PORTLAND SCENE

Visibility across the Puget Sound was almost non-existant this morning as I gazed into the murk pounding an overburdened treadmill in a freezing cold, uber-air-conditioned Four Seasons gym. I suppose the arctic conditions mean that sweat doesn’t stand a chance, more hygienic? Discuss. All I know is I couldn’t wait to get out of the torture chamber and back to the room to tuck into a waiting bowl of Granola and Yoghurt. Our travel today was swift and Debbie welcomed us aboard the Legacy with Caesar Salads and a flight time of 25 minutes to Hillsboro airfield to the West of Downtown Portland. The views were pretty spectacular and we got a fabulous look at Mount St. Helens (Mt. Adams in the background) which famously and catastrophically erupted in May 1980. The aftermath can be clearly seen in this photograph which I thought looks reminiscent of a painting.

I love Portland, Oregon. Three reasons.

1. It has a similar climate to the UK.

2. The music scene here is vibrant and in recent years, Oregon has seen a strong indie scene developing in Portland. The city’s reputation as a hipster mecca has paralleled the rise of local indie musicians such as The Decemberists, The Dandy Warhols, Death Cab for Cutie, Blitzen Trapper, the late Elliott Smith and not forgetting funk metal outfit, Sweaty Nipples.

3. It boasts one of the windiest places in the US, a mecca for windsurfers, Columbia River Gorge. In all the times we’ve visited on tour, I have never sailed it. I was hoping conditions might be right tomorrow as it’s a day off and we are staying in town, which is unusual. The Hood River lies on the border between Washington state and Oregon and its steep valleys with two contrasting climates to the East and West mean Venturi winds rip through this corridor at sometimes ‘nuclear’ velocities. On such days, they close the freeway whilst windsurfers relish the insanity of up to 80mph wind speeds.

We arrived at the venue, The Keller theatre, a place we last played in 2010. I recall it being a very nice room with a great sound.

Ruth was in town – she may soon be joining the Portland scene as a resident – and she didn’t hesitate to come along and be our guest again for three songs in the set. We sound checked – something we frankly missed in Seattle due to back to back outdoor shows – tweaked a few things and retired to the dressing rooms and waited for the dinner bell. Catering was local, a stir fry bar offering a selection of meats, veggies and noodles individually stir fried to order. It was ok. It’s hard to follow our European catering team and frankly, inevitably, we miss them. Still, we’re grateful to be fed at all when we think back to the early days of touring and remember tougher times. The crew had a long day of it, in fact they missed lunch altogether so their dinner was the priority. Those boys work hard, it’s easy to forget just what they do, suffice to say the show wouldn’t happen if it were not for their hard work.

The show was wonderful, Ruth was a delight and the band was on fine form, in particular – I thought – Jim Cox. WHAT a musician. It’s honestly worth seeing the show just to see Jim play. His extraordinary piano adventure in Marbletown tonight was simply off the scale and he played something on the B3 at the end of Speedway that blew my mind. If you’re thinking of buying one of the USB recordings, check out Portland, Oregon. I understand they will go on sale in a few weeks as they are being mixed retrospectively this time out. I will also be keeping an ear on the mixes as they go.

After the show there was a late night drinking session that I cannot recall too accurately except that I know I met legendary Bothy Band fiddle player, Kevin Burke who has lived here for many years.