Randy Couture Interview – UFC 102

July 14, 2009 1 comment

Randy Couture is considered by many to be on of the greatest fighters in the UFC and is often credited with bringing the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) into the mainstream.

Randy Couture is a huge force behind bringing the Ultimate Fighting Champion to Portland as he fights Antonio Nogueira at UFC 102: Couture vs. Nogueira at the Rose Garden on Saturday, August 29th.

We interviewed Randy Coutre while he was in Portland for a pre-fight autograph session at the Rose Quarter. Coutre talks about bringing the UFC to Portland, his previous fight against Brock Lesnar,  if Fedor Emelianenko might finally fight with the UFC and what his strategy is against Antonio Nogueira.

Here is Part 1 of our Interview with Randy Couture:

Here is Part 2 of our Interview with Rand Couture:

UFC 102 Headliner Randy Couture will be signing autographs and taking pictures with his fans at the Rose Quarter Tuesday, July 14 at 7:00pm. This event is free and is open to the public.

For more information on UFC 102:

Categories: MMA Tags: , ,

American Idol 2009 Summer Tour – Portland Review

American Idols Live in Portland

American Idols Live in Portland

I had pretty realistic expectations going into the 2009 American Idols Live show on its first stop in Portland. Despite all the hype and hoopla, the reality is, these ten finalists are just at the beginnings of their careers. They’ve just crossed the threshold from semi-pro to the big leagues and this concert in Portland was their very first big arena show.

As a show I found it to be pretty choppy and extremely uneven. The staging was set up with a huge barrier between the audience and the performers. A stage which jetted out into the audience or a theater in the round set up, like they had with the Jonas Brothers, would have been a much better option. The evening was broken into two acts. The first one had performances from Michael Sarver, Megan Joy, Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds, Anoop Desai and Matt Giraud, followed by a group song featuring these six performers. The second act featured Allison Iraheta, Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert and Kris Allen, and then a finale song with all ten.

The only ‘coloring outside the lines’ came when Adam Lambert invited Allison Iraheta back up to do a duet of “Slowride”. Other than that, the evening was as programed as it could possibly get. Each Idol did grab the mic during their set for some banter but it was only Allison Iraheta who really connected with the audience. Others, like Danny Gokey, came off poorly and preachy. The show wasn’t about the Idols talking, it was about them singing, and for the most part each Idol represented pretty well.

Michael Sarver’s passion seemed to fill the gaps as he sang “I’m in Love with a Girl” by Gavin Degraw and “Closer” by Ne-Yo. He sported a white jacket with an enormous cross on it. His performance was fine and well within the line of an ‘opening act’.

Megan Joy came out with a much sexier look than we’ve seen for her, a bright pink dress and coiffed blond hair. Her rendition of Corrine Baily Rae’s “Put Your Records On” was pretty close to the performance she gave on the show. It didn’t win any new fans over, but it wasn’t bad. Unfortunately her rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry on Their Own” didn’t come off as well and you could see why she’s been branded as one of the more ‘unlikeable’ Idols.

Of all the American Idols, Scott MacIntyre was the most improved from his performances on the show. He emerged from below the stage behind a grand piano. It was clear that behind the piano is Scott’s sweet spot. His rendition of Keane’s “Bend and Break” was sharp and he breathed new life into Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles”. I was disappointed that Scott only played two songs and would have liked to seen more from him.

Lil Rounds proved yet again that she can really sing, but something was missing from her performance. She opened with Mary J Blige’s “Be Without You” (a style she was constantly urged to sing during the show) but the audience didn’t seem to connect with it. Her rendition of Alicia Keys’s “No One” was solid, but sound alike and “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé had some great energy, but it seemed to fall apart at the end. Lil Rounds seemed mighty alone on that big stage and I think the show missed a huge opportunity to support her with some dancers. On “Single Ladies” she talked about working with a choreographer, but it ended up just being her strutting around the stage. If anything they could have brought the backup singers forward, or something so she didn’t seem so lost in the big space.

Anoop Desai was the first of the Idols to really connect with the crowd. A wave of flashbulbs fired off as he emerged from the center of the stage signing Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind”. Anoop was dressed in preppy/nerd chic and sported some thick rimmed glasses mid-way through the set. Anoop followed with “Mad” by Ne-Yo and then his signature “My Prerogative” by Bobby Brown. Musically Anoop isn’t the strongest of the Idols – Lil Rounds vocally eclipsed him – but Anoop has a charisma and style that fills the stage. He never looked alone up there and seems to have some of the raw goods to become a star. His set wasn’t earth shattering but it was extremely entertaining.

Matt Giraud seemed to have something to prove, and he did that with his set. With a big stardom presence he was the first Idol to really get the crowd on their feet with The Black Crows “Hard to Handle”. He then slowed it down a bit with Ray Charles’s “Georgia”, which came off fairly well, although I really didn’t like the arrangement. Surprisingly Giraurd closed with “I Found You” by The Fray, which is odd because during the show the judges specifically indicated that it wasn’t the best song for him, and I have to agree.

The medley that followed was okay. Throughout the season the group numbers were never the real strong points. This time around it felt a little choppy and Idol versus Idol. A highlight of the duet was dueling pianos with Scott MacIntyre and Matt Giraud singing Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It”. In that match up I enjoyed Scott’s performance more. The weakest pairing of the medley was Megan and Lil who didn’t sound good together at all.

What followed was an excruciatingly long, energy-sucking 20 minute intermission where we sat and listened to ads and music videos of past American Idol winners. The break wouldn’t have been so misplaced if they had some sort of fun or creative intermission video clips playing (like a retrospective on the show). It was an opportunity missed.

The second half started with a bang and Allison Iraheta made up for the energy suck of the intermission. She opened with an extremely energetic rendition of Pink’s “So What”. Allison played a few of the refrains on her guitar, but not well. She is so energetic and fun and I think she would have done better without the guitar. Allison continued with Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” which was fantastic. As she let loose, she really showed a real comfort on the stage. At one point during “Cry Baby” she did really embody Joplin. It wasn’t a mimic or impression, but something much deeper. Her talk to the audience seemed to really connect and it showed a real presence and charisma. She closed her set with a fantastic performance of Heart’s “Barracuda”. I was disappointed that she only sang three songs. It was at this point I wished the show were the top 5 and not the top 10.

Of all the performances, I was most disappointed by Danny Gokey. I really like Gokey and enjoyed his performances on the show, but what worked on the small screen didn’t quite work as well on the big stage. Danny Gokey opened with Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” without any form of comment or tribute to the artist’s death. He followed on with Santana’s “Maria Maria” which had him dancing around seemingly having fun on stage, but it felt a little stiff and forced and he didn’t quite have the audience along with him. The highlight of his set was “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts; it was the only point in the set where I felt any genuine passion. Danny Gokey followed the song with an ‘inspirational’, “you can do anything, don’t let adversity get in your way” talk. It just didn’t connect, so when he went into Rascal Flatts “My Wish” I felt like I was at a bad Christian Rock concert.

Gokey was immediately forgotten after Adam Lambert’s explosive opening. The crowd went crazy as he belted out Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. A lot of the things that I felt didn’t work in Lambert’s performances on the small screen were the very things that made seeing him live in an arena so fantastic. His opening number was pure electricity and left absolutely no doubt that he’s a rock star. I was really shocked at just how amazing hearing Adam Lambert sing Zeppelin was. He followed with an extremely strong version of Muse’s “Starlight” and then slowed it down with “Mad World”. Although the live version of “Mad World” wasn’t as magical as on the show, it was still fantastic. He pulled the entire audience in with the song and showed how easily he could warp the tempo and tone on stage. Adam called Allison on stage and the two of them did Foghat’s “Slow Ride”. My son turned to me and said, “Isn’t that a song from Guitar Hero?!” (interesting how times have changed). Adam and Allison’s chemistry were fantastic and the song was spot on. Adam finished his set with a medley of David Bowie songs including “Life on Mars”, “Fame” and “Let’s Dance”. It was fun and playful, but I would have enjoyed more big rock like Queen or Kiss. Still, Lambert showed he’s the real deal and his performance was so strong, I’ll definitely make a point to see him when he returns on his own.

During Adam’s set it became pretty clear how limited the staging of the show was. “Whole Lotta Love” screamed for some sort of pyrotechnics and his melody of Bowie songs could have been a huge production number with dancers and effects. It was a huge opportunity lost and one of the most noticeable failings of the show as a whole.

Kris Allen emerged from the floor in the center of the stage to the screams of the fans. They dropped a curtain behind him and the rest of the band (an odd move) and he held silent with his acoustic guitar in hand, for just a little too long. What followed though was one of the highlights of the entire show. Allen performed Kanye West’s “Heartless” in a way that made it clear that he’s made it his own. The song sounded even better live and is the corner stone of Allen’s success. Kris Allen was pitch perfect with his performance of “No Boundaries”, which isn’t my favorite song, but Allen finds hooks in it to make it into something much more beautiful and strong than the source material. Allen’s emotion and connection to the audience peaked with “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. I think it’s Allen’s humble honesty in his performance that really wins the audience over. If Kris Allen came out with the ego of Matt Giraud I don’t think it would work nearly as well. Kris Allen went for the trifecta on Matchbox 20’s  “Bright Lights” singing, playing guitar and piano, a truly versatile performance. He closed his set with a fantastic performance of “Hey Jude”, with the other 9 Idols joining him for the end of the song.

The finale of the night was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, probably the best group effort I’ve seen. For one reason or another the song just ‘fits’ this group. There have been a lot of reports on how close the top 10 American Idol group is, but musically they really haven’t meshed well as a group, except for this song. It was a fantastic close to the show and a real highlight of the night.

As a complete show the 2009 American Idol’s Live Tour isn’t as strong as some of its parts. There are some serious shortcomings with how the show was staged. It was too formatted, overly programmed and lacking in some of the staging magic that could have transformed it into a much better show. The addition of a few dancers, some pyrotechnics and a little more stage pizazz would have gone a long way. I also think they could have dropped the twenty minute intermission in favor of a few more duets or sets which colored outside the lines. Also noticeably missing were any fun video clips or anything from the judges. It’s a clear opportunity missed not to have anything from any of the judges or even Ryan Seacrest on video saying “This is American Idol”.

Despite the production shortcomings the show was very enjoyable. Between Allison Iraheta’s energetic set, Adam Lambert’s jaw dropping Zeppelin and Kris Allen’s pitch perfect performance, there’s more than enough here to justifying seeing the show.

For more information about American Idol Live see:

Also be sure to read: Miley Cyrus Live in Concert – Tour Review

American Idol Live in Portland Video Interviews

July 5, 2009 4 comments

The 8th installment of American Idol Live makes its first stop at The Rose Garden on July 5th. On Portland had the opportunity to sit down and talk to the top 10 American Idol performers (in batches of two).

Reporters were given just 5 mins to ask questions and with two idols to cover it was tough to try to fit a lot in.  Meeting the Idols in person I was struck by how closely they mirrored their ‘personas’ on the screen. What you saw on TV is pretty much what you see when you talk to them in person. Of the group I enjoyed Allison Iraheta’s rambunctious humor, Adam Lambert’s ultimate humility and Anoop Desai who seemed to have the best take on the event.

The biggest surprise was Megan Joy who talked about the challenges she faced during the show. She was a much more grounded and down to earth person than I had expected and her playfullness with Matt Giraud was fun to watch.

The thing that stuck me the most was how exhausted the Idols seemed. It was clear that they’ve been working extremely hard to prepare the tour and I’ll be interested to see the results of all that effort.

Here are the interviews:

Kris Allen and Anoop Desai

Adam Lambert and Lil Rounds and

Danny Gokey and Michael Sarver:

Allison Iraheta and Scott MacIntyre

Matt Giraud and Megan Joy

For more information about American Idol Live see:

The Jonas Brothers in Portland – A Review

June 28, 2009 17 comments

I think it’s important to acknowledge that I am not in any way the target audience for the Jonas Brothers. In the sea of pre-teen girls and their mothers standing in line to get into the Rose Garden, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Committed to doing fun things with my daughter (despite my personal tastes in music), I had decided to take her to one of the most buzzed about concerts so far this year. I definitely felt out of place in an event dominated by debates over which Jonas Brother people think is ‘cuter’ (the consensus seems to be Joe).

The Crowd Waiting to See The Jonas BRothers

The Crowd Waiting to See The Jonas Brothers

As we waited for the show to start the stadium erupted in a deafening wave of screams any time anything Jonas Brothers related appeared on the overhead screens during the pre-show promotions. The Jonas Brothers seem to be able to instill that ‘boy crazy pre-teen frenzy’ that only a handful of boy bands can command. The sea of pre-teens waiting for the show carried fan signs, home-designed Jonas Brothers T-shirts, and were adorned by photos of the three Jonas Brothers.

As the lights dimmed the stadium was literally filled with screams (good thing I brought my Ear Love!). First to meet this adoring crowd was the relatively new Honor Society (watch the On Portland Interview with Honor Society), a band who described themselves as a ‘Myspace Band‘ (or a band that built its following initially from myspace). While Honor Society only played a handful of songs, the audience responded exceptionally well to them. The final song from Honor Society, ‘See U in The Dark’, was the clear favorite of their set. The song snapped and popped like a good pop anthem, noticeably elevated from the rest of their set and is sure to become a hit. I was surprised at how short the set was; I would have expected them to do another song or two especially considering how well they were received.

Following Honor Society was a unique all-girl band from South Korea called Wonder Girls. Dressed in 60’s chic (think The Supremes), Wonder Girls is an odd infusion of retro cool and bubble gum pop. I don’t think that the audience for the Jonas Brothers really knew what to make of them. Their first set, a single song, was so short it was hard to get a real sense of them (check out this video of their first set). Wonder Girls performed a second number after Jordin Sparks’s set and an introduction by Paul Jonas (the Jonas Brother’s father) called Nobody. The song itself was pretty catchy but the dance that went along with it could only be described as odd. It’ll be interesting to see if this Asian super group will find traction with American audiences. It could go either way.

Jordin Sparks, who I had seen a few years back, performed a much stronger set than the last time I saw her. Sparks had a much higher level of comfort on stage and seemed to connect well with the audience. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough of spark in her performance and even her signature single “No Air” didn’t have the punch that it should have. The highlight of Sparks’s set was a rendition of Pretty Young Thing (PYT) in tribute to Michael Jackson, which Sparks performed with more energy and spunk than the rest of her set. Sparks seems constantly on the brink of breaking out and I think a lot of the raw goods are there, but she seems to be lacking the right material to bring her to the next level.

Pop Rock

The stadium filled with lights and smoke as the main event launched like a rocket ship. With Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ blasting, Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas were raised from the depths of the center stage and spun around as if they were pop gods stuck in a doughnut display. The full stage configuration for the Jonas Brothers concert was impressive, presented as a ‘theater in the round’. The stage brought the performers much closer to the audience and gave far more fans a really good seat over traditional staging. The light, smoke and stage show was nothing short of impressive. With layered video screens, hundreds of different light configurations and an ever-revolving center stage, there was always something catching the eye.

Musically I can’t say I was amazingly won over by the Jonas Brothers. They are pure boy band pop through and through. The dynamic of the band is an interesting one. While many of the Jonas Brothers fans swoon over Joe Jonas, it’s actually Nick Jonas who seems to have inherited most of his father’s musical talent. Whether he’s playing guitar, piano or drums Nick seems to be the dominant musical force of the trio. Joe saunters around the stage to the admiring screams of fans, but if you really pay attention you can see it’s really Nick who’s carrying the lead. The third brother (sort of like the fifth Beattle), Kevin seems to be happy in his supporting role, rarely taking center stage. Kevin seems firmly rooted in his backup position. For whatever reason, that dynamic just works and the band comes off as an unashamedly pop boy band that is more ‘cute and swoon worthy’ than sexual (like Justin Timberlake). I also really appreciate that although the band comes from a strong religious background, they don’t bring that to their music.

While I may not have been completely won over by the Jonas Brothers’ music, I was quite impressed by their performance. A highlight for me was Nick Jonas’ rendition of “Black Keys” which was presented with him solo at a white piano in a cloud of smoke. After the song Nick spoke to the audience about his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes and his commitment to push on in the face of adversity. The talk was an extremely skillful way of addressing a real serious issue (teenage suicide) and I thought that Nick Jonas did a phenomenal job of sending out an important message to his fans.

Impressive Jonas Brothers Staging

Impressive Jonas Brothers Staging

The set as a whole had its ups and downs as does their music. High points seemed to pivot around their break-out hits like “S.O.S” or “Burnin’ Up” and fall flat around some of their weaker songs. A complete misstep was the performance of “Sweet Caroline”, the notable Neil Diamond song. The band said they were doing the song for all the parents to get up and dance, but I think they’ve misjudged the age of their audience’s parents. They would have done much better with a stand out Michael Jackson song than Manilow, and I was actually surprised that their set was absent of a song to pay tribute to Michael Jackson.

At a high or low the stage spectacular always seemed to keep the show flowing. A late set return of Jordin Sparks was an unexpected treat. Surrounded by the full lights and video spectacular, Sparks belted out the title track to her new album “Battlefield”. The performances was legions beyond her opening set and showed the potential for Sparks when she has the right material. Also a particularly notable water effect was something I’d never seen at a concert before and was especially impressive.

I can’t say that I was won over at the end and became a fan of the Jonas Brothers. I am clearly not their target audience, but having said that I did enjoy their show. The Jonas Brothers have put together a pure spectacle of light and sound that is entertaining to watch. For me, though, the real enjoyment was watching my daughter as she jumped, sang and swooned. Equipped with the right ear plugs, the screams of the fans were manageable and the stage show was entertaining enough to make the evening more than worth it.

For more information:

Honor Society Interview

Honor Society (an heir appearant to the Jonas Brothers) stopped in Portland on one of the first legs of the Jonas Brother’s Tour.  On Portland interviewed the band in two parts.  The first part was conducted by Hannah Kleinman (aged 10), On Portland’s youngest contributor.  Hannah talks with the band about their breakout song See You in The Dark,  how they got their start, where they first played and what songs they like to perform the most:

Watch Hannah’s Interview with Honor Society:

Our second part of the interview comes from On Portland editor Geoff Kleinman who talks to the Honor Society about the challenges of running two concurrent tours, who they’d most like to play with on stage and what the future holds for this up and coming pop phenom.

For more information on Honor Society see:

Categories: Interview, Music Tags:

Rent comes to Portland with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal

June 24, 2009 1 comment
Rent: The Broadway Tour

Rent: The Broadway Tour

Over the past thirteen years, Rent has transformed from a smash hit Broadway musical into something much bigger. The show, which is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Boheme, tells the story of a group of New York youth struggling with the challenges and grim realities of becoming adults. Rent takes place at the apex of the AIDS crisis when twenty-somethings not only had to worry about what they wanted to be when they grew up, but the constant fear of catching the deadly virus and dying.

Johnathan Larson, who died tragically before the show’s original debut, captures the electricity of this time and combines it with a score that features a number of ensemble pieces that are nothing short of outstanding. When I saw the original production of Rent on Broadway, the performers closely mirrored their characters: they were young and struggling to make a name for themselves. The original show snapped with a spark of energy that is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen on stage.

Flash forward thirteen years to a touring production of Rent staring two of the original performers, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp. No longer struggling performers, Rapp and Pascal have become inexorably tied to their roles in Rent. After the show a huge crowd met the two at the stage door with a wave of camera flashes and screams. The two have become something akin to rock stars.

So how do two performers revisit the roles that made them famous thirteen years later? Surprising well. From the opening scene between Mark and Roger you get the sense of excitement and enjoyment. But Rapp and Pascal aren’t trying to recreate their original performances; they both seem to embrace the reality that they come at the piece from a different space. The result of this is intriguing. Anthony Rapp plays Mark with a much sharper edge, a more grounded and mature performance that places Mark at a greater distance from the people around him. Pascal’s change is more subtle and seems to come out in his scenes with Lexi Lawson, who plays Mimi. The duet Light My Candle gets a new life with Roger’s rebukes of Mimi’s advances taking on a different tone. The number between Pascal and Lawson is an absolute highlight of the show and an example of how a show, even thirteen years into its run, can find new life and space.

Adam Pascal and Lexi Lawson

Adam Pascal and Lexi Lawson

A more difficult task perhaps is asked of the newer performers, expected to inhabit iconic roles established by some of theater’s most respected performers. Some of the touring cast does this well, and some do not. Lexi Lawson, who left this season of American Idol to take part in the touring production, does a fantastic job of breathing fresh life into her character of Mimi. Lawson is best in the duets, but the solo Out Tonight seems a bit too big for her. The raw talent is there and Lawson’s chemistry with Adam Pascal is simply fantastic. Another real highlight of the touring company is Haneefah Wood who plays Joanne. Her duet Tango: Maureen is one of my favorite moments of the touring production. It may be blasphemy to say this, and I’m sure I’ll hear from “Rent-heads”, but I actually preferred Haneefah Wood’s interpretation of Joanne to the original production. Wood captures the dichotomy of being a strong and accomplished woman who still lets Maureen wrap her around her finger. I also really enjoyed Nicolette Hart as Maureen. Almost more than any of the other non-original Broadway cast members Hart makes the role her own. She throws out the original performance template of Maureen and finds her own path to the incredibly attractive but ultimately batty character.

I didn’t have the same level of affection for some of the other members of the touring company. Jacques C. Smith’s performance of Benny is by far the weakest as Smith seems lost in the role. This is most apparant in the transition between Christmas Bells and Over The Moon, which is a complete mess, partly attributed to Smith’s performance. I was also disappointed with Michael McElroy’s performance of Tom Collins. During the first act I felt that McElroy’s performance was a little listless and that his vocal range felt limited. He completely shattered these perceptions with I’ll Cover You: Reprise where McElroy pulls out a performance that is fantastic. This made me even more frustrated about his first act work, knowing that he has the goods but wasn’t bringing them until the second act. I felt the same way about Justin Johnson, whose first act performance of Angel was lacking something and whose second act work was again phenomenal.

The rest of the company who fills in the spaces of the show were really strong. The ensemble numbers were best when everyone was standing still, like with Life Support or Seasons of Love, however when the ensemble tried to sing and move the result ended up being a lot more muddled and chaotic as it was with Christmas Bells and La Vie Boheme (which was one of the only corner stone songs of the show that didn’t seem to hit its mark).

Rent in Portland

Rent in Portland

But, I feel silly complaining about some of the minor details of this show. It’s like complaining about the frame on the Mona Lisa. Rent is a masterpiece that resonates as well today as when I first saw it on Broadway. It’s a show whose universal relevance places it firmly as a ‘classic’ that is sure to be played for generations to come. The show exists in a lot of forms, from the less than stellar Christopher Columbus film version to a Reunion Broadway performance on Blu-Ray and DVD. Nothing can compare to seeing Rent live. It’s an absolute gift to have Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp reprise their original roles and the supporting touring company is well above the quality of most touring companies. I’d even go as far to say that Rent “The Broadway Tour” is the best touring company I’ve seen perform in Portland.

If you’ve never seen Rent, you owe it to yourself to see this show live. I doubt we’ll see Rapp and Pascal in these roles again, so there probably won’t be a better version of this show out there than this. If you love Rent, I’m happy to report that this production does the show justice, and odds are you already have tickets.

Rent runs at the Keller Auditorium through June 28th. $20 day of show tickets are available. Also of note is that the Portland Opera is opening their 2009-2010 season with Puccini’s opera La Boheme in September, so this is a rare opportunity to see Rent and La Boheme within months of each other, something that will enrich the experience of seeing both.

For more information on Rent at The Keller:

Categories: Theater Tags: ,

Rumble at The Roseland 44 MMA Action in Portland

June 14, 2009 7 comments
Rumble at The Roseland 44 MMA

Rumble at The Roseland 44 MMA

Rumble at The Roseland 44 may have been the most consistently entertaining night of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) action I’ve seen. With sixteen action packed fights, the evening was never dull and it moved along at a terrific pace. The evening saw its share of upsets and victories. Female fighter Jody De Simone (who we interviewed here prior to the fight) was defeated by new comer Jana Piper and Chris Nelson was rocked by a Jay Shaffer in an outstanding prize fight upset. But it was Jake Morris who delivered most solidly to expectations in one of the most dynamic and entertaining fights of the night.

Here’s a rundown of the bouts at Rumble at The Roseland and my thoughts on them.

Jay Pense v. Jeff Yost – when you think of the words “amateur MMA” a fight like this probably comes to mind. Two relatively inexperienced fighters wildly hitting, kicking and grappling, neither with any finesse or strategy. The bout ends 2 mins and 12 seconds in the second round with Jeff Yost catching Jay Pense in a triangle. In all the worst fight of the evening.

Ron Lane v. John Garcia – a solid fight with two fairly evenly matched fighters. Garcia goes for arm bar after arm bar attempt against Lane but never can quite lock it in. The fight goes a full three rounds with Garcia putting the exclamation point towards the end with a dominating finish that earns him the decision.

Jester Arnold Vs. Shane Smith – the fight explodes out of the gate with a fast an furious folly of punishes. Smith dominates once the fight moves to the ground and brings the fight to a climatic finish 1 minute and 12 seconds into the fight via rear naked choke. It’s a short fight but Smith showed a ton of promise in this match.

Sean Murphy v. Greg Shelby – Murphy came to weigh in dressed in a suit and tie as he had just come from his college graduation ceremony. He wasn’t going to let the day’s glory end there as he had an extremely solid showing and got Murphy with a nice choke. After the bout he brought his wife on stage and exclaimed “This is why I fight!”

Brandon Pitts v. David Lloyd – Pitts looked like he was in amazing shape facing the much huskier Lloyd but he struggled with dominance through out the fight. A strong arm bar attempt in the first round leads to Lloyd’s escape and then Lloyd came back strong and won by an early second round tap out by choke (1min 14 seconds in the second round).

Blake Brown V. Sean Miller – Miller had huge fan support, the crowd at the Roseland was so loud when he made his entrance it was deafening. The first round was pretty even with both fighters giving as good as they got. Punches, kicks and take-downs are evenly exchanged until 2 minutes and 59 1/2 seconds when Miller delivers and explosive knock out. Brown hits the canvas, lights out as the horn sounds. A dramatic finish to a great fight. Sean Miller moves to 3-0 and shows he’s a fighter to watch.

Jeremy Disbrow vs. Luke Shepard – Disbrow came in the ring covered in sweat, he jumped, leaped and beat his chest. In contrast Luke Shepard came in cool, calm and collect and quickly dispatched him with an early round arm bar. Shepard’s cool composure and the way he dispatched Shepard makes him a fighter to watch.

Dylan Loriaux v Brian Cook – Dillian grabbed and choked Cook early and then hung on and rode ‘the bull’ for 38 seconds until Cook tapped out.

Lincoln Joe v. Joe Kyle Werner – a great example of contrasts, two extremely looking and fighting fighters who delivered an entertaining fight. The first round Werner delivers a ton of punishment to Lincoln who keeps on fighting. The second round has two stoppages for Lincoln delving knees on the ground to Werner (something that’s permitted in the league he usually fights in), but the stops don’t stop Lincoln who delivers a punishing ground and pound to finish the fight.

Jody De Simone (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Jody De Simone (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Janna Piper v. Jody De Simone – high expectations met this match-up of the female MMA fighters and the two fighters seemed to realize that. The first round showed some strong exchanges from both sides and tough responses showing the each fighter could take a beating. The fight moves to the second round with Janna topping Jody and then nearly choking her out. Jody recovers and seems to have Janna on the run when Janna delivers some power blows. The fight is stopped after the second round (between the 2nd and 3rd round) because De Simone had issues seeing out of her left eye.

Here’s the video of the Janna Piper v. Jody De Simone Fight:

Eric Hurt v. Jeremy Morse – a solid fight with Morse dominating most of the first round from the top. The bout ends in round two when Hurt delivered a monster knee to win the fight.

Nick Huff v. Brandon “Buzz” Alderman – an interesting match-up that pitted a new fighter (Huff) against a veteran (Alderman). The fight is packed with a ton of action as each fighter exchanges a volley of punches and kicks, each fighter nearly missing with some huge shots. Round two has some explosive action when Huff unloads on Alderman, but Alderman shows he can take it and then Huff gasses out. The fight is stopped between Round 2 and 3 as Huff is too exhausted to finish the fight.

Darrin Starks v. Kevin Fox – Fox is a monster in this fight and it seems like Starks can handle the punishment, but as the round keeps going the punishment gets more and more brutal until Fox knocks Starks out cold. It takes a while for Starks to get up and recover from such a resounding pounding from Fox.

Everett Walker v. Mario Rossi – a fight filled with tons of action and turns of dominance. Rossi seems to have Walker on the ropes more in a close first round. The second round has Walker dominating with a choke hold that seems like it’ll end the fight, but Rossi survives and Walker seems worse for the wear after expending so much energy on the choke. The fight is stopped due to a vanishing mouthgaurd and Rossi gets a point deducted for losing the guard. The third round is filled with exchanges with Rossi pushing the tempo and controlling more of the fight than Walker. Even with the point deduction Rossi takes the fight by decision.

Jake Morris (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Jake Morris (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Lance Ford v. Jake Morris – one of the most anticipated fights of the night, Jake Morris continues to prove he’s the ‘real deal’. At just a few months past eighteen, Morris shows he’s got the explosive power to handle anyone that he’s matched up with. Ford gives Morris a fight with a few big lead changes in the first round but it all comes to a dramatic end with a monster choke hold that knocks Ford out. Like a pro wrestler Morris dances around the ring celebrating, and with just cause, he’s on a road that leads to higher places in the MMA world.

Here’s the video from the Lance Ford v. Jake Morris fight:

Chris Nelson v. Jay Shaffer – the 205lb Superfight bout was one of the highlights of the evening. Shaffer who is 40 looked in great shape against Nelson who seemed like the favorite from the start. Nelson snagged Shaffer in a long deep choke early in the first round but Shaffer kept his cool, used his legs and body and escaped the choke. After the escape Shaffer made Nelson pay for the choke with some thunderous punches. Round two found Shaffer executing a pitch perfect strategy. Literally every move he made was spot on, all of it leading to a thunderous knockout that bloodied Nelson’s face. Shaffer showed he was the better fighter with his patience, tact and precision, beating a guy much younger than him.

Jay Shaffer's Knock Out Punch (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Jay Shaffer's Knock Out Punch (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Sixteen action packed MMA fights filled an evening that delivered an extremely strong bang for the buck. The only downside of Rumble at The Roseland is that it seems to rely too heavily on the people who know the fighters to turn out. This is great in terms of crowd reaction but the downside is people who love MMA in Portland may not be all that aware that such fantastic fights are going on in this town. With promising fighters, some of which will find their way to professional careers I’d expect Rumble to seek out more press and coverage for their fights. I was shocked to find that I was one of the only reporters allowed in to the fights this time around and hope Rumble will connect with more press to get the word out on this fantastic event.

If you’re a fan of MMA and haven’t checked out Rumble at The Roseland, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The July 25th fights will feature a Jake Morris’s first shot at a title and for that reason alone it’ll be worth the price of admission.

For more information about  Rumble at The Roseland:

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Choffy – A Coffee Alternative Made From Chocolate

June 12, 2009 No comments
Choffy Ivory Coast Cacao - Medium Roast

Choffy Ivory Coast Cacao - Medium Roast

One of my great frustrations is the fact that my body just doesn’t tolerate coffee very well. I love the taste, texture and aroma of coffee but it trashes my digestional system, wires me out and gives me massive headaches when I get hooked on it.

Portland is one of the worst places in the country not to be drinking coffee.  My salvation has been tea. Between the numerous tea houses in Portland and my time with Heaven’s Tea I’ve been able to help fill the coffee void.

In addition to tea I’ve also enjoyed drinking chocolates (which is really hot cocoa for adults) and Chai (which I think could be put in its own class of deliciousness).

Then I discovered Choffy, a unique coffee substitute which uses roasted and ground cacao beans to brew a very coffee-like drink.

I think it’s important to be clear right off the bat that Choffy isn’t coffee. It doesn’t contain coffee, doesn’t have the same aroma or taste and wouldn’t win a blind taste test against some of Portland’s finest.

The Ground Choffy

The Ground Choffy

Choffy is, however, one of the single best coffee alternatives I’ve ever tried.  Rich and slightly bitter, Choffy embodies some of the very same elements of roasted goodness that are characteristic of coffee, and what it’s missing, it fills in with dark sweet chocolate notes that make it akin to drinking a drip version of a mocha than anything else.

Unlike drinking chocolate where you’re consuming the chocolate itself, Choffy is brewed like coffee so you only consume the essence of the beans. This cuts way down on the caloric weight of the resulting cup.

There’s some semantical debate around the caffeine content in chocolate. While chocolate doesn’t have caffeine it does contain theobromine which is also a stimulant. So you do get a boost from drinking Choffy, but it isn’t the same as from coffee.

I noticed a nice smooth and easy increase in energy and awareness and an even tapering off of that ‘boost’ within an hour or so.  I didn’t find Choffy to be physically addictive like I do coffee and I didn’t get any headaches from it.

Brewing Choffy

Brewing Choffy

Choffy may not be physically addicitve, but it is extremely tasty!  All my tests with Choffy were with the same drip coffee maker my wife uses to prepare her cup of joe.

Choffy is sold in 12oz bags of grounds. You use approximately 4 tablespoons per 12 oz cup. The down side of this is that it is VERY easy to blow through an entire bag of Choffy in a week and priced at $15.00 per 12 oz bag it is considerably more expensive than coffee.

That being said, the resulting drink is worth the expense. I tried Choffy several ways  – straight up, with soy creamer and agave, over ice and blended with ice, creamer and sweetener in the blender.  Choffy held up extremely well in each scenario, producing an extremely drinkable and tasty cup.

Choffy is sold in three varieties including: Ecuadorian, Nicaragua, and Ivory Coast. I tested the Ivory Coast and look forward to comparing it to the other varieties.

Based out of Vancouver, Washington, Choffy is using Portland as one of its key launch pad markets. Orders from the Choffy website are shipped locally by co-founder Jason Sherwood and Choffy can be purchased locally from Food Front Coop.

Be sure to read our interview with Choffy’s Co-Founder.

The Final Result of Choffy

The Final Result of Choffy

For more information on Choffy:
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Choffy Interview

Portland is one of the major launch pad markets for Choffy, a new coffee alternative made from roasted cacao beans. I sat down with the co-founder Jason Sherwood to find out what exactly Choffy is and how Portland fits into its equation.

How did Choffy get its start? (and what’s your role in the company)

Our company started based off of a dream and a passion to help people live healthier lives. We started in a kitchen in Henderson, NV, roasting on cookie sheets and grinding in small food processors. We eventually graduated to roasting Choffy on our bar-b-ques (even after the fateful day when the shed burned down), and now using industrial roasters and a custom grinder we developed.

I am the co-founder and Executive Creative Director of Choffy. Since we are small, we all wear a lot of hats, but my primary responsibility is our brand, marketing, and support to our distributor services.

Choffy GroundWhat exactly is in Choffy and what are the different varieties?

Choffy is Brewed Chocolate or in other words, it is 100% Cacao, that is roasted and then ground.  It is a product that brews like coffee in all of it’s different formats, but provides a new and unique flavor. We currently have two varieties. We work directly with growers in Ecuador, and the Ivory Coast. Our Ecuadorian Choffy is the most Chocolaty and according to some the lightest. Ivory Coast has a deep cocoa flavor with a hint of earthiness. We are always working on new varieties from other single cacão estates around the world, and showcase them at various times of the year.

How does Choffy differ from ‘Hot Chocolate”?

Most notably Choffy is not an instant drink like hot chocolate. We use a minimally invasive processes during production to ensure that our customers are drinking the purest form of brewed cacao.  As a result Choffy retains a lot more of the compounds that are naturally occurring in cacao. The roasting and brewing process is what gives Choffy its distinct robust flavor. Since Choffy does not contain any sugar or instant creme like most hot chocolates. Though like coffee, many people add things (like creamers) to their Choffy to give it their own personalized taste.

So I’m drinking chocolate, how many calories is in it?

Remember, your are drinking only the very essence of what chocolate is made from, so you are going to have a drink that is extremely low in calories. There are only 20 calories in 8 oz. of brewed Choffy. 0 sugar, 0 fat, and 3 grams of carbs.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far for Choffy?

I think that the biggest challenge as been launching a company in this tough economy.  People are worried about money. They are not buying as much as they once were, and that has made it a little more difficult than we originally anticipated. Choffy is a unique product. It has its very own properties. No caffeine like coffee, but no sugar and fat like traditional chocolate. People are often interested in how it tastes. Once people try Choffy, they realize that this is a great tasting product with great health benefits, and we hope we have gained another fan.

Is Choffy based in Portland?

Although we started in a little kitchen in Henderson, NV, we quickly realized that the northwest and more specifically Portland was the place to be.  We love being in the Portland area, and the opportunities that it brings to share this product with others. Technically our location is in Vancouver, WA. But we consider ourselves a part of the larger Portland community. It is a community that  loves brewed drinks, they care about healthy, organic foods, and want to make the world a little better each day.

How does Choffy compare to coffee?

Well, It does brew like coffee, and some might say that the taste is somewhat similar, but that is about as far as it goes.  Choffy tends to be less bitter than coffee and the flavor profiles are different. The health benefits are quite different as well.

Is there anything in Coffee that’s bad for people?  Is there anything in Choffy that’s good for them?

If you are asking if coffee is bad for you, I would say that is a sticky question for people in the Northwest, but actually yes, there are elements of coffee that are bad for the body. Caffeine is one of those elements.

On the positive Choffy is packed with a different stimulant that is good for the body.  It is called Theobromine.  It affects the body by opening the vascular system up and helping to produce an increase in blood flow and help the heart work more efficiently. Choffy is also packed with antioxidants. Cacão has more antioxidants in it per volume than any other food on the planet. One 8 oz. cup of Choffy has more antioxidants in it than 2 full servings of blueberries. Choffy acts as a super-detoxifier, helping your body rid itself of the toxins that tax your system

Choffy also naturally contains some essential minerals that help promote good health:

Magnesium: Cacão appears to be the best source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium is one of the great alkaline minerals, helping to support the heart, brain, and digestive system.  In addition, Magnesium balances brain chemistry and builds strong bones.

Iron: Cacão contains a significant amount of iron per serving. Iron, a critical mineral in nutrition, is part of the oxygen carrying protein called hemoglobin that keeps our blood healthy.

Are any coffee shops in Portland serving Choffy?

No coffee shops here in Portland yet, though many have shown interest. We have some in other states. We hope many other locations will do the same.

Where can you buy Choffy Now?

We have a number of individual distributors here in Portland. They are a great resource for Choffy. Choffy can also be purchased online at drinkchoffy.com. We are happy to say that Food Front Co-op grocery has just started selling Choffy in their grocery store.

What’s next for Choffy?

We hope to continue to grow. We hope to be able to share Choffy with more people. We hope to continue to add distributors to our family, and hope that many other locations will be interested carrying Choffy. We don’t believe that Choffy will cure cancer, or that you will suddenly gain 78% more effectiveness in your day, but we firmly stand by fact that Choffy is truly good for you. It is the reason we built this company, “to champion healthy living and wellness in body, mind and spirit for people everywhere.”

Be sure to check out our Choffy Taste Test.
For more information on Choffy:
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Interview with MMA Fighter Jody De Simone

June 10, 2009 14 comments
Jodie De Simone

Jody De Simone

Rumble at The Roseland is one of the top, most consistently entertaining Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events in Portland. Every month a packed crowd is treated to a full evening of fights (typically 13-15 bouts). Fighters come in at a wide range of experience levels and fighting styles.

One of the great strengths of Rumble at The Roseland is that it’s become a showcase for some of the most young and promising fighters in the area. It gives Portlanders a unique opportunity to see some of the future UFC, WEC or Strikeforce fighters up close and personal as they begin to make their name in the sport.

Jody De Simone is one of these bright and talented fighters on the rise. Her debut in December was an explosive fight that left a strong impression on the crowd and snagged her a cover on the Willamette Week.   De Simone returns to the ring on Saturday June 13th 7pm at The Roseland Theater for Rumble at The Roseland 44.  Expectations are high and her opponent Jana Piper is a tough one.

On Portland interviewed Jody as she prepared for this important fight:

How did you first get started in MMA?

I wanted to fight a long time ago. I was offered a sponsorship for underground fighting years ago but it was too dangerous. Back then they fought until someone got knocked out. The cage fighting that is going on now is much safer. I have been interested in martial arts for a long time. I have pictures at age seven in a ninja outfit. I was using nun-chucks by age eight, I competed with them by age 12. My brother Daryl was the one that brought martial arts into my life. Daryl got a ninja outfit so I had to have one. Daryl used the nun-chucks so I had to learn them. Daryl could use throwing stars and blow dart guns so I had to learn how to. I had to be like him for some reason… he’s still my hero.

How did you select the gym that you fight with and what kind of impact does a gym have on how you train and how you fight?

It’s funny that you ask this question. Two months ago I wouldn’t have had an answer but now I do.I was a member at G.I.RL.S Gym for about six months. I found an add on Craigslist for an all girls gym and contacted Sarah Oriza the coach/owner of the gym. The reason I selected this gym was because Sarah offered me free lessons if I would fight for her. I also did all the marketing, brand identity including the logo and made rash guards (t-shirts) for them. I hate taking something for nothing so I felt like I had to do something in return that’s why I did the marketing.

Long story short Sarah and I were two completely different people with way different communication styles and Sarah did some things on her end that were extremely unprofessional so I left G.I.R.L.S Gym (the same week that four other girls left) and went over to Rise Above MMA. I have had to unlearn a ton of bad techniques that I was taught. I have never had such a great coach as I do now! Ron at Rise Above MMA is incredible he has a very unique teaching style. Ron is able to communicate in multiple styles and teach in a way that leaves everyone in the gym understanding what he’s doing. If I had done anything different I would have attending multiple gyms before selecting one. If I had done that I would have never picked G.I.R.L.S Gym.

What’s been your biggest challenge as a fighter to date?

Well I have had to learn that a lot of people don’t understand the fighter lifestyle. I lost a relationship because I was spending a ton of time training. No one seems to understand the not drinking or strict eating lifestyle. My friends complain they don’t see me often enough. So my biggest issue is just finding people who understand or support this lifestyle.

photo David Lawrence

photo David Lawrence

How was the experience of your first fight. Walk us through the thoughts and emotions.

Well my right shoulder was hurt and I knew I only had ONE good take down in me, I was nervous about it hurting. I got to weigh-ins and when I got my vitals taken the guy kept commenting on how calm I was for a first time fighter. I always get calm when I should be all amped up… it’s strange. I spent the next hour staring across the room at Janna Piper thinking she was Christa Shaffer. I had no idea what Christa looked like so I just assumed Janna was Christa. I mentally prepared myself to fight Janna and then they called Christa’s name for wheigh-ins and she wasn’t in the room. I was so confused for a second and then after another half hour Christa came in and it took me a second to readjust my thoughts. Then I digested the fact that Christa was a giant and went home to eat some fish and vegetables!

I was calm most of the day then got back to the Roseland for the fight. I didn’t really warm up or anything I just sat downstairs and watched everyone prepare. My coach didn’t bring any pads or anything for me to warm up with. The hardest part was that is was my first fight so I never knew what to expect next.

When they called my name I had a moment of terror and then it passed. I heard my music playing and my heart started to race. I kept feeling like I had to go the bathroom which must be a nervous thing? Then the moment I had spent so much time being scared about… the cage door closing! I was so nervous of being locked in the cage?

photo: David Lawrence

photo: David Lawrence

The fight started and Christa circled me a bit then threw her first punch it was in slow motion in my mind. I remember thinking throw another one because I’m taking you down. Then she threw the second punch and I took her down and landed in mount. I started punching and she slowly turned (everything was in slow motion in my head). All of a sudden I though she’s giving me her back it’s OVER! The next moment I remember was reminding myself to get my hooks in then the ref was telling me to let go and it was over. I started jumping up and down and then realized she might be hurt so I was concerned. She got up and it was all over.

The best moment was when I went downstairs and no one was around Christa came up and genuinely told me good fight. It was at that moment the I realized I wanted to be like her… a good sport no matter what happens in the ring. Christa left me with something… a good example it was really motivating.

There are still naysayers (like Matt Lindland) who aren’t convinced that women’s MMA is equal to the level of Men’s MMA.  What do you say to those critics?

Keep watching me!

Do you notice that compared to a male MMA fighter that you have to do things differently because you are a woman, In terms of eating, training, making weight, etc?

The only difference is the monthly friend. When a girl is on her period she can gain five pounds overnight. Gaining weight like that can make weigh-ins kind of tough. Other than that the hardest part is just being taken seriously. Sometimes guys go really easy and I have to say hit me harder. I have a great team around me so I don’t have to deal with most of this stuff.

Jody De Simone in Action

Jody De Simone in Action

When you take a bruising after a hard workout or fight, how do you pull yourself together the next day and not look like you were in a brawl?

I don’t mind looking like I’m in a brawl. I put my Tussle Fight Gear shirt on… the one that says “I’m not abused I’m an MMA fighter” and I go out feeling proud of myself. As far as the pain I have a great masseuse and fantastic chiropractor. My doctor is amazing too! Like I said I have a great team around me.

What advice would you give to other women who are thinking of possibly fighting in MMA?

I would tell them it’s a HUGE time commitment if you want to fight and win. It takes a ton of time and sacrifice. I don’t really go out anymore. I’m in bed on Friday and Saturday nights getting ready for the next days workouts. If you have a family make sure that they are willing to support the neglect that they are going to receive. In order to be good you have to be selfish with your time. If you’re not working out you’re usually tired or sore so you’re not 100% for anyone else. I would say get a good strong team around you… you’ll need the support.

You do a tremendous amount as a semi-pro fighter to promote yourself, you’re on Twitter, Facebook and do meet ups.  What impact has this had on you and your career?

I have met a ton of people who support me and that is an absolute necessity. My fans keep me motivated when my mind is fighting with me. My fight has been the biggest promoter of my career. So long as I point people to my fight I seem to get a positive response. It is so important to do self promotion because women are easily overlooked in MMA. Promotion has really helped me establish myself as a serious female MMA fighter. It has also gotten me a lot of sponsorships! I met the most amazing man through this, he owns Tussle Fight Gear and he and his wife have supported me immensely.

After Saturday’s fight at Rumble at The Roseland, what are your plans professionally?  What’s the career path for a female fighter?

I want to go pro in the next year. I will fight four to six more fights and then when my coach Ron gives me the go ahead I’ll go pro! The career path isn’t set in stone for a female MMA fighter. The possibilities are TV shows and an established name in female MMA. I would love to coach at some point as well! I teach fitness boxing at LA Boxing in Hillsboro on Mondays and Fridays so coaching isn’t that far fetched.

What’s you favorite thing about fighting in MMA?

Punching people in the face and the physical challenges I get to face on a daily basis.

Rumble at The Roseland 44 is on Saturday June 13th 7pm at The Roseland Theater. Tickets can be purchased at TicketsWest.com.

For more information about Jody De Simone and Rumble at The Roseland:

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