small blue flowers


From Oregon with Love (The Black Keys)


As part of this months theme, “Geography” I thought I would keep it local. I am a native Oregonian….that’s right NATIVE…not one of those obnoxious Californian transplants. The following is part 1 of several music seeking adventures in my lovely state and especially in Portland, Oregon.


We arrived at the Roseland Theatre at 8pm. Line was full of hard core Keys fans. I chatted with a nice Wisconsin College boy standing in front of me in line. He was alone and visiting Oregon. A college dorm friend had loaned him a Black Keys’ CD, and that was all it took. I didn’t bother to ask what had brought him to Oregon, but he mentioned that his visit had made him question his stay in Wisc.

8:20pm-we were past the metal detectors and survey of our belongings from the security guards. I made a bee line to the balcony for my pick of seats. I looked over the crowd gathering on the floor. I counted 3 hoodie clad youths already. One out of three of the boys sported the shaggy haircuts and skinny legged jeans that seem to be in vogue again. One of the boys had already made his way to the t-shirt vendors and was examining his new TBK tee. I noticed as he slipped the new shirt over his thermal that it was yellow with a large sunny side up egg on the front. It went well with his brown vintage blazer. Man, he must be warm! 1-2-3…young girls seemed to be accompanied to the show by their fathers (at least I hope it was their fathers). I glanced behind me. The frat boys in their ball caps and two days of beard growth were congregating next to the bar-hands clutching beers. Seated in the balcony around me I see through the dim light several Elvis Costello styled glasses framing faces.

On the stage were two prominently placed drum kits. It wasn’t had to figure out which one was Patrick’s (drummer for TBK). Oh no! I see a keyboard. That obviously must be the opening act, Beat Awake. I have never heard of them. I already had a bad feeling. Thoughts of the band Chicago shoot briefly through my head. They use keyboards. I saw Chicago on one of my first big dates in school. I doubled with another girl and her boyfriend. I can’t remember my dates name….what was it?....George! That’s right! Waiting for a show to start always brings the random thoughts out in me.

Anyway….as usual most of the concert goers closest to the stage appear to still be in high school. I mentally send out a high-five to them for their good taste in music. At least on the floor, the boys out number the girls 1 to 10. The girls remind me of the ones from my own high school days who listened to Def Leppard and were in the AV club. Maybe that is why I am so bitter about Chicago and keyboards. None of the guys I went out with were adventurous when it came to music…or other things for that matter.

Finally! The lights dim further. The opening act enters. They remind me of characters out of the film “Roger and Me” with their trucker hats, mustaches and overgrown hair. “Hi. We are Beat Awake from Kent, Ohio. Glad to be here in Portland. We have had so many friends who have recently moved here, and we can see why.” At this point they seem to wave at those same friends. I guess when you are the opening act it is wise to brown nose the audience a bit. As they began their set I understood why brown nosing was necessary. Oh, how I wanted to like them. They were young, taking a risk (as all musicians who dare to step on a stage), and dude…they were opening for The Black Keys which had to be tough. I don’t know maybe I just don’t like hippy, jam bands whose lead singer sounds like he is calling the pigs in for dinner. I decided to go down stairs to the main floor bar for a smoke (I remember when you could smoke anywhere in the Roseland). At least I had an excuse to leave for a bit.

While downstairs I continued to watch the act on the projection scene they have set up, but then decided to daydream a bit about my hours spent before the show. It was the first Thursday of the month which meant that all of the high-end art galleries in the loft-life infested “Pearl District” were holding their monthly open house. Gallery after gallery I had inspected how much you can sell the appearance of something special for. The best had to of been a piece of canvas covered with very semi-vintage ladies gloves that were merely tacked on with a couple of hand stitched. They were the kind of cheap knit fabric ones you can still find in most Good-Will clothing bins for a mere 25 cents. The wall of gloves covered a 5 X 7 space which by my estimates used about $125 dollars worth of gloves. The piece was priced at $1300. I don’t know if I will ever understand the pricing of art. Maybe it has something to do with all of the wine-sipping, women wearing look-at-my-ass-white jeans that were in almost every gallery. If you tell them it's art…the bimbos will buy it I guess. Soon after the gallery with the gloves we made the five block journey to the Roseland. As I rounded the final corner, I watched a woman in a mini-van make a crack deal and took my place in line. I had gone from the riches to the rags of the city in just a few minutes.

Snapping myself out of my daydream I crushed my cigarette out and went back upstairs. Beat Awake were just finishing up. Shortly after the stage was set, and then the lights went dim again. I had seen the Black Keys just a year earlier and I was just as excited as the first time. As the Black Keys made their first appearance of the night the entire venue exploded with welcomed cheers. The balcony and the entire place for that matter were now filled to capacity. Older concert goers now surrounded me in my balcony seat. As the Black Keys hit their first couple notes I felt myself blurt out “Fuck!” I couldn’t believe how good they sounded. I would repeat that word several more times throughout the show. I am not sure what it is about the Black Keys (especially their live show) or hearing the blues (which permeates much of the Black Keys sound) that is so amazing. But I heard it said somewhere “You have to emotionally be there. There is no music without the voice to share it.” I would have to agree. There is a connection to their music that is so passionate and honest. There is no “phoning in” a single word in their song, note of the guitar, or beating of the drums. “Stack Shot Billy” and “Girl is on my Mind,” was just as fresh and it seemed even more full of emotion and new musical nuances than the first time I heard it live. And when they played “Modern Times” and “Your Touch” (two new songs off their latest album, “Magic Potion” that was being released a week after the show) I knew I would have yet another favorite album to add to my collection.

The Black Keys certainly did not disappoint that night and I don’t think the audience disappointed them either. Dan mentioned before his final encore how much they enjoyed being back in town again. I suppose most bands say stuff like that, but I would like to think he really meant it. After all, we are talking about Oregon……


Blogger BVS said...

I'm jealous - i've missed the Keys a few times now. Rubber Factory consistently kicks my ass.

6:27 pm  
Blogger twillowpiff said...

Nov. 3rd they are going to be in New York (Nokia Theatre). If there is anyway you could make it to that show I would HIGHLY recommend it. You won't be disappointed. I swear!

8:16 pm  

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