You know how sometimes you get a new album and it suddenly becomes an unexpected obsession, where you just leave it in the car for days and let it play start to finish again and again? The Civil Wars’ first official release, Barton Hollow was like that for me; in particular, the title track, which I listened to over and over again because it just rocked my socks in a visceral way. I determined immediately to learn it and play it as a cover myself, because it was just that awesome of a song, and after a little work with my guitar teacher, I was on my way. It’s totally unlike anything I’ve ever sung, or wanted to sing, in the past, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to influence what I write in the future. It’s a life-changing kind of song. I sucked my bandmate Dar into its greatness as well, and we played it at our debut last Saturday night.
And when you discover a new band, or at least when I do, you make with the Google, and try to find out when they are coming to your town. Only I found out they weren’t coming. I don’t know if they never intended to, or if they, like a lot of artists, are boycotting our state over SB1070. ( I’d like to boycott AZ over SB1070, too, but as it happens, I live here. I get why folks are doing it, and I support their boycott, but I just wish they would consider the handful of liberal types and those who do NOT support the law here, and realize that people like me are desperate for some non-psychotic fresh blood, thinking, and rhetoric in this calcified state full of handgun-toting troglodytes. WON’T THEY THINK OF THE FLOWER CHILDREN???? But I digress.)
In any case, since they weren’t coming to me, I checked out their West Coast tour schedule and found out they were headed to several spots in California, and also Portland, where my friend Candice lives. So, being the self-indulgent, whimsical, music-obsessed gal I am, I hit her up to be my date to a Tuesday night show, an idea she deemed “genius.”
And we were both excited to meet in person, finally, after being friends online for several years now. So I flew up to Portland Monday night, and Candice and her daughter picked me up and we stayed up chatting until 1:30 a.m., which was way past all of our bedtimes, but since it was a special occasion, we were taking advantage of it. Tuesday, I slept in late, which was a special heaven all its own. As glorious as it is to sleep in late any day, doing so on a day when a) you’re not sick, and b) you’re normally at work, is even better, unimaginable though that may be. I got up around 9:30, got ready, and harnessed the power of the internets via my phone to find a purveyor of doughnutty goodness, and was pleased to find just such an establishment a couple blocks and around the corner from my cute little hotel room, in a cute little neighborhood that was working on the whole gentrification concept, with cute little hobos or aspirants to hobodom hanging around various doorways. Armed with the aforementioned doughnut, I debated the wisdom of walking several more blocks to the bridge to take a picture of the Portland sign, and decided to catch it later.
I walked back to my hotel and I would’ve made it without a detour, but for a cute little shop called Redux that sucked me in, as it sold exactly the kind of funky, pretty, and in some cases actually useful, wares that I am a total pushover for. I even got Scott his “did you bring me anything?” gift there; every man needs a Star Trek wallet made out of Tyvek, right?
After doing my bit for the Portland economy, I made my way back to my hotel to wait for Candice to pick me up, and reveled in listening to the good music playing out in the courtyard outside my room as I kicked back on my bed and read my book on a late Tuesday morning, delighted to be far, far away from my cubicle.
Portland is everything I’d heard it was, a beautiful place where the well-soaked trees tower and compete for bits of a sky that was, to the surprise of everyone, perfectly clear and blue Tuesday; where there are more vintage clothing shops per square mile than in any place this side of the Mississippi; where people ride their bikes everywhere; where everyone is required to have at least one tattoo for lawful residency. It is also a mecca for indie music, and I’m pretty sure you could go to a good show of a known (or at least semi-known) act every single night of the week, if you could afford the tickets and had no family who cared to ever see you. Whatever they were playing in the courtyard was indie format, too, and I congratulated myself on having some of the songs in my library already while lamenting the fact that Tucson has no such cool radio station, and probably never will. Which is why I cannot live without my iPod.
Anyway, we gallivanted and talked all day. While I don’t make a distinction between “internet friends” and “meatspace friends” because I’m not 78 years old and afraid of the internet, and pretty picky besides about whom I consider a friend in the first place, there’s a special pleasure in being able to converse with no delays, like you have with e-mail, and Facebook, and what have you. You can fit so much more into the precious minutes, and Candice and I talked like the old friends we are.
The show was at the Aladdin, which has fantastic acoustics and terrible seats with old broken springs that, if you’re unlucky or uncareful, could give you genital piercing you never intended. However unhappy my bum was, though, my ears were delighted at both the opener, James Vincent McMorrow (who has also been seeing a lot of repeat play on my iPod of late) and The Civil Wars, who are a well-oiled machine of soaring and subtle harmonies, and all were charming and funny in between songs. And to their credit, the shows started promptly, which is a rare gift in the world of concert-going. I always wonder why acts linger backstage; are you NOT in town precisely to be on stage and playing?
Here’s us, in our not-too-shabby general admission seats (distance-from-the-stage-wise, not comfort-wise):
We left the concert and retired to the Doug Fir, a lounge connected with my hotel, and ate brownie sundaes and talked until they threw us out. So we went out to the patio, until they kicked us out of there, too (despite our being vewy vewy quiet). It felt like a rite of passage for me; I’d never closed any place before.
Wednesday morning came awfully early for those of us who’d been up until 2 talking, plus another half hour of her driving home and me packing up, but it was totally worth it. I highly recommend The Civil Wars, James Vincent McMorrow, Portland, and Candice, who may well be my younger, better-looking twin, and therefore is, obviously, awesome. You oughta check any and all of them out.