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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2007/01/23
by John Zinkand

The Music Cycle

Weve just had a touch of musical drought here in Portland. It happens every year in our fair cityas the cold winds, dark clouds, and torrents of rain blast into town, many national acts tend to avoid the Northwest like the plague. And who can blame them? The cities up here are few and far between. Getting here requires travel over winding, mountainous, snow covered roads. For all I know, however, this may not be a uniquely Portland problem. I can see how bands all over the country would want to take it easy after the holidays – not be all gung ho about traveling around in an unsafe van loaded with heavy equipment over dark, icy roads.
There have been a few local shows here and there, but they are only so good. And if anything else pops up, I usually skip the local band to go to the other activity. The last good music I saw in Portland was Garaj Mahal on the 28th of December and the New Years Eve show at the Goodfoot featuring a varied assortment of area musicians including Tye North and Scott Law.
The Garaj Mahal show was really good. The band played a solid but short first set timing in at about 45 minutes. After a fairly lengthy set break, the band came back out to play a second set that lasted close to two hours. By the time the band was back, many folks had already headed home to get some sleep before the next work day. Consequently, the remaining Garaj Mahal faithful had plenty of room to shake their respective groove thangs. The band shined in the intimate setting as the enthusiastic crowd loudly egged them on. A crazy version of Poodle Factory that launched off into the stratosphere of exploratory jamming highlighted the lengthy second set. The double encore, which included a cover of Aquarius, was icing on the cake. The New Years show at the Goodfoot was fun but I couldnt tell you too much more than that. Lets just say it was a very festive evening. Scott Law played some great guitar and Tye North is always solid on the bass. I enjoy watching these two guys play together every time. Everyone who was there reported having a blast. We danced and partied until 2:00am or 2:30am. The music was really good…it was laid back, funky, and fun. Bassist Arne Livingston of the Living Daylights was in the house and sat in with the band for a while, providing meaty grooves and his unique style of bass playing and tapping wizardry. After the show we hit a 24 hour burrito joint called Javiers and ate gargantuan burritos. In the morning the burrito was causing me some pain, but not nearly as much pain as I feel now having not seen any good live shows for the last few weeks. The only music available right now is the local stuff. At least there is a fair to good selection of live local music in Portland. Theres plenty of punk, indie, and metal. But there are also plenty of Dead cover bands, jambands, rock bands, and jazz bands. Local venues Jimmy Maks or The Blue Monk has local or national acts playing tasty jazz any night of the week. And while this is all well and good, theres something really sweet about seeing the bigger name national jamband acts you love in your home town. As a live music fans, thats what we look forward to. We count the days until the next exciting show is scheduled at a venue near us.
Unfortunately, the count has been very high lately, so I thought Id bitch and moan. But it looks like the suffering is almost over. Theres light at the end of the long, moist, musically void tunnel. For instance, this week Im going to see G. Love at the Crystal Ballroom. While G. may not jam per say, he grooves and plays a smooth brand of catchy tuneage that I enjoy taking in live from time to time. And shortly after that, things start to heat up. On the horizon weve got Sound Tribe Sector Nine, New Monsoon, Eric McFadden, Mike Dillon (and Gabby La La if youre into that sort of thing), Ratdog, Assembly of Dust, Jake Shimabukuro, The Bridge, Robert Randolph, and Brett Dennen. When you add the fact that Umphreys is playing a two night stand at the Fillmore just a short flight away over my birthday weekend, theres not really too much to complain about. So Im done.
Its a fact that sometimes there just wont be any good live tunes playing in your town. It happens to even the best cities. Well, maybe not New York. But like so many things in life, we have to learn to take the good with the bad. We can make our own fun in the down times, but its important to seize the moment and check out live tunes when bands come through your town. You never know when the next unexpected musical drought might slam into your town with an unforgiving vengeance. Get out there and dance your butt off now while theres still time!

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