Nancy will be the first to point out that it takes quite a bit of effort to get me to go see a show, so a bit of nudging was involved in my attending the Robyn Hitchcock gig at the Aladdin Theater this past weekend.
BUTT First, a Message from Our Sponsors
On Saturday afternoons (4-6PM Pacific Time) Nancy does her DJ magic on Freeform Portland (KFFP-LP 90.3FM and KFFD-LP 98.3FM), and here we see the artist at work in the midst of a broadcast studio that was completely overhauled and rearranged in the past month.
While Nancy did her tuneful thing, I was installing the new streaming source client (i.e., the machine that turns analog output from the mixing board into an MP3 stream which goes to our Icecast server which then goes to the rest of the non-FM-reachable world which is pretty much everywhere). The streaming client is an open source application called Broadcast Using This Tool, or BUTT which has been a goldmine for puerile humor whenever the previous BUTT server kept crapping out (see?).
And with our community radio duties done for the week, we headed to the venue!
Winging It for Dinner
From what I understand the Portland neu-Thai eatery Pok Pok is a world-famous dining destination for tourists (and locals alike), and what I learned this past weekend (and way belatedly so) is that Pok Pok has a satellite location that cranks out its mainstay dishes – spicy chicken wings and papaya salad – with no fuss, less muss, and even less waiting.
Recognizing that I could go into “hangry mode” without nourishment, Nancy bravely held our place in line so that I could go stuff my face.
And Now, On to the Show!
This was the first time I’ve seen Mr. Hitchcock in performance (I did “see” him before, in an upscale vegan restaurant in San Francisco where we were having an anniversary dinner, and I’d mistaken him for Kurt Loder…), and on this particular pass through Portland we were treated to an acoustic solo set and a four-piece electric rock set.
To say that this man has a vivid imagination is a gross understatement. The surreal, yet poetically coherent lyrics of his songs are only the sprinkles on the delicious cupcake that are his between-song monologues, which from I’ve been told, are spontaneous waking-dream expositions. Boy I wish I had a recording of his monologues from that night, as what little I remember is just too damned little (although we’ll be making references to his Queen Victoria on a steam engine busting down folk music peasants’ hovels in Cornwall).
We Often Dream of Trains
With a short interval (i.e., “intermission” for us former Colonials) Mr. Hitchcock (that sounds just so New York Timesy, dunnit?) returned with his backing band, the Nashville Fabs and started the “electric” set with a suitably augmented version of his classic “I Often Dream of Trains.”
I guess when one has about four decades’ of songs to choose from, the set list will consist of the classics, the newer works, as well as the obscure (and beloved) oddballs.
The dedication of the Soft Boys standard “I Wanna Destroy You” to Brett Kavanaugh went off like fireworks with the delighted Portland crowd, and the repeated reference to songs from a “Norwegian album” I took in nodding stride as something else that was made up on the spot (until Nancy looked into it and found that yes, there really is such a thing!).
The very last song of the evening was the fantastic “Airscape,” the “title” track from the equally fantastic Element of Light album. While I’m usually out the door during the cheering for an encore to get a head start on the drive home, thanks to Nancy and her righteous sense of persistence, I got to enjoy that awesome tune.
I found the whole thing extremely inspiring. Mr. Hitchcock remains in top form, playing and singing wonderfully, the backing band was spot on, and the songs were awesome as expected. I’d strongly recommend you catch him, with or without the Nashville Fabs (preferably with), whenever he comes through your neck of the woods.
Completely Unrelated Postscript
The next day, we made our way back to Pok Pok Wing, as the tofu wings that Nancy had bravely foregone to secure a place in line would not be denied. Afterwards was a hop into downtown Portland where I had an appointment with the Geniuses at the Apple Store. Along the way was this bit of signage:
The choice of the bowl icon for the second vowel had me seeing “puke” at first glance. At least it caught my eye? It was kinda like the awning for another Portland eatery, Thai Pod, which used a combination of capital letters and sans serif typeface that made the sign read “Thai Poo” (they’ve since replaced said awning). Evidently my mind churns in childish, scatalogical ways….