The Christmas/New Year’s weeks always make for strange times on the local scene, full of familiar faces and new surprises. Inside Straight played last week for the first time in a year, while across town As Fast As, Jon Nolan, and Melvern Taylor mixed up a brand-new batch of acoustic Christmas cheer. This week, we find Jeremiah Freed flying back home to the East Coast for a New Year’s gig at the Asylum, while down the road King Memphis honcho Matt Robbins fills in for a little stone rock with Eldemur Krimm at the Alehouse.
Even old reliable Nick Curran (nee Danger) has thrown us a change-up this year. No shows for the hometown crowd, but only because he’s too busy as a Fabulous Thunderbird (see "Sibilance").
For a small town with a big scene, Portland is unpredictable even in its predictability. Just take my wishes from last year: Three of them came true, the other three went by the wayside (I’m having a hard time remembering why exactly I went with six wishes). Geno’s found a friendly home, As Fast As and Paranoid Social Club have had enjoyable label experiences, and Clear Channel has returned to Portland with a vengeance. Yet the Skinny remains a work in progress, Congress Square was eerily quiet this past summer, and the roots music scene remains without a place to call home. Why was Geno’s able to score the old Skinny space when everyone knew for sure it would never be a rock club again? They actually asked the Burnham Arms what they wanted to do with it. Why was Congress Square silent when the smallest of city investments could have brought it to life? I’m not sure; maybe we should spend $20,000 to inventory the artists who could have played there.
For ’06, I’ve decided to reach for the stars, going with the old adage that if I come up short, I’ll likely still have the moon, or some clouds, or something. Thus, I wish for:
1. The vaunted 207 Festival to get off the ground. City and music community leaders have been talking for two years now about bringing big-name talent and industry types to town for a SXSW-style music festival, possibly hinging on Gateway Mastering’s national reputation and thus offering a seminar on recording and mastering technology. It’s been a good idea for a while, it just needs someone with some time on their hands to make it happen — like, say, in the fall of 2006.
2. Wilco to return. Time was, the most exciting and interesting band playing and recording today made an annual stop in Portland. Yet 2005 came and went without a single appearance by Jeff Tweedy and whomever else he might choose to bring along (hopefully Nels Cline). I’ve made inquiries. They don’t think they can make enough money for it to be worth their while to come here. That’s just plain hurtful. I think a letter-writing campaign is in order.
3. The White Heart Bar and Lounge and the Skinny to open on the same day with a big Congress Street party. While the city of Portland makes noises about limiting bars and musical venues (could any one body be more clueless about what makes their city so cool?) the rest of us get excited about two new live-music spots. Likely, we’ll see the White Heart first, but as the Skinny and White Heart’s two Johns, Lomba and Althoff, go back a ways, maybe they can coordinate something. And did anybody notice? Congress Street is where live music is at now.