Posts Tagged ‘Portland OR’

Doubleshot Tuesday: Brazilian Girls/Hey Eugene!

29 September 2009

[Today: Two exotic, mysterious albums...]

Brazilian Girls | Brazilian Girls
Pink Martini | Hey Eugene!

Here are two exotic albums that spend a fair amount of time on our turntable. Neither of these groups is exactly what they seem: Brazilian Girls are three-quarters male and 0% Brazilian, and Pink Martini sounds like an old-time orchestra with a lead singer that belts it out in ten (!) different languages, but they’re actually a contemporary group from Portland, OR. Both groups have multi-national sounds that feature relatively unusual instrumentation like tubas and trumpets. In Sabina Sciubba (Brazilian Girls) and China Forbes (Pink Martini), these groups boast two of the more gifted and unheralded singers on the scene today. And finally, both of these albums are worthy of repeated spins in spite of less than inspired cover art…

Listen: Homme [Brazilian Girls]

Listen: Tempo Perdido [Pink Martini]

Listen: Don’t Stop [Brazilian Girls]

Listen: City Of Night [Pink Martini]

Masterpiece: Kick

1 July 2008

[Today: Revisiting May 28, 1988 and my first concert...]

In the spring of 1988, I was an 18 year-old kid wrapping up my freshman year at the University of Oregon. As summer closed in, some high school friends and I decided to get tickets to see INXS at the Portland Memorial Coliseum. INXS was hotter than blazes at the time – their album Kick was on its way to selling 9 million copies and spinning off five Top 10 singles, while the band dominated MTV.

Back then, Portland was the BIG CITY to me, and I’d never been to a concert before, so this was a serious adventure. To properly celebrate the occasion, Bobby Evans, Dennis Quigley and I enlisted the help of one of our classmates’ older brothers. At the appointed time, Mike Simpson showed up with a bag of wine coolers and beer. We paid him $20 for his services, and as he was turning to leave, he asked “You guys need any party favors?”

So not only was this my first concert, it also turned out to be the first time I smoked the leafy green (and yes, I inhaled). Good times. I’m convinced that my feet didn’t touch the parking lot on my way into the Coliseum – I just floated from our hotel room straight over to the show, with a huge smile plastered across my face.

The hustle and bustle of concerts is old hat to me now, but back then it was like dropping in on a carnival. Steel Pulse was playing when we entered the building, and to this day they’re one of the best opening acts I’ve ever seen. They pulled this trick on stage where they danced around in a circle, slowing the music and their dancing in sync until they came to a complete, and silent, stop. To my stoned mind it was like watching reggae magic.

As luck would have it, our seats were in the last row of the upper deck, the very definition of nose-bleed. I don’t know about Bobby and Dennis, but I couldn’t have cared less – I was just happy to be in the building. It was a great show – INXS sounded fabulous and they played all the songs we wanted to hear. And because nobody in our party was arrested or killed, the evening can only be described as a massive success.

Of course, less than 10 years later, Michael Hutchence would hang himself in a hotel room in Sydney, effectively bringing INXS to an end. And in 1995 Memorial Coliseum was replaced by the Rose Garden as the home of the Portland Trailblazers. It still sits in the same spot, but it’s now a building without a purpose or a future. But in my mind’s eye, the dead rock star and the dusty building are still alive and rocking, the crowd hasn’t stopped cheering, and that dumb grin is still all over my face.

Listen: Need You Tonight

*****

Question: What was your first show?

Masterpiece: Greatest Hits 1972-1978

2 June 2008

[Today: An eye-opening collection from the pretty one... the magnificent one... Mr Steely Dan or whatever...]

Steely Dan - album

Like most dumb Americans, I thought Steely Dan was a single person until a few months after I graduated college. It was a name that had always floated around my musical periphery, but until late-1992, I couldn’t have named a single Steely Dan song if you’d paid me a million dollars. During my poor, post-college phase, I shopped around Portland’s record store dollar bins, and my favorite spot for bargains was Django’s well-stocked 3-for-a-buck bin (or 33&1/3 cents apiece!).

One of my prime purchases there was Steely Dan’s Greatest Hits 1972-1978. I bought it on a whim, because again, it was a name I’d heard and was interested in learning more about. Plus that album cover throws off a lot of mystery, and by selecting a double album, I was stretching my entertainment dollar to Manute Bol proportions, paying just a bit more than 16 cents per platter.

Anyway, when I finally got around to playing this album, I was floored that all of these songs (most all of which I knew) came from a single group. This collection leads off with ‘Do It Again’ and I’m certain that I played that song about fifty times, over and over again, before I even made it to the second tune. And so on and so on, one familiar 70′s hit after another – ‘Reeling In The Years’ ‘Kid Charlemagne’ ‘Pretzel Logic’ ‘Doctor Wu’. These songs seemed more like the kind of short stories you’d read in the back of a pulp magazine than something from 70′s AM radio. Becker and Fagan also looked to me like a couple of nerdy bookworms, but their sound was often brass knuckles-tough – very intriguing.

Once I’d cut my teeth on this collection, I spent about ten bucks total buying all of the band’s studio albums – from Can’t Buy A Thrill right through to Gaucho (my personal favorite). And proceeded to… play… the living… shit… out of them. And why not? Each of their albums represent a different hue within the darkest side of American pop. It was all hard-boiled, cynical, and tuneful as could be. Even after all these years of listening, it still amazes me that this collection of songs could come from a single band – or a single man, for that matter.

Listen: Do It Again

Portland Rocks: 5 Great Local Record Stores

28 December 2007

The P and I travelled more than 9,000 miles in the last week - from Oakland to Rhode Island to Atlanta to Portland, OR and back to Oakland. We had multiple flights delayed and cancelled, slept in airports and on planes, and finally made it home around 3am last night. During our brief stay in Portland, I set aside some time to visit a few of my favorite local establishments and buy myself a few well-deserved holiday gifts.

Here’s where I went and what I found:

2nd Avenue - outside

2nd Avenue Records

400 SW 2nd Avenue * Portland, OR 97204 * (503) 222-3783

The skinny: Quite simply the best record store in Portland. This place is a dangerous establishment for any music fan on a budget. My friend Tim refuses to set foot in here because he knows his wallet will take a serious hit every time he does. Incredible selection of new and used vinyl, along with ample new and used discs, and an impressive selection of music-related t-shirts. An absolute must-see for any music fan visiting this city.

2nd Ave - inside

Of interest: The new vinyl. This store regularly stocks albums on vinyl that I didn’t even know had been released in that format.

Bonus points: Store employees always cut the credit card number off every store receipt and destroy it on the spot. Very thorough.

Key purchases: Jay-Z * American Gangster (LP), DFA * The DFA Remixes, Chapter One (LP), Gang Of Four * Entertainment! (reissue LP)

*****

Crossroads - outside

Crossroads Music

3130 SE Hawthorne, Portland OR 97214 * (503) 232-1767

The skinny: This giganto store combines the inventory of 35 different dealers, who all work on a consignment basis. This gives Crossroads wide and deep cross sections of different genres in a way that few stores anywhere can match. Mostly used vinyl, but if you poke around you can find every format – LP, 4 track, 8 track, cassette, cd, and beyond. The staff is very helpful and friendly, a must in a store this large and diverse. You could spend 8 hours here and barely scratch the surface of what’s in stock. Another essential destination for any music fan who finds themselves in the Rose City.

Crossroads - inside

Of interest: The vintage electronic equipment throughtout the store that included a veritable museum of turntables, 8 track players and more – all for sale at reasonable prices.

Bonus points: For the selection of posters that covers every inch of the ceiling in the front room, and the impressive selection of vintage cardboard promo displays behind the front counter.

Crossroads - ceiling
[yes, this is the ceiling...]

Key purchases: Robert Goulet * Greatest Hits (4 track tape), The Small Faces * Rarities (LP), Westbury “Stereo Amplifier / Eight Track Stereo Tape Player” * mint condition (see below)

Westbury - 8 Track Tape Player

*****

Everyday - outside

Everyday Music

1313 West Burnside, Portland OR * (503) 274-0961 [Flagship Store]

The skinny: Independently-owned local chain that features new and used CDs and vinyl, and a wide selection of genres. The environment inside is rather sterile, and reminiscent of a large-box chain, but don’t be fooled – there’s great stuff and good bargains to be found here. Also, their selection of new and used LPs is much more impressive than I had remembered.

Everyday - inside

Of interest: Be sure to check out the cool record promo posters – from all eras – that are up all around the store.

Everyday - Promo Poster

Bonus points: For the employee who nearly did a jig when I asked him to help me find the new Battles album. “That’s my album of the year!” he said, pointing to himself with both hands. He didn’t find the album for me, but his enthusiasm was totally appreciated.

Key purchases: Black Lips * Good Bad Not Evil (used CD), J.J. Cale * Rewind: Unreleased Recordings (CD), Bright Eyes * Cassadaga (CD)

*****

Jackpot - outside

Jackpot Records

203 SW 9th Ave. Portland OR 97205 * (503) 222-0990 * www.JackpotRecords.com

Jackpot - inside

The skinny: Jackpot’s inventory is two-thirds new and used cds and one-third new and used vinyl. Used discs are priced from $5.99 to $9.99, and new discs generally range from $13.99 to $17.99. Their ingenious yet simple filing system uses two different colored sleeves, allowing shoppers to quickly discern used from new discs.

Of interest: Great signage around the store. This shop is relatively new, but looking at their logos and signs, you’d think they’ve been around forever.

Jackpot - signage

Jackpot - sandwich board

Bonus points: The store has reissued the Wipers’ classic LP Youth Of America on their Jackpot Records label. Awesome!

Key purchases: Wipers * Youth Of America (reissue LP), Dan Deacon * Spiderman Of The Rings (CD), Justice * (CD), one size XL Jackpot Records t-shirt

*****

Powell’s - outside

Powell’s Books

1005 Burnside, Portland OR 97209 * (503) 228-4651 * www.powells.com

The skinny: Yeah, it’s a bookstore, but it’s HUGE! It stands to reason that any bookstore large enough to have a ‘Lesbian Mysteries’ section (trust me) probably has a great section dedicated to books on music, and Powell’s doesn’t disappoint. Their ‘music’ section is larger than many small-ish bookstores.

Of interest: The 33&1/3 series of books has its own display, currently featuring a ‘buy two get one free’ deal.

Bonus points: The local music ‘zines in the magazine section are worth a browse.

Key purchases: Domenic Priore * Smile: The Story Of Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece, Patrick Humphries * Nick Drake: The Biography, Jeff Chang (editor) * Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop

Lesbian Mysteries
[told you so...]

Masterpiece: Bitches Brew

12 October 2007

[Today: Miles runs the voodoo down...]

I found a used copy of this album in a seedy Back Bay record store for $6.95 while visiting Boston during the summer of the year I graduated from college. It and a dozen dollar records that I found that day (including Dark Side Of The Moon and Traffic’s self-titled second album) formed the early backbone of my record collection. But Bitches Brew was definitely an oddity among the Doors/Hendrix/Floyd/Zeppelin pu pu platter that I was serving up musically at the time.

As that summer turned to fall, the realization that I needed to find a real job began to settle in. To that end, I made the move to Portland. This was huge for me – my first time living in a big city, and in a cool apartment right off of Burnside near Northwest Portland. The one major catch was the economy – ’92 was a tough time to be looking for a job, especially for a green young whippersnapper like myself. As the days turned into weeks I began to look beyond white collar jobs and seek out any opportunity that presented itself – fry cook, security guard, delivery man, janitor, house painter. Yikes! Nothing was happening and my money was starting to evaporate.

The one upside of this unemployment is that I had TONS of free time. And by ‘free time’ I literally mean time spent doing stuff that was free – walking around the city (Portland is beautiful and pedestrian friendly), jogging, drinking lots of water, reading books I already owned, and listening to music. Django’s – a legendary local record shop – had a 3 for $1 bin that I raided mercilessly to add some depth to my record collection (hey, 33 & 1/3 cents a pop is pretty close to free). Another bonus was an unexpected Indian summer that kept the temperatures warm through October, while Portland hosted a myriad of street fairs and celebrations.

It was by no means a great period of my life, but some of those fall evenings, with the temperatures dancing upward, and electricity hanging thick in the air, I’d lounge around that apartment with Bitches Brew languidly spinning away, and listen to the sounds of the city lilting through my open window on the slightest breeze. The car horns and laughter mingled with the horns and drums and organs on the record, and I sat there and soaked it all in and wrapped myself in the first stirrings of freedom and sophistication, and forgot about the iron fist of poverty that was knocking down my door.

Listen: Miles Runs The Voodoo Down


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