veni, vedi, vici

funny, love, music, Portland 1 Comment »

Lately, I’ve made a resolution to be more engaging with people I meet.  It’s safe to say that introverts have a harder time than most other people do, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to reach out more.

Last night’s gig with Susie was a good example.  The event was hosted by someone with an unusual enough name that I’d better create one of those clever pseudonyms to anonymize her; I’ll call her BlondeSinger.  Since I’ve played with lots of songwriters over the years, I’ve played probably five or six shows that she’s been a part of.  I’ve never played with her onstage, but I’ve played plenty of evenings like last night, where she’s been a part of it and so have I.  Also, she once performed on my friend’s radio show, on which I was a regular co-host, including the day of the show she appeared on.

Last night, I was one of the first to arrive.  I set down my accordion and went over to say hello to her.  She clearly didn’t recognize me, so I said, “Hey, [BlondeSinger].   We’ve met before, actually.  I’m friends with [RadioFriend], and you played on his show, and I co-hosted with him.  I’ve been playing with Susie and [short rundown of songwriters] and we’ve played together a handful of times.  Good to see you again.”

“Yeah, you do kinda look familiar,” she said, and asked if RadioFriend was still doing a show, and I told her that yes, he is.  “Cool.”  She looked down at her phone and started texting like mad.  The silence stretched out longer and longer, and it started to become a bit awkward, so I asked, “Who’s performing tonight?”

She grabbed the list of eight or so and explained each one.  There’s GuitaristGirl who’s kinda folky. . .GuitaristGuy who’s kinda like Tom Waits, there’s Susie – she’s really good and has a band (“Uhh, yes, I know,” I said, “I’m IN that band.”)–“  I just felt like an invisible, silent blip on her radar screen, so I decided to be done with that particular conversation.  After I got the scoop on the performers, I got a glass of wine and came back to find Susie and our group of friends instead.

On the way to meet them, I ran into another songwriter who I’ve met a time or two, and once my two friends and I even spent an evening hanging out and chatting with him at Jarra’s Ethiopian restaurant a while back, when we were all there to watch a band play.  I’ll call him Dreadlocks.  I wandered over and said, “Hey, Dreadlocks!  Good to see you.”  He also showed no sign of recognition, so I prompted him with the RadioFriend thing (cause that’s also how I knew him), and the Jarra’s show, and all that.  Still nothing, and I could see that this was headed for another disaster, so I cut it short with, “I’m playing accordion with Susie tonight, and I’m looking forward to hearing you play too!”

Just then, Susie and the rest of our group of friends appeared and saved the day.  We sat together and talked, and watched the first couple of performers, both of whom were really great.  The second performer was the Tom Waits-y guy, and he did a brilliant version of Rainbow Connection, which he followed up with one of my favorite Tom Waits songs, Hoist That Rag.

As a side note, it was brilliant of him to do Rainbow Connection, but for him to do a Tom Waits cover (despite the fact that he did it very well) when he already is so clearly influenced by Tom Waits, just seemed like a No-Duh.  There’s a girl in town who sounds remarkably like k.d. lang, and who even performs a couple of her tunes, which also seems like another No-Duh.  The point of all this is that I’d rather see her do the Tom Waits tune, and him do the k.d. lang tune.  It adds a bit of mystery and depth to a show, instead of leaving the audience thinking, “Gosh, they sure sound like somebody. . .but who?  Oh. . .right.  THAT person,” instead of sounding like themselves.  Just some food for thought.

After he was done, it was our turn to rock the house, and I should mention that we totally did.  Just before we started, however, someone said to me, “Look up there,” and pointed at the ceiling, where an accordion was hanging, completely defiled, gutted and torn to pieces.  You get used to stupid jokes like that; they just give you more incentive for veni, vedi, vici. “It’s okay,” the guy continued.  “The owner of this place is an accordion player.”

“I know, actually,” I said with a smirk (because I’ve played that venue many times before, including one night when the owner was running the sound, and before I had even stepped up to the microphone or played a note, he called out, “Less accordion!” to a round of slightly drunken laughter.  O, the hilarity.) “. . .but it’s still sad.”

We played four songs, and we brought down the house, if I can take the liberty of saying so.  The sound was great, and the two of us performed great.

Afterwards, when Susie and our friends and I were waiting in line at the bar, a SuperCuteGirl came up and introduced herself.  She was very engaging and flirty, and said she loved our set, and thought that the accordion was great.  We each got a drink and sat down to talk for a while, and after about twenty minutes or so, TomWaitsGuy and his friend came over and joined us.  The three of them knew each other, and we talked about the show.  While we were talking, the next performer came up to me and said he was about to go on, and that he really wanted me to hear his set.  He had introduced himself to me earlier, and he’d befriended me via my music page on MySpace, thanks to a couple of my mates from another band.  So I told SCG that I wanted to go listen to the guy, but I’d be back.  “Cheers!” she said, smiling, and we clinked our glasses together.

I watched the guy, who was very good, and talked with our group.  Afterwards, we all went outside to the smoking area, where I quickly discovered that SCG was married to the friend of TomWaitsGuy.  It was a bit disappointing, to say the least (especially since she wasn’t even wearing a ring!), but at least they were both friendly and cool people.  In a funny, only-in-Portland way, we discovered that they had looked at an apartment in the complex in which I used to live.  We had a good time talking about that.

As another side note, there’s a funny story about that apartment, actually, and the girl who used to live there when I first moved into the complex.  Her cat, Hooligan, got in a fight with another neighborhood cat a couple years before, and the victim cat’s owner sued her for the vet bills.  They settled in court, but not just any court. . .The Peoples’ Court.  She totally lost the case, by the way, when the judge asked, simply, “What’s your cat’s name again?”


The audience laughed, and the judge banged the gavel.  “Court finds for the plaintiff.”

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty dang decent night, after kind of a weird and awkward start.  There’s nothing like a gutted accordion and a really great performance to make you forget about the weird stuff.

a hawk and a hacksaw

music, pictures, Portland No Comments »

Last night, my friend Ania invited me to my second concert in as many days, as another early birthday present.  The lineup was of two bands I’d never heard before, Damon & Naomi and A Hawk And A Hacksaw.  I checked them out on MySpace and got very excited by what I heard and saw.  AH&AH’s main instruments are accordion and violin, and I would describe them as an instrumental gypsy klezmer band.  I had no idea what I was in for.


Their sound was fantastic, and you don’t normally hear a lineup like that.  When’s the last time you saw a band with a tuba player?   Add a trumpeter and a clarinetist who also plays the bouzouki, and you know you’re in for a treat.

Occasionally the violinist would play a Stroh violin (we asked her about it after the show) instead, which had a loud, thin, metallic sound.  I commented to Ania that it sounded like a recording from the 1930’s, and just now when I looked up the Stroh, the article said that they were in very common usage on early recordings, up until about the 1920’s or 30’s when microphone technology changed.


They ended their set, and walked offstage to thunderous applause and shouts of “Bravo!” They came out for an encore, but they told the sound person to turn off the PA.  The band walked down the steps to the back of the room, right next to where we were standing.  They launched into a few faster songs in crazy time signatures, and that’s when the dancing and clapping began in earnest.


One girl was whirling particularly fervently (and beautifully), and everyone cleared a space for her to dance.  There were a couple of guys who joined her at various times, and she even grabbed me to join her for a few whirls, which was quite a nice surprise for shy but irrepressible me.  I was more than happy to oblige.


What an excellent and surprising show.  Many, many thanks to Ania, without whom I would have missed out on a completely wonderful evening.  This is turning out to be quite a week.  Saturday I had a fantastic gig at Mississippi Studios, Sunday was the Pogues, last night was this incredible show, tonight is another gig of mine, and on Thursday a few friends are going to the dress rehearsal for a circus in which our friend is performing, and after that I’m heading to the Woods for Classical Revolution and inviting people to celebrate my birthday.

Definitely a great week, all around.

In other news, today I made my very first omelette!  No idea why it took me so long to learn, or why I thought it would be so difficult, but it came out really great.  Roasted bell peppers, tomatoes and cheese on the inside, with spicy guacamole (which I made yesterday!) on the top.   I recommend that combination highly, but I might use green peppers instead, just for the sake of a more interesting color.  Sliced black olives would be nice too.


Time to take a shower and get ready for tonight’s gig.

trip to Whitefish

music, Oregon, pictures, Portland, Washington No Comments »

Just got home from a gig in Whitefish, Montana.  First time I’ve ever been there, and I have to start by saying that it’s a supremely beautiful little town.  It was my first gig with ModeratelyFamousBanjoPlayer, and despite the fact that it was very loose and unrehearsed (I’d never even met the drummer before, let alone played with him before), AND despite the fact that Southwest Airlines’ baggage handlers banged up my accordion enough that it needs to be repaired now, AND despite the fact that the stage was a truck trailer which bounced around so much that my acoustic guitar fell off it and got a nice big war wound on it, AND despite the fact that we got up at 5:30 a.m. (Mountain Time, which felt like 4:30 Pacific Time!) this morning to drive back to the airport at Spokane, AND despite the fact that I got stung by a bee (how random is that?) at the rental car place in Spokane. . .it was a triumphant show.

No pictures to speak of, unfortunately, because we were on such a tight schedule the entire time, and we were always either in the car, at the gig, or in the hotel room.  Okay, well, here’s what I mean.  This is Mount St. Helens from the airplane. . .


. . .and here’s ModeratelyFamousBanjoPlayer in his solo set.


After he was done, we all ate dinner (of delicious fish tacos!) and then set up the rest of the equipment for the full-band evening show.  I have to give extra-special thanks to SoundGuyToby, who came through with an accordion for me after I found that mine had been damaged by Southwest Airlines’ rough handling during the flight over.  He absolutely saved the gig for me.  The show would have been accordion-free without Toby.

Oh yeah, and the guitar.  The stage was a truck trailer, which bounced around like crazy while we were playing.  My acoustic guitar was sitting next to the edge of the stage, and and one point it tipped right off and landed directly on the metal bar that connects to the hitch.  So it has a huge wound on it, right on the front corner, in one of the most visible places it could possibly have a wound.  I hope to gawd that it can be fixed.  I’ll never be able to sell it for anything close to what I paid for it now.  SUCKS.  It still plays fine, though, and that’s what counts, but that just sucks.  Combine that with the accordion repair and this one gig is really gonna set me back.

I also need to mention the people we met.  They were sweet, accommodating, friendly, drunken, and a metric ton of fun.  After the show, we got a lot of handshakes and “Oh MAN you guys were great.  Thanks so much for coming all the way out here!  We had a blast. . .”, etc.  We also got invited to quite a few parties afterwards (“There are bikes enough for everyone!”) which we had to respectfully decline, unfortunately.  It seems like a great town, especially if you’re an outdoorsy person.

We got to our hotel rooms around 10:30 p.m., then I took a shower and spent the next four hours watching a TV show I’d never seen before called Ice Road Truckers.  You’d think it would be the most boring show in the world, and maybe it was just my mental and physical state at the time, but I was riveted to that crazy show.  It was surprisingly suspenseful.

Oh yeah.  In the four hours during which I actually slept, I had a horrible dream in which three different friends (each of whom I know in real life) told me either to fuck off or “Y’know what?  Go fuck yourself,” and gave me some very specific reasons why they thought I should do that.  One even went so far as to add, “God, it feels so good to say that!”   It wasn’t the best dream I’ve ever had.

So I napped in the car, and then we flew home.  A very nice couple from Spokane sat next to me on the plane, and the guy was actually from Whitefish, so that was a nice coincidence.  They even gave me a copy of Rolling Stone magazine (“Would you like this?  It’s a good one. . .”) just before we landed.  It’s one of the issues with Barack Obama on the cover.


So that was pretty cool.

I’m just glad to be home.  Usually when I’m traveling, I’m much more ‘in the moment’ than I was this weekend, but it was busy enough, and with all the instrument issues it was stressful enough, that I was emotionally done last night.  I wasn’t bummed out or anything, I just wanted to be home so that I could take care of these things that need to be taken care of, and now I can do just that.

I’m going to start with myself.  First a nap, then a shower, then I’m going to a dinner party with a couple of friends.  I’ll worry about the accordion tomorrow.

107 degrees today

blogging, music, pictures, Yakima No Comments »

I’m going to do another of those quick little recaps, since it’s been another whirlwind week.

Went to Yakima and stayed at Mom ‘n’ Stepdad’s, since it was a class reunion weekend for my high school.  It wasn’t my year, but a few of my friends were going to be in town, so I figured I’d go and make myself available in case there were some activities or whatever that I might be able to be a part of.   I ended up going to the Friday night meet-up and hanging out with a couple of people, one of whom was a guitarist I played with once or twice when I’d been playing for about two months.  Since I’ve been playing for twenty four years now, that’s how long it had been since I’d seen him.  Another visiting friend was ChefSLC and a couple of friends from Seattle, who happened to be in town for a wedding and had nothing to do with the class reunion.  As if that wasn’t enough, I met up with another friend from college, who I found with a little help from Facebook.  All around, it was a fantastic weekend.

The weekend before was a party, a party, and a wedding.  PartyOne involved a lost dog, whose owner seemed to abandon him in a parking lot across the street from where we were having our little party, which quickly turned the party into a session of calling 9-1-1 and Animal Control and the police.

PartyTwo was a birthday party for Violinist from IrishBand.  When we arrived, we found that not only was it Violinist’s birthday, but it was a meeting of the two-member Portland Cigar Club, of which Violinist and Singer decided to become the third and fourth members for the day, despite never having smoked cigars before.  They warned Singer not to inhale, but he accidentally did, and found himself all cracked out, and had to go running up and down the street in the hopes of burning off some of the excess energy.  It was pretty funny.  I have the sneaking suspicion that was his one and only day of membership in the Portland Cigar Club.  After the party dissipated, I took LJ home and then went back to continue the party at the house we’d been at the previous night.  It was a blast, again, and the dog problem seemed to have been taken care of, after they let him spend the night in their home.

Sunday night was a wedding of two of my friends and building-mates.  It was a lovely ceremony at the bride’s mom’s house in Banks.   My pictures of the ceremony itself weren’t so great, but on the way out there, I stopped to take some pics of the beautiful countryside.  I parked my car on the side of the road, and someone actually stopped to ask me if I was lost.  It was very kind of them, and was something that rarely happens in the hectic life of the city.


After the ceremony, there was dinner and drinks until dusk, when the party really started.  Since the bride and groom are professional musicians, the majority of the guests at the wedding were musicians as well.  There was a contingent of guitarists, a cellist, two trumpet players, a violinist and I brought my accordion.  At one point, one of the guitarists pulled out one of those huge pads of art paper, on which were written the lyrics to a bunch of songs, including “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Across the Universe” and many other songs.  He arranged them with his other band, when they wanted to have a sing-along around a campfire, but no one knew the words to anything, so to write the lyrics on a huge piece of paper for everyone was a brilliant solution. The party lasted until about three-thirty in the morning, at which point most people camped out at various places on the property, but I decided to drive home.  On the way, I remember that it was now Monday morning, which meant that my friend John was doing his radio show.  He told me a few days prior that if I ever found myself in one of the many sleepless nights I have, that I should feel free to come down to KBOO and play a few songs.  So I called him.  “Hey, I’m driving home from this wedding. . .what are the chances that I could come down and hang out for a bit?”  He readily agreed, so I sped through the night to the station.   Got there about four, had a great time, played a few songs (Indigo Girls, Azure Ray, and Neil Finn), and then John played a couple before launching into the entire Side One of the Decemberists’ “Hazards of Love” record.   The guy with the show after John’s arrived around that time, and he told us that he’d been to the Decemberists’ show the night before, so we asked him if he’d want to come on the air and talk about it, which he gladly did.  It was really fun.  It’s a shame that the show isn’t podcast or anything, because the time slot of 3:00-5:30 a.m. is a bit prohibitve for most people to listen, but it’s well worth it if you’re up at that hour.  John plays all kinds of incredible music.


After the show was over, we had to put away all the records and CD’s that he’d played during the course of the show, which took a half-hour or so, by which time it was 6:00 a.m., whereupon I said “good night” to the guy doing his show (John asked me, “Did you just say ‘good night’?”  It was hilarious.), and then drove home to spend the rest of the day in bed.  It was a stellar ending to a stellar weekend.

So then last weekend was Yakima, last night was a Breanna and Justin gig with a Birthday Girl, and this weekend (tomorrow, actually) I’m driving over to spend some time with Dad ‘N’ Stepmom at their house near the coast.  Today I finally had enough time to sit and write all this out, so now it’s back to broiling in record-high weather in Portland (107 degrees today, and I don’t even own a fan!  Yikes.) and listening to Crowded House.

I went through all my boxes of stuff in the basement, and finally found the one that contained about a hundred CD’s that I’ve been missing for a while.  Crowded House, Tears For Fears, and Thomas Dolby were among the ones I’d been looking for recently, and I’m reunited with them now, and it feels so good.

parties, more parties, and Beacon Rock

beautiful, blogging, music, pictures, recording, Washington 1 Comment »

It’s been another of THOSE weeks, hence the silence around these parts.

Engagement party, lots of ‘party’ parties, movie night or two, tons of recording, it’s just been a blur.  Last night was a friend’s birthday party, which was followed by a ‘party’ party, and tonight is two friends’ wedding (You may remember the bachelor party from a couple weeks ago. . .?), which is to be followed by – what else – a huge party.  The vast majority of people who will be there are also professional musicians, so I’m anticipating a ‘jam’ of acoustic instruments of all kinds.  I’ll be bringing my accordion, for sure, and my camera as well.

I don’t usually talk about this, but the weather here in Portland has been stunningly beautiful lately.  One day it was so lovely that I ditched rescheduled a rehearsal and hit the road in the afternoon so that I could go for a hike instead.  I ended up at Beacon Rock, which is along the Washington side of the Columbia river, about an hour’s drive from here.


It’s 850 feet high, and you get to the top by way of a steep trail that was engineered by one of the people who built the Historic Columbia River Highway.  The trail is about a mile and a half long, and it’s a surprisingly difficult walk.

thistrail beaconrocktrail

beaconrocktrail2 dickjuice

Nothing like a bunch of tasteless graffiti (“dick juice”) to bring you back to reality.  Anyway, here’s what the view from the top was like, on that particular day.  This one is looking downriver, toward Portland. . .


. . .and this one is looking upriver, uh, away from Portland.


There’s a plaque at the bottom of the rock which tells an Anglicized version of the rock’s history.


It was a lovely day, and a lovely random trip.

And now it’s time to get ready for the wedding.  I have to leave in an hour and a half, and I still need to shower and all that.  Today is equally beautiful, and the ceremony is being held out in the forest.  It promises to be a really great night.