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

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 movieĀ  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

Richman doing Pablo Picasso


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



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 friesā€¦ 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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