The Next Waltz sold out the Alberta Rose Theatre on Saturday night. About 60 Portland musicians performed songs by The Band, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris and more to recapture The Band’s legendary farewell concert. Above, Jeff Rosenberg dresses the part for Van Morrison’s “Caravan.”
Most of us let great ideas die because we believe they are too lofty, or we don’t have faith in ourselves or others to make them materialize. For that reason, my head turned when I heard Portland music writer/broadcaster/performer Jeff Rosenberg rallied almost sixty notable musicians to recreate The Last Waltz in live stage form this coming November 26th.
Taking place at Portland’s historic Alberta Rose Theatre 35 years and one day after The Band‘s legendary farewell show, Rosenberg is planning “all kinds of little things to evoke the original concert,” dubbing his highly-anticipated revival, The Next Waltz.
Performing the songs of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and more is a local all-star cast including Al James from Dolorean, Holcombe Waller, The Parson Red Heads, and many others (see full roster below).
If concerts are church services for musicians, the message of the sermon on October 20th was: an engaging performance, not fancy effects, is all it takes to deliver a great concert.
We congregated in the former chapel of downtown Eugene’s First Baptist Church, now Jaqua Concert Hall at The Shedd Institute. The creme-colored, semi-ornate balcony wrapped around three quarters of the auditorium, and we looked down upon rows of pews. The stage backdrop was tall and grandiose, aching for a pipe organ to fill its vastness. An amplified voice reminded us to politely power down our phones, signing off with an irksome “God bless,” and the lights dimmed.
We were a full house anticipating a sermon by an unintentional preacher.
Arriving at the Landmark Saloon sans beard and Zip Zinger skateboard under his arm, Castanets frontman Ray Raposa kindly greeted me, approached the bar, and ordered a Rainier. We headed to the patio on this contemplative autumn night to discuss his latest collaboration, the soundtrack to Kaleo La Belle’s award-winning documentary, Beyond This Place. Raposa plans to perform the soundtrack live with co-writer Sufjan Stevens at the film’s screening at Portland’s Hollywood Theatre November 3rd.
The opening credits roll, depicting vintage photographs of Kaleo La Belle’s childhood in Maui along with family and friends in the pseudo-hippie community in which he grew up. The photographs look like a cross between iconic ’60s Woodstock-style photos and the family variety you’d find in your grandmother’s wood-framed hallway collages. We hear a banjo tickling along to aid in the passage of time, and then more banjos kick in over gentle electric guitar tones at the helm of each measure, building in anticipation.
I can’t imagine my life without music. In fact, my conception would not have occurred without music, and not just because music and baby-making go so well together. Without music, my percussionist father wouldn’t have met my music-teacher mother at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music in the ’70s.
But that’s not the point I’m trying to make.
I remember my pudgy fingers plunking “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the piano when I was five. I remember lying on the top bunk and harmonizing songs with my twin sister (on the bottom bunk) when we were eight. I remember coming home from school to a couple of hours of Mom teaching eager students “Für Elise” and “Chopsticks” on our family piano each day. In sixth grade, I remember choosing percussion as my instrument in the school band because I wanted to play something the boys were playing. Then, I remember kicking all the boys’ asses in chair tests, playing on an all-girl snare line in the Clark High School marching band, and feeling on top of the world slamming down an eight-minute, four-mallet marimba solo before an entire auditorium.
Upon seeing Texas rockers Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights play Mississippi Studios last Thursday, I can’t get the thought out of my mind: how much should what we know about an artist affect how we perceive his music?
Take Amy Winehouse, for example. Although I can’t deny that “You Know I’m No Good” and “Rehab” are catchy tunes, hearing them on the radio used to always conjure up paparazzi depictions in my head of the woman post-altercation or marching around disoriented in her bra with a liquor bottle in hand. The press painted her as proud of her afflictions, whether she really felt that way or not, and among my complex feelings toward her was judgment. It was difficult to allow myself to enjoy her songs. At the same time, I acknowledged that many revered artists lived excessive lifestyles, and what did that fact have to do with the music, anyway?
A few years ago, I began working in radio and figured out that I could occasionally get my grubby little hands on a pair of free concert tickets. As a fan of late ’60s/early ’70s piano pop (Carole King is my idol), one of the first shows I elected to see was Todd Rundgren at the Aladdin Theater. (What? Some lucky winner didn’t pick up his Todd Rundgren tickets?)
My friend Jennie and I got to the show early and waltzed right up to the stage, placing our hands on its dirty edge, the hot lights warming its surface. We chatted with fellow audience members in anticipation of an evening of groovy, nostalgic tunes like “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw The Light” and didn’t want to budge from our prime seating. Little did we know that the only pop we would enjoy would be from Rundgren’s bright-eyed opener, Portland’s own, The Dimes.
It’s probably impossible to determine whether Portlanders love their bicycles or their sweet, sensitive indie music better. But, if you ask me, why should you have to choose? Put the two together, and you’ve got the quintessential Portland band: Blind Pilot.
I mean that in a good way.
It was summer of 2008 (oh, so long ago…). I had been working the KINK FM booth at Portland’s annual Bridge Pedal since 4 am, poised right at the finish line. I groggily watched as thousands of people dismounted their bikes to collect their free bananas, Pop Chips, Vitamin Water and chocolate milk (don’t ask me why anyone would want milk after a bike ride). I was ready to go home. Then, an unassuming group of sweaty musicians pulled up on their bikes and set up their gear on a ten by fifteen-foot wooden stage.
On an unusually hot but breezy September evening, fans trickled into “Portland’s Living Room” to see Iron & Wine supported by local breakout group Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside and solo artist Marketa Irglova. The Friday night MusicFestNW show promised to be diverse in genre, Sallie Ford setting the tone.
Portland: Where Local Tastes Better
In my quest to discover female songwriters other than the (overly-referred-to, but deservedly so) handful of pioneers in rock history, a friend once recommended Portland’s Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside. My boyfriend had a copy of their EP, Not an Animal, so I promptly popped it into the stereo. Immediately, I squirmed at Ford’s vintage vocal stylings, because that’s just so damn popular right now, especially in the Portland indie scene. I thought, eh. She’s good, but it’s not my thing.
But when KINK FM posted a video online of the group performing on David Letterman, I have to admit, my head turned to look again. I watched in envy and felt a stupid sense of Portland pride. A few weeks later, Ford and the band performed in KINK FM’s Bing Lounge, infecting me with their throwback, rockabilly sound and sassy, spitfire lyrics. I danced excitedly and knew I could not resist any longer.