The Rose City. Less colloquially: Seattle's cute lil brudder (206 REPRESENT!).
Once you get into Oregon, you are truly in God's country, if you believe such an entity exists. If you don't, the Pacific Northwest is a strong counter argument. But regardless of your religious or atheistic tendencies, the following fact is universal: if you like your nature green and inviting, Oregon and western Washington are as good as America gets.
Good natured joshing aside, Portland is a magnificent jewel of a city. Spitting distance from the decapitated body of Mount St Helens, caressed at its north by the Columbia river, hugged by deep green forest on all other sides, and home to both Powell's Books and the modern Greek God Nike, there is plenty in P-Town to fascinate and captivate.
It is also the closest familial bond the Black Sheep Tour encounters, as we stay with Rae Davis' father. Davis has what could be described as a complicated relationship with parts of her family. Hey, which among us doesn't. But from the minute Davis sees her dad standing on the sidewalk in front of his house to the moment we pull away the next morning, all anyone can feel is love. Other family members may be harder to pin down or explain completely, but there is no doubt that Davis and her dad have a special relationship, and she openly adores him. Would that we all were so lucky in all our relationships.
Living in one of Portland's lovely historic neighborhoods--a designation of which Portland has a seemingly inexhaustible supply--the patriarchal home is a tall, stately affair with wooden floors and a warm, lived-in feel.
Which, if you have ever been to Portland, particularly north Portland, you know is a pretty good descriptor for the town as a whole. Even if you've never set foot there, there's something comfortable and welcoming about the place.
Davis and Sara Routh are playing a house show this evening. When you're a band with a label and a publicity team, you don't play house shows. But when you're an indie artist--if you can swing them--house shows are your money days.
Yeah. I know it's cynical to look at something as intimate as playing in a friend's living room or back yard in such capitalistic terms, but there's the truth. When you've got 20 or 30 people who genuinely love you for you (or are there because they love someone who loves you), those are the people who want to make god damned sure that you leave with gas money and a few bucks extra in your pocket. When the tip jar is passed around, that's when the big bills make an appearance. If you have CDs for sale and they don't have them? You're probably selling some CD's. You're not splitting money with a bar or a door guy or an asshole sound guy with two thumbs up his ass. In terms of investment vs payout, it doesn't get much better than house shows.
Accounting aside, house shows are also special specifically BECAUSE you are knee deep in nothing but friends. People are attentive. The locations are almost universally gorgeous. There is a feeling of deep appreciation that permeates the air, coming from both performer and audience.
There is something about the feeling of live, acoustic music floating over someone's trellis or hedgerow or house that just feels magical. As the sun starts to set and a beautiful voice wafts over the comfy little neighborhood, Portland feels about as peaceful and idyllic as any stop on the Tour.
And Routh and Davis ARE appreciated. When the pair finish for the evening, they both bask in the warmth of friends, old and new. These are Davis' people when we arrive, but there are no strangers by the time the Prius is loaded and ready to leave.
Every musician thinks, at some point or another, of playing in front of 10,000 screaming fans. Everyone of them--and a good number of us non-performers--have wondered what that would feel like. But these shows, these nights when you connect with every person in the place and hug them when you're done, these are the nights that every indie plays for. The arena shows are where the money is made. Backyards are good mostly for memories. Speaking as a broke artist-type, I'll take the latter more often than not.
After leaving the extended family of the house show, its back to the immediate family of Davis' father. Routh calls it an early night, and Davis and her dad spend the next couple hours on the couch, drinking wine and talking about Bernie Sanders and Roscoe, the family dog. Even in Oakland, surrounded by the warm blanket of Festival friends, Davis' joy came packaged with a certain frantic energy, as she tried to see as many people as she could, and bask in the nostalgia of the shared experiences. But here with her dad, everything is calm and easy like Sunday morning.
Speaking of morning, Davis' dad makes breakfast for everyone before we leave, and it is DOPE.
The Prius heads back out onto I-5 and into the Oregon morning. The Washington border is a short drive away, and Seattle a quick jaunt past that. We bid St Helens adieu, and say hello to Rainier. Routh and Davis did not get much time in Portland, but those two hours surrounded by Christmas lights good friends made every second a gift unto itself.
Miles traveled: 3,608