Category Archives: Portland

Concert Review: Radiation City @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Lizzy Ellison (right) and Randy Bemrose of Radiation City perform Friday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Photo: Me

Lizzy Ellison (right) and Randy Bemrose of Radiation City perform Friday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Photo: Me

Three years since I left Portland for NYC, the former city’s late-night food truck excursions, karaoke make-out sessions and forever gray, forever drizzly winters seem remote like a hazy memory of an ex-lover’s touch. On Friday night inside Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Portland-based timeless pop/rock act Radiation City unlocked past glories/misadventures on Hoyt, Burnside, Belmont and many other streets and intersections whose names I forget. Of course these memories existed a continent away, if not a lifetime, but for the band’s half-hour set all of these ghosts felt present in one room.

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Prompts: “You Will Go Far, Restless Ginger”

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays. This week’s prompt: write a letter to yourself from five years ago.

Ray From What Seems Like Forever Ago aka T-Ray Bay Bay,
One day you will escape Retirement City with its glut of pink slime-slinging fast food chains, shit-stained bayou and mutation-causing tap water, fort-like civic center that looks like the architect thought attack was imminent, and downtown intersection of “Altercation and Confrontation” which guarantees free entertainment and greasy pizza. You will work up the nerve to quit your job – a development many say will never happen – and pick a spot on the map far from your ancestral home of swamps and bayous and just go. You will dip your toes in the two oceans (brrrr!), make wonderful new friends, and revel in experiences that leave your head spinning a la David Byrne in the Talking Heads classic “Once In a Lifetime”. The restlessness you wrestle – that feeling your life is evaporating quicker than the wetlands with nothing to show for your troubles – might seem like a curse most days, hanging like an albatross around your neck, but it is your fuel, your ticket out.

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Prompts: “My Biggest Obstacle in 2014″

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays. I’m a few days late or a few days early, depending on how you look at it.

No one ever failed playing beer league softball. I am bottom right, celebrating Roadside Attraction's Chumpionship.

No one ever failed playing beer league softball. I am bottom right, celebrating Roadside Attraction’s Chumpionship.

My Biggest Obstacle In 2014: Fear of Failure

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Favorite Concerts Of 2013

Titus Andronicus at Brooklyn Bowl

Here’s a partial list of places I witnessed amazing live music in 2013: a bowling alley; a glorified parking lot; a swamp-like island decimated by a tropical rainstorm; a record store with a capacity of 60; a legendary baseball stadium that seats 50,000+; and a courthouse square. None of these locales represent traditional concert forums. Perhaps that’s why they produced some of my most indelible live music memories this year. The element of surprise matched with the uniqueness of venue, whether indoors or outdoors, and, of course, the talent of the musicians involved resulted in moments of joy in which time froze.

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MusicfestNW Recap 3: Dan Deacon, Titus Andronicus

Surfin' Dan Deacon style.

Here is MusicfestNW Recap 3 featuring Dan Deacon, Titus Andronicus, plus more. I attended the festival from Sept. 4-7.

Prior to my arrival in Portland for MusicfestNW I circled Friday’s lineup for its deep talent pool, diverse artistic offerings, and up-and-coming musicians, ingredients in short supply on the fest’s other nights. And after the preceding two nights predictably underwhelmed, there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth if Friday’s potential proved a washout.

Of course how could Friday suck with Dan Deacon and Titus Andronicus performing? Answer: It couldn’t.

The daffy dance impresario and the Jersey rock evangelists each cast their marks by inciting sweat-drenched revivals. Deacon orchestrated a massive freakout across Pioneer Courthouse Square. Titus’s full-frontal rock assault inside the Crystal Ballroom led yours truly and others to throw their bodies into the scrum without regard for safety or property (i.e., my New York Mets hat).

The remainder of the evening I bounced from set to set, venue to venue like a nomad in the desert never finding a show that stirred half as much enthusiasm as Deacon or Titus. Not surprising, I know.

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MusicfestNW Recap 2: The Joy Formidable, The Men

Joy Formidable at Roseland Theater

Here is my second MusicfestNW recap featuring Joy Formidable and The Men. I attended the festival Sept. 4-7.

“This venue’s at capacity” became the unwanted, all too common mantra at this year’s MusicfestNW. I heard it at no less than four shows which might not sound like a lot but amounted to at least a quarter of the shows I attempted to access.

Typhoon’s Old Church show on Thursday night marked the first such failure. Small venue, large demand, local band – all factors that forced my friend Ben and I to reevaluate our options and head across town to the Roseland Theater.

There we saw the UK rock trio Joy Formidable, whose manic power walking onstage, blinding strobes, and lead singer’s resemblance to a ninth-grade science teacher I loathed led me to focus my attention more on the audience than the stage.

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MusicfestNW Recap 1: Deerhunter

Here is the first of four recaps I plan on writing about my MusicfestNW experience in Portland. I attended from Sept. 4-7.

Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox’s reputation as a provocateur precedes him these days to the point that a large portion of his band’s appeal, at least as a live act, is derived from the uncertainty of what he will do next. So when Cox says or does nothing of note, or fails to engage the crowd altogether, a large portion of the Atlanta band’s mystique on-stage disappears.

It became evident early during Deerhunter’s MusicfestNW performance at the Crystal Ballroom that my expectations of what this particular show could offer would be confounded, but not in a good way. Rarely have I seen a band or a crowd appear to give less of a shit at the same place at the same time than on this Wednesday night in early September.

Perhaps the crowd had no other viable option on the festival’s second day (it did – Chvrches). I wonder what Deerhunter’s excuse was.

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Stepping Out Of The Dark: A Seattleite’s Comedy Debut

The path to comedy stardom?

Here at Cajun Tomato world headquarters in east Harlem I welcome guest submissions. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my friend Matt Wastradowski‘s recap of his stand-up comedy debut. Enjoy!

The bitter taste of a warm IPA lingers as I absentmindedly tap my foot under a small table in the darkened club. Tonight’s open-mic host steps to the stage, thanks the previous comic, and calls the final performer of the night: “Matt W.”

I take a deep breath, step onto the carpeted stage, and turn to the audience, ready to make my stand-up comedy debut. But whatever nerves I wrestled with in the previous two hours have been pushed aside for a startling realization: I can’t see the crowd.

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Death Grips Preview Apocalyptic Soundtrack During Frenzied Portland Set

MC Ride via Prefix

Ed. Note: Cajun Tomato correspondent Scott Hesedahl recently attended Death Grips’ Portland show. Though the band’s abrasive sonics are certainly not for everyone he loved their show’s intensity.

As I waited Saturday night in a downpour for the Star Theatre’s doors to open, a stranger approached to inform me he planned on pissing through the fence the line had formed against.

I attempted telling him there were better spots to urinate in the belly of Chinatown.

“Fuck it,” he replied. “It’s the Death Grips, man.”

Yes, Death Grips, the Cali death-hop act that surprisingly signed to a major label only to be dropped by that major label (Epic) after leaking their album for free without notifying the label.

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