Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – USA – Day 24/25 – Portland, OR

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 7, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 24/25 – Portland, OR
[On the iPOD] The Libertines / The Sonics

Sunny sunny Portland! I’d found something out from the locals, they discern who ISNT from Portland by the simple fact they carry an umbrella. Apparently the done thing is everyone wears hoodies to fend off the rain and rain it does in Portland (a little too much this week) It is the most bizarre weather I’ve ever seen. You could compare Portland to Melbourne but the fact of the matter is it never rains more than 5minutes, not sure if it’s the way the landscape surrounding Portland is organised but those rain clouds roll in and roll away before you’ve had a chance to get our umbrella wet. Mostly it’s sunshower drizzle and a trusty hoodie will get you through the day.

I headed over to the Portland Craft Museum, it doesn’t sound very enticing does it? I had my doubts too but I was running out of options in the rain. Some interesting subversive ‘hack-art’ mostly surrounding clothing. A local artist had modified two bicycles and rigged them to a sewing machine to faux canvas clothing. It was a human-powered production line, perhaps protesting modern production line clothing or the hours it takes to produce such clothes using human power in protest of sweat shop labor. I’m not too sure frankly, its rather subjective. Interesting none the less. Another display featured giant blanket with the Nike swoosh which was collectively sewn by hundreds of people around the world and then delivered to a CEO at Nike in protest of their sweat-shops. The piece I liked the best however was a bunch of letters stuck to a wall.

They were letters written by a former gulf-war marine address to various heads of organisations such as America’s ambassador to the UN, the secretary of Defence and so forth. Next to them were the replies. Basically they were short and to the point letters (half a paragraph) praising efforts of the recipient on sticking to their intended goals re: the current wars in Iraq/Afghanistan and mildly suggesting an opposition to it. Enclosed with the letters were home-made pots with Army-inspired themes as gifts to the recipients. It’s kind of jading reading the robotic replies. The last was addressed to the representative of China to the UN praising China’s efforts to oppose to the war, next to the letter was the pot (returned to sender unopened) It’s funny how American politicians are happy to play the game and be all smiles whilst the Chinese just don’t give a toss. No photos of most of the exhibition (not allowed)

I later headed to a popular music store called Jackpot Records (bands play in-store showcases frequently) See The Cribs doing so right here I was after an album by a local band called Yacht and found a cheap used copy but they couldn’t find the CD! So I asked if they had The Cribs latest album on vinyl which they didn’t. The guy felt genuinely bad for me leaving empty handed so he ended up giving me a Cribs T-shirt which were made specially for the in-store appearance (a limited set) for free! Radness. I also picked up a present for a friend.

The rain was picking up so I again headed to the only point of comfort nearby The Powell’s bookstore. I’m not sure if I put into perspective what this store is to Portland, it’s more than a bookstore it’s like a meeting-point and hangout for all of Portland it seems. The place is ALWAYS packed they have a cafe in there which serves epicly good coffee and tea and the independent feel of the store and it’s selection of new and used books make it a place you can keep going back to without getting bored. Did I mention it has 4 levels and spans a city-block? I stayed in there reading The Zinesters guide to Portland. Written by a local bunch of Zinesters (A Zinester is someone who makes Zines; home-made, photocopied magaZINES which usually contain creative writing on topics of sub-cultural themes which are mostly autobiographical) That’s a poor description but you get the jist.

The book apparently started as a zine itself, with a bunch of ‘cool places to go and see’ in Portland written for out-of-town zinesters visiting for a zine symposium. If I say zine one more time i’m going to explode. But anyway it’s now a 100+ illustrated book, its quite amazing actually. I learnt a few things like theres actually 5 quadrants to the city (NW, N, NE, SE, SW) and Portland has 12 bridges! (8 in the immediate city area) Bridgetown indeed. Sipping Japanese sencha tea I totally lost track of time.

No cool gigs on Friday unfortunately though the night before I’d headed to see a band at a venue called Holocene. “The Morning Benders” out of San Francisco. They’re opening song was brilliant kind of an oldschool british post-punk vibe to it with working up rhythms. But then they settled into the ‘sound of today’ or falsetto folk-pop. They’re ultimately a soft folk-pop band along the lines of Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend. But not as memorable really. If only they’d stuck to that post-punk opener instead of conforming to what’s cool right now. I kind of left not really that interested. Good venue though.

Saturday involved getting out to “the real portland” on my own. The NE and SE. Basically these quadrants all have ‘suburbs’ or areas but when someone asks where your from people usually reply by the quadrant. In the NE it’s Alberta St that featured a bunch of cool little shops and restaurants, it was a shame about the heavy rain or I would’ve explored more. I settled for lunch however and next headed to SE Hawthorne Pde. This place reminded me most of home, or that is Newtown in Sydney. Not as big or as crowded but good original stores and restaurants. Theres the best damn used clothes store I’ve ever seen called Red Light. I tried on two jackets, 1 of which was too big and the other too small (DAMNIT!) because they were an utter bargain and totally cool. Theres racks and racks of vintage used t-shirts. Girls would probably go insane in this place. There was only a small section for mens clothes with the rest of the store for women. A Madonna album played in the background whilst I flicked through original run Simpsons T-shirts. Early 90’s flashback much! Ack.

I tried to go to a park East of Hawthrone Pde but it turns out it was a damn Forest again, PDX likes its inner-city forests. After shopping around for a bit I ate and then headed back early to relax for a big gig that night.

A show at the Doug-Fir (a snazzy newish-looking venue) I don’t like that “new-polished-bar” venue appeal but I’ve gotta say they have the best sound tech/setup I’ve probably ever heard. Utterly perfect. I say ‘big gig’ because headlining was current hyped “IT” band “Surfer Blood” from Florida. Even JJJ back home has been sprucing them loudly. They’ve got a sort of Surf-Pop 60’s vibe to them, but not in a raw-garage way. More in a Beach Boys kind of way (minus the keys and multiple voice harmonising or epic genius layering) I’d like to say they were all that, but they looked about 17 years old and though they were tight they pretty much had the appeal of a young band. IE; Not much. They have some stand out songs but overall it’s a bit too simple in parts. The venue was packed (near sell out) but no one seemed to be dancing to it. All hype? No, there are some points to write home about, but they’re no Arctic Monkeys (and look where they’ve gone) Time will tell I guess.

But but but the band before them by the name of “Turbo Fruits” from Tennessee were wholey entertaining and in parts; a flat out riot. This is probably due to the fact they have a former member of “Be Your Own Pet” It’s raw 60’s garage rock/pop meets a Southern-knee-slapping good time. At times a little too much so (I almost mistook one of their songs for Kings Of Leon) but thankfully the vocals sound nothing along the lines of that accent. They played two covers; CCR – Bad Moon Rising (in a garage style) and then The Undertones – Teenage Kicks, which was spot on. If anything the band doesn’t have the songs as yet (a short set with two covers) but they’re one to look out for. I met some cool people later on and then stumbled home. Just like that Portland came to an end. Farewell Bridgetown, Beervana, PDX, Stumptown and The City Of Roses.

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