Portlandia, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Portland

March 7, 2012 2 comments

When they first announced that Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein were going to be shooting a half hour sketch comedy show in and about Portland, I really didn’t think many people would pay attention. I mean, who actually watches IFC? Apparently the answer is a lot of people. Here we are a year later and the show, in its second season, is extremely popular.

When I travel, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “Is Portland really like Portlandia?” Yes, yes it is. Portland is an odd little city; in fact, I don’t see it as much a city as I do the biggest town in America. Portland is intimately connected with other parts of the country (we seem to have something of an affair going on with Brooklyn), and yet at the same time we’re fairly isolated. People think we’re close to Seattle, but those same people have never made the schlep up the I-5 – it isn’t close.  Read more…

Pho-A-Palooza: Got Pho?

March 5, 2012 Comments off
Got Pho?

Got Pho?

One of the great things about living in Portland is the absolute abundance of fantastic pho restaurants. While Portland gets a lot of attention nationally for places like Pok Pok and Nong’s Khao Man Gai (both of which are excellent), it’s Portland’s pho that can quickly and easily become a weekly ritual.

Pho is the perfect choice for the long rainy days that accompany the end of winter. Pho also works just about as well as Grandma’s chicken soup for squashing those change of season colds.

With so many pho restaurants in Portland, I thought I’d make my way through the major ones in a series of meals I could only call Pho-A-Palooza.

One of my first stops is Got Pho? on NE Sandy Blvd. It’s one block up from where NE Sandy and NE Broadway intersect, and if you weren’t looking for Got Pho? you’d easily miss it. It’s located in a tiny strip mall right across from the I-84 freeway on-ramp. Read more…

Portland Cello Project does Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power

March 4, 2012 1 comment
Pantera Cello Project

Pantera Cello Project

File this under “Things that make Portland great.” The Portland Cello Project has made a name for themselves by mixing classical cello music with cello compositions of modern and pop music. They’ve toured with groups you’d never associate with cellos, including Buckethead, Alexi Murdoch, and Thao with the Get Down Stay Down.

On February 27th, the Portland Cello Project became the Pantera Cello Project for a single night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pantera’s iconic album, Vulgar Display of Power. The Cello Project arranged the entire Vulgar Display of Power album for cellos and then played it live in its entirety to a packed house at the Wonder Ballroom.

It’s mind-blowing to think that a group of cellists could translate the power chords of Pantera to be played on cellos, but the Portland Cello Project did it amazingly. Perhaps the most difficult to translate are the solos from Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott, a task which was tackled by several different soloists throughout the night.

The evening moved between the project replicating the intensity of Pantera’s better known songs from the album, including Walk, This Love, and F’ing Hostile and finding its own voice with some of Pantera’s more melodic songs like By Demons Be Driven, and Hollow, which was simply haunting. Read more…

Float On Portland – The Amazing Impact of Nothing

February 13, 2012 Comments off
Float On Portland

Float On Portland (photo: Aaron Cushman)

One of the great things about Portland is the abundance of wellness options available.  Portland has an incredibly high ratio of acupuncturists, massage therapists, and naturopaths per capita than almost any other city. It’s in this wellness-rich enviroment that a business like Float On could not only exist, but thrive.

Float On provides flotation tanks that let you float weightlessly on a high concentration of epsom salt water (more than 3x the density of the Dead Sea) in an environment that is complete dark and silent. As you walk into the lobby of Float On, there are huge piles of epsom salt, stacked almost like sandbags at the edge of a river. Christopher Messer, one of the owners of Float On, points to a large pile and says, “It takes all this salt to fill one tank.”

Flotation tanks aren’t a new concept and there have been a number of them in Portland, but Float On is one of the few places that focus exclusively on these flotation tanks. Float On has been open in its SE Hawthorne location for over a year, and I had been aware of it for some time. But to be quite honest, dark, tight spaces scare the crap out of me, so even though I was curious to give it a try, I was reticent to actually take the plunge. Read more…

Lord of The Rings in Concert Giveaway

October 7, 2011 19 comments

After the massive success of  Star Wars in Concert. Comes The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Rings in Concert!.
The Lord of the Rings In Concert: The Fellowship of the Ring will stop in Portland at the Rose Garden on Tuesday, October 18. Peter Jackson’s complete award-winning epic will be projected digitally on an immense 60-foot screen while the combined forces of the Munich Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Chorale, and Phoenix Boys Choir bring the music of Middle-earth to life. Come witness the Lord of the Rings like you’ve never seen it before! Tickets start at just $35 . 

To celebrate this event, we’ve got a great giveaway, courtesy of The Rose Garden.

Read more…

Hell on Earth Tour Review – Exodus, Rob Zombie and Slayer

August 6, 2011 1 comment
Rob Zombie in Portland Hell on Earth Tour

Rob Zombie in Portland Hell on Earth Tour

Metal has really languished as a category over the past few years, as the heyday of metal has seemingly come and gone.   After the death of Dimebag Darryl from Pantera and Metallica’s overly touchy feely “metal bands have relationship issues, too” docu-drama, the golden era of metal ended with both a bang and a wimper.

While metal may not enjoy the popularity it once had, loyal fans still head bang and spin around the mosh pit to their favorite band. As with a lot of other music genres, major acts come together and tour in shows that bring together some of the best bands in the genre for an evening of entertainment. Thus is the Hell on Earth Tour with Exodus, Rob Zombie, and Slayer, which made one of its final stops at the Memorial Coliseum. While the coliseum wasn’t packed, the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd (especially for Slayer) made up for the less-than-full auditorium.

Read more…

Mary Poppins The Broadway Musical in Portland Review

June 30, 2011 2 comments
Mary Poppins Broadway Musical in Portland

Mary Poppins Broadway Musical in Portland

Mary Poppins is one of Disney’s most successful and iconic movie musicals, featuring a number of unforgettable songs and a story that has easily withstood the test of time.  It’s slightly head-scratching given this that Cameron Macintosh, famed producer of mega hits like Cats, Les Miserables and Phantom of The Opera, would want to mess with something that already works so well.

The stage adaptation of Mary Poppins is one part re-imaging and one part preserving the classic film. It’s a mix of the elements from the film we know and love, and new songs and material that has been added in to expand the film into a Broadway musical.  The problem, though, is that the film didn’t really need much expanding; running close to two and a half hours, if the movie version of Mary Poppins ever had any real issue, it was that it’s a little long for younger kids. Read more…

Britney Spears Femme Fatale Tour Portland Concert Review

June 28, 2011 16 comments
I'm Britney Bitch!

I'm Britney, Bitch!

“I’m Britney, bitch.” Yeah, but is that enough?

After a very full evening of entertainment, including a fantastic set by Nicki Minaj, I find myself wondering if a grand spectacle is reason enough to go see someone live in concert.

Read more…

WeirDass, One of the Best Improv Duos, at Curious Comedy

June 17, 2011 Comments off
WeirDass: Bob Dassie and Stephnie Weir

WeirDass: Bob Dassie and Stephnie Weir

Improvisational theater involves the art of creating live theater without preset scenes, characters, props or a script. It’s a distant cousin to sketch comedy, which is written and can be seen on shows like Saturday Night Live and MADtv (although to complicate things, some sketch work starts out in improv). Improvisational theater (or improv for short) is an amazingly difficult craft, and when it’s done well, the result can be some of the funniest and most ‘alive’ theater you can see.

WeirDass, the husband and wife team of Bob Dassie and Stephnie Weir, are extremely well known within the improv world for their dynamic, detailed and hilarious performances. Together they’ve performed at some of the top improv venues in the world, including the venerable Improv Olympics in both Chicago and Los Angeles, and the UCB (Uprights Citizen Brigade) Theater in New York. Read more…

One Night With Janis Joplin Review

One Night With Janis Joplin

One Night With Janis Joplin

The concept behind Portland Center Stage’s production of One Night With Janis Joplin is a good one: bring the Janis Joplin concert experience back on stage and give modern audiences a taste of what it was like to see her in concert. Unfortunately, the production, created, written and directed by Randy Johnson, is one big hot mess.  Johnson has a fairly impressive resume with a number of other stage music re-experiences including Elvis The Concert, Always Patsy Cline, and Conway Twitty – The Man The Music and The Legend. Johnson also has extensive experience directing actual concerts and tours. All this experience, however, doesn’t result in a good show.

One Night With Janis Joplin suffers on a number of fronts.  The first and most serious issue with the show is an absolutely horrible script.  The play never can make up its mind if it’s a singular concert experience or a journey through Janis Joplin’s life. Many of the monologues that happen between or during songs are just one step up from ramblings. In the first act many of these monologues focus on “The Blues” and the other artists who influenced Joplin. Johnson seems obsessed with these influences and at times the show feels like it’s more an essay on The Blues than a show about Joplin herself.  This obsession manifests itself in the creation of another character who wanders in and out of the show, ‘The Blues Singer’.  This character comes on stage to represent many of the women who influenced Janis Joplin’s music. The role is voiced wonderfully by Sabrina Elayne Carten, whose rendition of classic Nina Simone, Bessie Smith and Aretha Franklin songs are some of the absolute highlights of the show. Read more…