raitt, I stayed for this one. No dogs to walk, no parking mess to get ahead of, so I just stayed and watched them completely blow the non-existent roof off of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The next little fun nugget was working a couple refrains of Tom Petty’s American Girl into the middle of one of their songs. I didn’t recognize the song, but I was definitely in the minority.

The following Sunday, I had to set an alarm to wake up and drive out to Hood River – by far the more scenic piece of our wine country. Little Buddy had two tickets to an event at one of their wine clubs called Reds, Whites and Blues. No, we haven’t started making blue wine in our notoriously blue state – the event featured a blues band to listen to whilst stuffing your face with BBQ and sipping on the vineyard’s reds and whites – not in that order.

Sadly, her husband, 2.0, had been tapped for a two-week trip to Germany for work and had to leave that morning, so Little Buddy had a – wait for it…free ticket. Fuck yeah, I went! I even set an alarm to make a day of it – we got a hike in before the event, which was just idyllic.

They set up the event beneath oak trees that are hundreds of years old in the middle of their vineyard and we drove up, parked by some vines and sat under those trees stuffing our faces and listening to blues in the middle of a sea of vines. Not even a barely visible Mt Hood through the smokey haze from our minimal forest fires could dampen the epicness of being immersed in such gorgeousness.

I’d love to sit around and let more of these experiences wash out of my memory and into my blog, but my drinking buddy’s buddy backed out of their plans to go to The Doobie Brothers show tonight this past Thursday. Luckily, I was sitting a barstool away when the text came in, so I’ve got to get ready for another show.

Another free show.

Second row from the floor on the stage side of the second section from the damn stage. It is going to be…epic!

Incredible Fortunes.

The Year of FREE Music

No, this is not a nostalgia post about my Columbia House membership.

Whilst working from home yesterday, I was planning out my weekend. The focus was getting my weekend blogging goal back on track as well as my exercise regimen – which has been off track since my vacation. Add into that the Silver Fox’s return to town. And this is still on top of wanting to maintain my regular weekend misadventures.

But it was also Flashback Friday on my local radio station. Back when I was living that #LyftLife that meant I listened to the weekly Party Out of Bounds radio show from 8-midnight while driving Friday nights.

All 80s and 90s music for four hours? Yes, please.

Now that I’m living the WFH life, I listen to the morning show until 10 Monday-Friday and maybe switch to a pandora station later in the day. But on Flashback Friday I might put in a little longer on the show because they give away tickets to upcoming live shows from 80s and 90s bands every hour.

I’ve set my limit at 5 calls per hour, if I’m able to call when they throw it out. Sometimes I’m on a Teams or Zoom call and can’t.

It’s fine. I’ve already won seats at their free in studio performances twice this year, so if I miss out, I’m still having a pretty good live music year. Some of the shows though…Jane’s Addiction, Garbage, Crowded House. There’s about five shows to choose from each week at a variety of venues: The Moda Center (where the Blazers play), Edgefield (one of our larger outdoor venues), Crystal Ballroom (if you wanna experience a concert on the third floor of a hundred+ year old building, this is your place – and let’s hear it for feeling the floor move beneath your unmoving feet!), or Pioneer Courthouse Square (aka: Portland’s Living Room).

Moda Center
Inside the Moda during concert mode
Edgefield – looking back from the 4th row. More on that in a minute
Crystal Ballroom – home of the “Floating Dancefloor”.
Pioneer Courthouse Square from the air…or an office tower across the street

I’ve been to shows at all of these venues over the years, but my attendance was stagnant recently – pandemic closures notwithstanding. I’ve been to Moda many times, including Fleetwood Mac on three separate tours. I saw Everclear back in the late 90s or early aughts at the Crystal and was “recently” (aka: five-ish years ago!) invited to Echo and the Bunnymen there. Pioneer Courthouse has a couple different summer music events each year. The first is just a “Portland is awesome” type of thing…a free Lunchtime Concert Series every Thursday at noon. Back when our downtown had businesses operating in it, people would throw open their windows in the neighboring non-skyscraper buildings to lean out an watch. People on the streets would be drawn to this packed city block brick plaza. I’ve seen several shows there, too. Notably, the Indigo Girls back in the 90s and I was sad to miss their return to this venue this year. There have also been a couple of community concerts featuring our local Pink Martini to mark holiday tree lightings or punctuate a local event – like a protest concert or to honor the life of a colorful former Mayor.

This is our former Mayor, Bud Clark. I missed his memorial at Pioneer Square, but if it was half as entertaining as he was…

Which leaves us with Edgefield out of the venues listed above. It’s a 7000 “seat” outdoor venue at the edge of town, owned by the same family that owns the Crystal Ballroom, so the music gene is strong. The official name of their music program is Edgefield Concerts on the Lawn…hence the apostrophes around the word seat earlier. I’d been decades ago when it first opened. It was fun to go and cop a squat on a patch of grass with a date or maybe as a foursome with another couple.

But that was decades ago, and my lawn squatting days are behind me.

Enter my drink buddy neighbor. He’s kind of my spirit animal for having a life as a single old man. I don’t know why this eludes me so. I think it might partially be a willful ignorance on my part. It was only a few – ok, closer to ten than five – years ago that I regularly wrote under the blog theme I called the Yes Game. Now I’ve got Jessla fresh off her divorce and recently moved back to the city from the coast talking about her Year of Yes as well as my drinking buddy reminding me that life is meant for living, not waiting for the end.

Anyway, my drinking buddy has adult children with a couple of grands that keep him busy, which is a resource I don’t share. Outside of that, which is plenty for most people, he also has this great life of solo adventures that have inspired me recently to do more than just carouse my way to the grave.

He’s the one that invited me to the Loverboy/REO Speedwagon/Styx show a couple months ago. That, in turn, motivated me to not be resigned to the sidelines of life. I remembered when doing things alone was a source of empowerment for me when I was younger. As I’ve aged, I’ve avoided that source of power while eschewing the source of one of my biggest frustrations: people.

It was good to be reminded that I can do both by planning strategically. While it will take a lot to get me back to the Moda Center for a show, post-pandemic. It was the show that I lucked into last week at Edgefield that highlighted the reality I’d been missing out on.

My drinking buddy ended up triple-booked on a Friday night: a family thing, a Timbers match (he’s a season ticket holder) and a show at Edgefield that he’d been raving about for weeks. It was the last-minute realization that he had a match that Friday and the laster-minute family thing that ended up with me being gifted his tickets to the Edgefield show.

To Bonnie-freakin’-Raitt, no less.

I couldn’t possibly say no! Even though I’d already said yes to walking the Silver Fox’s pooch while he was at the same show. And yes to walking Jessla’s dogs while she was out of town for the weekend.

On top of having a lunchtime doctor appointment…this was going to be quite the Friday. So at lunchtime I put my Out of Office on and hood it over to my doctor. That runs late, so I go right from there to Jessla’s pups afternoon walk. I’m back in my chair just before 130. At 430, I set my status to offline and head up to Jessla’s for a quick pee walk and dinner for her pups. Then I hop in the car and head east to Edgefield.

Did I mention that this free seat is in the 4th row of Reserved Seating?!? But I still have to wait in line with all the picnickers before the show starts at 630, thanks to this post-9/11 mass shooter gun violence world in which we live.

Getting 7000 people through metal detectors takes a minute. Factor in Bonnie pulls a Boomer crowd and you’ve got a real shitshow of a line scenario.

The venue is up there in that stand of trees, this grass will soon be covered in cars

The Fox had been insisting my seats were good, but the seats he had in the Sponsors Section – courtesy of his nephew, owner of Wyld, a cannabis edibles manufacturer – were better. Well, they came with reserved parking and free tacos and drinks, so he was partially correct. Otherwise, we both learned that they had moved the Sponsor Se ruin sometime in the past couple of decades. Here’s a view from my not-worse-than-his seat.

He’s under that white tent…

But that reserved parking was legit. After standing in a line for 45 minutes, what was I finally greeted by when I was able to branch off the mainline to the two measly metal detectors dedicated to Reserved Seating ticket holders?

I’d know that snow cap anywhere. He hadn’t responded to my bored-in-line inquiries about his whereabouts. Probably because he was driving out so he could walk right up to the Reserved Ticket Holder’s entrance. But it amused me – while I was ignoring my darker inner thoughts that he’s seen me and was ignoring me – that he was so focused on the venue that he didn’t notice me until moments after I sent this…

Remember the basement scene in Silence of the Lambs where Bill is reaching out in the dark behind an unsuspecting Clarice?

Anyway, we were both entertained by his level of surprise. A phenomenon I would repeat as I beat a hasty retreat during the encore to get back to Jessla’s pups for their evening walk and ran into the Fox’s former partner’s parents – with whom he’s still friends. The dad was wearing his Timbers jersey, showing support for his team as a season ticket holder since he’d made a different decision than my beneficiary. So we got to chat a bit until we made for our separate grassy parking spaces – turns out, they left early to get home to their dog, too. Since it’s an outdoor venue, I put down the windows and opened the moonroof to listen to the encore as I queued up to exit the lot.

I’m not the guy who runs into someone I know everywhere I go. I’m always the guy with the person who runs into someone everywhere there go. Seriously, it happened at the top of the Eiffel Tower. But in between this happening to me twice in one night, I saw an incredible show. A week later, I’m still in awe.

Mavis Staples was the opener. Let me tell you, at 83 this woman is absolutely killing it. She’s not tall enough to have ever ridden a roller coaster in her life, but onstage? Well, let’s just say that you can’t miss her – even though it was a good minute or two before I saw her head because it was behind a mic-mounted iPad.

What? I didn’t see her take the stage because I was getting a beer! The McMenamin’s brothers started out as beer makers, not concert promoters.

I watched Mavis in awe. Her band and back up were amazing on their own, but in no way making up for any diminished capacity in Mavis’ talent or skill. She might have had to sit down a couple of times during the set – 83 years old! – and the band didn’t lose a beat, but when she was ready to come back, she let ‘em know that the stage was hers again.

I will never not think of this performance when I hear a cement mixer’s engine idling while its tumble turns. That a voice that big comes out of such a small human. Epic.

If that was all there was to this show…it was still a bargain at twice the price. But wait…there’s more!

Bonnie-freakin’-Raitt!

In my concert-going career I’ve been to myriad shows. Folks touring to promote a recent album, storytellers on tour, spectacles of a show that hid lipsyncing artists, intimate venues, stadium tours, has-beens on the State Fair circuit, perennial favorites, career touring acts…and much, much more!

And it’s not like those options are mutually exclusive. It’s more of a Venn diagram.

I’d always thought of Bonnie as a storyteller on tour given my knowledge of her history touring with the likes of Lyle Lovett and John Prine. In this instance she was that storyteller on tour, touring to promote a new album and perennial favorite. I wasn’t super-excited to learn about the new album since that usually draws focus from the library I’m familiar with. For someone whose first album came out 50+ years ago, though? She is still creating amazing content.

Case in point, after talking about touring with Prine and reminiscing about them performing Angel From Montgomery together and how she can’t imagine performing it without him since his death, she tells how that history and loss inspired her to write a song with a similar story behind it. She’d heard a story about a man who showed up on a woman’s doorstep years after she lost her son in an accident…to thank her for the gift of life her son’s heart gave him.

Being an emotional sap is another good reason to go to these types of shows alone.

A few songs later, she performed Angel From Montgomery, and I think everyone was crying when she hugged her guitar to her like it was her lost, dear friend.

Starting the encore

Like I said, I beat feet at the encore, but didn’t miss anything but a 45 minute wait to exit the lot in doing so. Hearing her voice through the trees in the night air of a perfect PNW summer evening while idling in a grass field? It gave me time to think about what I take for granted: the future. Not for granted, so much, more something I look forward to with a sense of dread or contempt.

But this coming-up-on-73 year old and her 83 year old touring companion showed me that people can continue to give to the world around them well into the years of life when others have left their careers. And my Generation Jones aged drinking buddy is giving me an example on how to live life as a single-person without waiting for someone to live it with to enable it – and without caring what others think of my solo-status.

I am kind of happy about my reluctance to return to larger venues for this reason, too. Fringe benefit of going solo to smaller venues alone? I stand out as alone easier in a smaller setting. Hey, if I’m going it alone, I want credit for the finger I’m giving my failure at achieving an enduring relationship. Can’t get that in a crowd!

All of this is by way of telling you that on my fifth attempt at winning tickets in the Flashback Friday offerings yesterday, I succeeded!

Jessla would point out the time was a triple number as an indicator of this luck

You’ll notice it took 22 attempts – versus the weeks of effort that came before yesterday – but someone finally answered the phone! A few minutes later, I was the proud owner of a pair of tickets to the upcoming Shins show at Pioneer Courthouse Square and could not have been happier. Until a few minutes later when the texts started rolling in…

The year of free music rocks on, friends!

The Year of FREE Music

The Password is: CULTURE

Celebrity Host: Yogurt.

Me: <blinks>

CH: Kombucha.

Me: <blink, blink>

CH: Live performances.

Me: THINGS I SEE FOR FREE!

CH: Oh! Wait, what? No. I’m sorry, we were looking for “culture”!

Me: Same, yo…but not on my budget! Someone else gonna need to pick up that tab.

CH: No parting gifts for you. Can someone get my agent on the phone!

Ok, my skinflintiness is situational. I’m choosing to be amused by the pattern. I’m also choosing to be grateful for the opportunity to see live performances again.

It had been too long before the pandemic started. Tack on two pandemic years to that too long and you’ve got a real risk of Xtopher returning to some devolved Appalachian form of human.

Don’t get me wrong, I know my problematic drinking made me luckier than most during the pandemic. Geez, that sounds like a line from a winning entry for a free stay at Betty Ford…

Tis true, though. My former old standby, the Big Legrowlski, hosted music during the pandemic.

Daily.

It was quite…the salvation.

No, I wasn’t there daily, thank you.

But a couple times a week. I’d go and sit in their three-sided tents outside and watch people perform through the 10 foot windows, doors open and speakers on the sidewalk.

Plus, fire pit. It was the mental health booster I needed during the lockdown. Sorry for anyone who thought “alcohol” was the correct answer there. Close second, but…no. And that’s despite the fact that many of these mental health boosts happened in 40 degree weather, oftentimes with rain running in under the tent wall and right under my feet.

So when I was working from home and heard one of the DJs from my local radio station – Kink.fm – say he was giving away tickets to a Saturday morning performance at the inaugural re-opening of their live music lounge…I was on that phone! Despite the fact that refreshments were being sponsored by Coors Light.

And I won!

And that’s why I was out of bed before noon a few Saturdays back.

Tom Odell, that is, not free Coors Light. (Sorry, dad!)

Seriously, having a chance to see live music for the first time in over two years…we’ll, I thought Indigo Girls playing at the Pioneer Courthouse Square would get me fixed up. But that show isn’t until June. And I’d have to buy my tickets. I still might. Or I’ll just go hangout on the sidewalk, since the venue is literally a brick plaza on a city block.

Proof Portlanders use umbrellas?

Legitimately seeing live music for free, though? Highly recommend. And as if free wasn’t an awesome enough incentive? The free libations included some Topo Chico hard seltzer options, so I had some. Partook of the two free drink maximum, did I.

Booze Bracelet!

Then there’s the reality that this venue holds less than 100 people. I tried to count seats, and I don’t think it has 70. It had 7 rows of seats. I chose to stand close to the bar in the back, since I was alone.

Free, boozy, intimate…well, I doubt I’ve ever experienced those three adjectives simultaneously before.

Plus, Tom Odell has a seriously distinctive and evocative singing voice. The first note off the piano made the hair on my eyes stand up and when he opened his mouth, tears started welling up on my forearms.

Wait. Something’s not right in that paragraph…here, don’t think too much about that. Look at these pics, instead.

Ok, his voice and fingers do all the heavy lifting. He doesn’t have to rely on visual distractions like dancing and pyrotechnics to give a killer experience. But it does make for a dozen pics that look almost exactly the same.

But just look how small the venue is!

Pre-show audience games

Best part – besides standing in a room with a few dozen strangers having an aurally stimulating experience? When I turned on the car, guess who was playing on the radio?

Right outside the station, no less. Quite a meta-moment, if you ask me.

This is all top of mind for me right meow since I just got home from a show with Little Buddy. I was her +1 for Freestyle Love Supreme this afternoon. Yay for married season ticket holders with busy spouses!

That’s right, I am spoiled and got to see a second live performance in less than a month for free! I wasn’t super into seeing the show, but I was super into a social fix with Little Buddy. It’s always too long between visits, but since she moved out to the Columbia River Gorge, it’s even further between visits.

Don’t get me wrong, she invites. I think I’ve taken her up on it twice, although one of those might have been prior to the full-time residency. But it’s home to some of the best wine in Oregon – and that’s saying things! – so it is somewhat problematic for this light weight…since it’s an hour away.

So on the second-nicest day of the year so far in Portland, I donned my dress-Chucks and went to the theater.

Hey, it was over 70 today…I almost wore shorts!

For a show I wasn’t jazzed to see – call it a variant of something every younger sibling knows too well, since this was co-created by Lin Manuel Miranda and (through some scheduling miracle) playing at the same time that Hamilton was in town – this was pretty damned entertaining.

The premise is that it’s all pretty much improvised based off of audience feedback, hence the “freestyle”. There’s also a lot of hip-hop vibe going on with that improv. There’s a beatbox guy, a couple MC folks, not in the Master of Ceremony vein, rather the MC rappers tack onto their stage names.

And then a bunch of middle-aged or better white women from the suburbs yelling out suggestions.

FWIW, my word was gonna be orgasm – but some of these Karens brought proof they’d had sex with them. Since I have a modicum of decency, I didn’t ejaculate yell out my contribution.

I think part of the fun for me was judging what people did yell out.

Two people yelled out answers that one of the MCs had used as an example. Friggin’ brainiacs, those two.

Several others yelled out variations of things like “singing” or “dancing” and I was all, “Really? We’re here to watch some hip-hop improv and your subject matter suggestions are ‘singing and dancing’?!?”

Mouths shut, husband’s wallets open, ladies. That’s all the contribution to the arts you need to worry about.

Makes me regret not yelling “Orgasm!” when they were taking suggestions on the “Something you can’t live without” theme. Seriously, someone yelled “Banana”…to be fair, I think it was the sibling of the STD that yelled out “Monkey” when the MCs were looking for verbs as a cue. But who can’t live without a banana?!?

Despite my audience members doing their best to prove they are barely more tolerable only being seen versus heard, I’m in the mood for more super spreader events live entertainment.

Given my aforementioned pandemic “live entertainment loophole”, I can only imagine how exciting these past few weekends were for others. I can overlook them not fully knowing how to audience appropriately.

And, damnit…now I’m in the mood! I may need to pick up a rush ticket or two over the coming month. Who knows, I might even troll Craigslist for an Indigo Girls ticket.

The Password is: CULTURE

My Brush With Royalty

Rock royalty.

Portland rock royalty.

There I was last night, driving around and minding my own business in Milwaukie, a close-in Portland suburb. Mostly, this manifested as trying to figure out whether I should shut my app off so I can stop incoming rides briefly to set it to “home” mode. It was around 5 PM on a rainy Friday afternoon, so the ride bonuses in Portland were crazy.

For instance, I made almost $50 on my first three rides in the first hour on the road. You can see how those ride bonuses dropped on that last pick up outside the city core.

Yes, get me back to town, please.

Plus, that $2.50 bonus was a round trip ride to the liquor store for a guy who met me at the end of his driveway – which I love – only to mime “Do you have an extra mask?” from where he stood as I pulled up. Then, once he’s gotten one, climbs in grumbling about how “It’s not like these do anything, anyway” before careening into “The old man was killing him”, referring to Biden – neither of which I love right out of the gate in a ride. I managed to steer him into a conversational area he was better qualified to have an opinion on: sports.

Stupid American.

I’m sure that explains why I was debating getting back toward the city. That’s when this ride came in.

Now, Zia is not a common name. I’ve known one in my entire life, a former employee here in town. I pulled the picture up to see if it was her, and, well…wrong race.

However, I thought this rider skewed age and race wise toward being the only other Zia I could think of, who I certainly didn’t know, but whose early musical career I was well aware of, the Dandy Warhols.

The Dandys are a local band with one song most people will know – Bohemian Like You – and who I’ve been lucky enough to come across a couple times back when I stumbled into music venues around town in the 90s. Zia stood out among the band because she usually could be counted on to pull her shirt up at some point during a show.

That leaves an impression, even on a late-20s gay boy.

I mentally start discarding conversational riffs based off that song – “I’ve got a great car”, “Do you like vegan food”, “Did I see some guy sleeping on the couch? Is he always there? Why’s he looking kind of ‘meh’?”

Stupid stuff. – that I’d never actually say!

More likely, I’d try to get a heads up on her current band’s upcoming gigs. She’s got several projects going on these days and one of them – Brush Prairies, I think – has been doing shows at small venues, like the Dandys used to.

Also, I could pin her down on which member owned a wine bar here in my neighborhood and where it was actually located. Rumor vaguely has it that it’s over on/around Pettygrove & 14th but the place over there I’ve seen isn’t that impressive. But it’s open hours certainly suggest it operates on a rock and roll vibe, aka: it’s open or not on a whim. More specific rumor has it that it’s a place called Le Happy.

Cute, right? It’s at Lovejoy & 16th, so about half as much closer than the other place, but…

Permanently closed?!?

Even if this wasn’t that bar, it’s sad. Such a cute lil joint. I hope the building doesn’t get torn down in Portland’s growth/building boom.

Anyway, in real time, I was pulling up her name on Google to get a current pic.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit!

It was her!

OMGOMGOMG.

Be cool.

I pull into this driveway that’s on the backstreet of a side street behind a school in Milwaukie. The remoteness says “privacy” while the overgrown disrepair of a once well-tended yard says “recluse”.

“Damn, Zia, I know having four band projects going has to be a lot…but get it together!”

Then a college-aged kid walks out.

“Well, that’s not Zia…”

He’s got a cute mix of nerd and emo looks going, so I also tell myself to keep my eyes on the road. 🤦🏽

We’ve got a long ride ahead of us into Portland – thank you, Lyft app! – so I start off with some small talk about what’s up.

Turns out, he took a bus into town to hang out with his friend – a female friend, not a girlfriend 😈 – but he went to the wrong house. I comment that this girl has the right kind of problems…too many houses, and he clarifies that he went to her dad’s house (ok, so it’s a “depression vibe” in the yard, not “recluse”, got it) instead of her mom’s so mom was getting him a ride to the right place.

Cool mom.

AND IT WAS ZIA MCCABE!!!

Anyway, that was as close as my brush with rock royalty came. Well, that and maybe she was shuffling things around on the porch when I pulled up. And that I low-key know where she lives, but I’m not creepy, so that knowledge is just a little “I know stuff other people don’t” thrill.

But I still need to catch a random show of hers one of these days. Oh, and she’s a realtor, too, so that’s bad news for my realtor neighbor who lives in the building I want to eventually buy in…because I am Le Happy to be that kind of creepy.

Hey, it’s not like she wouldn’t get something out of that transaction, and The Gays are nothing if not transactional.

My Brush With Royalty

Going Their Own Way…

Several months back, Big Word Ben gifted me a much belated birthday present: tickets to the 2018 Fleetwood Mac tour.
Not a bad gift, right?

There was much scandal and speculation about this tour, dubbed An Evening With Fleetwood Mac, after it was announced that Lindsey Buckingham would not be touring with them. Point in fact, the rumor mill – oops, rumours mill – was reporting that he had been fired from the group.

Again.

The rumor ripples of this announcement were fast and choppy. Buckingham is their male vocalist as well as lead guitarist. The last time I had seen Fleetwood Mac he had easily done over half of the vocal heavy lifting.

Christine McVie had just returned from about 15 years of retirement – at 71! – for the last tour and was easing her way into the band’s routine last time around, so it’s not like they aren’t used to changing up the batting order for their shows.

Still, as the “young one” in the band – he and Stevie were ~66 last time the group came through Portland – he had been the real mover and shaker on stage. Stevie did her trademark twirls, but for the most part, her dancing was in place, usually with her feet planted and just consisted of some pretty wild upper body gyrations. Lindsey, on the other hand, had been out to make a point. Jumping around stage like a flea and spinning, squatting, kicking with a true frenzy. It was kind of annoying since it looked like he was showing off to some degree, but also made the show a real visual presentation.
So, what’s it going to be like in 2018? Lindsey and Stevie are both 70, Lindsay isn’t coming, Christine is 75, John and Mick are sitting pretty in the shadows at the back of the stage, as usual. Well, except for Mick’s crazy audience shout-back solo at the midway point. For the record, that was and is still a pretty amazing part of the show.

Filling the bill and rounding out the band, it was announced that Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn from Crowded House/The Finn Brothers/Split Enz would be taking on the guitar work and male vocals.I was left quite curious whether this would still be a really heavy male vocals show, though. Newcomers notwithstanding, the band ended up leaning on Christine for what I would call about half of the vocal numbers in the Portland show. Now, there’s a reason she was not the primary vocalist in the band in the first place – but as much as I’ve always loved her one or two numbers on each album and even her solo work – at 75, you could tell her voice was getting tired during the two hour show.

But keep in mind, that’s about half the singing in a two hour show…down from a three hour production with Lindsey.

I was ok with the shortened show, because I’m older, too. A three hour show starting at 8 PM makes me tired just thinking about it.

Plus, as it turns out, in addition to Christine leading the vocals charge, the band also chose to steer fairly clear of the Buckingham library. For the most part. Neil did some great lead solo numbers as well as sharing some duets with each of the ladies.The show ended up being a walk way down Memory Lane, for the most part, though, with a great deal of what I would call deep tracks from the Peter Green era of the band.
I was fairly impressed with the band’s effort to acknowledge the stand ins for Lindsey throughout the show, too. It wasn’t just a “hey, here’s these guys” type of situation. After Mick’s World Turning drum solo at halftime, he came to the front of the stage and talked about the next number. It was a song, he said, “that he heard at a time he needed to hear it”, which was an interesting turn of phrase. I was pretty surprised when he went on to introduce Neil to sing Don’t Dream It’s Over, arguably Crowded House’s biggest hit. It was actually a highlight in the show for me as an audience member and as a HUGE Crowded House fan.Big Word Ben seemed to know about this number in advance and warned me, “Just wait until the halfway point”, which I didn’t fully understand until Stevie wandered out onto the stage toward the end of the song and joined in.
It was exciting. Hearing these two voices working together to recreate something I was so familiar with. Until Stevie basically fell off the stage trying to keep up with Neil. He’s only ten years her junior, but it demonstrates the truth behind the old adage about teaching and old dog new tricks. After the number, she kind of joked about her effort, but it was just super unclear whether she forgot the words or if she just got lost.

Here, have a little levity that I found in my Google suggestions while digging around for pics and info for this entry:

My answer to that question:

Attempting this number.

But I am still one to give an E for effort, so I was ultimately happy that they had at least tried to integrate the newcomers.

The back half of the show included a bit more visibility overall for Stevie, so it was good that she had an opportunity to redeem herself after the Crowded House number. Again, though…at 70, she’s not so much the twirling hippy girl she once was. You could tell that her dancing was more an exercise in remaining upright versus it’s former lost in the moment self. The same was evident with Christine when she left her keyboard and came forward for some maracas work during a solo number of hers. Both were very stiff hipped in their movements, which I noted, before immediately reminding myself of how I must look when I get off the couch to pee during a Netflix binge. Yeah, “Shut up, Me”. Both get high marks from me for just showing up, that’s for sure!

We got to the end of the show, with the band being led off the darkened stage by stagehands with flashlights…gotta be careful to not trip on a wire going across the equipment-packed stage. Hips are expensive!

People immediately started leaving as soon as the lights dimmed. Big Word Ben indicated that he didn’t think there was an encore, either, by way of explanation. It’s rare to see that many people take off after a curtain call. Usually it’s just the competitive drivers or people who have to work super early. This audience was moving. We were soon the only people in our immediate area. We chatted briefly about the show. How the set list was so different without Lindsey, but both still glad to have added another notch to our Fleetwood Mac Concert Belts. Mine is nowhere near as long as his, but he’s got a few years on Neil, so I chalk it up to him just having more opportunities.

All that said, I certainly didn’t feel robbed when the lights came back up and the group returned to the stage. Quite honestly, when Freefalling started, I felt like the show was just made. What a perfect way to ice this cake. Stevie nailed a rendition of one of Mike’s former bandleader’s biggest hits while a slide show played behind the band. It showed lots of concert pics of Petty, who had died just over a year earlier at only 66. It was also a very poignant reminder of the connection between the two bands. Mike Campbell joining for this tour was the top of mind connection for most, but then there was the Leather and Lace duet between Petty and Stevie, too. The picture show behind the stage reminded us all of just how much history there was with Stevie and Petty touring together over the years. I think most of the people left in the arena ended up pretty choked up by the end of the song.

At the end of the show, we were left with quite a different Fleetwood Mac experience. We were able to get a good debriefing in during the walk down to Old Town, were BWB had parked. Old Town is just a hop, skip and river from the Rose Quarter and at 10-ish at night a 15 minute walk over the bridge versus waiting to exit a parking garage for who knows how long or even waiting to board what were overflowing MAX train cars for a one-stop ride over the bridge. We talked about everything I discussed above and both agreed that different or not, it was still easily worth going.

The one thing that surprised us both? The show was billed as starting at 8 on the tickets, 8:15 on the Rose Quarter website and by golly, that show started just as we found our section at 8:15!

A rock band starting on time? Yeah, these guys are getting to a point where bedtime is important. But they still deliver a show worth seeing!

Going Their Own Way…

The Motion On The Ocean

As Pride month draws to a close, I feel the pressure mounting to mark complete a commitment I made to myself at the beginning of the month:

Finish up my thematically Gay drafts.

Having posts in draft status is part of blogging…at least for me. I haven’t found a great alternative for maintaining an idea pipeline for my writing. I know that my memory is probably only a slightly better option than scribbling ideas on toilet paper and storing them in the city’s waste management system.

So, I have drafts.

And they make me absolutely crazy!

I started this month with nearly 20 drafts. I like to keep the number of drafts around half that. It makes me feel like I’m both productive and in control. But put a cap on creative ideas, right?

Bad idea.

So, I allow myself latitude.

That said, since the start of June, I’ve gotten the number of drafts down to 13, including this one. It’s a memory lane type of piece about a bar that I used to go to: Ripples. So, completing it would be a double whammy achievement; crossing a draft off of the to-do list and completing my gay themed pieces during Pride month.

I was a little surprised to see that I have five gay oriented drafts in my pipeline still after publishing 10/27 days this month. The oldest is from May of ’16…I’ve told you, I put the “pro” in procrastinate.

So, shall we?

When I lived in Long Beach, CA – an important designation given so many states’ pride in the length of their oceanfront municipalities…WA, MS & CA are just the three that come readily to mind – I had two bars that I frequented: Ripples and Silver Fox. I’ve written a little about (a lot, TBH) the Silver Fox – the bar, not the bestie – since it was the first gay bar I went into as an adult. You can get a taste of those entries here and, well, here. Since my best friend is nicknamed The Silver Fox and is an unwitting star in so many of my exploits and (mis)adventures, I thought I’d give you a couple links versus making you scroll through the hashtag results. However, I’ve never really dedicated any significant time to recalling Ripples. Just a random thought here or there.

And it was such a formative piece of my coming out process. I mean, in the first place, this was back in the days when being gay was still kind of an underground experience. You came out, but frequently that was met with a grudging acceptance versus a celebration. People tolerated my sexual orientation and said things like, “I don’t care, just don’t rub my nose in it”.

So, the obviously cared.

Gay bars were places where we could let our guard down and be comfortable. I imagine that what I felt walking into a gay bar back then was similar to what a woman feels when she takes her bra off after a long day.

Just guessing.

But on top of that, it wasn’t just a bar, like the Silver Fox. It was a venue.

I was lucky enough to live across the street from it. Situated at the corner of Granada and Ocean in Belmont Shores, I had it made – across Granada, Ripples; across Ocean, the gay beach.

So, what’s this venue all about? Well, it’s been 20 years since I set foot in the place, and I started this blog post when I learned that the bar was up for sale…for something like $5 mil.

That’s the price of oceanfront commercial property in Cali these days, I guess.

But that’s the joint: Ripples, aka: the motion on the ocean. A basic bar on the main level; tables and chairs on one side, pool table on the other, his and hers-turned-his-by-circumstance bathrooms and then an enclosed patio. The upper level had another bar and then a huge parquet dance floor.

The best possible start to any week or end to any weekend was their Sunday Beer Bust, even older gays called it a Tea Dance. Pay $5 at the door, get a wristband and plastic party cup and drink all afternoon. I think the beer bust was something like four hours, maybe 2-6? Plenty of time for brunch, gym and/or the beach beforehand. But you wanted to get there early, before the line went all the way down the block…but not so early that you were too early.

In a fit of coincidence, both of my favorite bars in the LBC were owned by Johns. One was literally a Silver Fox, the other was a stocky, jocular Hispanic guy. When I met Barbie – the owner of Purr in Seattle – she reminded me of John. They both provided this space that was an extension of their generous and caring spirit.

That reinforcement of the feeling of a safe space for gays was taken a step further here – you felt like part of the family. As a matter of fact, John’s sister set up each week on the patio with a Mexican buffet dinner. Grilled (right there on the patio) chicken, refried beans, rice, salad fixings. Not a bad way to end the beer bust, right?

For all of us gays, watching our straight counterparts dating, marrying and starting a family, this weekly ritual provided us with something alien to our lifestyle: family. We certainly weren’t likely to be starting one of our own, so this situational family – chosen family or logical versus biological as Armistead Maupin puts it – provided a tether to a normal type Sunday dinner with the family.

Albeit a Sunday dinner with an admittedly debaucherous edge!

I think it was this tether to reality that afforded my generation of gays to have their Peter Pan Syndrome and not grow up without becoming full on Lost Boys in the process. Anymore, what I observe of gay men barely even resembles a Lost Boy and is careening dangerously toward Lord of the Flies type madness.

But I digress. Go figure.

Think about it, Friday and Saturday nights, you come to the bar and have some drinks with your friends, cut loose on the dance floor, shoot some pool…unwind from your week. Maybe you connect with someone and have some sexy times. Maybe you don’t, but come 2 a.m. you hit the sidewalk sale after the lights come up for a last chance at getting your rocks off.

Come Sunday afternoon, you’re back to end the weekend as a community. Delighting in sending your friends back to their 9-5 closets for another week. Not missing a chance to see who shows up with their Friday or Saturday night trick turned possible relationship.

And if you aren’t ready to call it a weekend when beer bust ends at 6, there was usually a show upstairs after. If you didn’t mind paying for drinks, well…the entertainment was always worth the price of another drink or two. At least once a month you could count on seeing The Campers, a bearded drag troupe that would play out scenes from camp movies, lip syncing the lines while hilariously acting them out. My favorite were their Baby Jane scenes.

So good.

Also, familiar. Or, fagmiliar if you’ll allow the Chrisism.

The standing room crowd would usually recite the lines along with The Campers.

One of the other faves, although less frequent, were the Del Rubio Triplets.

Edie, Millie and Elena…this was the late, late 80s and early 90s, and these sisters – born in 1921 – were in their late 60s and early 70s serving up acoustic guitar covers of Devo’s Whip It in sequin and lame short skirts and cowboy boots to a raucous crowd of buzzed and tanned beach boys.

God, it was so awesome! I think all three sisters survived into their 80s. If I recall correctly, Millie even lived to be 90. They were famous for their Christmas shows, appearances on evening talk shows and cameos in movies like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, but I’ll always remember them for their shows at Ripples.

And, while I could always stop in for a cold one after a long day at work or hard day of sunbathing across the street and rely on some friendly chat with the bartender or other transient barside resident, it’s those events like beer bust and the shows that set it apart from just being a bar for me and made it a haven.

I could go on and on about the motion on the ocean, but maybe those are stories for another time. The month is nearly over, after all…

The Motion On The Ocean

Indigo Girls

“Well, that can’t be a coincidence”, I thought as a CD title caught my eye in my local Long Beach music store. The album in question was simply titled Indigo Girls. It was on sale, so being a newly-ish minted gay, I bought the CD in a show of solidarity.

My rationale?

Cyndi Lauper talks about it in her 1983 song She Bop…

“Well, I see them every night in tight blue jeans.

On the pages of Blue Boy magazine.”

Blue Boy magazine was a glossy tribute to twink pulchritude. A gay porn magazine, in other words.

Indigo is a shade of blue.

I’ve apparently been jaded forever. But just the right amount. Maybe it’s just in my head that a gender pronoun and shade of blue equals some gay code – indeed, to hear them tell it, they went shopping through the dictionary for words that resonated…indigo struck gold for them for whatever reason – but in my music store, this CD priced at $7 resonated with me.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

I’ve owned every album.

Committed more song lyrics to memory than I thought I had the capacity for.

Lost my shit in the theater when they showed up as extras in Boys On The Side…embarrassing my friends by frantically whispering, “That’s the Indigo Girls!” in the darkened theater.

Seen them in concert in a half dozen cities on two continents..

My favorite performances being their zoo concerts. I’ve seen five zoo shows here in Portland and two more at the zoo in Seattle. The crowds at the concerts used to skew heavily lesbian, given their sexual identities. Once Lilith Fair took the music world by storm and sent female singer/songwriter types on a never before seen trajectory of success, those crowds started to straighten out.

My concert attendance started to fall off then, too. Where I’d always loved the live music experience Indigo Girls concerts provided, it was also a safe environment for me as a gay man…to flirt. Safe, because other guys there were like minded, both in bed and in musical tastes. It was as good a starting point as any for selecting a mate, right?

Never happened.

Matter of fact, the closest I got to an Indigo Girls concert love connection was attending shows for a few years with Sacha. You’d have thought that the Valentines Day show we saw at the Aladdin Theater would have put me off their concerts, but I was a super fan and after that show where Sacha and I argued through the entire thing…well, I started going mostly alone or with girlfriends.

No, what put me off was the intrusion of straight men at the shows. I’d loved the strong female vibe I encountered at their live shows. It was such a safe feeling.

A generous space.

When I looked up at one concert and saw my handful of musically like minded gay men replaced with straight guys who were canoodling through the concert until fuck time…I was done.

Until

A few years back, IG got together with a symphony.

It was crazy.

Rib and I went down to Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle and saw this show. Indigo Girls backed by the Seattle Symphony.

By “crazy”, I mean AWESOME.

Their music lends itself to the process. It’s always featured eclectic instruments, so switching to classic orchestral instruments wasn’t a huge stretch.

The Girls are storytellers, so watching their show always included an intimate glimpse into their music and personalities. My favorite story of this night was the story about the symphony performance itself.

The symphony had been practicing their set independently. The Indigo Girls, of course, had the material down. But they never practiced together until the day of the show!

The Indigo Girls roll into town – I am pretty sure this was before Amy married a girl from Seattle, so she wasn’t a randomly occurring celebrity in town yet – do a couple numbers with the orchestra and then peace out until showtime, hoping for the best.

Why is this anything important to know?

Well, Today I Learned on the Facebook that there was a symphony album coming out. Twenty-two songs, with a video of Galileo to kick it all off.

I.

Was.

Excited.

I watched the video a couple of times. It’s not their best live performance, but I can only take their word for it when they talk about the humbling experience of putting your voice in front of a giant machine like a symphony orchestra.

Viewed through that filter? This is incredible. If nothing else, it elevates the majesty of the stories their songs have always told.

From almost 1990 to almost 2020…these ladies have been and have made an enormous impact on my life. I jokingly say that at the end of my life, my relationship with my cell phone carrier will be the enduring relationship of my lifetime.

Compared to my musical relationship with Indigo Girls (they prefer no article in their band name) and Melissa Etheridge, the more accurate statement would be that the relationship with these two acts shaped the adult gay man that I became and one of the significant relationships of my life.

Interesting recipe, equal parts family, catholic school and music subculture equals…me. What an arc it’s been for us both.

And I can’t wait to hear this album!

Indigo Girls

My First Sound Check

You’d think at my age, I’d have done just about everything I ever wanted to do at least once.

Not so, my friend.  Not so…

For instance, I’d never been to a sound check for a live show before.

Sure, as a baby queer in high school, I had been in choir and drama club, watching judgmentally as the unbeloved tech folk set up their lights and sound.

Yeah, when I was in college and exploring the fraternity option, I day drank shit keg beer and blurrily watched as Otis Day and the Knights phoned in their pre-show prep at the Pike House.  Hey, it was a kegger-cum-concert.  I was more interested in figuring out if I could pass in a fraternity at KSU without getting the shit kicked out of me and disappearing sometime mid-rush week at the time than in the pre-show goings on of that band from Animal House.  Naturally, my focus was stretched as I further divided my attention by lustily considering my potential frat brothers and fellow pledges…yeah, I was gonna end up dead.

Nonetheless, I ended up seeing Otis Day scream into the mic a few times prior to the show, but it wasn’t a super complex sound system we were dealing with.  It was the backyard deck of a frat house, after all.

So, when my bestie-neighbor from Seattle called me and invited me to a show that one of her bands was doing here in town, I was in.

D-Slice and I possibly share a single liver.  Or were both cloned from the same one…they’re doing that, you know.  There’s a reason I don’t look like my brothers and sister!

As a human, she’s top notch.  As a neighbor, she’s kinda like a Julie McCoy.  I first met her when our apartment-turned-condo opened and several of us first wave residents moved in simultaneously as the housing market verged on its infamous 2008 crash…effectively stranding us all in a partially sold 146 unit building.

I would bet that there were only about 60 units occupied during those early years.  If I had a better – less muddled – memory, I could be more specific.  Alas…

Yet, this small group of us housing market castaways bonded.

What began as drinks in the community room, or the laundry room – usually bemoaning the fact that the sales office promise of a roof top deck had not yet become a reality – between a few dozen regulars evolved into progressive parties, moving from one unit to another on a host floor.  D-Slice upped this game by going private.  She resurrected a past event of hers that she called Free Drink Friday from a former residence…perhaps a college dorm, who knows?  What I do know is that the rules were pretty simple:  she starts us off with a few bottles of wine, some beer and/or whatever randomly occurring bottles of liquor she has in her unit (shut up, Diezel) and maybe some light snacks or a pizza or two.  Attendees can BYOB if they are so inclined or just show up and suckle off the provided well.  The party would go until quiet hours kicked in or the booze ran out.

Easy-peasy.

D-Slice, being a kindred spirit – key word:  spirit – was not one to let quiet hours stand in the way of a good time.  A few of us cooler neighbors would stick around and bat clean up after everyone else left.  With the booze, not the actual clean up, fuck that.

During one of these late nights, as D-Slice and I were the sole stragglers, we realized the booze-fueled brilliance of our drunken wit and wisdom deserved an audience.  Just like that, the Podcast was born.

Not the actual podcast phenomenon.

I assure you, we are not responsible for the low key craze of data-plan-eating streaming talk shows, no.  Our Podcast was pretty much just code for us hanging out, drinking and chatting.  Occasionally, we’d invite another friend or neighbor and call them a special guest.  Others, one of us would call a special session Podcast to debrief a specific situation or, more likely, shituation.

More often than not, my favorite part of our Podcast was its inevitable end.  Not because I yearned for the finish…no, it was the finale itself.  What I came to call Flooraoke.

I’m sure you can figure it out.

But at some point, we’d add in some music to the mix of our easy conversation and as the evening wore on and we became slightly worse – or better, depending on your criteria – for the booze, the focus on the conversation would wane and the attention to the music would take center stage.  Center floor, at any rate.  I’m no singer, but D-Slice has put out a few independent CDs and been a part of several bands since I’ve known her.  As gravity pulled us toward its inevitable victory, I would end up slumped in a chair while D-Slice put up more of a fight and ended up heroically sprawled on the floor in her ignominy.

Then, the magic would happen.

Some song would just spark her fire and she was zoned and in her zone, singing toward a gloriously undignified slumber.  After a few songs, I would make my own way home to bed, warmed with the already slipping away memories of the past several hours.

It is an amazing memory, these Poscast sessions.

So, hitting her show in Portland was a no-brainer.

Initially, I’d been worried about the show keeping me up past my bedtime for my early morning work alarm.  Turns out, the disclaimer that I might not stay for the whole show was unnecessary.  It was an afternoon show with the Heart Shaped Boxes.

Nonetheless, my disclaimer about leaving early had set the pre-funk ball in motion.  No need to derail that plan simply because the show was starting earlier.  In true rock star fashion, we just started drinking earlier…which is how I came to be at her sound check.  

I hopped out of my Uber on the corner of the block that the bar she was performing at was in and walked back to the door.  There, I was met by a heavy metal David Cross type guy.

But, once inside, the bar proved to be a pretty small collection of nice staff members with properly spelled tattoos.  Not  a bad place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I was introduced to the other Boxes, all of whom I knew from the Facebook, D-Slice had met them all through a rock camp for girls where they were all camp counselors.  

Ok, it’s cooler than that makes it sound.  It’s called Rain City Rock Camp, if you’re so inclined google them and maybe donate.

Other than the HSBs and the staff, the bar was empty, save for a lone young man with the long, straight hair and basic black jeans and tee metal dude dress code.  He was sitting on a table, facing the back of the bar, doing some finger work on his guitar to warm up.  I assumed he was with the opening act, and said as much to D-Slice.  She said she wasn’t sure, she hadn’t been involved in the booking, she just went where she was told to be when she was told to be there.

Not a bad gig.

It was then that she excused herself for her sound check work and the metal dude turned on his table so that he was facing me.  D-Slice said I should go say hi and buy him a beer before leaving me to sip on my own.  We both knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

I sipped and watched each band member go through the mic checks and other asundry settings as each coordinated not only how their equipment sounded but also gave feedback on how the rest of the band sounded to them…which is important, although I’d never given it a thought.  In retrospect, it probably explained a lot about some of the shittier live shows I’d been to.

Meanwhile, metal dude sat across the bar from me, giving me deadeye while mutely jamming on his tabletop perch.

Other patrons started filtering in for the show.  Prudently, I ordered another beer before it got crowded.

I was meeting other musicians that knew D-Slice from the time she’d spent collaborating with the Portland version of the girl’s rock camp.  Apparently, this show was a fundraiser for them.  

I briefly felt bad about getting my cover comped by D-Slice. It passed…I mean, really, how often do you get to say, “I’m with the band” when you’re me?

I was surprised to look across the bar and see one of my high school classmates.

I joke.

That fella belonged to one of D-Slice’s band mates, who is also in two bands. Her name is TRex, hence the mascot that travels with her.  This other band of hers, Shower Scum, did a tribute song to The Donald.  Don’t worry, I may have misused the word “tribute” since the song was called Fuck You! Needless to say, the song went over like gangbusters in Portland. 

There was lesbian couple in the audience.  Very chatty and sociable.  In true Portland fashion, they brought their toddler.  In even truer Portland fashion, one mother’s outfit matched his outfit…which was a very hipster take on Oshkosh B’gosh overalls.  

Initially, I’d judged the dykes tyke’s presence in a bar pretty harshly.  Then I remembered grade A lesbian parents were, of course, above my reproach.  My reminder came on the form of his accessories:  construction yellow ear protection.

How damned adorable is that?

I just sat there and watched him switch between toddling between his parents and bouncing on one of their hips or the other’s as I watched a couple of the acts before Heart Shaped Boxes.

The opener.

TRex’s second band.

The metal dude’s band:  featuring a chunky girl with the blue hair and an awkward drummer with the mis-matched Star Wars socks.  Both of whom were probably only in  the band because they were in love with the aforementioned long-haired rocker that turns out to be their lead singer…

Suddenly it hit me, this was a benefit for a girl’s rock camp.  

Sleep away camp for girls that like music.

It was a daytime show on a weekend.

The awkwardness of the metal dude’s deadeye stare and the googly-eyed quality of the stares he got from his band mates.

Shit.  This whole band was underage.

I ordered another beer and moved closer to the front door.

D-Slice and the rest of the HSBs did their set and it was good!  Really good.  I loved knowing the arc her performing had taken since her first solo CDs – all of which I still have.

After her set, D-Slice and I found some time to squirrel away to the sidewalk parklet seating for another beer and some undistracted conversation now that her work was done.  We caught up on current life events – hers was going better than mine – and relived some of our greatest Podcast hits.

It was too short, of course.  Her band mates were her transportation and they were anxious to get back to the airBnB for some R-n-R after the show.

But, our decade long friendship had stood the test of being apart for a couple of years and fallen right back into that easy camaraderie that made it so precious to me.

I left the bar on that high, with a side of pride at not accidentally hitting on a teenaged boy.

Plus, it was a daytime show, so I was rested for work the next day.

And what the hell happens the following day on my way home from work?  A long-hair rocker dude sits down right next to me on the MAX.  I figure this is either the universe telling me something or at least dangling something different in front of me.  Maybe telling me not to be too closed minded when declaring the dating and mating seasons of my life closed?  I mean, really, D-Slice and I are unlikely friends.  She is a rocker, sleeve tattoo and all while I’m someone you’d easily mistake for an accountant.

Alright, universe, I’m listening.

Turns out, it was the exact same metal dude from the day before and the universe was just giving me the one fingered salute or trying to get my ass thrown in jail.

But, seriously…what are the odds?

My life, I gotta tell ya.

My First Sound Check

Adam Ant

I’m old.  I forget things.

Like that I bought tickets to this February concert back in September.

It popped up on my calendar as a reminder and I was all, “Yeah, I should have bought tickets to that.”  Then I corrected myself from the plural to the singular since I recently committed to focusing on – well, anything but dating for the foreseeable future.

But something was tickling the back of my brain and a few hours later, I went into the email account I use for buying stuff just to be sure.  And, sure enough…there was a flagged purchase confirmation for Adam Ant.

Ta-da.

A few days later, there I was Uber-ing over to the Revolution Hall to meet up with Little Buddy and Vulture and their plus ones.  LB brought her daughter and Vulture brought his recently christened fiance.  There I am in all my single pride.  I arrived after they ordered, and I had left myself enough time to join them for a beer while they ate.  It was inadvertently shrewd planning on my part.  I was coming from work, so it was a tight run from the airport to home to the venue.  I think the space is nice…albeit a little tight for a restaurant attached to a concert hall.

Plus, can we please start getting away from all of this post industrial cum modern design?  Or at least start employing a little better sense of the end use of the space when we do use it?  I mean, is there no such thing as a post industrial carpet design?  This place with its polished concrete floor was noisy!  That can’t be good for the servers’ legs.

And, I know I’m getting off topic and careening toward my Early Onset Grumpiness tendencies at a reckless pace, but I only bring it up since I’m writing this after standing in line at Tilt to buy a pie on – wanna guess?  Polished concrete floor.

This follows my incredible dinner with The Silver Fox last night at Danwei Canting where we made it just in time for frigging family hour.  I actually looked across the table and said to The Fox, “This place could use a carpet.”  Of course, this was right after some kids at a corner table started screaming and startled another mother, causing her to knock over a – go figure – metal chair onto the…polished concrete floor.

Yawn.

But,I think that burst of grump will serve as a nice warm up to fully appreciate what happened upstairs while we were standing in line to get into the venue.

First of all, Little Buddy’s lovely daughter is by far the youngest person around – we’re talking by a couple of decades – including the kids taking tickets.

I’m chatting with Vulture, which according to LB, we do rather loudly and animatedly when we get together.  I hadn’t realized this, but we see each other virtually every day…an actual in-person audience with Vulture is not to be taken for granted!  Gotta make the most of it.

old-tattoosWe’re talking about tattoos.  I think I overheard someone else talking about it and I was off and running.  We discussed how they seem to be more of a body modification, like piercing, than the meaningful and thoughtful pieces of body art that were frequently still shocking to our generation…but they weren’t as overt, either.  I think the word I used was discreet.

I get on about how I’m easing my way into the acceptability of tattoos on the neck, above the collar line.  I had this really nice guy that worked for me who showed up for his interview in a dress shirt and tie, just peeking over the edge of his collar was a tattoo that looked like it had been scrawled on in prison.  Not the best first impression for a judgy old bastard like me.  He interviewed really well.  I had asked him about the tattoo, and explained that tattoos weren’t frowned upon, but in order to maintain as credible an environment as possible – since we were selling high end espresso machines – would he accept wearing his collar closed.  He said he would…and then told me that his tattoo was his daughter’s name.

His daughter who had passed away as a toddler.

So, y’know…I felt like a real jerk.

I still went back and forth about whether he should get the job.  Ultimately, he was the best qualified of our candidates, so I gave him the position.

He disappeared a few months later.

pikachu-tattooAdd that experience to what I went through with The Broken Poet with his Pikachu neck tat and I think I come by my reluctance to accept overtly placed tattoos honestly.  There’s a lil example of what a Pikachu looks like, in case you need a refresher…no pics of the BP, sorry.  Although, the guy in that pic is a tasty lil nugget, eh?  I wonder what’s wrong with him.  By the way, can anyone tell me why people lose their shit over this Pikachu fella?  We’re talking about people who should be looking forward to being adults and being taken seriously…yet they won’t let go of this childish imagery.  I think it’s self sabotage, but I’d probably just bore you talking about that.  Plus, I think I’m already pretty far off topic.

Back to Vulture and I, chatting away about how out of control tattoos have gotten.  They seem to be less meaningful these days and more of a way of compensating for…I have no idea what.  I realize that I’m probably being listened to by people who are exceedingly tattooed as we stand there in line…nevertheless, I persist, moving into how when taken in the scheme of facial tattoos the neck tattoos look almost modest.

Almost.

But nothing says “Bad Judgement” like a facial tattoo, I speculate as the line starts moving forward.

We get inside and find seats.  Vulture and I somehow separated.  Little Buddy tries to steer around the leaning over people to shout at each other above the music mess that could become, but we wouldn’t have it.  There’s just enough time to get a beer at the upstairs bar before the Opening Act comes on.  The crowd isn’t too densely populated.  There’s a few seats available and the mosh area in front just has a few stragglers standing around.  It’s an all girl band, which prompts me to take a moment to text D-Slice up in Seattle, since she is in an all girl Nirvana cover band.  They are a little hard for my taste, but it’s a good opening band, getting the crowd energized with songs like the one that I can only assume from the aggressive hand gestures is called “Fuck You”.  The guitarist looked like a wuzzle (copyright:  LB) of Sia and Myrtle Snow from American Horror Story:  Coven.  Her hair was probably 18 inches long, curly and radiating outward from her head.  It was pretty amazing to watch.

adam-antThe Opening Act finishes up and his Adam Ant-ness takes the stage.

Two words:  The Hat.

Here’s, also, a man that likes his tattoos.

He’s not been one to shy away from theatrical make up, either.

It all adds up to quite a stage presence.  Particularly for a man in his early 60s.  I typically can’t hear much of the words being sung at concerts, unless someone actually paid attention to what was going on at the sound check.  I get the gist of the songs being played, but mostly I just hear bass and percussion.

Still, I couldn’t not watch him perform.  He’s not a great dancer, his big move was stepping up onto a speaker at the front of the stage and bringing the other leg up into an exaggerated step class maneuver.  I mean, that’s nowhere near the jaw dropping bad moves you’re gonna see at a PAt Benetar concert, so he has that going for him.  It was just a magnetism about him that held my attention.

adam-ant-2Well, that and LB’s comment about how much he looked like the lovechild of Capt Jack Sparrow and – god, who did she say? – Edward Scissorhands, maybe?  Maybe it was just Johnny Depp.  But she was right.

The band had two drummers.  Actually, the stage was set up symmetrically with two drum kits at the back and then two guitarists flanking Adam And.  The band members were a melange of humanity and styles.  I had heard talk that one of the guitarists had died recently and that this might have been the replacement guy’s first show.

patsy-stone
Patsy Stone from AbFab

 

On one side of the stage, you had Patsy Stone absolutely killing it fabulously on drums and Keith Urban on guitar trying too hard to look like a rock and roll guy.  On the other side of the stage you had the other guitarist…the replacement guy, who my Little Buddy took quite a liking to.  I couldn’t say I could blame her.  He was nice and sexy.  Your parents’ basic rock and roll boyfriend nightmare.  The fourth member of the band?  I honestly have no recollection of him.  It’s weird.  I totally remember how the stage right side of the situation was like caricatures of famous people playing instruments and the other side was much more normal looking…but the drummer is completely lost to my memory.  Obviously, I’m distracted thinking about the sexy guitar guy…oops.

Now, here’s the best part.  At least in my mind:

If you look closely at the picture of Adam above, you can just make out under his right eye, Adam Ant’s facial tats.

Because:  FML and my life is perpetually spent trying to answer the question “What could possibly go wrong?” in living color.

Adam Ant

Music:  LIVE

This isn’t a bad way to end the “summer” concert season.

I’m sitting at my local watering hole after watching the third stern talking to that Hillary has given The Donald this election cycle and – somehow – they have managed to go from debate viewing to live music in about 20 minutes.

I’m ok with this.

That 20 minutes was just about long enough for me to reflect on a pretty light series of concerts this past summer.  Not dating anyone can tend to stall one’s live music ventures.

Or misadventures in the case of my summer of ’16.

Here’s the rundown:

Temper Trap was good…aside from that basic white girl throwing up three feet from me.  I hadn’t been to the Wonder Ballroom since seeing Feist there in what could have been the last century.  An old grade school pal and too infrequent coffee buddy of mine put the place back on my radar earlier this year when describing the experience of taking her daughter and her friends out to an all ages show there.  Badaboom-badabing, I’m cruising their calendar and come across this Aussie band that I’ve only ever kind of heard of.  I knew one song.

I bought two tickets.

I wasn’t sure if I was being optimistic about finding a date or if I was secretly preparing to indulge my grumpy old man-ness by insulating myself from people who were lacking about three decades too little life experience to safely get too close to me.

It occurred to me later that I sure hoped it was the former because in a General Admission venue, protecting two “seats” could prove challenging.

It was the latter.  A fact that really stung once the poster child for birth control emptied her stomach next to me.

I think by the time I left the Echo and the Bunnymen concert at the Crystal Ballroom a couple of months later I was beginning to realize that it wasn’t the near-unknown or nostalgic bands from my childhood (who refused to play their classics instead of stuff released within the last 10 years, incidentally) that really had me feeling I had squandered the summer’s live music opportunities.  It was the fact that I had squandered the summer’s live music opportunities.  Usually, I can be counted on to randomly pop into a show that I happen by.  And you just know how good that show is gonna be if you can buy a ticket at the box office while the opening band is still playing.  But sometimes you find a real sleeper that you enjoy.

That hadn’t happened this summer.

Mostly because I was still grinding my nose at the Zeeb and that had me working Friday and Saturday nights until 11:00 or later.

And I was insisting to myself that that was ok.

No.

But in addition to missing random opportunities, I had also missed some of my favorite bands that had rolled through town this summer in pretty rare appearances.

Tears for Fears.

Morrissey.  (Sorry, LB…)

Cashed Out, a Johnny Cash cover band.

Willie Nelson.  Yes, I would have loved seeing that old codger!

Countless opportunities to see Life During Wartime, a Talking Heads cover band.

Pink Martini.

So, I’m not sure what my mindset was when I walked into Echo…but I know I had an agenda:  Hear them perform my favorites.  End of agenda.  Ironically, I had tried to get tickets earlier and couldn’t and then the week before the concert there were magically tickets available.

I should have taken notice of that little harbinger.

I get there late, and the place is deserted.  The Little Buddy and her 2.0 are at the front between the stage and the bar.  How can this be bad?

Except.

There’s about a football field worth of empty space between the doors and the minimal crowd.

But the opening band hadn’t begun yet, so maybe people were making a legit date night of it and were having dinner beforehand.  And then the opening band began.

I really – sincerely – wish that they hadn’t done that.

I try not to criticize people who do things that I absolutely cannot do.  Performing live is one of those things I cannot do.  This is not to be confused with people who sing Karaoke.  I openly enjoy their shortcomings.  Because I could do the same and wisely choose not to.  You’re welcome.

I will say that this band – Coastal Fish or something – played every song like their plane was going down and they just wanted one more jam together before the end.  But they didn’t seem to be playing together.  They were all jamming and none of their efforts really seemed to be in concert with one another’s.

So, it was kind of painful.

Almost as painful as the VIP section that was directly in front of where we were standing.

And had two people in it.

No, wait…another couple just barely showed up during the opening band’s set.  While the Coastal Fish ignored one another on stage, I got to watch these two couples do the same in the VIP area.  They literally stood about as far from one another as possible.  It was awkward.

But then Echo et al took the stage and…nothing up there really changed.

Ian McCulloch pretty much phoned it in.  I think he really just showed up for the barstool full of cocktails at the back of the stage, which he called a Crystal Ballroom minion up to refill during their set.  He was openly smoking a cigarette on stage.  Once they finally got around to performing Bedbugs and Ballyhoo, I got on my Dancing Horse and left early.

I heard the next day that LB and 2.0 had pretty much done the same.  I had lingered in Lola’s – which is one floor below the main stage – and watched another song on screen, so they may have actually paroled themselves before I left the building.

So, that was it.  2016 was looking like a live music let down for old Xtopher.

Until last night.

There I was, deflecting The Silver Fox’s invitation to The Big Legrowlski to watch the debate.  I wasn’t sure they were airing this one, since I was sure that they had live music scheduled to start at 8:00.  His Foxiness reminded me that the debate only lasted 90 minutes, but I was not sold on the reality of the transition from politics to live music within such a tight window.

Now, I know they can do it.

Plus, he had – in classic Fox style – double booked himself and was going to be leaving early to watch a Portland Timbers match at their stadium up the road.  But after a few grumpy texts and a couple of hours to cool off, his Fox-timism won me over and I joined him there just before the debate.

Is it frightening or funny when the debates are more outrageously bizarre than the Saturday Night Live sketches about them?

I’m going with scary…

But, now it was showtime!

Since I had been abandoned by The Fox, I decided to stick around and see what my little taphouse turned bro-bar could do with live music.img_1533

My advice?  If you have a chance to see John Hull live, do it.  If you don’t, go to his SoundCloud and give him a listen.  Totally worth it.  If you like the same type of music I do.

Which is the best music, after all.

After his first couple of songs, I had a run-in with my own trademark awkwardness when he introduced himself and…oops, I mistook “Any John Hull fans out there?” for “Any John Holmes fans out there?”, which was quite the non-sequitur and caused my head to snap up from my phone in a not-too-subtle manner.

I think he noticed.  I was sitting at the front table.

After his first couple of songs – his own – he performed a couple of covers:

Jason Mraz with some Bob Marley mixed in to incredible effect.  Gotta love an acoustic mash up.

Sting – Roxanne.  Which he really made his own.

For some reason, he decided to ask the crowd if there were any requests.  All three of us.  But he wasn’t talking to his girlfriend, who was sitting at the other front row table.  He was talking to the woman in the back of the room, who occasionally had the bar manager and owner sitting with her.  I had been invited to that table, but passed, because E.O.G. and also, a friend of the bar from the bakery across the street had dropped off a box of their day olds and I was busy resisting that temptation.  I think we all know how that would work out for me if I was within arm’s reach of those poor pastries.  Anyway, Back Of The Room gal choked on coming up with a request, so I suggested some Tracy Chapman.

One great acoustic performer covering another seemed like a legit request.

He didn’t know any titles off the top of his head but gamely told me to suggest one and maybe he could make his way through it.  This is where he met my trademark awkwardness when I inadvertently insulted him by requesting…Give Me One Reason To Stay Here.

Oops.

I think he noticed.

 

Instead he played a Death Cab for Cutie song – I Will Follow You Into The Dark – and proceeded to give us PNW slobs an education in Death Cab trivia.  Ok, one thing a San Diego boy might want to remember is that while, yes…Death Cab is also “kind of” known as Postal Service, they are from Bellingham, WA and we probably already knew that both bands shared a frontman but were in fact different bands.

But the cover was still solid…what this guy might have lacked in trivia accuracy, he more than made up for in just being a guy you want to sit and listen to for a beer or two.

Abdicating music selection to the crowd for another attempt at a random pick, he got Sweet Caroline as a cover suggestion…which I thought was pretty mean.  Not everyone can trot out a Neil Diamond.  Not even the cover bands that I’ve seen can deliver consistently.  Damn if this guy didn’t end up bringing it home.  Even getting the crowd – which had grown to double digits at this point – involved in the sing a long component of the performance.

I know that won’t be my last live show of 2016 – not with the holidays coming up! – but not a bad way to transition out of summer shows and get me excited for what the rest of fall and winter have to offer.

Then I can gear up for 2017 and hopefully put a little intent behind my music experiences and get my live show mojo back!

I feel tempted to go back and capitalize all of the seasons like good grammar dictates they should be, but then I’d be proof reading my work and that would degrade my stream of consciousness style…but I just want you all to know that I thought about it.

Love and pizza, yo!

Music:  LIVE