One upside to being snowed in for almost a week is that I’ve had the opportunity to catch up on some of my reading. My latest read comes from Portland author Devon Monk.
Magic to the Bone uses Portland (especially St. Johns) as the backdrop for a story of magic and mystery. Magic “hounder “(essentially a magic detective) Allie is in over her head. Allie’s use of magic continues to have strong side effects including acute memory loss, which is not helpful when she’s hot on the trail of a magical murder. Soon Allie gets caught up in the very case she’s investigating with a conspiracy that reaches far deeper than she’d ever imagined.
Magic to the Bone reads like a union of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and Jim Butcher’s Dreseden Files, however it’s not an imitator. Devon Monk has original ideas about magic, its use and how it impacts people. Her style is incredibly readable and it has the essential elements key to a blockbuster series. Monk’s characters are well drawn and engaging. The love interest is dark and mysterious (ala Stephanie Plum) but with enough depth to make him more than wallpaper.
What I loved the most about Magic to the Bone was how it painted St. Johns as a gritty and rough part of town, avoided by most, but with a special something for the people who inhabit it. It’s the kind of love note to St. Johns that Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys is to Pittsburgh.
With the next installment in this new series, Magic In the Blood, slated for May of 2009, Devon Monk has a real shot at building a best selling franchise series. Hopefully readers in her home town can provide the base from which she can really launch that career.
The Oregon Symphony does not crap around: at exactly seven thirty, not a moment after conductor Gregory Vajda took the podium and started off the evening of music. I’ve been to a lot of performances and concerts in my time and I’ve never been to one that started exactly, precisely, absolutely on time. Vajda didn’t want to waste a minute, he knew he only had two hours with his symphony and he wanted to use every last minute of that time performing.
The first act of the evening was a brisk 30 minute set by the symphony sans Chris Botti. Many conductors could have seen this as being sort of an ‘opening band’ to the main performer, but Vadja took the reigns and delivered a blockbuster set. Mixing traditional Christmas carols with seasonal tunes Vadja lead the symphony through a wide range of tempos and styles, seamlessly transitioning from one to the next. The set came to its apex with the crescendo for “Farandole” (from Suite No. 2 from L’Arlésienne) which flirted with an ovation from the audience.
The first act was capped with an extremely uptempo and frisky rendition of Frosty The Snowman arranged by Vadja himself. Think 50’s lounge version done with a wide orchestra, it was certainly unique. In just thirty minutes of performing Gregory Vajda showed what a phenomenal and dynamic conductor he is. This was the first performance of the Oregon Symphony with Gregory Vajda conducting that I’ve attended and it left me wanting to see more.
After a brief intermission Chris Botti took the stage. Botti is backed by a very talented band, each accomplished individually but chose to tour extensively with Botti. Starting out with fairly traditional light jazz, the evening seemed like it was going to be an evening of Botti’s Greatest Hits. The Oregon Symphony was pretty light in their accompaniment with conductor Gregory Vajda doing more head bobbing along with the music than conducting. But Botti quickly transitioned from light jazz to pure jazz and traversed a musical journey as diverse and enjoyable as the evening’s opening set.
Botti is extremely charismatic and talented but he uses the spotlight sparingly instead opting to share the stage with the other talented musicians he plays with. Botti’s extremely humble approach is refreshing and it’s reflected in his playing. One high moment of the evening came from the performance of Miles Davis‘s Flamenco Sketches from Kind of Blue where the Oregon Symphony connected with the song in a phenomenal way. It may seem like a near impossibility for a Symphony to play jazz, but the Oregon Symphony came as close as you can get with one of the more ambitious conducting tasks of the night.
There were a lot of high points to Botti’s performance including a haunting duet between Chris Botti and guitarist Mark Whitfield on Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. The performance captured all the nuances of Buckley’s arrangement while imbuing it with Botti’s own signature style. American Idol backup singer Sy Smith took the stage for a brilliantly jazzy rendition of The Look of Love. The chemistry between Smith and Botti’s band was so good I could have watched an entire evening of them.
The absolute high point of the evening was when violinist Lucia Micarelli joined Botti to play the theme song from Cinema Paradiso. Lucia Micarelli is mind blowingly talented and perhaps the best violinist I’ve heard. Together with Botti, Micarelli elevated the evening to a height so far above the rest of the performance. The two only played two songs together and as with Sy Smith I could have easily listened to an entire evening of the two playing together.
Botti finished the evening by turning off his mics and doing an ‘un-plugged’ version of Frank Sinatra’s favorite lounge act closing song. It was refreshing to hear Botti’s trumpet in its unamplified state, it presented a different perspective on his work and talent and was a great way to close the evening.
Chris Botti is an extremely talented and hard working musician who continues to have the ability to make each performance feel fresh and unique. Botti continues to surround himself with talented performers who deliver world class music at every outing. Chris Botti: Home for the Holidays was an excellent showcase of that talent as well as a love note to Jazz and the town where he learned his craft.
When I first saw @PortlandRain I was skeptical. I thought it was some sort of Twitter marketing ploy by one of the firms in town that specializes in Social Media Marketing. But the more I’ve followed @PortlandRain the more I’ve realized that it’s not marketer, but some sort of artist or poet using Twitter as their canvas.
Since the launch of @PortlandRain there have been a lot of other weather related twitters (including @PortlandSun and @PortlandSnow), but none seem to have the level of whit and character as @PortlandRain. Portland has long been known for its rain, so it’ll be interesting to see if @PortlandRain finds national prominence.
As luck would have it, I got two emails this week almost back-to-back announcing new films with Portland roots. The first one Fighting Politics is a documentary on Matt “The Law” Lindland. Lindland, a former championship UFC Cagefighter, is the founder of Sport Fight (one of Portland’s biggest MMA Events). This year Lindland made a run at the Oregon House of Representatives where he was nearly defeated in the general election. Fighting Politics looks at the life of Matt Lindland, his MMA career and his epic battle with the UFC and owner Dan White.The trailer for Fighting Politics looks phenomenal, and as soon as we get word on when it’ll be playing in Portland we’ll let you know!
Another film with Portland roots is The Waiting List, a film about parents who spend the night in a preschool in order to get their kids enrolled (based on a real experience). The Waiting List was shot this summer at Springwater Environmental School in Oregon City, as well as at Voodoo Doughnuts II. It is currently in contention for spots at a number of film festivals nationwide. We’ll let you know when The Waiting List has its first Portland showing!
The Nine Inch Nails concert at The Rose Garden started like many hard rock/industrial concerts – with a ton of smoke and bright lights. The sea of strobes lit the Rose Garden in bursts of blinding lights as Nine Inch Nails belted out their first three songs in a full on sonic assault.
Then it all changed. The stage went dark and the band moved to the front of the stage backed by a complex weaving of LCD lights and screens. At that point the show wasn’t just about the music anymore. Reznor and company danced and moved in conjunction with a sea of light and color in something akin to a post modern living digital painting.
The rich tapestry of light and sound constantly evolved through out the show, taking the audience on a visual trip that probably could only have otherwise been achieved under the influence of some hallucinatory drug.
With this amazing feast of the senses, Nine Inch Nails moved through their large breadth of music touching on almost every album and digital release. Bouncing around their musical time line, the band made each song sound as if it were new and fresh.
The middle of the show was a quiet contemplative series of songs from NIN’s “Ghosts” release, which felt like it came from an entirely separate universe than the band’s opening numbers. The Ghosts block was surreal, meditative and beautiful.
Every song thereafter had some sort of amazing visual surprise attached. On one Reznor moved around the stage interacting with a blanked of digital static that covered the stage, on another digital noise danced on the floor like snow and then flew to the heavens. (No description of these visuals could ever do them justice although I tried to capture the NIN Portland experience on Twitter).
The final lap of the concert returned to the bright lights and strobe of the beginning, punctuating the complete journey the band had taken the audience through the show. Coming back for an encore Reznor did a rendition of “Hurt” which felt as fresh and emotionally immediate as ever.
Reznor and NIN have taken a very different road musically. They’ve constantly foiled convention and defied confinement within the traditional music industry. Now on tour they’ve literally reinvented the concert going experience with an auditory and visual feast like none I’ve ever seen. There’s no way you can experience this Nine Inch Nails experience any other way than running out and seeing them live, no photo, youtube video, DVD or Blu-Ray of this show will ever have the impact of the unmediated experience. That experience makes Nine Inch Nails one of the preeminent bands to see live perhaps now even rivaling U2.
Of course it’s way too early in Jake Morris‘ career to start calling him the next Urijah Faber. Jake Morris turned eighteen three days before the fortieth installment of the Rumble at the Roseland and his fight against Brandon Alderman was his first amateur MMA bout. But as Morris leaps to his feet after pounding Alderman to a stoppage the resemblance was there.
Morris is a two time high school collegiate wrestling state champion, but on Saturday night it was clear he was out to prove in his debut that he was an extremely strong stand up fighter. Exploding at the start Morris rained down punches on Alderman, so many that the action was stopped for a wild head shot blow that drew a warning for Morris. The stoppage did little to slow the tempo of the match with Morris dominating Alderman before quickly finishing him off in the first round.
Morris wasn’t the only stand out at The Rumble at The Roseland. Female fighter Jody De Simone made an explosive debut against Christa Shaffer. Outweighed, out reached and far less experienced De Simone proved just how dangerous it is to underestimate her. Within moments of the start Jody De Simone was all over Christa Shaffer quickly taking her down to a choke that ended the match a mere forty seconds after it began and leaving Shaffer blacked out on the canvas.
De Simone’s performance was a perfect example of just how exciting women’s MMA can be as this fight proved to be one of the 2 fights of the night (and far surpassed many of the men’s bouts).
Other notable fights included:
Justin Mark v Travis Sue – Travis Sue is an older fighter who fights out of Team Quest. Justin Martin didn’t seem to take Sue seriously enough and paid dearly when Sue took the bout by a dominating choke.
John Bartlett v Ben Egli – Two younger undefeated fighters out on a solid fight with good exchanges with their stand up game in the first round, but Bartlett ended the round on top with a commanding ground and pound. The fight didn’t go much further with Bartlett working Egli to the ground and defeating the 3-0 Engli with a monster choke. Dan Gordon v Tony Sandbothe – Dyanmic punching by Dan Gordon almost puts Tony Sandboothe out on his feet, instead Sandboothe holds it together only to get a blood bath with power punches from Gordon. Gordon ends the extremely bloody match with a TKO that leaves Sandboothe bloody and on his back on the canvas.
One of the fights I was really looking forward to Janna Piper v. Jessica Porter got scratched because of weight issues. This was going to be Jessica’s last fight before turning pro. Jessica faced Kim Coutoure in her MMA debut and looks to be an extremely promising professional fighter.
Of fourteen fights at least ten of the fights at the Rumble at The Roseland were really good (a fantastic ratio for a MMA event). The only two really disappointing fights of the night were: Ryan Cribba v. Jake Richmon, with the two heavyweights looking gassed out after the first half of the first round and Tom Matijac v Pro Escobedo, while Tom Matijac literally looks like Superman he did nothing but tie up Pro Escobedo in a 3 round holding match that never got off the ground.
But overall you really couldn’t ask for a better evening of Mixed Martial Arts.
Walking back from The Rumble at The Roseland late on Saturday night I encounted Mr. and Mrs. Claus riding custom bikes in Old Town. I tried to snap a picture of Mrs. Claus but she said she couldn’t stop her bike, the only way she wasn’t tipping over was if she kept moving. I did manage to snag this picture of a very Portland Santa Claus.
Since I missed SantaCon this year, this is as close I’ll get to the wild and wonderful Portland Santas!
Portland is a huge city for Mixed Martial Arts, with Team Quest in town, some of the best world class fighters fight out of Portland. One of those great fighters Chael Sonnen, gives back to the Mixed Martial Arts community in Portland by putting on Rumble at The Roseland (along with Kevin Keeney). This regular showcase of up and coming fighters gives local fighters a chance to start their careers and make a run at professional careers in MMA.
Tonight’s rumble proves to be an exciting night of fights with two significant title bouts: Kress Matijacic vs. Crae Basset and Tom Matijacic vs. Pro Escobedo, the second of which matches up two undefeated fighters.
Perhaps the most compelling story of tonight is the debut of Jake Morris, a highly ranked state wrestler…in high school at Oregon City. Morris turned eighteen just three days ago and has his MMA debut at Rumble at the Roseland.
Morris a two time state collegiate wrestling champion is planning to show off his stand up game in his MMA debut, “I want to keep the fight on my feet as much as I can, I have the wrestling background but I only want to use that if I have to. I want to make a show on my feet, see what I can do.” Morris will take on Brandon Alderman who is 23 and is also making his MMA debut.
Rumble at the Roseland 40 starts tonight (12/6) at the Roseland Theater (8 NW Sixth Ave). Doors open at 6pm and Fights start at 7. The Rumble is offten packed to capacity, often with standing room only for latecomers.