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.

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 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
[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

IMG_0746

Violin

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