The Dimes, Then and Now: My Ten Cents

The Dimes

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.

For a moment, I’ll digress to tell you that, though I stayed through his entire set, Rundgren now boasts an entirely different sound– a sound I would define as arena rock. That night, he grumpily refused to play “Hello It’s Me” and insulted The Aladdin’s accommodations. He ended nearly every epically electrified song with a face-high, rock star kick. He frequently wound his arm a full 360 degrees to strum the electric guitar. Though neither Jennie nor I were fans of arena rock, we stayed because it was so amusing and, truly, so incredibly well done.

Who knows what the interactions may have been like backstage between Todd Rundgren and the opening act, a group of young gentlemen who won my heart by humbly harmonizing Shins-influenced, intellectual ditties backed by tambourine claps on two and four. The Dimes, aptly named, were bright and shiny. They spoon-fed Jennie and me something for which we longed that night, only with acoustic guitars and indie-style doubled melodies. We both left the show with a copy of The Silent Generation, their 2007 full album debut inspired by stories from an old newspaper found under the floorboard in the lead guitarist’s 1909 home.

After a few CD listens and a few more years, The Dimes fell between the couch cushions of my memory. I don’t know if I lost interest, but I definitely moved on to other musical discoveries. So, when I heard they were playing at the tent for the Oregon Manifest Bicycle Design Competition, I thought I would catch them in their element to see if they still swayed me.

The Dimes

The Oregon Manifest Bicycle Design Competition event was shoved in an alley off of NW Nela Street in the industrial district. Bicycle part vendors, beer and food carts camouflaged the stage, which was two ten-by-ten-foot tents deep, barely holding the now seven players that make up The Dimes. People lined up horizontally against a building to watch, bicycles rolling awkwardly between the audience and the band.

Though it was not the band’s ideal venue, I’m sure, they still put on a good show. I agreed with the instrumentation additions, especially the twangy pedal steel, for which I have a personal affinity. A new female singer-guitarist graced the stage with airy vocals, adding an extra layer to four-part, Fleetwood Mac-style harmonies during choruses. One would think that four total guitarists would be overkill, but they complemented each other tastefully and didn’t all play at once. Each song featured drums and some light percussion, including shakers, maracas, and good-ole-reliable tambourine.

Prior to the show, I had refreshed my ears with The Silent Generation to have basis for comparison. The live experience on this day had a new energy and more of a rock feel than the self-described folk-pop group I remembered. Songs from their latest full album, The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry, tell tales of historical Boston and introduce some darker, bluesy elements reminiscent of The Decemberists, but generally more upbeat. Syncopated, secret agent bass lines, sporadic boosts in guitar distortion, and their collective voices shouting lines like, “Ohhhhh-whoa-dee-oh-oh!” made my head start to bob in dancing approval.

My ears took delight in splashes of color, like guitar tremelos evoking thoughts of Old West gun duels, or a note on the pedal steel gently curling like cigarette smoke. There is now a third dimension to the folk-pop group (perhaps folk-pop-rock?) that makes me confident in their future as a continually flourishing band.

For those who have forgotten about The Dimes, they deserve a second look. Catch them next on October 6th at Lizard Lounge on NW Irving Street for First Thursday. Until then, download their latest album for free at for a limited time.

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