Monthly Archives: February 2015

#13. Sumner-Albina City Park (again) Feb 22, 2015 - 6:41 pm

Kind of went full-Portland on this one: acoustical one man band show, to which I travelled by bicycle, towing my gear in a trailer. Still oddly nice weather in Portland, so I wanted to play in a park. Thinking back, there was a park I played in that was a little difficult owing to grey skies and cold, plus the impediment of playing on soft, almost muddy grass. (It’s really hard to time the bass drum when the distance from heel to pedal varies while you play.)

Well, if you haven’t noticed by now, performing music in public is often about a kind of redemption; it’s like returning to a fishing hole after coming up empty the weekend before. So I knew just the park to play in: Sumner-Albina City Park. Again.

I arrived earlier than the 3pm start time I announced, so I walked around and checked the ground, figured out a good spot to play from (up against the wall!) and started to set up. Because the bar adjacent to the park has an outdoor patio, I let the people sitting there know I was going to play. I told them I hoped they’d enjoy the show, but if not, just give a thumbs-down and I’ll quit. A man identifying himself as the owner of the bar—let’s call it the Crimson Canine—said, as the owner he wasn’t worried because he would stop me if I became a nuisance in any event. Really wasn’t expecting such a cheerless, humorless response, but…okay. (For the record, this is a public city park. Tiny, but public, i.e., merely adjacent to the bar, not owned by the bar.)

I’m happy to report the nuisance issue never arose again. I wouldn’t say the patio people were uniformly thrilled to have me there—for the first half hour, you might have thought they were legally prohibited from applauding—but I didn’t see any thumbs down, either. Sometimes you have to re-define “victory” as “not losing by as much as you expected.”

I started out playing to basically no one, but eventually some people stopped, and some friends showed up, and by the end it felt like a pretty good show. The sun was bright, and I didn’t want any spectators (it happens!) to be squinting while trying to see me, so I stood against the wall facing the sun. This might have been less considerate than I thought, though, because people standing around on a warm-ish but not exactly “warm” day may wish they were in the sun. Sorry, guys!

Towards the end of the show, a woman approached me, saying she was the “Creative Laureate” of Portland. And insisted there really is such a thing. (There really is!) She’s working on a project called “Talk to Strangers” and documents an encounter with a stranger each day of the year. Today I was that lucky stranger, and you can follow Julie’s adventures on the Talk to Strangers site.

After all that, I remembered I was trying to raise money for my friend Priya to use toward a handicap-accessible van, so I made the long walk over to the patio to see if anyone wanted to contribute, either directly to me, or by visiting Priya’s website. I would describe the overall reaction of the people seated on the patio as…thumbs down!

And so, as promised, I left.


#12. Alberta and 21st Ave. Feb 14, 2015 - 4:15 pm

This has become my most frequently played location, and for good reason: good pedestrian traffic, good acoustics, and a sidewalk wide enough for spectators, should any appear. And after  a show earlier today right across from the Pearl’s Salt and Straw ice cream parlor, it was kind of fitting to play by the Alberta district’s Salt and Straw.

And wide sidewalks notwithstanding, it’s actually pretty rare for someone to stand very close by to watch my show. Mostly people stand about 50 feet to my right or left, or across the street. And that’s what happened today: a few young men hung around during and after eating at El Nutri Taco (who kindly leave picnic tables out front) before crossing the street to watch from atop the hood of their car. (At least I hope it was their car!) Some people paused on the periphery of my vision, and sent toddler emissaries to drop a dollar in my collection box.

I managed some 45 minutes of music, and decided to stop before my body gave out and the music suffered more than usual. It was just then that a photographer visiting from Canada, one Dallas Whitley, asked if he could photograph me. He is visiting Portland to take two Polaroid photographs of people he meets, one for himself, and one for the subject. In order to give him an action shot, I played one more song, and here’s what he gave me:

A polaroid photo taken by visiting Canadian artist Dallas Whitley.


Nice pic, Dallas!

At the end of the day, I was pretty tired, but I was glad to have made the most of the weather. I didn’t expect to be playing outside again until June or July, but I’ve already played four outdoor shows this year. Amazing.

By the way, I am still collecting money for my friend Priya’s quest for a handicap accessible van. Please donate if you can!

#11. NW 23rd Ave. and NW Kearney St. Feb 14, 2015 - 3:00 pm

Weirdly nice weather in Portland and a note of encouragement from the guy who built my drum kit compelled me to take to the streets and play some music. I also have a friend who lives in the Pearl whose bike-only lifestyle has kept him from ever seeing me play, as I tend to stick to the NE Portland area. So I asked him where I could play, and he suggested 23rd Ave. and NW Kearney. And there I went.

The heavy pedestrian traffic is on 23rd Ave. but the sidewalks are narrow, and there aren’t any businesses closed on a Saturday that I can play in front of. So I made my way a little bit west on Kearney and set up on the side wall of a restaurant. I liked the spot for a couple of reasons: out of the way for people who don’t want to hear what I’m doing; and a pretty wide sidewalk in case anyone does want to spectate for a while. (It could happen!)

As I began, the owners of the motorcycles parked in front of my spot appeared and started up the beasts. Noise and smoke obscured my first song, but that’s how street rock goes sometimes. I kept going, watching the nervous minivan driver park in front of me, seemingly concerned that I might get some noise on his car. Not a big deal to me, but sucks for the people watching from across the street, whose view was now completely obstructed.

I would say just about no one stopped to listen, but a lot of people photographed (videoed?) me as they walked by without deviating from the sidewalk of 23rd Ave. This seems kind of tacky to me, as I’m hoping to occasion some interaction with people, but I understand it’s intimidating to approach some nut with a drum set strapped to his back bellowing over his guitar badly in need of a tune. Still, it might have been nice to drop a donation into my bucket, as all money collected goes to my friend Priya’s campaign to buy a handicap accessible van.

Just as I was wrapping up, a family (?) of about 8 people sort of gathered nearby, seemingly interested, but only one person talked with me, while another shot video of me while unconvincingly pretending to be doing something else on her phone. I mentioned Priya’s campaign, and they contributed a few dollars, but I always wonder about that: do people believe it’s a real donation, or are they just rewarding me for concocting such an elaborate–and some might say poorly executed–reason for collecting money like this?

I had been a little thrown by the downhill slant of the sidewalk, which put my bass drum foot just slightly farther from its usual position, but I kept at it for a while. Not wanting to play until I fell over (as nearly happened at my last show) I determined to play for 30 minutes, and if I wasn’t too worn out, maybe I’d make a second stop back at my regular old spot on Alberta.

But that’s a story for another time.


Here’s an inaccurate street-view photo of the restaurant, which didn’t have any outdoor seating today: