Drove up to Portland with Tina last night to catch Robyn Hitchcock at the Aladdin as well as Firewater across town at Lola's Room.
Arriving at the Aladdin, we ran into Toby and Derek. They had saved some seats for us close to the front, which was cool. The theatre itself was shabby but nice, with old seats that were too small and uncomfortable, even for a mid-sized bloke like me.
Scott McCaughy stumbled onstage looking disheveled and disorganized. He confessed right away that he was absolutely unprepared for his set - this struck me as somewhat insulting, considering any time you have a good opening slot for a $20 show, you should F#&CKING PREPARE your set list in advance, out of respect for the audience.
McCaughy's set was okay, mainly consisting of lack-luster songs about drinking + no less than two Wilco songs and a Replacements song. He had a quiet drummer and bassist join him mid-set and finally, Robyn himself came out and played harmonica on a couple of tunes. I will say that McCaughy was inspiring in the sense of, "I could do that..." End grade: C+
When Robyn came out a few minutes later, it was amazing just to note his presence and command of the audience, Granted, Robyn has a large cult following that will always hang on his every word, but he is amazingly clever at delivering stage banter. He could literally just stand there and talk for an hour and not even play a song and still have the audience enthralled.
I'm not the best at keeping track of set lists at shows - I generally like to enjoy a show as in-the-moment as possible - but he started off with "I'm only you" and finished with "Queen of eyes", with McCaughy and boys backing him up. In between, he touched on all eras of his catalog- "Kingdom of love", "Glass hotel", "Uncorrected personality traits", "Balloon man", "Sleeping with your devil mask", "1974", "Speed of things", "Don't remember Guilford", "Queen Elvis" + several others. Very inspirational. Damn! I wish I was half as clever as he is.
From there, it was off across town to get a bite to eat at the McMenamins underneath the Crystal Ballroom. I had fish and chips for the second time in the past 14 years (perhaps bison will be next! screw my vegetarian ways - I'm over it) It was great hanging with Toby and D.Tro and Tina.
When we went upstairs to the Firewater show, the door guy said that the box office was closed...at 11 pm? Derek and Toby already had paid and went upstairs. Momentarily, the nice doorman let us in for free. Thanks, doorman!
We arrive upstairs only moments before Firewater make their entrance, parade-style, with the horns in the front, Todd A in the middle, banging a tamborine, and the other members following with accordian and percussion. A very effective entrance, it feels like we're in a decadent circus of drunks and our ringleader has just entered.
Aside from some feedback at the beginning, the sound is really good (although too loud for this small room) and people are packed around the stage and dancing and covorting like a bunch of modern-day Gomorrah-ites. The band is right-on, despite the appearance of being twisted drunk; Todd A on bass & singing + guitar, accordian/keys, drums and a remarkably good duo of horns - the trombone player is out-of-sight good (and also about 4'11", adding to the "carnival of the strange" feeling of the show)
I really can't recall too many of the songs from their set, but I do note the classics - "Bourbon and Division", "Man with the blurry face", "Drunken Jew" - are somewhat re-worked, and the arrangements are very effective. I love hearing bands re-arrange their works from time to time, and Firewater do this very well.
Near the end, one of the burlesque dancers from the Seattle troupe Gun Street Girls comes up and does an extremely sexy dance/tease thing that is very titillating without showing any skin at all. Decadent!
After talking some with my PDX friend Casey, Tina and split back to Eugene and snoooozzzzzzzzeeedd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Garden Weasel Diaries is now called "Garden Weasel Diaries" I think I am writing a book and don't know it yet.