And the anticipation is killing me. Figuratively, of course. I can’t wait to see how the shoes drop, though.
Here’s the deal, you know me and my winning free concert tickets, right? Well, if you don’t – trust me, it’s a thing. My thing. Just take a peek at my “Live Music” hashtag.
So, anyway, the local station I listen to – KINK – is having a ticket giveaway that they’ve dubbed KINKapalooza. Every week for three weeks, they’re giving away a pair of tickets to 10 different shows this summer. And there’s ~40 to choose from, so you can really tailor it to your (my, dammit…just putting that out there) schedule and taste.
The first winner (me, obviously) will be announced this morning. And yesterday afternoon I was going to their website to enter my keyword and saw this
I’ve been watching this show for months. And by watching I mean entering to win tickets – trust me, I’ve entered my ass off for tickets. Crowded House was a band that came into popularity my first year of college, so it was cool to discover a new band as a newly minted independent adult. Mind you, I was familiar with the brothers Finn’s first band, Split Enz, but only tangentially. When I heard Crowded House on the radio, they were both familiar and at the same time new and interesting. I bebopped my ass right down the the record store and bought their album on cassette.
Later, I bought it again on CD.
So, there I was…wondering if I should just wait out my original entries and the Monday or Tuesday email telling me I’d won Crowded House tickets or enter this Last Chance contest to possibly boost my chances of getting there.
Or as a third option, just wait to find out that I’d won the KINKapalooza tickets and make them one of my options. Right? Options, I had.
And then…it all came crashing down.
The realization of it all.
Thursday is May 4th, which, as a geek I celebrate as Star Wars Day. If it needs to be said, I’m not kidding.
Here’s where it gets messy in case you didn’t pay close attention to the Crowded House pic above, the show is Thursday, May 4th.
Because I come by my nerdiness honestly, though, I’d also accepted a sibling invite to go on a May the Fourth Be With You pub crawl with my good brother, my sister and her hubster.
Now, obviously, I’m going to that fucking pub crawl, right?!? My sibs trump free concert tix. Even for such a formative – you thought I’d say seminal, dincha? – band for my nascent (at the time) musical tastes.
But just watch me win direct tickets. It’ll be a real Sofie’s Choice, but I’ve already thought it out and decided the sibs are the no-brainer choice.
But since the pub crawl ends at 8 and concerts always start late, I’ve got to go look up plane tickets from Bend to Portland on the 4th. Maybe I can get one with a Luke Skywalker flight attendant.
I feel like my most recent posts could have seemed complain-y. I think folks who know me or at least get me understand I’m a verbal processor, to which this exercise contributes.
Not to mention it spares my friends a lot of one-sided ranting about nothing.
People who know me will also understand that I notice patterns. Not in a full Rain Man card counting type of way. it’s more of an I did well on those standardized tests in school we used to have to take when graduating and going to a good school was a parent’s dream for their kid. Now, I think parents are happy if their kids finish their school career with a pulse, but that’s another blog.
So, anyway, when I notice things, I like to talk them out. Especially when it’s something inherently annoying I notice someone doing. And then someone else. And someone else.
Nonetheless, I felt it was time to show a little less attitude in a post and a little more gratitude.
Or…maybe I could do both!
If you’ve read this blog over the past year, you’ll be happy to know that the 2022 streak of free live music has carried over into 2023. It’s actually expanded slightly.
2022 actually ended with a show I was excited to see – Modest Mouse – ending up being really awful. It’s so much of a disappointing memory, I was ready to go back to not bothering with live shows.
Then I remembered that I’d won tickets last November for a show in March of this year and felt really conflicted about not using them. On the one hand, it was someone I’d never heard of, Unknown Mortal Orchestra. On the other, I’d seen some free shows for bands and acts last year I’d never heard of that turned out to be great experiences: Tigirlily Gold and Noah Kahan to name two who have gone on to have quite a year.
Between Modest Mouse and UMO, there was a lot of gratis ground to cover! From kicking off the year with a free Literary Arts lecture as a stand in for a traveling friend, to The Lone Bellow (amazing), Daniel Seavey (left because he was an hour late), Vance Joy (insanely good, really wished he’d played more than 3 songs!), Inhaler (I was offered ear plugs, these guys absolutely ripped it up) and then bookending my free live music with a private screening of the new Matt/Ben movie Air, which was just a lot of fun for the hometown connection.
But my favorite show of the year – I’m going to say “so far” – was The Dandy Warhols.
A) Because they are also a local Portland success story. B) They were doing something unique, playing with the Oregon Symphony. I’d seen other acts I love do this, but never an alt/punk act. It doesn’t lend itself to orchestra accompaniment as well as some of the adult contemporary or singer/songwriter acts I’ve seen do this, but the more die hard fans didn’t seem to mind some of the more dissonant moments of the show that I didn’t care for. C) Zia McCabe had a Chris-near-miss a while back.
And when they performed what is arguably their biggest hit, they absolutely killed it. Old people were dancing in the aisles – and it was particularly dangerous because these are sloped theater aisles!
Sidebar: a song by one of the last acts I saw at the KINK Live Performance Lounge just came on the radio – Inhaler.
If he looks familiar, it’s because his dad is kind of famous, too…
If you closed your eyes, you’d have sworn Bono was right there in the room. I’m sure he doesn’t love that comparison, but it thrilled me. I hadn’t seen U2 perform in decades and never in an intimate setting like this, obviously.
But back to the story. My favorite thing a bout seeing The Dandy Warhols was my arrival.
I actually won the tix – don’t worry, I went alone even though I won a pair – while I was driving around one night and one of the DJs, Gustav, did a call in interview with Zia about the show. Afterward, he pulled the whole, “If you want to see the show, gimme a call” thing, so I did. And the son of a gun picked up!
So my tickets were at Will Call. I go up, they’ll the guy my name and he hands me my envelope – and then says, “Hold on a second, there’s another one!”
I thought it weird that they would put the tickets in separate envelopes, but whatever. I’m opening my envelope as I head to the GA stairs – because a friend of mine told me free tickets are always in the nosebleeds and I believed it – and there’s two tickets in the envelope. And they aren’t nosebleeds…they are Orchestra! Score!
I open the second envelope once I get to my seat, curious about why there were two envelopes with my name at Will Call. My guess is that it was just a duplicate. But the tickets are different seats. Also Orchestra, but a few rows closer to the stage. I’m sitting in U and I think the other pair was on the other side of the venue in row R. I muse that I could move at intermission and get an offset stereo experience.
Then my neurotic ass chooses to feel guilty that Gustav had put my name on someone else’s tickets and they were gonna be left high and dry at the door. This is also when the orchestra starts walking out into the stage.
I’m conflicted. I’m also wondering if someone else would arrive later than I to an event like this – most of the shows I win tickets to are at General Admission venues with no seats, so I just go at showtime and miss the standing around alone part of the show. Then I notice something different about this pattern of tickets for me:
Do you see it?
My tickets for the seat I was in said $0 – truly comp tickets. The second set cost $49 apiece. My neurotic ass kicks into high gear, worrying that I derailed someone’s date night. Surely someone wouldn’t arrive later than I do to an event on a date!
That all comes to a screeching halt when I realize that maybe there’s more than one me in Portland.
It can’t be, I think. Last time I checked, there was only three men in the entire country. Me, Chicago me and Tennessee Me. Or was it Kentucky? Doesn’t make much of a difference at that particular point…it’s splitting a fine hair.
Mind you, this was back in the days of MySpace that I was looking up myselfs.
Clearly, it was time to look into this further.
LinkedIn found another me right here in Portland –
Also, this guy in Oregon City, courtesy of The Knot –
So in a moment (and 20 years, give or take) I’d gone from being one third of the mes in the country to being one third of the mes in my hometown!
I felt about as unique as a Pitt in Neosho, MO. And since one of these guys sounded pretty well compensated from his LinkedIn profile and the other I learned about from a wedding registry site, I felt a lot like the lesser Pitts in Missouri – less successful at life.
Suddenly I was less concerned about possibly disrupting someone else’s date night. I kid. I was still worrying about that. At intermission I tried to see if those other seats were occupied, because I know people get email receipts and theaters can reprint tickets – and they weren’t. Maybe they’d gone to the bar.
I’ll keep on keeping my eye out, too. I’d hate to be the last of Me to find out this was a Highlander situation…
Don’t make it dirty. I know that’s hard if you’re at all fagmiliar with my shenanigans, so I don’t blame you.
Maybe I should title this Bookends? Nope. That doesn’t work either.
And really, this turns out to be a surprise triple-header, anyway – if we carried the analogy through to the end. Does that ever happen in sports? I don’t know anything about it, really. I went to a double-header baseball game last summer, but that was just for my dad…and after a couple innings, meh.
Boys in stretchy tight pants only go so far as far as my attention is concerned. It’s like, how many times do you want to consecutively have the same thought as Bill Murray in Caddyshack?
Wow. I’ve wandered rather far afield. Shocker.
What was I saying?
Oh, yes. The double-header.
A couple months ago, my local radio station got a new DJ – Iris. She does the 8-midnight. At 9 pm she does a new music feature where listeners are encouraged to give it a thumbs up or down vote and maybe you’ll win a pair of concert tix for your effort. This particular night she was giving away Barns Courtney tickets at the Wonder Ballroom.
While I was there, I decided to enter my name into the guest list drawing for the band’s appearance in the station’s Live Music Lounge, figuring my chances of being one out of ~100 winners was better than the one out of one winners for the show at the Wonder.
Remember, this is all happening against a backdrop of the country losing its mind over a Powerbottomball jackpot that built to $2.04B, so odds and chances were on my mind.
Well, a day or two later, I get an email from the station.
That’s right. I was the one of one winner!
And if the title hasn’t clicked into place yet, a couple days later I got the email telling me I was on the list for the lunchtime show in the Live Music Lounge, too!
Well, the on-air talent that hosts the events in the LML usually warm the crowd up with a little trivia, prizes are…concert tickets.
I wasn’t particularly interested in the first couple bands because I don’t really know them. The Barns Courtney show was enough adventure in expanding my musical palate since I couldn’t name a song of his off the top of my head. I always like them when I hear one, but it’s just not in heavy rotation. Musically, I’d put him somewhere between Cage the Elephant and The Heavy.
The third question offered tickets to Arcade Fire, which is a band I’d love to see…but it’s in Shittatle. But the fourth question offered an opportunity to stay home and see a great hometown band: Modest Mouse. So up went the hand, and – thanks to my knowledge of arcane news from New Mexico circa 1947 – I won.
The answer was a weather balloon incident, by the way.
Turns out, they would have also accepted alien crash-landing, but c’mon.
Then it was showtime.
These guys took the stage and I found out that they don’t fuck around.
Barns Courtney came out last wearing all off-white, down to him platform boots. Even the sunglasses, long beads and scarf he accessorized with were off-white. Only the (hopefully faux) fur betrays the color scheme – but it really brought the outfit together.
This guy definitely dressed like a rockstar. And his mouth looks like proof that somewhere Steven Tyler’s or Mick Jagger’s blood line has mixed with Carly Simon’s.
This is a small venue. Smaller than small. Barns Courtney filled the space with his persona.
Physically, the stage barely held the four of them and their drum kit and took up an entire wall of the room. In Barns Courtney, apparently if you don’t play drums you’re required to play guitar – so add three of those to the mix.
Seriously, this is at least 20% of the space –
This band is everything you want from a rock band. Literally, sex (look at them), drugs (you had to hear the interview to understand) and rock-and-roll (obvs).
Here’s a dump of the other pics I snapped during the show.
I have to say, this five-song set left me both sated and ready to finish out my work day and eager to see what they could do in a full venue. As showtime drew nearer, I debated not going to the show. I had a friend lined up to go, but they’d backed out – no doubt for a chance to get dicked down if their current track record is any indication. Indickation?
There was another friend who’d accepted an invitation I hadn’t extended who I knew was disappointed to not be going, but I just opted to go alone. I’ve been in a weird space lately anyway, so being in a crowd was likely going to overwhelm my tolerance for people without adding in the feelings and needs of someone I know.
I forced myself out of the house. First the the local watering hole for a pre-show drink. I shocked everyone there by closing out when my beer arrived, which only made me want to stay. But I’d had my motivator-slash-reward, so across the water I went, entering the venue about 815 for the 830 show.
An opening band. Who knew? I was not expecting that. I honestly didn’t think Barns Courtney was big enough to warrant an opener. So that was my Today I Learned moment.
They were a foursome of kids from Oakland. I mean kids – I swear they weren’t old enough to drink, even though I also swear I saw one of them tipping back a beer as they broke down the stage after their set. He was also doing it while carrying the pad from under his drum kit under one arm and the stool he’d been seated on, which had a water bottle balanced on it.
That right there is a dexterity that barely outlasts one’s teen years: first you’re all gangly and uncoordinated as you recover from your puberty growth spurt, then you’re running around doing impossible feats that lead to the words “Hey, watch this!” escaping your mouth and then you’re dead. Either because your last words were “Hey, watch this!” or you hit 30 and life is figuratively over.
Anyway, these kids were surprisingly good for an opener. Kinda a one-key sound, but the drummer and guitar players put on a show to offset the lead singer’s narrow range. I’m not complaining, that one-key was reminiscent of some Deathcab/Postal Service songs.
Nothing to complain about there.
But the highlight of their stage presence – and further indictment proof of their youth was the statement “Thanks to Uncle Kevin for letting us stay at his place tonight”. These kids aren’t even old enough to rent a hotel room. Haha. Ha.
Then the headliners room the stage.
Well, first their stagehand spent 40 minutes dicking around with equipment, making sure everything was just so. Their name – intentionally keeping pronouns neutral for them, dressed masculine-ish, but if I learned anything from Shakira, it’s that hips don’t lie – is Sexy Patrick. I’d been introduced to them at the afternoon show when they brought out a guitar for Barns Courtney and picked up their discarded sunglasses from the stage floor and got a load of what I hope was good natured teasing. Sexy Patrick demurred the attention, but it’s hard to know why. The nice thing is that you got some insight into the process behind putting a show on. Maybe I shouldn’t refer to it as dicking around, but I was getting a little antsy as the venue filled up with people who apparently knew there was an opening act. I had chosen my spot intentionally.
I think it’s there so people don’t accidentally get pushed down the stairs right there. Maybe it’s there to provide grumpy old men like me a place to stand alone amongst strangers – without being too amongst. Who knows?
For the second time that day, I watched Barns Courtney take the stage for a show. Well, the band took the stage. Drummer and the two guitar players proceeded onto the stage and settled in. As soon as they beat out the first couple of notes, Barns Courtney exploded onto the stage. Seriously, from behind a curtain at the back of the stage, he leapt in a seemingly blind fashion onto the stage.
“How does he do that without falling?!?” – Me
It’s not accurate to say that this was the least dangerous thing he or the band did all night, but my curiosity for how or what they could do with a full-sized stage was definitely answered over the next 60-plus minutes.
And I’ll tell you now that my camera skills are not fast enough to catch the antics. As if the quality of my photography didn’t make that obvious. I did manage to catch one of the guitar players on top of a speaker, though.
It doesn’t come through as well as when they were both on speakers at opposite ends of the stage. Or when Barns Courtney stood on the drum kit. Stood. This was a sustained position, not a hop up and get pulled back down by gravity moment. He maintained position until he was done with his musical moment and then leapt back to the stage.
In platform boots.
Pretty amazing showmanship from these fellas.
They’ve got the talent and presence to have a long career together – like the potential father of the lips bands. But who knows what the future holds? I don’t see 20-something musicians (or any Gen Z-er) having the discipline to maintain a lifelong relationship of any kind, even if it involves fame and fortune. But I’ll definitely remember these shows for a good long time.
I’d had a good enough time, and even though I’d gotten Doris Day parking – I was ready to go. I’d heard every song I thought I knew, so I started heading for the back when what felt like the final song began. I don’t know if they did an encore or not – but I had to stop in spite of my grumpy old self before I hit the doors just to appreciate how this guy whipped his audience up.
I don’t see how this larger than life persona could be brought to you by anything but exactly the right amount of cocaine – but I’m glad o got to witness it.
Two weeks until Modest Mouse – with a potential for a short set by Noah Kahan next week in the Live Music Lounge. I’m eager to see how this year of mostly free entertainment wraps up!!
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.
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!
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).
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.
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 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.
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…
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!
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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…
“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.
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?
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.
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 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.