Wednesday, August 30, 2006

YES! Bichlbaum & Bonanno take on Housing & Urban Development

These guys
are great! Check out the Reuters story, it's a riot. I'd say it was about time the Yes Men took on a federal agency. Who better to send up the injustice that's come to characterize the rebuilding of New Orleans?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Mmmm... Crow...

Turns out that the music reviewer I so mercilessly flamed in that last post was actually quoting the opinion of another reviewer with regard to the Jolenes. So she doesn't owe me a beer after all. My apologies to you, anonymous WW reviewer! I was a fool to doubt you.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Live Music Review No. 3/The Upsidedown???

Terrible name for a band! I mean really, why not call yourselves the Underneath? Or the Insideout? Or the We'reupstairs? But I'll get to that later.

This show, at the Wonder Ballroom (great venue, nice big cavernous room, decent acoustics, three bars), was put on by the folks at Pyramid Brewing in Seattle. It was a benefit of sorts. Bring 2 cans of food, pay six bucks, feed the hungry, drink good beer, see some bands. Good formula, as far as I'm concerned. I grew up in a middle-class household, and while I wouldn't necessarily call myself middle-class at this point in my life (how many of you can?), I'm doing all right. I feed myself, I pay the rent. I really have nothing to complain about. And if my government won't use my tax dollars to help the less fortunate, well, I'm glad to help somebody who's down on his or her luck, especially if it means I get to see some local musicians flaunting their chops.

Anyway, I came to this show to see a band called Blitzen Trapper, who are great. One of the best bands in Portland, as of this writing. I've been hassling everyone I know lately to come see this band. They're that good. So I got to the Wonder, right at the same time as my friend Jon the architect. We went inside, Jon bought the first round, and we settled in to see some music.

This was at around 9:30, and Point Juncture, Washington were about halfway through their set. Now for those of you outside of the general Pacific Northwest region, there is no "Point Juncture, Washington." At least not so far as I know. It's not a town. It's a band. And a good one at that. I hadn't seen these guys, but I'd heard a fair bit about them, and everything I'd heard led me to believe that their music was etherial, mellow, dreamy pop. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were so much more than that. They were etherial, and mellow, and dreamy. They were also noisy. Brash. Anthemic. I'd been prepared to be impressed. I didn't know I'd be wowed. But wowed I was.

I was sure the next band would be Blitzen Trapper.

The next band was the Jolenes. Now, according to the Willamette Week, and in paricular, a reviewer whose opinion I usually trust, the Jolenes are "like the Donnas, but better." They were not like the Donnas. And they were most certainly not better than the Donnas. They were...searching for the right word here...awful. Jon the architect will back me up on this. They were able to play their instruments. They were well-choreographed. They had a guy who did nothing but play tambourine (he was probably the most talented member of the band). But other than that, they were, at best, uninspired. Wooden is probably the right word. They looked bored, like they'd rather be picking up an extra shift at Starbucks. I'm sure they're wonderful people, but as a band they were a waste of everybody's time. That Willamette Week reviewer owes me a beer simply for the fact that I was in the same room as that band. And I've told her so. They were that bad.

I was sure the next band would be Blitzen Trapper.

The next band was the Upsidedown. A terrible name, as mentioned above. But names only tell you so much (I was in a very good garage band in high school called "The Unknown." Show me a worse name than that. We later changed it to the much better "The Young and the Useless"). What their name doesn't tell you is that these guys are the best Portland band I've seen in ages. They came out onto the stage, like they fuckin' OWNED it, six of them, dressed all in white, like The Polyphonic Spree minus the robes, french horns, and choral section, and subjected the crowd to a mericless three-guitar-attack that would put, um... uh... well, I can't really think of a band with three guitar players right here on the spot, but let's just say, for the sake of argument, Canadian rock gods April Wine. They would put April Wine to shame! And on top of that, they had a viola player! No sissy-ass violin for these guys, a motherfuckin' viola! If you live in Portland, you should check out the Upsidedown. And if you don't live in Portland, you should STILL check out the Upsidedown! They're that good.

And that was it. The show was over. I'd missed Blitzen Trapper all together! They went on before I even got there! I can understand how the Upsidedown could edge them out for the headlining spot, but the fact that these guys went on before the friggin' Jolenes is, to me, simply astounding. Well, go figure. Guess I'll just have to catch 'em next time around.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I've trained my dog to clean up the yard

I don't actually have a photo of him cleaning up the yard, so this bathtub shot will have to do. Anyway, Copilot and I have a new routine. When I take him out back to play fetch, he's required to bring a stick (the yard is, or should I say was, littered with sticks) before I'll throw his tennis-ball-with-a-raccoon-tail-attached for him. I'm very proud of this. I'd like to think that it puts me in B.F. Skinner territory, but I'd probably be overestimating my positive reinforcement skills.

I do have to say, though, the yard is looking better these days.

I'd never worked in a building actively under a bomb scare...

...until now!

I got to work yesterday a little after six, to find that the road in front of the hospital was blocked off and there were police cars everywhere. On the way in, I overheard somebody saying something about a bomb threat. So after settling in, I decided to head to the 10th floor conference room, which overlooks that section of road (the ER enterance is at street level, on what is not the first but rather the eighth floor. OHSU, for those of you outside of the Portland area, is built on a series of steep hills and ravines, and much of what is at street level is considered to be either the eighth or ninth floor) to have a look. Pretty quickly, I realized that the action was centered on a car (supposedly containing a "suspicious package") in front of the ER enterance, two floors down, directly below me, which I decided was a bad place to be standing in the event of an explosion (thank you, survival instinct!), so back to work I went, and that was pretty much the end of it.

The police detonated a small charge next to the car, which did not explode, and cleaned everything up in time for my patients to get to the clinic. Just when I was beginning to think I might get the night off due to terrorism...

Never a dull moment in the health care field!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sleater-Kinney's Last Hurrah

Well, it's a week after the fact, but I think Sleater-Kinney's "final show" (I don't believe for a second that they won't re-unite for a reunion tour, or perhaps the odd benefit show, at some point in the future) warrants at least a brief post.

The show was the second of two nights at the Crystal Ballroom. I'm told it sold out in less than ten minutes (I got my tickets on Craigslist; thank you Melena P!). A local band called the Thermals opened, which was a pleasant suprise, as I've been meaning to get out and see this band for a while. I wasn't blown away, but there were some pretty impressive moments.

Next up was Eddie Vedder, who kept it to just a couple of songs. The first was a version of Phil Ochs' Here's to the State of Mississippi, modified lyrically to reflect our current state of affairs. The second was a ukelele number with Janet Weiss joining in (on vocals, not drums).

And then the ladies went on. They opened with The Fox (I had a feeling that would be the case) and continued for a good hour and a half. They leaned pretty heavily on material from the last couple records during the set, but in their two encores they broke out some older stuff, notably (for me, anyway) Milkshake & Honey. All told, they just absolutely tore the place apart for a little over two hours, and went out on a good note. Great show, and of course a bittersweet moment in Rock & Roll history.

Janeane had a good time, too.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tha Birth of Tha Blog/A Birthday Tale

Today is (was, actually, as it's after midnight) my 35th birthday. I feel good about that. Really.

Got a call from my folks. One from my aunt Gwyn, as well. Couple of friends called to wish me the best. But it's a Thursday, not much of a night for celebrating. For most folks, it's a school night. Of course, I have a weird schedule, and Thursday night for me is analogous to Saturday morning for most people. Except that it's not morning. Well, somewhere it's morning. East Timor? Vanuatu? Anyway, that's beside the point. Not much was going on.

So around 8 :00 pm, feeling a little stir crazy, I decided it would be best to get out of the house and go see some live music.

This has been a preoccupation of mine as of late. I've been feeling a bit guilty over the past few months for not taking advantage of Portland's music scene like I should be, and with Music Fest Northwest coming up in early September (for those of you in other parts of the country, MFNw started as a companion festival to South By Southwest - yes, THAT South By Southwest), I can't help but feel like I need to get out there and shake off the rust a bit. So I checked the local listings, and found a free show at the Doug Fir Lounge (walking distance from the homestead here at Camp Belmont), the headliner being Ohmega Watts, openers being Copy and Alela Diane. Now, I didn't know Ohmega Watts or Alela Diane from Phil Collins, but I've been hearing a LOT about Copy lately. Hot new band of the year, according to the pundits at Willamette Week. So...why not? And off I went.

I got to the Doug Fir (again, for you out-of-towners: imagine the Jetsons' log cabin, converted to a music venue. That pretty much describes the Doug Fir. A bit high-concept, yeah, but a nice place to see a show, especially since it's one of the few non-smoking venues in Stumptown, and their booking agent is connected like Gotti) several songs into Alela's set. She was up there by herself, totally exposed and doing a great job. Really good acoustic folk, just totally pulling it off, and that means a lot coming from me, as I'm generally not a huge fan of folk singers.

And then came Copy. Now, a description is needed here. Copy is not a band per se, but rather a guy in a red suit with a Korg synthesizer and a laptop (Think Wayne Coyne, but instead of white, the suit is red. And there's no band behind him). The post-modern take on the one man band, you might say? Or perhaps it's just the wave of the future. Either way, I'm skeptical. Very skeptical. I may be showing my age here, but I really like that guitar-bass-drums paradigm. With maybe a piano/keyboard or fiddle (ala early Jayhawks, that is, before Mark Olson left the band) thrown in. Exile On Main Street, that sort of thing. But I try to be as open minded as possible, so all right, guy with a computer, convince me! And I have to say, a couple songs into his set, he was doing a pretty good job. But just then, something happened that really made the whole evening.

A very cute twenty-something hipster chick (imagine Janeane Garafalo's little sister) leaned over to me and said "Who's this?" So I said "Copy." She said "Who?" And I said "Uhh, he calls himself Copy." And she paused, and said "Oh... Yeah!" And just then, for a brief moment, I felt much cooler at 35 than I ever felt in my twenties. Thank you, hipster chick! That was the best birthday present ever!

Okay, yeah, it would have been cooler if I'd gotten her digits, but she was off before I could chat her up. Anyway, I really enjoyed the rest of Copy's set. I didn't stay for Ohmega Watts. I'll catch him next time around.

Thanks for reading,