Sunday, September 28, 2008


So I headed out this evening with a blind date to see my favorite Canadian band, the Golden Dogs, who are currently on tour as the opening act for Sloan (who, it should be noted, are themselves apparently about as big as U2 up that way). The Dogs are known among Canadians for their energetic live shows - and are known to your humble author as one of the best power pop bands ever - and as they have no appreciable fan base in the states, they NEVER make it out to the pacific northwest, unless you count Vancouver, BC. In fact, tonight may well have been their first ever show in Portland, for all I know. So needless to say, I was pretty jazzed about this.

Well, lemme tell ya, people, this was the most disappointing set I've seen in a good long while. The drummer was doing his job, but the rest of 'em were just totally phoning it in. And can I say I blame 'em? I mean, really, Portland? Where's that? Who lives there? Nobody who appreciates a good performance, right? Why bother to put on a decent show for a bunch of hicks in some podunk town like Portland, Oregon? Do they even have indoor plumbing there?

C'mon, when did Dead Moon, or the Dandy Warhols, or Everclear, or Modest Mouse, ever put on a bad show in Toronto? Yeah, that's right: NEVER... You've all had experiences like this, and I'm sure you can agree with me that there's little worse than finding out that your heroes are a bunch of hacks. SO below par! On the upside, by the end of their set, my date was so trashed that she thought she'd just seen Sloan. Which was fortuitous for me, as I really wasn't in the mood to stick around for their set anyway (by the way, if there are any Canadians out there reading this, could you please explain to my readers and myself the appeal of Sloan?), so off we went for a round at the Bridgeport brewpub...

Moral of the story? Well, there is no moral to the story, really, unless it's to not invest too much hope in untested performers. Of course, that notion will rob you of the joy of discovery, so I guess finding those hidden gems is worth putting up with the occasional disappointment...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Letterman is Angry...

You've probably all seen this by now, but I just had to post it anyway. I've never seen Dave this chapped before. You can almost see smoke coming out of his ears. Hilarious stuff, especially the Keith Olbermann/Katie Couric bit. Enjoy:

Friday, September 19, 2008

So Long, Big Green, It's Been Fun...

Now, before you say anything, I know exactly what you're thinking. Starbucks is the Devil. They're atrocious. Their predatory expansion practices, their relentless march toward homogenization, their complicity in gentrification... all of those things are true, at least to some degree. And don't think for a second that I don't support the little guy. The Rocking Frog, Chance of Rain, Muddy Waters and Sound Grounds have all had my support in recent years (especially the Rocking Frog; shout out to Sam!). But when I moved into my current place of residence four and a half years ago, the first thing I did was to make my way over to the local Starbucks for some coffee (with Copilot in tow, no less - any of you remember him?), and they've known me by name ever since. There've been times when they saw me coming and had my drink ready for me before I even walked in the door. Admittedly, it's a pretty simple drink, a grande drip in a venti cup (I have a spillage problem), but still... Hell, I've even been out on dates with a couple of the girls behind the counter! None of which came to anything, but hey, Bob's yer uncle.

Well, my local Starbucks was one of the 600 stores that got the axe this month. Today was their last day. So naturally, I had to venture over there one last time. Here's barista extraordinare Adam showing off the fire sale wares:

I made off with that blue cup under his elbow and a pound of house blend, free of charge. Here's a shot of the depurposed merchandise wall, looking pretty sad and lonely:

For all of the controversy and vitriol that surrounds the "Starbucks question," it's worth noting that there are real people behind this organization. And they're almost always really good people. More often than not, they're on their way to somewhere else, but they get up at four in the morning and drag themselves into work everyday so that the rest of us can pay way too much for coffee on our way to work. And if they ever resent us for it, at least they put on their game faces.

So what can I say? It's Starbucks. They're the evil empire, I know, I know. But I've got a soft spot for the people at the Ladd's Addition store. I'm going to miss them.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

MusicFest Northwest 2008!

Well, friends, it has to be said: I punted this year. I didn't buy the MusicFest wrist band. I just had too much else going on this weekend, and couldn't commit. But I did make it out for one show over the weekend, this evening's Kill Rock Stars showcase at Holocene. I'd been poring over the MFNW schedule for a few weeks, and this was one of the shows that I really had my eye on, and as it turns out, the only one I attended. First up were Horse Feathers:

Horse Feathers produce the sort of indie folk that works well as background music for the first time you invite that girl you're into back to your house to cook dinner for her. It could even serve as background music later on in the evening... Sort of like Iron & Wine, except that Iron & Wine actually stands on its own merits in situations that don't involve cooking or sex. A little harsh? Maybe... but while Horse Feathers were pleasant enough, they weren't exactly working the crowd. Not tonight, anyway.

Next up was Panther (check out the mesmerizing Rob McConnaughy directed video for "You Don't Want Yr Nails Done" here; my colleague Richard is friends with the people who made the cardboard props, and is currently in possession of the cardboard laptop). Also known as Charlie Salas-Humara (singer, guitarist, powerbook pilot) and Joe Faustin Kelly (drummer), Panther serve up a sort of weirdo performance art madness - somewhat akin to Yacht - that really has to be experienced live. And they rocked it pretty hard tonight. Here's a shot of Salas-Humara, on bended knee, dealing with a microphone stand failure:

It's difficult to tell from the photo, but that wall behind them is actually white. Next up were the Shaky Hands. I don't really know what to say about these guys. They've been called Portland's greatest rock band, by the Mercury I believe, but I could have that wrong. At any rate, I'm not buying it. Don't get me wrong, they're a good band, but Portland's musical pool is pretty deep these days, and there are plenty of bands in town that have it all over the Shaky Hands. A couple posts back, I heralded Tango Alpha Tango as (possibly) Portland's best band. That's my story and I'm sticking to it...

The evening's headliners were Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, whose video I posted up top. This band, along with Panther, was the reason I was at Holocene this evening. A couple of friends of mine caught them a while back and tipped me off to 'em. I've been getting a lot of mileage out of their CD We Brave Bee Stings and All (which is nothing short of astounding - see the Pitchfork review here) in the past few weeks, and was really looking forward to seeing 'em live. Did they measure up? Unfortunately, no, for one reason: they were missing one of their members. Given that the bass player and drummer remained, the missing member would presumably be Frank Stewart, who's credited in their Wikipedia article as lead guitarist and producer. Guitar and banjo parts were conspicuously absent throughout the set, and while the three of them did their best to carry the load on their own, well, you just can't fake a missing limb. All of this of course begs the question, what happened to Frank? Did he die? Did he go back to school? Did he resign to spend time with his family like so many in the Bush administration? Who knows... Was I disappointed? Well, I hesitate to say yes. I'm more than willing to give these guys a second chance, but only once they've worked out their line-up issues.

So that was my MusicFest experience for this year, what there was of it, anyway. To those of you here in Portland, I hope you got out and saw more of it than I did. Hopefully, next year I'll be able to devote myself to it a little more fully and give a proper report.