Posts Tagged ‘Local Music’

Sweaty dancers, shoulder to shoulder, gyrating hips to and fro, and unintentional groping. It was impossible not to invade the personal space of another person in this tiny space. The band took up over half of the dance floor, the bar was three people deep all the way around, and believe me, there was no room to play a game of pool. Girls stood atop benches on the perimeter of the miniscule dining area, sparsely peppered with tables, dancing with their arms in the air. Couples tango in the small space available with the smell of pheromones and pot in the air…This was the Keegan Smith and the Fam show at the Candlelight Room. Almost every week, on the left, Marv Ellis would rap along side the front-man, stunning the ladies in the crowd with his charm and good looks, as well as his lyrical ability. The Acoustic Minds belted out blues-funk inspired harmonization to the right. Occasionally, Unkle Nancy would grace us with his growling scat, and animated expressions. This is where I was first introduced to the phenomenon through my good friends Mike and Tiffany. There was many a stumbling drunk evening walking past the large, olive skinned bouncer (complete with a twinkle in his eye and sly smile on his face) to catch up to my sober ride back home.

Tiff and I on our way home from a wiley night(her birthday) at a Keegan Smith show!

For the last year, Keegan and the Fam have been performing at Club 915, a much more upper-scale kind of club with two floors and three bars, big enough to accommodate the growing numbers. These days, the other performers, Marv, Nancy, and the Acoustic Minds, are off doing other projects on their own, but the vertically challenged main man still has all the right moves, and a business plan in mind. There is a cushy VIP seating area, a much larger, open dance floor, and video screens projecting the show throughout the interior as well as on the street by the front door. At the beginning of the evening, the fifty or so people which would’ve given the Candlelight the feeling of a decent sized Monday-night crowd, are just enough to make Club 915 seem barely populated. The facility requires a much larger number of people to give the intimate feeling that naturally happened at the Candlelight. But no worries, by ten thirty, you have to excuse yourself to wind your way through the abstract menagerie that walks the streets of Portland on the first workday of the week.

Keegan does the job he was made to do, and moves through the crowd with ease, remembering names, bumping fists, and harmlessly flirting with the swooning twenty-somethings that are wearing little more that a Be-Dazzled handkerchief paired with “fuck-me” pumps, which could’ve been purchased, mind you, at the local porn/lingerie shop rather than paying hundreds at Nordstrom. One third of the crowd looks as if they are either on their way to Burning Man, or they just left a private art show. The rest of the audience, Keegan’s newer followers, could be the stunt doubles, both male and female, for the cast of Jersey Shore. Leather-wearing, muscle-bound, tan men dancing badly in hopes to take home one of the women who could easily be mistaken for an off-duty stripper. If the old show at the Candlelight was a meat market, then Club 915 is a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) with make-up, Mystic Tan, and way too much Drakkar Noir.

Keegan Smith working the crowd!

That is the beautiful thing about Keegan’s shows though; they appeal to everyone! I’ve taken punk rock kids to a Monday night at the 915, the musically elite kind that look for the most obscure, rare cuts that they can find…and even they have a good time. Two cocktails later, with inhibitions dropped, they are shaking it with their sworn social enemies, and “droppin’ it like it’s hot.” My mother has even had an amazing time watching the Fam! I introduced her and Keegan before he went on stage, and fifteen minutes later, he integrated not only me, but also my mother’s name into one of his free-styles, while she danced with a nice young man potentially twenty years her junior.

After talking with him for a bit about the blog, and about what he and his wife enjoy eating, his musical career and his plans in the future, I knew that I had gotten him just at the right time. Keegan and the Fam are leaving Club 915 at the end of the month! That’s right, this Monday, the 29th of November, will be their LAST FREE MONDAY NIGHT SHOW!!!! The group, who just got back from a short tour, will be taking the next few months to record a new album. Keegan told me about how he has over fifty songs written, and if possible he’d like to record all of them. After that they’ll choose the ones to put on the album, and that will drop in May of 2011. Busy, busy, busy!

It all started when Keegan got a guitar for Christmas in 1998, and he started playing and performing in ’99. He had just graduated with a Bachelors degree in psychology, which was initially my major when I was going to a more conventional-style college, but as of 2006 he dropped his day job, and focused on making a living with his music. Ever since then, Keegan Smith and the Fam have been taking the Northwest by storm. Hybrid and Special Delivery, two inspired albums, are found at his shows and online at for a nominal fee, and are worth every penny!

What Keegan’s particular brand of tunnel-vision is pointed towards presently is the international music market. Ambitious? Yes, but nobody got anywhere dreaming small! He has plans for both a tour in Canada and a tour in India, and is hoping that he can extend the two, so that they meet in the middle, and the band can just fly from one country to the other. There is a renewable energy company in New Delhi called Choice Solar that is interested in having Keegan and the Fam be the spokespeople for their business and marketing campaign. He was telling me that he’s working on a song for them called “Energy” and he couldn’t be more excited to be affiliated with not only this company, but the renewable energy movement as a whole that is taking place globally! This is not surprising coming from someone who was born and raised in the Northwest.

Keegan's sister who is at every show helping with merch, marketing, and hyping up the crowd!

Keegan has more that his environmentally conscious business plans in common with the rest of the Northwest. He also shares a love of sushi (That’s right, I had to bring it back to food)! Although he admits that his wife would probably prefer El Gaucho, he finds it a little pricey, and would rather go to Blue Fin Sushi pretty much any day of the week. He loves it because of how fresh the fish tastes but also because it’s really good quality at an affordable price. I personally, haven’t been there yet, but if you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that I adore sushi, and any reason to go review a place with raw fish, is a good reason!

With the tour that he just returned from, and the two tours coming up, my next question was naturally about what food he missed while he was on the road. His initial answer was one that I find is pretty common with musicians these days: “Anything but fast-food!” I told him about how the Absent Minds said they had wished they could have anything but Mexican fare after their tour in the Southwest. He kind of giggled, and my comment reminded him that that was actually something that he had missed. He hadn’t been able to find good Mexican food on his last jaunt around the countryside.

When it comes to food that he enjoys cooking, Keegan is a simple man. He likes to get real creative with paninis. Crusty bread, cured meat, and good quality cheese…yes, please! It’s easy to put together and there are a variety of options to accommodate the pickiest of eaters, even his very young daughter. Stay tuned for my bad-ass panini recipe, and I’ll even give you a couple specialty topping options to impress both your carnivorous and vegetarian guests!!!

So…I’ll be seeing you on Monday, November 29th at Club 915 to see Keegan’s last free Monday night show for at least the next three months if not indefinitely! Come down, have a cocktail, and show us your dance moves, even if they’re really bad! Ha Ha Ha!

He Wants You....There!

You stay classy Portland!


Does Portland need another indie band? In the case of Ocean Age, if you could call them “indie,” then the answer, whispered sweetly in the ear of your beloved, is “Yes….”

The five member band is split between Portland and Seattle, but is still able to do amazing things together, even with all the rain. In the last year since putting out their six song EP “Forest,” they’ve had a flood of publicity including being reviewed by WW, The Mercury(this link isn’t the review, it’s just some horrible prank someone played that I thought was funny, even if poorly done), as well as The Portland Mercury called them “indie-chamber folk,” and The Willamette Week refers to them as “tree-hugging electro-pop,” both descriptions I find to be pretty spot on. They were voted onto the PDX Pop Now compilation album, which is a huge honor, and they are currently working on a project with Hossanas.

These people also have day jobs and/or go to school, and they naturally all have personal obligations. When I think about local music as a whole, one of the things that I really admire about the musicians that make this such an important part of their lives, is the time commitment. It’s like being a single parent, only the child that you are nursing, feeding, and paying for is your art. In the conversation that I had with Jessie, we discussed the financial aspect of this endeavor briefly, and how “negative band money” is the norm. Her face literally lit up as she remembered and mentioned the one time that Ocean Age was in the black… Four whole dollars! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone over the age of five be so excited about four bucks, but in that moment, judging from her expression and candor, it’s safe to say, when that was realized, the entire collaborative felt bliss.

I met Jessie Aron, who plays acoustic guitar, and is one of the singers in the band, through the Oregon Culinary Institute, where we both attend. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, or been such a great coincidence that I was just starting to write this blog. I am honestly not sure that I would have come across the group on my own. Something aligned in the distant sky, just like the natural sound samples and harmonious lyrics align in Ocean Age’s music, and so it was, that I got to sit down with her for a few brief minutes, and get the run-down on this amazing group.

“We all pretty much sing,” she says as she’s writing down everyone’s names and instruments (broken wrist and all makes it difficult to take notes). Diane Chaplin plays the cello. Gavriel de Tarr sings as well as playing the synthesizer and drums. Yuri Tolpin also sings as plays the guitar and drums. Chelsea Xavier plays the Q-chord (also known as an omni-chord, maybe one of the coolest instruments ever!) and sings. And Aaron Summerfield plays the bass. They all come together to create a whimsical kind of sound, less abrupt than the Broken Bells (if you could call Broken Bells abrupt), but still reminiscent of James Mercer’s stylings.  In fact, I think that the label The Shins are under, Sub Pop, would do well to pay attention to these ladies and gentlemen.

The song “dalvik tide,” named for a small fishing village in Eyjafjörður, Iceland, which i was told to pay particular attention to, is really well done, and makes me think of what it would be like to be high on ecstacy. Its euphoria encapsulated and expressed in song. Warm fuzzies, and a cool breeze, if you will. I can’t wait for a D.J. to get a hold of this and put a hip-hop spin on it. Jessie told me about how they love to use organic sounds, found in nature, and its evident in “dalvik tide” where you can literally hear the water’s ebb and flow.  If I could swim in that water for all eternity, I think I would.

When I got down to the matter at hand with the gently-spoken brunette guitarist about food, she was very modest about her culinary ability, which in all honesty, is refreshing. Through culinary school, and working in the various restaurants I’ve been employed at (in all number of positions), you meet an awful lot of people that love to toot there own horn. It’s important to be confident but don’t cross the line into being pretentious. She admitted that she has a habit of adding too much to a recipe, which we are all guilty of from time to time. If you think about how each ingredient you add creates exponentially more possible combinations of flavor, it’s humbling in a sort of way. One example of this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink method that always pans out, is her home-made veggie burgers. I don’t know who out there has experienced the joy that is a home-made veggie burger, but they are amazing, and you’ll never wanna buy fuckin’ Boca EVER AGAIN! I can only imagine how awesome Jessie’s are, especially since alot of what she ate growing up was thank to the hippie taste buds possessed by her parents. “We ate a lot of kale,” she says in such dead-pan fashion, Steve Carell would break character and crack a smile.

Her favorite restaurant in PDX is the infamous Pok Pok nestled in South East at 3226 SE Division St. This place is consistently raved about by my peers, teachers, and fellow foodies as having authentic Thai food. The owner regularly travels to Thailand to stay current on techniques and flavor combinations. He actually just returned from a four month excursion! From what I’ve been told, by a very reliable source I might add, is that he actually creates the menu entirely on his own, with no input from anyone else. I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this yet, but now I have a good excuse. I’ll let you know how it goes for sure!

Aside from Pok Pok, what Jessie really misses while she and Ocean Age are out of Stumptown, is “Hawthorne!” The stretch of Hawthorne Blvd., originally named Asylum Avenue (which would be a great band name, if no one has that already), that is considered the Hawthorne District, is technically from 30th to 42nd in the South East portion of the metro area.  If you’re not familiar with it, Hawthorne is full of small local shops and restaurants, as well as “gays and lesbians, Generation X and hippies, and more recently, hipsters (that’s a quote from Wikipedia that I had to borrow, and snicker at a little).” What’s great about this area is that all the local business work together. The employees of a number of these establishments receive discounts from the other businesses in the co-op. It is a mecca of all things Portland, and you can definitely spend and entire day wandering around, eating, and even catch a show at the Hawthorne Theater or the Mount Tabor Theater, or watch a cult classic film like the Goonies at the Baghdad! It’s easy to see why this place is so close to her heart!

So, in conclusion, my friends:

they are all staring at yellow balloons stuck in a tree...miss jessie is the one in the middle!

  1. Jessie Aron is pretty much amazing
  2. Check out Ocean Age and “Dalvik tide”
  3. Eat at Pok Pok
  4. And go wander around the Hawthorne District if you haven’t done that in a while. It’ll be fun!

Until next time,


On Thursday night, I was fortunate enough to have a talk with Absent Minds right before their show at the Red Room with C.B.K. (affectionately known as the Clackamas Baby Killers no longer Cookies, Bunnies, and Kittens) and an amazing rockabilly band on tour from San Diego called the Hard Fall Hearts. Being that it was a weekday, and there was little notice before the exhibition, it was almost like a private performance. Most of the shows I’ve been to at that venue have little more than standing room, so I felt privileged in a way.

I’ve seen the band a number of times over the past few years, and it’s always a fabulous time. Thursday was no exception. I watched in amazement, my face blushing, as girls yelled from the crowd: “Too much clothes on the stage! Take it off!” All the members have a great sense of humor, and were more than happy to appease the audience. Joel, guitarist and singer, promptly removed his pants, stumbling over his shoes once the material reached his ankles, like a virgin getting ready for his first time. Isaac, the cellist, took his shirt off and tossed it to the ladies with a wry smile on his face. Richie, the bassist, and DJ on the drums, just laugh with smiles stretched from ear to ear, whilst remaining fully clothed, and then continue to play without missing a beat. The guys get the room moving with some of their self-described punk/folk/cello-core sounds including a song called “Bacon Cheeseburger,”…how appropriate after an interview with a food blog! that song gets the double I'm getting lessons from another fan

I took a step out back of the venue, in the typical Portland rain, and chatted with the band before they went on. One of the first things we discussed were their favorite local restaurants, and Richie quickly jumps in with, “The A-crop,” also known as the Acropolis Steakhouse (and Strip Club). Renowned for it’s $4.99 steak special, and as the other band members would point out, their tasty gyros and breakfast fare. Because what goes better with a good steak than a naked stripper? It is only to be expected that this is the first place mentioned by a  local band for my blog, being that Stumptown has the highest number of strip clubs per-capita in the nation. After talking with the owner of the Acropolis, located at 8325 SE Mcloughlin Blvd. Portland, OR 97202-7434, I found out that the  reason they can afford to basically give away the high quality steak, is because he owns and raises the cows that they serve there. Talk about local!

My Father’s Place (523 SE Grand Ave. Portland, OR 97214) was also mentioned as being a favorite among the guys, particularly Isaac. “He means the dumpster BEHIND My Father’s Place,” the other guys say in jest. I can speak from experience, that not only is it hard to get a table at this establishment on a Saturday or Sunday while the hordes of hung-over twenty and thirty-somethings stumble through the door looking for salvation and coffee, but the food is pretty good, too. I think a lot of the allure, aside from the fashionably dark ambiance with plenty of booths and hanging lamps over each table, is seeing people from the night before. I’m yet to go there and not run into either someone I know, or at least a friend-of-a-friend that I met at the party, club or show I’m attempting to recover from.

From L to R: Joel, Richie, Me, Isaac, and DJ a.k.a Absent Minds! Thanks Guys!

Aside from late night pizza, LeRoy’s Familiar Vittles (BBQ) on SE 48th and Division in South East, is where Joel likes to frequent. It’s a small food cart, one of the 400+ in the Portland area, but they have a smoker on site which helps to set it apart from the competition. The former owner and head chef of the The Delta runs the joint, and from what DJ says, he’s doing everything right.

Making our way through the chatter and giggles, next I asked what food they really missed while they were on tour. “Everything but Mexican!” they blurted out. Apparently they ate Mexican fare in every city they went through, and could really do without tacos and burritos for a while. The Absent Minds just returned after almost an entire month on the road playing in Washington, a number of different places in California, and also in New Mexico, where they picked up additional loyal fans in each location.  They also could agree that they missed having good coffee, the second of two items that the four gentleman could see eye to eye on that evening. Isaac was having Sriracha withdrawals, because outside of Stumptown, you just don’t find it standard in the condiment caddy. Joel craved a cheeseburger with fried eggs on top as he had trouble finding this PDX staple in other places. And DJ, naturally missed…cheap sushi.Yes I’m unfortunately talking about the restaurants with a conveyor-belt and color coded plates of raw and cooked fish.

“What food do you love to cook for yourself? And don’t say Ramen Noodles!” … “Meth!”says Isaac, and everyone bursts into laughter. Seriously though, Isaac’s roommate does a lot of the cooking at their place, mostly southern style food, and what he craved on the road was shrimp etouffee; coupled with a bottle of whiskey to sip on while it’s simmering down. DJ is more than happy to admit that since he married his lovely wife, Hannah, he doesn’t really cook anymore, but he does enjoy barbecuing. When I try to pry a little more, all the guys chime in that everything Hannah makes is good, and they make it a habit to catch dinner occasionally at their home.  Joel really enjoys cooking pizza entirely from scratch, preferably topped with Mexican green chilies when available, but also pepperoni, bacon, pineapple, and jalapeno. And what does Richie miss? I wouldn’t expect anything less than the smart-ass remark I received: “whole suckling pig, buried in the ground…with the coals and sand.”

I want to thank the band for a great show, and also for taking the time to talk to me. You can catch these truly entertaining guys at the Tonic Lounge (3100 NE Sandy Blvd.)Friday November fifth at 8:00. It’s 21 and over so no young’ins allowed this time, but they do play all ages shows, so keep your ears and eyes open! Try out some of the restaurants we mentioned here, too, if you’ve never been. I’ll be checking out LeRoy’s BBQ this week, and I’ll be happy to give you the highlights!


Just an update, Ladies and Gents! Got one interview under my belt (with Ocean Age), and I’m going to get my second one tonight! Come on down to the Red Room off 82nd Ave. to catch up with me and the guys from the Absent Minds. It’s only a short jaunt north of the 82nd Ave. max stop (you can take the blue, red or green line if coming from the city) and is guaranteed to be a good time! The Absent minds put on a new twist on a fairly classic punk rock sound, so if you’re looking for something fun to do on a Thursday night, join us! See you there, and stay tuned for my upcoming posts with this band, and the aforementioned Ocean Age…Muah!


A previous excursion at the Red Room where there was actually enough room to play me, at shows, it's usually standing room only and a lot of fun!