Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe Crystal Ballroom Friday, February 21st 2020

The PDX Jazz festival 2020 stared on Wednesday and first up was Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe at Crystal Ballroom. Regular watcher of KDTU who plays some great funk and soul. Karl is a busy man so it’s always a pleasure seeing him swing through town.

I took a nap before the show that night and almost slept through it. I set an alarm but that didn’t matter. I eventually got hot and remembered I was still in my jeans and then quickly realized it was for a reason. I left my house at 8:45pm and drove as fast as safety would allow to the Crystal Ballroom. Thankfully it didn’t take long to get there and I found street parking close to the venue. I would normally walk but time was critical.

Getting into the Crystal Ballroom was much quicker this time around. This time the line didn’t wrap around the block, it barely made it out of the lobby. Still one at a time through the metal detector but this time just way fewer people than when seeing Yonder Mountain String Band in January. The line should have been an indication, the place wasn’t very busy. It was close to show time and I had no problem getting a prime spot in front of the stage. Even as the show started there was plenty of room to move around. You couldn’t go wild but certainly there was enough room to groove.

A really good set list even if I thought it was short one. I missed the opening act so that is certainly one reason I wished KDTU played longer. Good mix of some old songs and new stuff from Gnomes and Badgers. Such good funk, soul and groove. The band members really jell well together.

It seemed as soon as the set started it was over. The penultimate song I’m Your Biggest Fan led into what would be the final song of the show. As the groove got going on the segue it started to sound familiar. Very quickly I realized it was Jessica by the Allman Brothers Band. Nailed it! They played that song so well and gave it a great KDTU twist with all the horns and fat grooves. For Boogaloos we got a dance show as well.

It was such a high energy show that night. Karl ended the show with a small speech about the times we live in. He said something that stuck with me and I have repeated to many people already. It’s not important to be right but correct. We need to talk to each other in a civil way. When we do that we can solve any challenges we face.

While not as long a set as I would have liked it was an amazing night of music. I walked out of there and had such energy from the set. My soul felt better as well. It was filled with love and confident we could come together and make peace. The power of music really amazes me.


Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Friday, February 21st 2020
Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR

Set 1 starts at 9:26pm

  1. ?
  2. Shake It
  3. The Bridge
  4. What If You Knew I’d Let You Down
  5. Satisfied
  6. ?
  7. Everybody Knows That
  8. Under My Skin (?) >
  9. drum solo >
  10. Under My Skin (?)
  11. Change My Way
  12. Brother’s Keeper
  13. I’m Your Biggest Fan
  14. Jessica *
    11:07pm set over

Encore starts at 11:08pm

  1. Boogaloos
    House lights at 11:15pm

Snow Moon at Cape Disappointment

North Head Lighthouse on the cliff warning boaters.

Oh the winter months here in the pacific northwest. They are cold, rainy and you can go for days without seeing the sun. Honestly it can be depressing so when an opportunity presents itself to camp in winter I was in. Just getting outside for a night with friends and family, sit by the fire, it was something I needed.

Razor clams where in season and low tide coincided with a Saturday night. The Calizon’s were heading up and invited Jenny, I and a few others. I needed out of the house so I was in. Jenny was able to switch around a few things so it worked out that we both could go camping that weekend. Look up at the stars next to a warm fire.

Bobby booked camp sites at Cape Disappointment State Park next to the beach. the spot was large enough that we could pitch our tent and everyone had plenty of space. I couldn’t wait to leave my apartment and get some fresh air. Even better would be the salty ocean air which I rarely get to experience.

We couldn’t leave till early Saturday morning and the park is 2.5 hours away. We got on our way mid afternoon. For part of the trip to the coast it was pouring rain. I had been checking the weather the last week and it was going to be clear. We just had to get past a little rain on the way out but after that it was clear.

Before long we made it to Long Beach and met everyone at a scoop shop in town. I knew Ras and Amanda were coming but I was surprised to see Mark and his daughter. Everyone was sitting outside devouring ice cream when we walked up. We quickly said hello and headed to camp.

That night we got our own spot instead of doubling up with Bobby and Tracy. There were spaces next to everyone and we felt it was the least we could do. We were happy to be there so $30 for the night was a bargain. We quickly put up the tent and joined everyone at the camp fire. We didn’t have it lit but we where getting our chairs gathered for later in the evening.

Low tide was going to be around 6:30pm that night. As the sun started to set we put on our boots and headed down to the beach to hunt razor clams. Soon the sun set over the horizon produced a spectacular light show. As the stars stated to come out we got to digging.

Finding the little buggers is much harder than I expected. I still don’t know what I was looking for but with the help of Jenny I dug up two that night. She was an excellent spotter and I was quick with the shovel. I think collectively we caught 5 or 6 which isn’t that much. We were not going to feast at camp with what we caught that night.

North Head Lighthouse

The weather got cold quick when the sun disappeared. Not being very successful we headed back to camp to get a fire going. A fire was starting to sound real appealing. We spent hours that night around the fire cooking all sorts of stuff. Spam in a can in a can as Tyson pointed out. Hot dogs and even some hobo chili. It was awesome just hanging out with everyone by the fire under the stars. This is exactly what Jenny and I needed. Get back to nature for and recharge.

The next morning we packed up and did a hike in the park before heading home. We hiked to North Head Lighthouse which was a good hike. It was an out and back of only a few miles. The lighthouse has been there since 1898 and is still active today. Like all or certainly the majority of lighthouses in America this one is now completely automated.

After the hike we headed to Astoria for some coffee. We lucked out and found Columbia River Coffee Roasters right under the bridge. Standing in line I recognized the coffee bags. Grendel’s serves their coffee at their cafe. My cappuccino that day tasted just like it does at Grendel’s. We hung out here for a bit enjoying the passing scenery.

We squeezed every bit of time together we could that day. By the time we got to Portland we were hungry and I had a gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket. We went to Rams Head for a late lunch. I had a craving for a burger which I am happy to report was satisfied that afternoon.

A really great weekend hanging out with everyone at Cape Disappointment State Park. Sitting in front of the fire with the ocean waves in the back ground, roasting hotdogs looking up at the stars really was what we needed. I look forward to doing this again and simply getting out doors with Jenny more as the weather warms.


Yonder Mountain String Band Crystal Ballroom Friday, January 17th 2020

Not sure how I found out about this show but I was kinda excited. It had been many many years since I saw Yonder Mountain String Band. In fact it has been 17 years since I last saw them at the State Theatre. When I saw the co-headline with The Infamous Stringdusters I was definitely going. I invited Jenny along since this is some good jamgrass and I thought she would get a kick out of the show.

The Infamous Stringdusters & Yonder Mountain String Band Friday, January 17th 2020 Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR

The show was at Crystal Ballroom and Jenny and I decided to meet at the venue. Show time was 8pm so we figured on arriving by 7:30pm would be good. That should have given us enough time to get through security and find a spot. Well us and hundreds of others apparently decided that was also a good idea.

Security getting in to Crystal Ballroom has always been ridiculous. Its single file so when a lot of people crush the door they are not able to handle the influx. By the time Jenny and I found the end of the line it was already stretching 2/3 the way around the block. I am sure people made it in but if this line continued many would miss Yonder Mountain opening the night. Eventually someone comes walking up from behind and says they are opening a back entry into the venue. This was the entrance to Lola’s Room that they opened for us. It was a made dash to the new entrance but a controlled one.

Within a few minutes we got into the venue and walked up the back stairs to the top floor. It was just before 8pm and the place was already smashed with people. It was hot and muggy. Not sure how many people where still outside but within a few minutes of us arriving Yonder Mountain took the stage with no fan fair. Almost didn’t know what was going on till they busted out Sideshow Blues as the first song. What also threw me off was the band members. It had been so many years I didn’t recognize anyone. Seeing five members on stage was weird to me and it didn’t click.

It was a good show that night but honestly it was a little to packed for my tastes. We couldn’t make our way into the crowd so got stuck near the back where all the foot traffic was. The music however was pretty good. A few fast songs, some covers. It was really cool hearing Brown-Eyed Women. With it being Portland they also played Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown which I thought was very appropriate. Before we knew it the set was over and the stage cleared. The went just like they came, quickly and silently.

After the set we milled around for a while and re-positioned ourselves. We got a spot further back in the middle of the floor but it honestly wasn’t much better. We had a little space but long before the Stringduster set things really started to fill in again. My whole purpose for coming was to see Yonder Mountain. With the place filling up, no room to dance, Jenny not able to see, it was hot, and just because we wanted to, we headed out.

Getting in was crazy and I should have expected that. After not seeing them for 17 years things have certainly changed but it was still a good show. I have kept up loosely with the band through Jam_On but seeing them live was a totally different experience. A good and ruckus crowd that night which helped add to the show. But it also make for a packed venue with little room to dance or even breath at times. While we ended the night early it was still great seeing Yonder Mountain again after years and years.


Yonder Mountain String Band
Friday, January 17th 2019
Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR

Set starts at 8:16pm

  1. Sideshow Blues
  2. Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown
  3. Hey Day
  4. I’m Lost
  5. Black Truck
  6. Left Me in a Hole
  7. Chasing My Tail
  8. All the Time
  9. Cherokee Shuffle
  10. Brown Eyed Women
  11. All Aboard
    Set over at 9:33pm

Co-headline with The Infamous Stringdusters. Yonder played first this night. No encore.

Back to Deschutes River

Last year I did this same hike at almost the same time of year in the Deschutes River State Recreation Area. It was a good hike then and it was a good hike now. This time around the weather presented its own set of challenges I didn’t have to face the first time. If you are prepared it’s not a problem but the swings in weather can be huge out in the gorge during the winter months. This day Mother Nature was not happy and she let everyone know it.

We got an early start and left my apartment with coffee in one hand and boots in the other. I was tracking the weather closely the last few days before the hike. It is still winter around here so when it rains in the valley its snowing in the mountains. My poor little car just can’t handle serious winter weather we have here. I was constantly checking to see when it would rain and if that rain could possible turn to snow.

On the way to the park we really lucked out. The weather was pretty nice as far as the entire day was concerned. Nothing really going on weather wise. You could see off in the distance portions of the storms that rolled through earlier in the day but it was pretty calm at the moment. As we headed further into the gorge the wind started picking up but for the most part the rain was abated.

We got to the park and the sun was actually out for a hot minute. We got our shit together and started walking along the river. The park has several trails you can take. One is a fire/service road that is higher up in the valley and the other is right along the water. We walked along the water for a while before the path slowly starts to raise in elevation. Eventually it meets with the service road to continue the journey. At this junction you can choose to head back, continue down the service road or hike up the hills to a spring.

The storm was rolling through behind us.

The walk along the river was peaceful despite the poor weather. With the recent rain we noticed the river moving rather swiftly. No major rapids I would say but I still wouldn’t want to be out on the river since I have no idea what I’m doing. We also noticed that nature was really coming back from the fire several years ago. Even from a year ago there was much more vegetation growing. You can still a little fire damage but it is quickly fading away like nothing happened.

Once we got to the junction we had to decide what to do. The last few hundred meters it started to rain. Enough that we put some covers on our packs. Across the river and up the other side of the valley we could see large, dark, ominous clouds rolling over the hill tops. We wanted to hike to the spring but if the weather continue to change we would be caught out. With the weather turning we decided to hedge our bets and head back. It might have been a short hike but mission accomplished even if we didn’t get to the spring on top of the hill.

The walk back was an interesting one. We ran into a fisherman who was crazy like us coming out. He commented on us being out and was shocked to run into others. He didn’t want to watch football and I couldn’t agree more. The weather in front of us was for the most part clear. We even managed to see a rainbow. Behind us things continued to be cloudy but it never really got heavy like we thought it would.

Ahead we could see a beautiful rainbow.

We hung out along the river before starting the drive back to Portland. Here we ate some lunch and enjoyed what we could of the weather. It was getting windy, cloudy and colder the long we stayed. The drive back was a rather scary one. For most of it Jenny was asleep which was good. It was a downpour with very treacherous driving condition. Standing water all over the place, low visibility and a few assholes not heading the warnings. The mental concentration I needed was draining by the time we got back.

Even with the rain it was a great day of hiking and getting out in nature. We both agreed to try and get out hiking more often this year. We did well on the first day of the year and with this hike. Lets see if we can keep it up for the rest of the year. Deschutes River State Recreational Area is a great place to hike, camp, and fish right at the mouth of the Columbia River.

New Day New Year

Well I made it another year and it’s a new decade on top of that. Let’s see how this one goes compared to the last. So far it’s off to a good start as Jenny wanted to do a little hiking on the first day of the year. She originally wanted to hike snow in the mountains but it ended up being to warm and not much snow so we scrapped the idea. It turned out to be a really nice day for winter here in Portland and we took full advantage of it.

We decided on some trails around the Portland Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary nestled inside Forest Park. Oddly enough the sun was out and it was blue skies while we hiked in the forest. It was the most amazing thing. The temperatures were really comfortable too. I couldn’t believe the luck we had on the first day of the year. This reminds me of the time it was in the low 70’s in DC and I went for a picnic on The Mall in shorts it was so nice.

The forest itself was pretty amazing. This section of forest is completely covered in moss. Every tree has it growing on it. Any structure that is in the woods has it growing on it. With the sun actually being out it lite up the forest really nice with no leaves on the trees. We just wondered around the sanctuary’s many trails. We also went to the Witch’s Castle to check out this neat structure. Unfortunately no witch’s here and the building isn’t even that old. On the short walk to the building we passed a number of people out and about. It is true that when the weather is this nice, everyone gets out of the house and enjoys it while they can.

Once we finished the hike we headed to the Japanese Garden which is close to the sanctuary. This was my first time here and I gotta say the place is pretty impressive. When you first arrive you are greeted with a good view of the northern part of the city sky line. Jenny said that on a clear day you can see Mt. Adams from here.

One of several ponds in the gardens. This one happens to have a small natural water fall.

By the time we got to the gardens it was starting to cloud over and cool off. Being the first day of the year the gardens had a few things going on. On the good side they had complimentary tea in the tea house but on the down side they where closing early and all the offices where closed. We stopped for tea first thing but the place was smashed so we moved on.

I was impressed with the gardens. Even with the damp and cloudy condition it seemed to accent the gardens and make them seem more alive. Small ponds all over the place with fish swimming. Jenny said in summer there are many more fish in the ponds. In the back of the garden is the traditional tea house that host occasional tea ceremonies. On our way out we again stopped by the tea house and this time it was completely empty. We got a spot right in the corner overlooking the entrance to

I gotta say it was a great way to start the year off. We got out and did some hiking, had some zen moments at the gardens and surprisingly the weather played nice. I was shocked how warm it got and for a while at least, it was blue skies which is something you don’t see here often in winter. It’s good to take times like and just relax and enjoy.