Archive for category Music

Storm Large Puts Exclamation Point on Portland Run

I originally published this article in The Portlander on August 20, 2009. Since then, Storm Large has published a gripping memoir that is a great ride and a great read. If you did not get to see her one-woman show, go buy the book and imagine her performing it for you right there in your living room.

This is my nod to Storm. You go girl!

Storm Large in Crazy Enough

It’s Sunday at 2pm, and the Ellen Bye Studio at the Portland Armory is sold out for the last performance of Crazy Enough, the one-woman show that is Storm Large’s life story. The sign at the door warns of explicit language and adult subject matter, so you wouldn’t expect to see your mother or your grandfather there in the audience, but they are.

On the small stage: three male musicians and one very tall microphone stand, which has everyone whispering, “Is she really that tall?” The lights go out, the music comes up, and when the lights slowly return there she is: all six feet of her, wearing sneakers, loose black pants, and a fitted tank top that leaves nothing to the imagination.

There is some small talk, and then the tall confident woman on stage quickly transforms into a vulnerable young girl who is desperately trying to find some stability in a home that has none. And thus the gritty ride begins.

The audience is rapt as they watch Large try to navigate the completely unpredictable nature of her schizophrenic mother, who is there one day and institutionalized the next. Large painfully relives the moment when a doctor tells her that insanity is in her genes, and she too will be fighting the same demons some day. She soothes herself with promiscuity, alcohol and a heroin addiction.

The audience is stunned to silence, brought to laughter, and tempted to tears, watching her gripping life story unfold at their feet. She has their hearts in the palm of her hand as she takes them willingly on a journey of wanting, desperation, hope and finally love.

By the end of the performance there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Storm Large is not just another voice talent, but a formidable actress and incredibly engaging performer. She reminds the audience that, “Life isn’t safe. It isn’t always quiet. And it certainly isn’t small.” The lights dim, and she exits the stage one last time. It is clear that although her run with Portland Center Stage has ended, this show will live on if Large is willing to revive it in another venue.

Storm Large is in fact crazy enough and her life is indeed one big exclamation point.

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The Twang at The Woods with The Muse

I am a bit of a music snob. What I mean by that is when I see live music I like to be within a few feet of the band so I can get the full experience. I am not going to pay a lot of money for seats in the attic when I could get that experience listening to a CD at home. No, I want to see them sweat.

And I have no tolerance for bands who suck live. I don’t want you to sound all produced like you do on your CD, but you’d better have some stage presence and know how to play those things you call instruments.

As an actress, I know how it feels to be really good but never make it. No one will ever know you’re any good if they never get the chance to see you work your magic. It is the same in the music industry. Plenty of great bands never get heard.

There is a local DJ named Greg on 94.7 KNRK. On a recent trip to the UK he came across a band called The Twang, and somehow convinced  them they should come visit Portland. Take a vacation! Come see the beautiful Pacific Northwest! So they did. Not only did they come to Portland on vacation, but they played a FREE show at The Woods (a former funeral parlor) in Sellwood, and they used borrowed instruments. And this was their first real show in the U.S.

I got to The Woods at 6pm on Friday when the doors opened, and found a line had already formed. I showed my I.D. (yes, they carded everyone), got my wrist stamp, and immediately procured a cocktail from the makeshift bar: a card table adorned with a bottle of vodka, gin, tequila, mixers, and a metal cash box. I had had a very stressful afternoon at work, and had been looking forward to a vodka and soda with a lime since about 4pm. I took a long draw on the straw, took a look around and waited for my friends to arrive.

The stage area was at the far end of what must have been the room where services were originally held when the place was a funeral parlor. In fact, the stage was right where the casket would have been had we all been there for a viewing instead of a concert. Creepy in a cool way.

My friend Peter was the first of my friends to show up, and I dragged him straight to the front of the “stage” and set my purse down right next to one of the amps.

“You’re such a groupie,” he said.

“Hey, you’ll thank me later,” I said, somehow knowing this band was going to be good, really good. “Mark my words. This is the last time you’ll ever see them in a venue this size.”

You see The Twang play to stadium-size crowds in the UK. They play at festivals and open for bands like Oasis. And here we were, seeing them in the “living room” of a funeral parlor for free!

The room quickly started to fill up. Right around 7pm, Greg (from KNRK) came up and introduced the band. The crowd crushed up, the band started to play, and I knew from the first bar that this little concert was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My friends Joe and Jeff showed up somewhere around the second or third song and said they were the last two people to get in. They had started to turn people away at the door. The place was packed.

I’m not sure who to compare The Twang to, but Elvis Costello and a few other bands come to mind.

At one point someone in the crowd yelled out, “Do a Beatles cover!” to which the lead singer Phil replied, “How about if I just cover you with my fucking beer?!”

I love these guys. They are The Twang from Birmingam, England. The CD I bought at the show was well worth the $10. Go see them if you get a chance. As they say in Birmingham, fucking brilliant!

The Twang TheTwang2

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Unplugging and Hugging

I started my week with a trip to the Doug Fir (one of my favorite live music venues) to see a little band called One Eskimo. I sent out an email the previous weekend trying to round up some friends to go, and I got a lot of responses saying things like, “I can’t make it because…” You fill in the blank.

I honestly didn’t care, because I was determined to go no matter what, even if I had to go alone. I had seen One Eskimo at the KINK Live Performance Lounge a few months back, and I wanted to come out to support them for the end of their U.S. tour. Besides, it is a kid-free week for me and I need to socialize!

My friend Michael ended up coming with me.

It was one of those really crappy rainy days that came on the heels of the deep freeze in Portland. We met at the Doug Fir bar upstairs a full three hours before the show was to start, and just ate dinner, had a drink and caught up.We hadn’t seen each other in person for many many months.

We finally walked down the stairway to the basement venue and it was almost totally empty. We stood around the bar, looked around the room, and decided that this would make the most awesome party room in a house.

People slowly started filtering in to see the first band whose name I couldn’t tell you because when they had the chance to introduce themselves the lead singer said, “Hi, we’re blesd leits. Thank you for coming.” Obviously their name is not “blesd leits,” but that’s what we heard.

Michael turned to the bartender and said, “What was their name?” The bartender pointed to the poster above the bar that said something with the word lights in it (I still don’t remember).

“What is with these bands and their mumbling?” I said. “They have this great opportunity to get their name out, and they wait until the end of the set to introduce themselves and then they totally blow it.”

“Believe me I know,” said the bartender. “I have seen a lot of bands from behind this bar, and there are three things I want to tell them. One, get some decent publicity shots. Two, Banter with the crowd, Three, say your name clearly and say it multiple times.” Amen!

The first band never talked to the “crowd,” except to self deprecate when they messed up a song.

When the band had finished their last song, and the crowd of about 50 people started to buzz again, Michael and I began to observe. There was a group of 20-something friends at some tables against the wall. A dreadlocked girl approached the table. One of her male friends turned to see her approaching and they both smiled with enthusiasm and embraced in an unabashed bear hug. They were not a couple. They were just friends who were happy to see each other. And not one of them was texting. They were there with each other, and fully present.

“What has happened to us?” I asked Michael. “Why don’t people our age have that much enthusiasm for each other?”

“I know,” he said. “They seem so naive and innocent.”

So what has happened to us? Have we let Facebook and Twitter replace our need for real human interaction? We put our most intimate emotional needs out their in a status update and hope someone will comment and fullfill that desire to feel needed and loved.

It’s a bandaid for a fatal disease. Real social intimicy is dying.

I struggle to get my friends to go out to hear live music, find a new restaurant, taste some new wine.

If the Internet died tomorrow, where would you be?

One Eskimo came on at 10pm, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed at their lack of interaction with the crowd as well. Very little eye contact, no banter. I enjoyed the music, but I enjoy it more when the band interacts with the audience, especially in a small venue like this where you can actually see the people you are playing for.

Even bands have forgotten how to be social.

I stayed afterwards to talk to one of the band members (Pete Rinaldi). We talked about the tour, the fact that they’ve been wearing the same clothes for a year, and how they’ve been stuffed in a decrepit van traveling the U.S. We talked about what it feels like to go home after you’ve been away for a while.

I think a lot of us have forgotten.

Unplug more often. Hug more often. Remember what it feels like to go home.

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Ingrid, Jonathan, and Poi Dog Pondering

Like Austin, Portland has a vibrant music scene. If you aren’t getting out and exploring the small venues scattered around town you are missing out.

I had purposely made a pact with myself this past week to stop over scheduling myself, and just roll with whatever came up, which turned out to be a mighty fine plan. I ended up seeing some live music I normally wouldn’t have ventured out to see.

Tuesday: Ingrid Michaelson at Jimmy Mak’s

I am a KINK FM contest junkie. Once a week I log in to my KINK listeners account and enter every contest they have for passes to see the bands coming through town. The cool thing about KINK is that these performances are private, and they’re usually held in the KINK Live Performance Lounge at the KINK studios, which holds about 25 people.

Last week I won my way in to see Ingrid Michaelson, not at the KINK studios, but at a private mini concert at Jimmy Mak’s, which is even better. Michaelson flew in from New York that morning to play for us at 5pm. She brought one woman who played guitar and sang the backup vocals and that’s it. So, we were treated to an acoustic set with Micahelson on the piano or guitar.

Ingrid Michelson is one of those artists who could sing entries out of the phone book and make you stop and listen. Her voice is unique, and I personally preferred her live performance to any of the produced music on her CDs. Not that I don’t love the CDs too.

Video from her performance at Jimmy Mak’s
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXJ-qTUZeHc[/youtube]

Ingrid Micahelson

Kelly Jo Horton and Ingrid Michaelson

Wednesday: Jonathan Richman at The Aladdin

I was on my way to my Italian lesson on Wednesday, when I got a call from my friend Peter, “Hey, Anna and I are going to see Jonathan Richman at The Aladdin tonight, do you want to meet us there?” My first reaction was, “Who’s Jonathan Richman?” My second reaction was, I’d love to hang out with Peter and Anna and see some musician I’ve never heard of.

Richman had a band in the 70s called The Modern Lovers, but more recently he’s best known as the guy who plays half of the two-man Greek chorus in the movie  There’s Something About Mary. Do you remember the two guys who would pop up every once in a while and sing some commentary on the plot?

Richman is intense on stage, and I can’t decide if he’s brilliant and crazy or just crazy. He sang in English, Italian, Hebrew and French. He would say, “I wrote this song in English, but it didn’t sound good, so I’m going to sing it in Italian.”

Very engaging performer and I would go see him again in a heartbeat. He seems to have a large cult following.

Here’s a video of Richman singing the theme song from There’s Something About Mary
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsXB5kITz78[/youtube]

Richman doing Pablo Picasso

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3ECFRGU_A0[/youtube]

Saturday: Poi Dog Pondering at Doug Fir

My friend Jim invited me to join him at a wine dinner with some people we knew, and then said, “And I may have a surprise for us after the dinner.” Jim is notorious for buying concert tickets off craigslist and calling me up the day before or the night of the concert and asking me if I want to go. And I love that about him. We seem to have similar tastes in music, so we’re well matched concert buddies.

We arrived at the wine dinner at about 7pm, after much driving around trying to find this unmarked location. There were 20 of us at the dinner, and enough food to feed 40, or so it seemed. We started with sparkling wine, crab cakes, pate, and small bites of quiche, and quickly moved on to the white wine paired with a beet salad, halibut, mixed squash, and potatoes au gratin. Then on to the red wine paired with braised pork, and duck with a pear compote. But I digress.

Off to Doug Fir, where I discovered a new band I’d never heard of before: Poi Dog Pondering. Wow. I walked into the Doug Fir basement, walked right up to the front of the stage, and stayed there for the entire two and half hour set.

I’m not quite sure how to describe this band and their sound, except to say it’s rich and full, with a little bit of folk and Cajun thrown in. Lead singer Frank Orrall has a voice very reminiscent to ex Barenaked Ladies front man Steven Page. Susan Voelz, the only female touring with the group, plays a passionate violin and adds dimension vocals to create the robust sound that is Poi Dog Pondering.

They are currently touring with five members, but said they’d be returning to Portland with the full band this summer. Go see them!

Tom Cho

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Violin

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John Doe, Kathleen Edwards, and Catfish

Originally published on MySpace on November 20, 2008.

My friend Peter called me yesterday to chat, and let slip that he and his girlfriend were going to see Kathleen Edwards at the Aladdin, blah blah blah. “Wait! Back up! Kathleen Edwards is in town?” I said with anticipation.

I immediately texted Mike (a.k.a. CB), “Kathleen Edwards is at the Aladdin tonight. Want to go?” to which he replied, “Sure as shit!” a direct reference to a Kathleen Edwards song.

We sat at the pub/bar/second-hand-smoke testing facility next door to the Aladdin and feasted on a meal of salad, soup, fried catfish and fries… and then another free salad. It was obvious that one of the requirements for working at that particular food establishment was to smoke a bowl before your shift. I ordered a vodka tonic and got a gin and tonic. I ordered a side salad, got that, and then got another giant salad when they brought the catfish. Just go with the flow.

We finished our meal just as Peter texted me to say Kathleen was coming on stage. He and his girlfriend Anna had saved us seats, but by the time we got into the theater it was too dark to find them. So, we just sat in back. Better for kissing and cuddling anyway.

Kathleen Edwards is one of those artists who loves to banter onstage. I like that about her. She just so happens to be on tour with an artist by the name of John Doe. Know that name? It didn’t ring a bell with me until he mentioned Exene Cervenka. I turned to Mike and said, “No way! Do you know who that guy is? That’s John Doe from the 80’s band ‘X’ and Exene was the lead singer. I saw them in college!”

I was now dying to meet this now middle-aged folk/rock artist who was once a punk rocker.

They bantered some more, and mentioned that the various tour names they had wanted to use. “We wanted to call it Hurtin’ and Flirtin’ but we’ve not been doing much flirting lately,” said Kathleen. Then John said, “And the other name was ‘We’re not fucking’,” to which Kathleen added, “Yet! And we were told it wouldn’t fit on the poster.”

Once the concert ended we went to the front lobby to buy some CDs and get them signed. While standing in the lobby I told Mike the story of seeing the band X in San Diego when I was in college, and how I even had a picture from that night. He encouraged me to tell the story to John Doe when I met him, and I did.

Luckily Peter had a camera with him, so we got the pictures below.

John Doe and Kathleen Edwards onstage



Kathleen Edwards and Me



Peter, Anna and Kathleen Edwards


John Doe, Mike and Me


The hideous outfit (All Goodwill) that I wore to the X concert when I was 18. Yes, that’s me on the far right.


 

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The Lenka Video. My first Video Blog!

Originally published on MySpace on October 24, 2008.

This is my first attempt at a video blog. My little Vado camera is not that great, so excuse the quality (or lack of quality).

Thanks to Cabana Boy for doing the filming and editing. Muah!

Lenka’s MySpace Page

Lenka and The Muse

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/v/u48S1NFwGdo[/youtube]

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The Swell Season: The Room was Full of Honesty

The room was full of honesty.

I don’t know any other way to describe it.

Many weeks ago I bought two tickets to see The Swell Season play the Keller Auditorium. The only seats I could get were near the back, Row DD, but I’m lucky I got those because the concert was completely sold out in a matter of days.

Tonight I sat in Row DD in the aisle seat. At the opposite end of my row was my friend Jim (yes, just a friend), the first person I saw the movie Once with, back when it first came out in theaters.

Seated next to me was my ex boyfriend. Yes, my ex. Why did I bring him? Because when I bought the two tickets I bought them for us. When we broke up a few weeks back I told him I had given his ticket away, but the truth is I couldn’t give it away (literally or figuratively). I tried! I asked a lot of girlfriends. I asked my son Ashton. No one could go. So, I swallowed my bitterness and my pride and asked him if he’d like to go. Despite the fact that we had broken up, he was still the person I wanted to share the experience with.

So there I sat, in the same row with the first friend I had ever seen the movie with, and the last friend I had ever seen the movie with. Out of thousands of people, there we were.

Down in Row P was my friend Michael and his girlfriend Jody. Once was the first movie they had seen together.

What does this all mean? It means that the room was full of honesty. Every single person in that auditorium was there because the movie or the music had touched their lives in some way. For Michael and Jody it was happy memories of a first movie date. For me it was bittersweet.

For Joseph (a guy in the audience), it was a chance meeting with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova on a Portland Street this afternoon that turned his dream into reality tonight, when Glen asked him to come up on stage and sing a song. He chose “Brandy” and we gave him a standing ovation for having the guts to live his dream.

Yes the room was full of honesty…and music…and friends…and in the words of Glen Hansard it was “fucking brilliant!”

Falling Slowly

Glen Hansard – Falling Slowly Lyrics

I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
Always fool me
And I can’t react
And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ve made it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You’ve made it now

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You’ve made it now
Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing along

Lies

Glen Hansard – Lies Lyrics

I think it’s time, we give it up
And figure out what’s stopping us
From breathing easy, and talking straight
The way is clear if you’re ready now
The volunteer is slowing down
And taking time to save himself

The little cracks they escalated
And before you know it was too late
For making circles and telling lies

You’re moving too fast for me
And I can’t keep up with you
Maybe if you slowed down for me
I could see you’re only telling
Lies, lies, lies
Breaking us down with your
Lies, lies, lies
When will you learn

The little cracks they escalated
And before you know it is too late
For making circles and telling lies

You’re moving too fast for me
And I can’t keep up with you
Maybe if you’d slowed down for me
I could see you’re only telling
Lies, lies, lies
Breaking us down with your
Lies, lies, lies
When will you learn

So plant the thought and watch it grow
Wind it up and let it go

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