I grew up in Portland, OR. I moved back home after college and spent the next five years bumming around, living in a communal house, playing in bands, living off terrible jobs and food stamps and unemployment. My steadiest job was a part-time gig as dispatcher for an automotive locksmith. I had to move back in with my parents twice. It was, by and large, an excellent way to spend one’s 20s.
I moved to New York with my brother in late August, 2010. There were a bunch of reasons I decided to leave Portland, some solid and some stupid. The one I told people was that I felt like I needed a kick in the ass, that Portland was so laid back that my whole life was going by without my noticing. The one that was the most pressing was that I had run out of money and was living in my dad’s basement.
The last thing my brother and I did together before we left town was to spend three weeks playing in a fake wedding band in a parking lot in Oregon City. There was this play, you see - it was about a boy from Portland and a girl from Molalla (the sticks) getting married. The marriage was a metaphor, but it was also a real wedding with a ceremony and a reception and everything, and half the audience started in the boonies and half in the city, and were then herded onto buses, meeting halfway for a meal and some valedictory toasting in Oregon City. OC is a paper mill town on the Willamette river, Portland’s southernmost suburb, and the oldest incorporated city west of the Rockies - it’s built on two levels, in the river valley and on the high ground, and the reception took place right at the edge of the cliff.
The play was very earnest, very well-meaning, very condescending, and generally pretty awful, but the audience got a solid sit-down dinner out of it, with a live band. We would stand there in our button-downs and play background music for an hour as the sun set down over the west hills. The tunes were composed by our friend Dave, who is the sweetest dude in the world and also a Legitimate Musician - he made light, vaguely countrified riffs, wistful and sweet or energetic as the moment demanded, which we could jam on for as long as we needed to. We floated sloppily through them.
At the end of the play, the cast would pick up glowsticks and lead the audience into the night, enticing them down the cliffside into the boundless [but also very dark] future of rural-urban cooperation while we turned on all our distortion pedals and jammed the fuck out. It was super ultra liminal. It was super Portland. The play was a metaphor, but my involvement in it was also a metaphor, making the whole thing a loud, sweaty, fully catered metaphor sandwich, comprising the state I was in, the state I was leaving and the reasons I had for leaving it. My life has a thing for big, obvious symbols.
I am taking forever to get to the point. The point is: Dave has released a recording of one of the nights as a… Maxi-Cassingle. Can that be right? That is the most Portland possible thing to do. You cannot be more Portland than that. Listening to it fills me with - can you guess? - tremendous nostalgia.
There is absolutely no reason why it should have a similar effect on you, but if you want to dip your toe into one of the vibiest vibes that ever vibed, imagine four hapless dorks on asphalt in the summer heat, playing our catchy nothings at the setting sun, the smell of lamb stew lingering in the air. Dave has bookended the actual recording with a few minutes of what the tunes might have sounded like if they’d been played by non-goofs, but it is probably best if you ignore that. Have a listen.