A while back I put in motion a trip over Veterans Day weekend. The trip would involve a couple of cities and two bands. The first leg was Seattle and the second was Denver. The good thing about The New Mastersounds show in Seattle was it was a part of their west coast tour. They were playing Portland as part of the same tour. I saw them last on the east coast for their winter tour and thought it would be fitting to catch as many shows as possible on this west coast fall tour.
The Portland show was a no brainier honestly as this is in my back yard. I was so existed you would have thought I would have a better plan then I did. My whole night was planned around just getting to the Wonder Ballroom and seeing what happens. I did a map search and noticed there would be plenty to keep my occupied before the show.
First thing is always food. On the same block as the theater was Russell St. BBQ. Some really decent BBQ here let me tell you. I got the port shoulder without sauce and I am glad I did. It had a great smoke flavor that was pronounced but not overpowering. It was a little dry but not a deal breaker by any means. Sides all traditional and very good. I wish I could have stayed for dessert but I was so full I had to skip it. I let my dessert be beer.
Not very far from everywhere was Ex Novo Brewing Co.. I had plenty of time to kill before the show so ponied up for a couple of beers here. Really cool place I must say. Serves food and has a second floor. You can see the brewery making equipment right from the bar which was cool. Decent beer with lots to explore on the menu. I was actually able to see the Trail Blazers game and unfortunately they lost that night to the Memphis Grizzles.
I honestly spent to much time at Ex Novo but it was a good hanging out. Kung Fu was opening and started at 8:30 that night. I unfortunately missed their set completely because I was to busy drinking beer. I just didn’t feel like standing around waiting for The New Mastersounds, the brewery was a much better option.
The Wonder Ballroom really just is four walls and a roof. Very simple design, I can’t stress that enough. The front part of the building is large enough for a ticket booth and bathrooms, that is it. There is a very small second balcony area that looks rickety as hell. There is a downstairs bar and smoking area but I didn’t get a chance to explore that area. Certainly an interesting place to see a concert.
The New Mastersounds kicked ass that night. Another great performance by the band. As a change of pace Simon Allen was back at drums. The last few shows I have seen of The New Mastersounds have been with Alan Evans which was awesome to see him sit in. Many of the same classic songs I am use to with the same energy as always. They actually mentioned there was no official setlist for the night, they were going to just going with the flow of the audience. Their song catalog is now large enough they can play nearly two hours without fear of repeating anything or losing the vibe.
Another great performance by The New Mastersounds and a good evening out. I found another great BBQ place in Portland and another brewery checked off my list. I am excited to see them again in two days in Seattle which should be a great time as well.
My friend Jeremy was in town and we decided to do a typical Portland thing and visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry for the day. Jeremy had actually been there as a kid so for him it was a homing coming. For me this was my first visit, I was playing tourist in my own hometown for once.
We didn’t find this out till after the fact but it was the last weekend of the special exhibit Pompeii and the museum was smashed. If I had know that we probably would have skipped the museum on this trip. As the day went on the line to get into Pompeii just kept growing. We eventually decided to just skip the special exhibit which was unfortunate.
Now the rest of the museum was great. The exhibits are fun and for the most part interactive in some way. This is certainly a museum geared towards kids but as an adult I found the hands on stuff great. They have an interactive sand projector exhibit that mimics water flowing. You could make it “rain” and see how water would flow down the side of the mountain. You will also find the USS Blueback anchored outside and is itself a floating museum.
I liked the museum. Very interactive and great for kids of all ages. I wish we could have seen the special exhibit but I will be around for the next one when it premiers. Makes me wonder how large the museum really is when you factor in the special exhibit space.
My friend Jeremy was in town for the weekend and since he wasn’t leaving till Tuesday we decided to see Hudson at Newmark Theatre. I was thinking of seeing the show but when Jeremy said he was coming that weekend I knew we had to go. The really awesome thing was my ticket was free. My birthday isn’t till later but since Jeremy wouldn’t be around at that time tonights ticket was on him. We decided to celebrate a little early this year.
The day of the show I meet Jeremy at my apartment after he was out doing Portland stuff. We prepped and headed to downtown, first to grab some grub and then catch the show. This was more of a traditional show so the start time of 7:30 was honor. We grabbed dinner at the East Side Delicatessen just down the street before walking into the venue.
The venue is a little weird. Its appears to be a two block complex of various theaters for events. The Newmark Theatre reminds me the National Theatre in DC. About the same size, few hundred people at most, with three tiers of seating. We had two seats at the end of the aisle and honestly this was my only grip of the night. The “seats” were simple chairs that where the most uncomfortable pieces of crap I have ever spent two hours sitting in.
The venue was just about sold out and the crowd skewed older. I of course know John Medeski and John Scofield but Jack DeJohnette and Larry Grenadier are unknowns for me. They have an album out but I had not heard it before tonights performance. All I knew it had Medeski, Scofield and it would probably be straight ahead jazz. What it did end up having was several Jimi Hendrix covers which honestly I didn’t care much for. What I did enjoy was the improve jazz songs and compilations they did. That stuff was super heavy and awesome.
The show was 2 hours with encore but didn’t seem like it dragged on. The encore in fact was 20 minutes by itself which was awesome. All around a great show and I am happy we got a chance to see Medeski in an arrangement besides MMW. Not sure if Hudson will stick around or if this was a on shot deal but a great night of food, music and friends.
Late in fall bands tend to announce their winter tour schedule. Winter is a good time to see some kick ass bands in small indoor venues. When Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe posted their winter tour they had a tone of dates on the west coast, including a stop in Portland on a Friday. Checking my calendar this was a perfect opportunity to see a show and spend the weekend with the family in Vancouver. I remember booking my flight for this trip while driving down to Asheville to see The New Mastersounds and drink some awesome beer.
While I realize my time was short with the family I certainly made the most of that limited time. It took a lot longer to get to PDX then I wanted. My flight to SFO wasn’t a problem, other than being six hours, it was the connection to PDX that got delayed. The show didn’t start till 9 so there was still plenty of time to see the family and catch the start of the show even with my flight delay. Our plans for Friday kept evolving as my flight status was updated but we managed to make it to Associated. Some really good brick oven pizza and surprisingly tacos as well. The crust was crispy and the flavor combos very unique. After this Bobby dropped Tracy and I off at the Aladdin Theater for the show.
The Aladdin Theater is old, no way around it. Rather small and hasn’t been updated in many many years. The venue certainly shows its age at this point. Late in the show Karl even made a comment about the venue. They took a bunch of promo photos and he didn’t seem particularly happy with the theater as the backdrop. I believe he said they were “to cheap” about finding a more appropriate photo location. I would agree with all the reviews in that the seats suck. When we got in we immediately headed to the small bar to the left which was nuts to butts. The show hadn’t even started and the bar was crowed. Tracy muscled her way to the bar and got a drink while I chatted with some fellow patrons. We eventually grabbed a seat down front and waited for the show to start.
The Main Squeeze was the opening act and I honestly didn’t have much hope for them. I know you shouldn’t go in with preconceived ideas but still. When they finished I was totally a fan. They had a good selection of songs and really got the place going. They were in the same vain as KDTU so it really fit the night in term of energy. Eventually KDTU took the stage and I was shocked to see Alan Evans on drums. I just saw him less then a month ago playing with The New Mastersounds. It was so cool seeing him playing with Karl. It is usually Karl that is always sitting in with other bands so it was nice seeing Alan sitting in with Karl for a change. One thing that we quickly noticed was the band was all very dapper. Everyone was in a suite and honestly I don’t know how they did it. It was just to damn hot to be sweating in a three piece on stage all while performing. KDTU was on fire that night and really had a groove going. Its been years since I have seen KDTU and I was disappointed at all. I have kept up with Karl’s many other side projects but there is just something about seeing his band that is so satisfying. His 2002 album The Bridge is still one of my all time favorite albums. What a great performance.
Saturday thankfully was a full day with the family which was exactly what I wanted. It was a lazy morning with everyone sleeping in but slowly the house awoke and was a hive of activity. Bobby got some work done, Tracy good some breakfast and the kids and I watched the new Ghostbusters. A true highlight of the trip was sitting at the breakfast table that morning eating with the family. I remember at one point just starring at the kids. I have been lucky to see them grow up and cant wait to see who they are as adults.
After a hearty breakfast we started the days activities. Fist up was Powell’s Books which is the largest independent book store. They say it is an entire city block but not really. Even without being a full city block the sheer size of the place is impressive and worth a visit. While not much of a book worm I found some good station and the rare book collection was cool to see. I have never seen one of these in any book stores so it was cool seeing some books that are well over 100 years old. They even have a printing machine to print any book you want to create and for on demand printing for independent authors.
After this Tracy and I started a brewery tour of Vancouver. They knew I was coming out before Christmas so this was my gift from them to me which was cool. Fist stop and what ended up the best in my opinion, was Loowit Brewing Company. They are a small shop in the old section of Vancouver. Not an extremely deep selection but some real quality stuff including several GABF award winners. I particularly liked their Tiger Squadron Pale Ale.
Next up was Old Ivy Brewery. This place really reminded me of Cheers or something from the 80’s. The place was pretty dead, granted it was around 3pm but it was a Saturday. We only stayed for one beer here before moving on. We thought about some food but the next place had much better food Tracy said. There are a lot of breweries in the area, especially Portland. Just skip this one and move on to something else.
Last stop of the night was Heathen Brewing Feral Public House which is the brewpub for Heathen. Washington alcohol laws are different from Virginia but what I gather this means is kids are allowed in the place during all business hours. Here the place was hoping in the early evening hours. We bellied up to the bar and started right in with several apps and a few beers. With all the choices I was tempted to do a sampler but stuck to my guns on avoiding them and got a full glass of Kunkle’s Dunkle. Maybe it was the weather but I have been drinking more porters, stouts, dunkles, anything really dark the last few months. The apps we got where also very good.
And just like that it was time to head back to the house for dinner. Tracy was doing a brisket in the crock pot for tacos which was awesome! She did a really good job with the meat and all the fixing. I stuffed my face full. From all the drinking that afternoon I had a slight buzz and was starving. The appetizers from Heathen where good but this really hit the stop. After dinner Bobby and I spent some time in the garage catching up. When you get him alone and really sit down with him, he is really kind thoughtful and has some good insight on life. With the kids to bed it was time for some adult fun with Bobby this time.
He and I headed out to play some classic arcade games. We first tried Ground Kontrol but as we pulled up there was a line out the door waiting to get in. The weather was cold and drizzly, we were not about to wait in a line to play some video games. Google to the rescue we found QuarterWorld across town. Unfortunately there was a small cover to get in but totally worth it. We played classics like Joust, Fix-It Felix Jr., Space Invaders, TMNT, and Galaga to name but a few of the offerings. Oh and did I mention pinball up the wazoo. We played so much we actually closed the place down at 1am. After a long night of gaming you work up an appetite so we headed down the block to Zack’s Shack for some awesome hotdogs. They actually don’t close till 3am on the weekend so it worked out perfectly before heading back to the house.
The next morning came way to early. Three nights straight of non-stop activity was finally starting to catch up to me. The kids had a church function they couldn’t miss so Bobby took the kids and Tracy dropped me off. My flight left PDX at 1:30pm unfortunately with a 6 hour layover in SFO. When I booked my ticket I didn’t realize I would be flying during the Super Bowl. Thankfully I landed with plenty of time before the start and enough after to enjoy the entire game in the United Lounge. While the audio was hard to hear it was easy to follow the action. At the half I really thought Atlanta was going to have a blow out so to see the Patriots come back and win it was pretty amazing. I am not a football fan by any means but that was a great game to watch.
My free ticket almost wasn’t worth it. My flight didn’t leave SFO till 9:30 or something like that. I arrived early actually just before 6am. A quick Uber ride home and I actually had time for a quick nap before getting ready for work. I was surprisingly awake all day despite my whirlwind weekend on the west coast.
I think in the future I will take more of this shorter style of vacation. It saves on vacation time and costs less. This will allow me to visit more places and see more things then if I stayed a week in one or two places. The hardest part of the trip was not being able to spend more time with the family. I think keeping it busy with everyone and doing individual things was a good way to do it. I hope to go back sooner rather then later and of course Bobby and Tracy encouraged me to stay longer next time.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Friday, February 3rd 2017
Aladdin Theater – Portland, OR
For several months we have been planning a trip to the west coast to see Bobby and Tracy. It was to coincide with Pat and my aunt Rose passing through from their cruise on the west coast. For the first time in several years we were going to have most of the family together in one place.
Not long after announcing that Nancy and I were traveling west, Matt wanted to get our flight info. He booked his own ticket and made it a surprise to everyone with his arrival. We rented a car so we meet Bobby and Tracy at their house. I walked up to Bobby in the garage and told him that we had picked up a stranger, it’s the thing to do in this area. The look on Bobby’s face was priceless when he realized it was Matt. Soon after Tracy walked out of the house to greet us and Nancy mentioned the stranger as well. She was shocked and couldn’t believe it.
That night we sat around the camp fire and it was awesome. We feel right back into place, it was as if they never left for Vancouver. Matt mentioned it as well. Bobby’s reply was this is how it should be, we are family and he was so right. The real surprise came on Saturday when Pat and Rose arrived. We took a bet on how many people would cry once Matt made his appearance. Instead of tears it was laughter. Pat was beside herself and it was like being home again.
Friday was a day just about the kids. Pat and Rose hadn’t arrived yet and Ellie and Tyson had school. We did a few of the local tourist things with the time we had. We hiked up Multnomah Falls which was impressive. There is a bridge at the base of the falls and standing there looking at the bowl was amazing. I have seen pictures of this spot before but it doesn’t do it justice. We then hiked the short 1.5 miles to the top of the falls and got the perspective looking down at the river, very beautiful.
From here we continued on the Historic Columbia River Highway to Stevenson, WA. Here we stopped at Walking Man Brewery for lunch and a sample of their micro brews. The food was spectacular for this little hole in the wall. The beer was also very good. We could see into their brewery which was quite small. They brew just 1500 barrels a year with most of it consumed at the brewery. Their Barefoot Brown was ok but I really liked the IPA. It had a good hop bitterness yet smooth finish. We even got a couple growlers to go and to add to my collection.
Being in hippie central, we headed to the farmers market and Saturday market to experience a little of the local flair on Saturday. The farmers market was very impressive, never have I seen one so large. If you could find it in a grocery store you could find it here.
Of course they had vegetables and fruits but also cheese, meets, canned good, bread. An amazing variety of things to be bought. Everything was local, some hyper local, and most of it organic. Everyone in Portland is obsessed with organic and sustainable food. The Saturday market is a local craft fair kinda thing and I must say it was uninteresting. If you like crafts this is a great thing, but for me it didn’t do anything for me.
Sunday we gathered the entire family and headed towards Mt. Hood. We stop first at Rasmussen Farms for the pumpkin patch and assorted activities. Next stop was a winery for the lady’s, Wy’East Vineyards just down the road. The ladies did a wine tasting and got a bottle. The men and kids went and played bocce ball on their regulation court. The master champion has yet to be determined but it was fun. Last fun filled adventure was to Kiyokawa Orchards for apples. While we didn’t pick any apples we did take the hay ride around the farm.
After a long day of travels we headed to Hood River for food. Thankfully this is the home base of a couple brew pubs, Double Mountain and Full Sail. We have Full Sail here on the east coast so we tried Double Mountain first but they had a 60 minute wait for a table, off to Full Sail. The food was great and we got their pub exclusives so I got to sample some different beer. We did stop at Double Mountain on the way out of town to fill our two growlers with Hop Lava and Kolsch.
Our final day and it was all about the wine. Oregon is known for their pinot noir from the Willamette Valley so we headed to the valley to hit some wineries. First up was Plum Hill Vineyards. The views were ok, the guy was supper nice and as for the wines I don’t know because I didn’t sample here. Just down the road was Elk Cove Vineyards. This place is the complete opposite of Plum Hill. It is very large and their wines are widely available across the country. The tasting was good and offered a few wines exclusive to the vineyard. The last place was Kramer Vineyards and here we spent the majority of our time. Our server had a great personality and you could tell she loved what she does. Everyone but Bobby did a flight and we got a bottle and some snacks as well. At the end we even got a tour of the facilities which was really cool, I have never been on a winery tour before.
Almost as soon as it started we had to start heading back home to meet the kids. They where in school all day but their baby sitter was only available till 5:00pm. We did have just enough time to stop in downtown Portland and hit Tanner Goods. I have been eying a duffel bag from them for I don’t know how long. It was great to stop by their flagship store and get my bag, tax and shipping all free which was nice.
This was our last night here and we good a giant family meal. We had steak and all homemade sides. It was great just hanging out with everyone at the house instead of going out to dinner as was the original plan. As we started driving back to the house we all agreed that family time cooking and sitting around the table was a better use of our time then going out. We ended the night around the fire pit cooking hotdogs.
Getting up early the next morning was rough but we did it. We said goodbye to everyone and started the five hour flight back to the east coast. Thankfully Bobby, Tracy and the kids are coming back to Virginia in late December for several weeks over Christmas. It will be great to see them during that time but I fear it will not be long enough. They already have a packed trip back so I don’t think we will get to hangout as the entire family much while they are here. It will still be great to see them.
I can’t wait to get back out there and see them again. It is just so much fun hanging with them and the area they live in beautiful with lots of things to do. There is good wine, good shopping, excellent beer and if more outdoor activities then you can shack a stick at. Three cheers for family, we got the band back together!