A couple friends and I headed out on Friday to see some music. After a quick pint at the Shanghai Tunnel, we headed over to Kelly's Olympian, where Swim Swam Swum, The Future of the Ghost and System and Station were on the bill. We settled in on the bar side of Kelly's before the music started, and I guess we lost track of time, because we wound up missing Swim Swam Swum's set altogether, a little disappointing, as they're a good band. But we eventually made our way over to the other room, and just as we did, a tall, bespectacled, silver haired man with an acoustic guitar was setting up on stage. I said to my friends, "Who's that guy? He looks a lot like Tim Robbins". And in fact it was. He wasn't on the bill, there was no announcement of his performance, he just... appeared. He played seven or eight songs, one of them a cover of Steve Earle's Christmas In Washington, which to me sounds an awful lot like Ellis Unit One with different lyrics, but I digress. While Tim Robbins isn't best known for his music, I have to say, he did a great job. He's a perfectly adequate guitarist, and he's actually got a pretty good singing voice. It was quite a treat.
I managed to corner him after his set to basically ask him what he was doing there. I phrased the question a bit more diplomatically than that, though. I think I said something to the effect of "So Tim, I'm curious, what circumstances have brought you to Portland on this evening to perform for us?" I was expecting him to say that he happened to be in town and so and so in one of the bands was his cousin and invited him along or something like that, but all he would tell me was "Well, I live here". So there you have it. Tim Robbins lives in Portland (presumably, Susan Sarandon does as well) and shows up at random System and Station shows to play Steve Earle covers. Who would have imagined? And yes, he really is as tall as they say.
The next act up was The Future of the Ghost, who were, perhaps even more than Tim Robbins, the happy surprise of the night. These guys were excellent. I'd checked out their Myspace page beforehand and liked what I heard, but I really didn't know anything about them, other than that they're a bunch of unsigned kids from Salt Lake City. But they took that stage and owned it from the first moment. They were super tight, appeared to be having a lot of fun, played a great brand of eccentric indie pop-rock and had an incredible stage presence I haven't seen since I saw The Sleepy Jackson open for The Polyphonic Spree at the Alladin Theater a few years back. This is a band to watch, people!
System and Station were up next. I like this band a lot, and I'm really rooting for them, because it seems like they haven't been having an easy time of things recently, what with multiple line up changes and all. They've got their following, but it seems as though not many folks in Portland know who they are. I'm told that System and Station share a number of members with Kieskagato, so maybe they're just seen as a side project of that band. Who knows? They did a good job at any rate, and weren't nearly as loud as the last couple times I saw them, which was nice, to be honest. Lead singer RFK Heise admitted a number of times that he was a little toasted (it was his birthday), but managed to hit all the notes pretty much right. And they played a lot of older stuff, so clearly those Kieskagato guys are committed to the catalogue. This is a good band, and like I said, I'm pullin' for 'em.
To get back to that Tim Robbins thing though, I'm not entirely convinced that he was telling me the truth about having moved here. A little internet research revealed that he's in town for a film project, but nothing more. Tim, if you're reading this, perhaps you can clear things up for myself and my readers (even though it's really none of our business). Enquiring minds want to know, as they say. Loved you in Bob Roberts, by the way...