Spinal Tap and my favorite live shows from Portland... aka... another weird Monday list...

OK, so I have a couple topics to discuss this week: the best/my favorite Spinal Tap songs and my favorite shows from my time in Portland, OR (which is not as expansive as you might think. Turns out there’s lots of venues, but not a lot of great one, and not a lot of great music in the city of Portland. College towns are better for mid-level artists. You know, the ones who are famous enough that we’ve heard of them and they’ve played enough shows to be amazing but not too big to phone it in at some “enormodome” type venue). With more than one topic (since I forgot to post this last week, you know, because I was moving into a new apartment and exploring the music scene in Charlotte, NC; so, fuck you) to get to, and already 5 Elijah Craig bourbons in me, let’s “get on with it” Monty Python style.

So, here we go. Here are my favorite Spinal Tap songs:

1) GSM (aka “Gimme Some Money” for the uninitiated)

Why is this song #1? Well, you probably figured that I would fucking tell you, didn’t you? It’s #1 because it’s the #1 song I’ve played from this movie over the years. Just as Spinal Tap used it to soundcheck (in Milwaukee, WI, no less! Go Brewers! Despite the fact they have been eating a dick lately…) with it, so did my band. I’ve played or fucked around in rehearsal with this song so many times, it’s basically a Bradley Wik and the Charlatans song by now. In fact, the producer/engineer/mixer of my first album “Burn What You Can, Bury the Rest…,” Rob Stroup, used to also play this with his band. Kinda part of the reason I recorded with him. Kindred spirits/lovers of weird/funny shit.

2) Big Bottom

The fact that this song features not one, not two, but three basses plus the synth playing bass lines… Jesus fucking Christ. Maybe it’s only funny to musicians but I can’t imagine how terrible this sounded live. No frequency filling, just lots of bass harmonies, which shouldn’t be a fucking thing. So fucking funny and strange. Also, “My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo. I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo” might be the greatest couplet of all-time. Shakespeare ain’t got shit on Tap.

3) Sex Farm

Because.. Just because. The opening line is “Working on a Sex Farm…” What a ridiculous concept that even all the fucking jokes, which are awesome, seem to pale in comparison to this absolutely absurd premise. Also, the words “Sex Farm Woman.” Just, such geniuses who came up with this. The jokes about pitchforks, raising hard love, plowing wheat fields is all secondary to the immaculately genius idea of a “sex farm.”

4) Tonight, I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight

Umm, using the same word twice in the same title (and chorus) is amazing. I stand amazed by the fact that they say “not a dry seat in the house” in the first fucking line. The genius of these men cannot be overstated. Spinal Tap may be the greatest Rock N’ Roll band ever. Except for their “Shit Sandwich” album. I hear it’s not great…

Like the great Brett Favre, lists are better at 4, so we’ll stop there. But, honorable mention is definitely “Heavy Duty” for its’ use of the word “duty” which always makes me laugh. Especially the line “Heavy Duty brings out the dootie in my soul…”

OK, here are the greatest shows I saw while I lived in Portland, OR, which was more than a handful of years. Yes, that city sucks and I hate it more than anything in the world but I did see some amazing shows there, so below are the top 4. In any other city, I would have had to do a top 20, but in Portand, 4 will suffice. Even the performances of people I love like Ryan Adams, Wilco, the Hold Steady, etc. were less than spectacular due to the shitty crowds in Portland who are “too cool” to have fun at shows. Fuck that. Music is about communing in something that can’t be found anywhere else and can’t be experience outside that moment. I’ve watched Bruce Springsteen’s live at the Garden DVD probably 100 times and it didn’t even live in the same country from when I ACTUALLY saw the Boss at the Garden. Same for every other live DVD I own (and that’s lots). Anywhere, enough preamble, here you go":

1) Damien Rice - Keller Auditorium

Damien is the proud owner of 3 of my favorite all-time shows. For those keeping score at home, that includes all 3 times I’ve seen him live. The first time with a hundred or so people in Madison, WI on the inaugural stateside “O” tour. My buddy Jake kept making illicit comments about the girl dancing on the stage during the opening bands set, which turned out to be Lisa Hannigan. Turns out she’s pretty fucking gorgeous. We didn’t know back then…

The second time was in Chicago during the “9” tour. He was equally stunning. It’s hard as artists graduate to larger and less intimate stages to see if they can maintain their awesomeness. Damien did. He did in spades.

The third time in Portland, I took my girlfriend (at the time) who was skeptical at best to see this show. She was more interested in the opener Markéta Irglová (from the movie “Once,” and a real life band I hear…) before we arrived. She proceeded to be mesmerized by Damien (as we all were) and occasionally I still hear her talk about how “sexy” he was, especially on “Me, My Yoke and I.” I have to say, she isn’t wrong..

2) Joanna Newsom - Schnitzer Hall

This was on the “Divers” tour. Needless to say, my girlfriend (at the time) was equally not excited to Joanna. I assured her it would be amazing, but had to almost force her to attend. You can always tell a great concert when two people who are really into each other (sexually) don’t speak or even look at one another for almost two hours. I actually forgot I bought a drink and it sat there half-drank for two hours until we left and I realized I paid $12 for a shitty whiskey and promptly poured it down my throat. But, it was the second time in a year that I totally blew her mind with a live show recommendation. Though, the flipside of that is that she didn’t want to come out to many more shows since nothing would compare to Joanna and the kind himself, Damien. Fair…

3) Bonnie “Prince” Billy - McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom

It was the first time I ever got to see Will live. I had spent years living in areas he rarely toured, moving during a tour and missing the shows in both my new and old living places, and generally playing geographical “phone tag” with the man responsible for some of my favorite albums (“I see a darkness,” “Viva Last Blues,” and “Days in the Wake”). Finally, I got a hold of him. Yes, it was at one of my least favorite Portland venues. You know, the kind that sections off the front of stage area for minors and makes people drink in the back (Fuck you Berbati’s and re-opened Satyricon as well; both of which closed down shortly after I played them… The Jon Fickes curse continues…). But, the show was wonderful and to finally see my man Mr. Oldham was a treat. He’s a much better singer than he lets on and his band was amazing. Sure, they didn’t play many Palace era tunes, but this was like 10 years later so I’ll forgive him since he did indulge us in more than a couple “I see a darkness” tunes.

4) Shonen Knife - Dante’s

#4 was tough as there were a lot of great bands I saw in Portland, but were better at the shows I witnessed elsewhere (read: Ryan Adams, Wilco, the Hold Steady, Modest Mouse, etc.). Land of Talk or Helle’s Belles (the all-girl AC/DC tribute band) are my runners-up but it’s hard to top the random awesomeness of Shonen Knife. First, that night had started strange. My girlfriend, my buddy and his wife all went to this hipster fucking 90’s club because we wanted to get fucked up and sweaty dancing to ridiculous tunes (and hoping against hope that somehow, some way, they would play the Prodigy) but they kicked out my buddy because he was “drunk and couldn’t talk straight,” aka because he had one beer and he was born and raised in Scotland. Also, he had lived for over 10 years in America and his accent wasn’t that crazy, until about 8 more drinks. But since we got thrown out of the shitty hipster club, we wandered over towards Dante’s. Well, actually we were headed to Kell’s or that underground place that had cheap drinks and welcomed drunks when we decided to stop at Dante’s for some pizza by the slice. We hears some strange punk coming from inside. The show had already started so the bouncer let us in for free (after we explained what had happened at the other club). On stage were these three Japanese girls fucking rocking out and singing about how much they liked green tea. Needless to say, we were hooked. We got a Ramones cover shortly thereafter and we fell in love. I’m not sure how much of the show we missed but we still got to see an hour of their set and it was fucking magnificent. Fucking magnificent. I’ve been obsessed ever since.

It’s funny thinking back on the shows and how I’ve seen better shows in Seattle, Salem, Eugene and Spokane during my time in Portland, but the above were my favorite 4 in the city of Portland. An amazing group of performers trying their best to make a Portland crowd not be a bunch of fucking dicks and actually enjoy themselves for once…

(dictated but not read)

Two Words: Shit Sandwich

Two Words: Shit Sandwich