Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – USA – Day 31/32 – Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 16, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 31/32 Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA
[On the iPOD] The Cribs / The Thermals / Phoenix / Animal Collective / Blur

Driving a short trek from Vancouver, BC in the morning to Portland, OR. Six hours of freeways ugh. Funnily enough I got pulled up at the boarder because the people at LAX (when I arrived initially) hadn’t stapled/stamped my customs declaration (they stamped the passport only) and the guys at boarder control were rather confused with this; they thought I was entering the U.S for the first time. I sorted it out in 5minutes though and was on my way. Not much fun but getting into Portland felt kinda weird, like oddly familiar in a way as if I’d been living there for years some time ago and I needed to catchup on things.

I got a late lunch at Wendy’s. I’ve made it one of my points to try every dodgy fast food place America has to offer. From comparing the major chains to ones back home and new ones serving up generally the same rubbery burgers. Wendy’s was rather dodgier than the rest though. It was also kind of funny being in there as a tour bus or something had formed a queue before me. Nothing like experiencing the American dream; the rush and commotion of orders being yelled in a Wendy’s burger queue.

I was trolling through The Mercury (Portland’s free street-press equivalent of the DrumMedia in Sydney) It’s odd how similar they are actually. Jotting down some things to do on my last night in Portland (the next day would mean a long (10hour) drive to San Francisco, I was only half interested in some of the stuff going on so I decided to call some contacts from the previous visit. Portland know-it-all Noelle (knowelle) gave me directions to a house party where another mate Clint’s band was playing a gig.

The house was in SE Portland and was utterly rad, it had no plasterboard on the walls so it was just timber framing inside but had heaps of character and was very welcoming, I got to talking to one of peeps who lived there about a few things such as the random art on the walls and some of the band equipment in one of the rooms. They apparently just picked up some equipment and jammed when they felt like it, weren’t really in a band or anything. When I got there however “Jackalope Saints” were about to kick off their set to an intimate room of locals swilling IPA brews and the odd home-made concoctions mixed in jam-jars.

Straight from the get-go I noticed that lead singer Clinton Herrick’s vocals are spot on for the vibe of the band; a 4 piece with double-bass / acoustic gtr / with lead mandolin-banjo to boot! For all your Australians think; Xavier Rudd but less beach-bogan with didgeridoo and more Pacific-Northwest American refinement. The set swaggered from slow songs with cool picking to upbeat strumalongs with impressive lead mandolin. With folkrock influences like Paul Simon this relatively new yet fairly tight band has a bright future beyond their native Portland, Oregon.

I tried snapping photos in vain; it was a living room in a house after all and there were no front-facing stage lights but I did snap a few that captured the mood; people dancing along with beverages of choice in hand. After the set I explored the house some more until it was suggested we move on to a cool bar somewhere in the NE, when you’ve essentially got a tour guide you don’t pay much attention to where your going. I then got roped into trying something called a hot-totty (or something) which was hot whisky with lemon and honey and some other stuff. Noelle bet her life on it’s sugary allure but I couldn’t stomach it! Not so much the taste but the hot-ness thing. I have heaps of trouble putting down hot sake also so maybe I’d like the iced variety? After some food and whatnot we headed to meet another pal of Noelle’s and talk shit at another bar. This led to us eventually deciding to hit a strip-club.

Noelle and Brett knew one of the dancers, which Brett tells me isn’t unusual. Have I forgotten to mention that Portland as a city has the most strip clubs (per capita) in the world?! (I thought it was only in the U.S) But Noelle corrects me triumphantly. Fuck Vegas, who needs it? Essentially Portland isn’t anywhere near as seedy as Vegas nor does it have any of the fakeness of diva-esque neon lights haphazardly ram shackled onto anything that will support them. The clubs and scene is there but it’s more understated. It’s there if you want it. Anyway twenty or so $1 bills and a few drinks later and it was closing time. The girls at Sassy’s work pretty damn hard and put on a rad show, Brett/Noelle’s friend was probably the best there and came for a chat later on. She mentioned wanting to travel around and to Australia even but like anyone else, it’s hard to get some savings together. It reminded me how long it’s taken to get mine together to be doing this.

Saying goodbye in the early morning and then driving out of Portland left me with a feeling of sadness, as if I were driving away from well known and loved surroundings/people evan though in reality I’m no local. I haven’t really felt that way at all on this trip so far (apart from leaving Tokyo) A few droning hours on a freeway sorted me out though. Got into San Francisco late again, great.

Saturday night really isn’t the night to be out in SF it seems, It was basically the same deal as last time round. Cheesy club nights. I got dinner and roamed around a bit, random pubs that weren’t playing anything interesting and this was in the Mission district. I don’t know if I’ve somehow unluckily missed all the cool places or something but SF just doesn’t seem to be my kinda town. Which is odd because everyone I’ve talked to has spoken fondly of it. It is the place to be if you like “cutting-edge” hipster electro-dj nights and r&b and soul and the like. It reminds me a lot of Sydney in that it has it’s gorgeous tourist sites (if you take away the two or three half-deascent club nights that is) Ouch, scathing! huh?

As I mentioned before though, a lot of the places I wanted to visit have literally closed in the last month so maybe it’s going through a change of guard in regards to Indie venues or whatnot. Who knows, all I know is I’ve managed to sniff out amazing places in every city I’ve visited thus far including ones where I can’t speak the language and San Francisco wasn’t speaking mine. Not enough time I guess! Roll on New York.

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