What I Learned From WordCamp Portland

I’ve lived in Portland for 15 years and in that time I’ve seen tremendous change and growth in the Portland internet community. The Portland tech community has gone from early seedling groups like Lenny Charnoff’s Netogether and Mike Pritchard’s Internet Entrepreneurs Association to full blown, large scale, sold out events like Ignite Portland and WordCamp Portland. It’s been an amazing thing to watch.

Sitting in the sold out room for WordCamp Portland I was struck by just how dynamic and exciting the internet community in Portland has become.  There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to write about it, doesn’t want the rest of the world to know about our little secret (but I think the secret is already out). Big things are happening here in Portland. When I say big things, I don’t mean some major Internet company is going to be opening its doors, and I don’t mean there will be some huge announcement of some grand Oregon based product.  The magic of what’s happening here is that it’s a million little exciting things that all add up to a very significant and flourishing community.

Aside from my realizations of just how great the community is. I did learn some very specific and helpful things:

In all, It was a full Saturday well spent, unbelievable value at $10 and an event I’ll absolutely attend again when it comes around net year.


Not So Shiny Toy Guns – A Concert Review

Shiny Toy Guns Hiding Behind Smoke and Lights
Shiny Toy Guns Hiding Behind Smoke and Lights

I’m sorry to report the shine has come off the penny. Shiny Toy Guns has effectively gutted itself, replacing lead singer Carah Faye Charnow with Sisely Treasure and moving the female lead vocalist spot to something just above a back-up singer. Chad Petree made it extremely clear in front of the sold out Berbatti’s Pan crowd that he is The One and that the Shiny Toy Guns stage doesn’t have room for another strong and dynamic vocalist. Petree is extremely talented, but what made the band so appealing was the vocal interplay between Petree and Charnow. Without Chanrow Petree is left short, a fact that was clearly reflected in the band’s extremely brief and underwhelming show.

The crowd seemed very eager to welcome Treasure with open arms, cheering loudly as she took the stage. Their eagerness was not matched by the band who stashed her towards the back of the stage, under mountains of smoke, and relegated her to the occasional backup vocal. It wasn’t until she finally stepped forward to sing lead vocals on one of the bands notable songs, ‘Le Disco’ that it became clear that gamble to reorganize the band was a bust. As a lead vocalist, Treasure struggled through many of the Shiny Toy Guns’ song, never quite connecting with them. Her performance brought very little of herself and seemed more like a mimicry of the recorded music than anything else.

I don’t think there would have been as big of a problem if the band really brought her in and shared their new direction, but they don’t seem to really have one. The one and only song which they performed from their new album Season of Poison was Ricochet, a Marilyn Mansonesque driving rock song which was ok at best. Treasure did seem more in her element belting out rougher, Pat Benetar like, vocals to a driving beat. But that was it. The only real peek into what the band might someday be.

Unfortunately, most of the 50 minute set was a peek at what the band isn’t – they aren’t the band they used to be. The Shiny Toy Guns left the crowd stunned as the exited the stage after just 38 minutes. Playing only a couple of songs in their encore, the band was off the stage before 11, less than an hour after initially taking the stage (and they were the headliner).

It’s no fun to be a fan of a band and see them take a turn for the worse, especially a band that shows tremendous potential.

The show at Berbatti’s Pan reminded me of a quote from Annie Hall: There’s an old joke – two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

Here are pictures from the Shiny Toy Guns Concert:


Stout Time Has Arrived

Photo by david.nikonvscanon
Photo by david.nikonvscanon

For dinner the other night I went to the Bye and Bye (1011 NE Alberta St). I did what I always do: I stared at the menu for a long time and ended up ordering the exact same thing I always get – The BBQ platter. Rather than order an IPA to accompany my meal I realized that it was ‘Stout Time’.

Stout time comes when the air is crisp in the morning, the clouds migrate back into the sky and it begins to rain again. It’s a time when you retire the summer IPA’s and wheat beers and pick up the dark stuff.

The Stout I had was Alemeda Brewing‘s Black Bear XX Stout – an amazing chocolaty, coffee-esque, dark but clean beer that was the the perfect start to autumn and a fantastic accompaniment to my vegan BBQ platter.

Happy Hour runs 4-7 at the Bye and Bye and I plan to be drinking many more of those stouts in the weeks to come.


Stout Time is Here!

For dinner the other night I went to the Bye and Bye (1011 NE Alberta St). I did what I always do: I stared at the menu for a long time and ended up ordering the exact same thing I always get – The BBQ platter.  Rather than order an IPA to accompany my meal I realized that it was ‘Stout Time’.

Stout time comes when the air is crisp in the morning, the clouds migrate back into the sky and it begins to rain again. It’s a time when you retire the summer IPA’s and wheat beers and pick up the dark stuff.

The Stout I had was Alemeda Brewing‘s Black Bear XX Stout – an amazing chocolaty, coffee-esque, dark but clean beer that was the the perfect start to autumn and a fantastic accompaniment to my vegan BBQ platter.

Happy Hour runs 4-7 at the Bye and Bye Cafe and I plan to be drinking many more of those stouts in the weeks to come.


Sportfight 24 – Blood on the Canvas


It’s beyond me why the Rose Garden Arena isn’t completely packed for SportFight 24. For four and a half hours fighters pounded it out in an evening filled with action, sport and blood. What more could you ask for from a Friday night out!? It’s hard to imagine what kept the Rose Garden from being as full as a match up between the Winterhawks and The Seattle Thunderbirds. Is it the expensive $8 a cup Rose Garden beer that kept people away? The 7pm Friday night early start time? Or the fact that it was broadcast live on HDNet? Whatever the reason, many Portlanders missed out on a fantastic, unmediated top class sporting event that can be experienced by watching it on TV. Fans who opted to watch the matches at home on HDNet missed some of the best action of the night as the untelevised under card fights proved to be stronger and more exciting than some of the main bouts.

Sportfight 24 started with a bang with two extremely strong under card fights. Marques Daniels made quick work out of Joshuah Lagrange with a rain of punches that caused the ref to jump in and stop the fight (one of the few fights of the night stopped this way). That fight was followed by the much hyped Colt Toombs and Colin Porter bout. Toombs is “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s son and he clearly had the support of the crowd (who chanted “Piper, Piper”). Early on in the fight Toombs got into trouble, taking a number of hard shots, his face began to well early. Toombs then got caught in a rear naked choke that looked it was going to end the match and put a damper on some of the the hype surrounding Toombs. Choke well set Toombs gave the ref a thumbs up and then proceeded to find his way out of the choke, he then reverse it into a dramatic choke of his own to win the fight. It was one of the more explosive moments of the evening and it kept the buzz turned way up for Toombs.

After the first two solid fights things stayed on the ground for several of the middle matches. After an arm bar win by crowd favorite Tyson Jeffries, four of the next bouts went the full three rounds and almost all of them ended by decision. It wasn’t until the fight between DJ Linderman and Mychael Clark that things started to heat up. Clark displayed flamboyant martial arts styling with spin kicks, supermans and other ‘showy’ moves, but it was Linderman’s consistent strength both on his feet and on the ground that made him a clear contender for the win. Linderman looks pudgy, but after three rounds he barley seemed winded. Taking a solid unanimous decision Linderman showed he’s a fighter not to be underestimated.

My favorite fight of the evening was the Mark Miller, Mike Pierce bout. Mike Pierce, who fights out of the Braveheart Gym didn’t find much support in the pro Team Quest crowd, but even his harshest critics couldn’t help but notice the absolute precision in Pierce’s fight. I saw Pierce fight in a previous Sportfight and it’s clear he’s put his time in training and refining his skills. Like a surgeon Pierce took Miller apart. One blow opened a huge cut on the top of Miller’s head and blood streamed out in a flow that made Miller look like something out of a Rob Zombie movie. The fight was stopped so that they could assess Miller’s injury and much to the surprise and delight of the crowd they let the fight continue. Step by step Pierce pushed the fight in the direction he wanted it to go, with control of almost every position on the mat Pierce showed that he was clearly the better trained fighter. In the end Pierce won by TKO and Miller’s cuts became too severe for him to continue. Of all the fighters who fought at SportFight 24, it’s Pierce who showed the most promise and his fight was worth the price of admission.

The feature title bout between Enoch Wilson and Brian Gearahty wasn’t as exciting as the Pierce/Miller bout. Gearahty gave Wilson a lot to handle for four rounds, locking him up and pressing submission attempt after submission attempt. Four rounds into the fight it was clear that Gearahty had done just enough to win a few rounds but not enough to take Wilson’s title away from him. Ultimately Wilson prevailed with an earth shattering, late fourth round, punch that left Wilson dazed in the corner. Wilson gave a gladiator roar as he pounced around the ring, sticking around long after the bout was finished to celebrate.

It’s exceptional to live in an area with such easy access to high quality Mixed Martial Arts and a shame more people aren’t taking advantage of it. The athletes fighting out of Team Quest and Braveheart gyms have the foundation to carry them to national attention, and for just a few bucks you can catch them live and in person.


Mike Daisey – If You See Something, Say Something

Mike Daisey in If You See Something, Say Something
Mike Daisey in If You See Something, Say Something

This year at TBA I had a little mini “Mike Daisey Festival“. I saw Mike Daisey perform his ‘MONOPOLY!‘ early on in the fest, then attended a companion workshop ‘extemporaneous, autobiographical, monologue’ and finally finished with ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ at the end of the festival..and I enjoyed every minute of it.

After seeing Monopoly!, I attended Daisey’s workshop. It was a lot like watching the behind the scenes content on a DVD. Daisey opened window into his work, his process and the art form of monologue. One of the key points Daisey emphasized is “there are no messages in good extemporaneous monologue”. This perhaps is the key to why Daisey’s pieces work so well. Daisey deals with incendiary topics in his work, rather than rant and rave, beating the audience over the head with messages, he deals with core themes and trusts his audience enough to process that material and make their own conclusions.

In the workshop, Daisey also emphasized the importance of imperfection in art, a concept which spoke to me. “If you smooth away the edges you leave no point of entry to your work,” Daisey remarked. “Hamlet is a truly fucked up play. If I submitted it to a MFA program without including who wrote it, they would smooth out the edges to make it ‘better’…I mean why doesn’t the ghost of Hamlet’s father come back, we need to have him come back… and what about these fucking Pirates!” Daisey teaches weekend long workshops in New York and after getting a two and a half hour taste I’d say it’s required education for anyone pursuing a career in monologue.

After the workshop I had the opportunity to see Daisey’s newest piece. If You See Something, Say Something previewed at this years TBA festival prior to its run at The Public Theater in New York (Wednesday, October 15 – Sunday, November 30). If you See Something is a poignant and engaging musing about security, what makes us feel safe and how governments use fear as a leverage point. Like many of Daisey’s monologues, this one weaves several stories together to form the whole including: Daisey’s trip to Laos Alamos in New Mexico to see ground zero at the Trinity Site, the story of Sam Cohen and his involvement with both the Atomic and Neutron bombs, the complete history of Homeland Security and 9/11.

What struck me the most about If You See Something, Say Something was just how many levels that it played on. The audience roared with laughter as Daisey exploded with self effacing comedic moments including eating the worst hamburger in history and then barely uttered a breath as he talked about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. True to form, Daisey doesn’t beat his audience over the head with messages about how bad Homeland Security is or the insanity of the Patriot Act, instead he dissects the history of both and muses on the relationship we all have with it.

If You See Something, Say Something is an exceptional monologue and Mike Daisey has shown this week that he is one of the premiere monologists performing today. Daisey hinted that he may be back again in Portland in the near future and mentioned an off the record piece he’s proposing for a future TBA, I can’t wait.


KNRK – It’s Absolutely Not Different Here


It was late, well past midnight and it was the last day I was going to spend in the San Francisco Bay Area before heading off to college. I had called in to Live 105 and was chatting with Big Rick Stuart who was jockeying between our phone call and the on air play. Rick came on the air and wished me a safe trip and played a song to send me off. That was the kind of radio station Live 105 was.

Mark Hamilton was a DJ at Live 105. He was the voice you’d also hear promoting the DJ’s spinning tunes down at One Step Beyond or The X nightclub. He was surrounded by great music and great people. So it was a fantastic revelation (Back in 1994) to find that he landed here in Portland at the very young KNRK. I met him at one of the early KNRK snowball shows, the one with Everclear and No Doubt. He seemed like a great guy.

Unfortunately it seems that Mark has forgotten what makes a great radio station. Over time he tweaked the playlist favoring retreading bands like Sublime over debuting new music and new artists. Sublime might be a slightly notable band but I doubt they should be continually haunting the airwaves of an alternative station.

Recently KNRK did a major revamp to their playlist, out was most of the new or truly alternative music (except for bands coming to town in KNRK sponsored events) and in were classics. KNRK effectively remade themselves into a Rock Mix station. The switch started gradually, with ‘classic alternative’ artists like David Bowie. Listen to KNRK for 2 hours and you’ll hear classic Bowie at least once….Then came bands like The Cars and Tom Petty. Tune in enough and you’ll wonder if KNRK hasn’t fused with KGON. At times even KUFO is more alternative… Which is sad.

Perhaps KNRK is a victim of its own success. Late last year their morning show with Greg Glover began to beat the competition. Perhaps that taste of popular success fueled them on to chase the popular audience. But what used to be a fairly descent alternative station is gone. Many of the good people are still there. Greg is smart guy, knows his music and takes risks (Listen to his Bottom Forty Sunday Nights). Gustav is still the friendliest face of the station, his perfect playlist and track 7 show he wants the station to be a good one. Tara is just plain great, she knows what’s going on, but she’s as powerless to fix it as anyone.

It all boils down to Mark Hamilton… Program director. Who has made a major misstep with the station by building a playlist that simply isn’t alternative. At my home office I’ve switched of KNRK and listen to KEXPonline. KEXP, based in Seattle, ironically is the station supporting MusicFest NW (while local KNRK is notably absent). I hear new music via myspace and am more likely to fire up my mp3 player than my radio…

Next year Community Supported KZME 91.1 is set to launch. If KZME follows KEXP’s model it could give KRNK a serious run for its money. Until then fans of alternative music need to email Mark Hamilton and let him know that the playlist changes aren’t welcome, and remind them what ‘It’s Different Here’ really means. KNRK keeps saying it’s YOUR station… So tell them what YOU want.


Monotonix at MusicFest NW

Monotonix at MusicFest NW
Monotonix at MusicFest NW

It’s taken me a few days to process what happened at Satyricon on Friday night as part of MusicFest NW. It was one of those situations that was so outrageously amazing that after it’s over you begin to doubt if it actually happened.

Growing up in Northern California I was blessed by a phenomenal music scene. Concert promoter Bill Graham helped make San Francisco mecca for rock shows. With my varied interests in music I’ve seen a lot of very different shows in a wide variety of venues. Few shows have left me as mouth-open-awe-struck as the Monotonix show at Satyricon.

I had heard tales from friends who had seen Monotonix live: drummers body surfing, instruments set ablaze and all around insanity. It was my friend Ian Jane who most emphatically insisted I see them perform… I don’t know how I’ll ever thank him.

Many bands are known for their onstage antics. It’s the very showmanship which earns bands a following when they play live. You go to a U2 concert, not because the music is great (although it is), but for the amazing show that they put on. Some bands are all about show. Kiss rocks, but would you really go see them if they played without the grease paint and pyrotechnics? Would Hannah Montana be the same without the four story video screens? What Monotonix did in their Friday night show went far beyond antics or showmanship, it was a complete musical revolution.

From the first note of the show Monotonix declared their musical independence. Rather than setting up their instruments on stage they put them right in the middle of the show floor. Everyone encircled them as they assembled their drum kit and plugged in to their amps. Then it happened, like an explosion Monotonix filled every corner of the room with their music, the entire (and I do mean entire) club erupted in dance.

I’ve been in my fair share of mosh pits in my time (the most memorable was Pantera when they played in Watts/Los Angeles), but I’ve never been in a pit that included every single person in a club. Also the ‘pit’ at the Monotonix show was unlike any pit I’ve been in before. Rather than people pushing and shoving eachother, elbowing and flailing, the entire room bounced and danced together.

As Monotonix played you could see the sheer glee on the faces of everyone in the club. Monotonix somehow was re-capturing something that we all thought was lost – a real, honest to goodness punk rock show. True punk has become extremely rare, there are many bands out there trying to be punk rockers, emulating the bands which came before them, but so few simply ARE Punk. Monotonix is punk.

It’s impossible to capture what happened that night…This is the best I can do:

Flying through the air lead singer Ami Shalev crowd surfs as he sings, pausing only to climb up to a high ledge on the ceiling of the club. A trash can is bounced around, water is flying through the air. The high hat is kicked over and promptly reset. The guitarist leaps up onto the stage and then jumps back off. Nothing in the room is still. After a few songs the band picks up their instruments and moves them further to the back of the club and the circle of people follow.

“Sit Down”, “Everybody Sit Down!” yells Ami, and miraculously everyone listens. I am drenched in sweat, I am thirty seven years old and haven’t been in a pit in years. I am half leaning and half supporting the people around me as we sit on the floor of Satyricon. Ami thanks everyone for being at the show and then instructs everyone to wait till he counts to four till they jump up and dance. “One… Two… Seven…. Nine…. Five…. What comes after Three?!?!”, everyone yells “FOUR” He says, Wait for it!”… and then “FOUR”. Again Monotonix is an explosion of sound.

A few songs later they’re heading towards the door. Stretched way past the end of their amp cables, so they unplug, carry their instruments outside where Ami climbs a tree, moons everyone and makes a speech. The drum is lifted with the drummer on top and he bangs on it. The concert ends in a street side celebration of music.

Everyone stood, mouth agape looking at eachother… “Did this just really happen?” “Oh my fucking God!”

The Monotonix show was one that people will talk about for years, it’s the kind of show that you thank your lucky stars you were at or curse the sky that you missed. Monotonix returns to Portland at the end of the month with The Silver Jews at the Wonder Ballroom. They are not to be missed


Leesaar The Company & Mike Daisey – Simply Amazing at TBA 08

LeeSaarr - The Company
LeeSaarr - The Company

The buzz you’re hearing about TBA is all true. Portland’s Institute for Contemporary Art has continued to build on its success by attracting world class talent and creating an artistic epicenter that should not be missed.

This Saturday night I caught two TBA simply amazing TBA performances:

Leesarr The Company – Geisha

Geisha opens with dancer Jye-Hwei Lin, dressed only in a pair of blue jeans, who dances and moves around the bare stage to no music. This opening piece sets the stage for what it to follow. Lin’s bare chest creates a musical canvas with which she uses every inch. Each breath, tilt, movement is carefully cherished in this dance.

Lin’s dance is beyond captivating. As she holds a pose, arms stretched out, body nearly frozen, she waves her fingers as if they’re caught in the breeze. This tiny movement on a huge stage is as loud as the leaps and twists which later follow in the piece.

Lin’s stark opening dance is followed by Lee Sher, wrapped in a silk robe, she serenades the audience with Israeli pop music (lip synchs to a concert track which includes audience cheering). This interplay between the dance and Sher’s pop serenade gives the piece a fascinating contrast and breaks up the quiet and tiny universe which opens the piece.

After several scenes Lin is joined in her dance by Saar Harari who mirrors Lin’s dance and sexual energy while transforming the moves and energy from female to male. What follows is an electrifying dance between Lin and Harari which each dancer wrestles with whose dance it is. Lin pulls back in elements of her solo dance and Harari transforms those elements.

The two dancers drift between synchronization, responsive dancing and stillness. As the piece build the two dancer’s orbit draw closer and closer. As an audience member you’re pulled into this dance, waiting, hoping, wishing that the two worlds will collide. But just as this anticipation comes to a crescendo it’s interrupted by another song from Lee Sher.

I won’t spoil the ending of this piece, the ‘will they, won’t they’ drama is part of the whole excitement and I think it would be a disservice to clue you in on the ending. But I was amazed at the end of the piece just how sucked in to the drama I had become. I’ve seen a good amount of modern dance but never anything so deliberate, passionate and amazing as Leesarr’s Geisha. This is the kind of work that could awaken a love for modern dance. Leesaar performs Geisha one more time (Sun Sept 7 8:30pm at Lincoln Hall/PSU) be sure not to miss it.

Mike Daisey – MONOPOLY!

Mike Daisey in Monopoly
Mike Daisey in Monopoly

I saw Mike Daisey perform his monologue “21 Dog Years, Doing Time @” when he brought it to Portland in 2005. I found 21 Dog Years to be a funny, amusing and entertaining monologue, worth every penny of admission. It was enough make me want to see Daisey again when I heard he was returning with TBA.

Something has obviously happened to Daisey over the past three years, because what he did at Portland Center Stage’s Gerding Theater was nothing short of landmark. As guest festival director Mark Russel introduced Daisey he mentioned that the desk and chair on stage belonged to Spalding Gray. As he said this I gasped. To me it’s almost unthinkable that another performer, outside of a Spalding Gray tribute show, would be permitted to use Gray’s trademark desk and chair. Russel commented that he and Eric Bogosian felt that there was no one better than Daisey to be permitted to sit behind that desk… and they’re right.

When Spalding Gray died I thought it was simply the end of an art form. Great monologists are few and far between and I doubted that anyone would ever really be able to follow in Gray’s footsteps. I was wrong. Mike Daisey is Gray’s heir apparent. His monologue MONOPOLY! is one of the smartest, funniest and well crafted piece I’ve seen on stage. Daisey’s mastery of which story to tell when and his deep understanding of metaphor as commentary echoes some of the very best work of Gray. But Daisey isn’t doing a Grey impersonation. His style, cadence and narrative are uniquely his own.

MONOPOLY! weaves several stories together including the history of Nikola Tesla, Daisey’s attempt to mount an avant-garde theater piece featuring a Tessla coil, the history of the Monopoly board game, his experience with a Microsoft industrial video shoot, his family in Maine and the impact of the local Walmart on the town. Daisey’s weaving of the stories is pitch perfect and he uses the interconnections of them to express the core themes of the piece.

MONOPOLY! is extremely entertaining and laugh out loud funny. It plays one more time at the festival (Sun Sept 7 8:30pm at Gerding Theater at the Armory) and then later in the festival he performs a new monologue If you See Something, Say Something that I will absolutely be seeing.


Monotonix in Portland

Tonight MusicFest NW featured of the best shows on a stage in Portland. It was truly punk. It was crazy, wild wonderful and simply amazing.

I’ll have a complete report soon. Here’s a sampling from the show.

David Walker at who was at the show and captured these videos: