My fellow music-makers and I (a.k.a. Bourbon Jockey) appeared at Roots Organic Brewing Company in Southeast Portland. We were the evening headliners, as evidenced by our name written prominently on the chalkboard by the door.
We had fun. We helped the establishment move some beer. The people who left when we started to play were planning to leave anyway, and good riddance to them. We kept the volume to a level that allowed amiable conversation by those who were willing to shout at each other. Friends, family and strangers mixed. No fights broke out.
In addition to myself (intrepid front man), Matthew Jones (on upright bass) and Alan Cole (on other guitar), we were accompanied by a young fellow we call “Conga Dave” on account of not knowing his full name. When we last played at Roots, Alan left the stage in the middle of a tune, announcing “I’m going to see if they have a conga drum somewhere.” He rooted around a storage closet and retrieved said drum, then called one of his Lewis & Clark students up on stage to join us. With that simple act, Bourbon Jockey acquired a drummer. We invited Conga Dave to play along last week, though we neglected to confirm whether the closet at Roots still contained a conga drum. It didn’t, so Dave improvised with a few buckets, a shaker and a tambourine played with his foot. In the parlance of musicologists, he employed idiophones rather than a membranophone, but we don't need to get technical about it.
I pulled some video from the bar's security cameras for the benefit and edification of fans who were too stove up to make it out on Thursday night.
1) This first one is a Tom Waits song from whence we derived our name: “Jockey Full of Bourbon.” Sorry about my massive cabeza filling the frame.
2) This next one captures the Bourbon Jockey spirit. While we were playing, we noticed a lone fellow in the corner playing along on a concertina. He was also dressed as a pirate. We coaxed him out front to join us in an impromptu rendition of the Hank Williams classic, “Jambalaya.”
3) A little blues and testifying, with our version of the T-Bone Walker tune, "Stormy Monday" in which I blow on a harmonica and yell.
4) You're still here? Well then here's our take on "Route 66."
If you're hankering for more (and who wouldn't be?) you can find a few more videos on YouTube. Search for "Bourbon Jockey Roots Brewing" to find them. Or not.
We'll be back sometime in June, so put a hold on your entire calendar for the month. I'll keep you posted.
Step forward and prepare to be dazzled, stunned and stupefied as The Mighty Toy Cannon and the members of the acclaimed musical ensemble, Bourbon Jockey, regale you with feats of vocal virtuosity and strumming of stringed instruments in a manner most astonishing. Step back, there's no need to push, shove or jostle--there will be plenty of room for all of you without raising a ruckus.
FEAR NOT brave spectator! The burden of sadness and introspection thus launched in your heart and mind may be soothed by quaffing ales concocted through the alchemical magic of the artisans of Roots Organic Brewing Company of Southeast Portland, Oregon and poured with the steady hand of attentive servers dedicated to ministering to your needs and lubricating your parched throat with AMBROSIA.
How much would you expect to pay for an evening of entertainment that lifts the soul while edifying in such a potent fashion? What price the opportunity to hear stirring tales of sin and transgression without suffering the searing heat of BRIMSTONE upon your own reddened cheeks?
Yes, you have not misheard us, ladies and gentlemen. But let us repeat this message for the weak-minded and slow of hearing: For the price of a small portion of your leisure and sporting time, you can experience one of the most FASCINATING and CURIOUS musical experiences of the year—indeed of your entire lifetime. Many years hence, your great-grandchildren will gather around your deathbed imploring you to sacrifice your FINAL breath to tell them about the night you heard Mighty Toy Cannon and Bourbon Jockey perform at Roots Organic Brewing Company in the early weeks of the year of Two Aught Ten. Can you fathom the ignomy of admitting to your progeny that you stayed home that evening to watch television?
Don’t take our word for it, heed the insights of others who have bathed in the euphonious river of glorious sound produced by this remarkable conspiracy of musical genius:
“I liked it. It was fun, I guess. The beer was real good. The band looked like they were having fun. I have to get up early tomorrow morning,” said one delighted spectator as he left the venue in the middle of Bourbon Jockey’s penultimate public performance last year.
“They seem to be having a good time up there,” reported another audience member as she plugged her ears, presumably to forestall an overload of joyous goodwill.
Another dumbstruck listener said, “I don’t know what to say. I guess I'll fall back on something my daddy always used to say, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ I mean, who am I to define what’s good? Look, I could tell you that it wasn’t horrible, but that’s really all I feel comfortable saying right now. Why are you writing this down? I liked the beer and the servers were nice. The band did seem to be having fun, and it’s not like I had anything better to do.”
One long-time fan proffers this advice: “Try to get there early in the set because the singer seems to forget the lyrics the later it gets. Unless you like a lot of humming, you might want to arrive before they’re all drunk, though there’s a better choice of seats after the first fifteen minutes.”
If you doubt the wisdom of your neighbors and common citizens, listen to what the experts have to say. Ethnomusicologist Humphrey Von Humphrey said this after listening to an acetate recording of Bourbon Jockey:
Their harmonies are wholly unique, not only within our traditional concepts of western music but, verily, to the entirety of world culture. Their choices of harmonic intervals – and their apparent ease in shifting those intervals at a microtonal level from moment-to-moment is astonishing. I can safely say that I’ve never heard anything quite like it. The jarring and unexpected microtonal dissonance carries into their instrumental work as well. I’m telling you that it is physically impossible to get that particular sound unless you intentionally fail to tune your instruments relative to each other. Of course, that would be crazy!
Another thing that intrigues me – perhaps 'baffles' is a better term-- is the band's artistic strategies with regard to shifting rhythmic patterns and its curious selection of tempo changes. As an ensemble, they display an uncanny knack for randomly speeding, then slowing the tempo– sometimes even within the traditional verse/chorus form. It’s simply remarkable that they all manage to end each song at approximately the same time—and here I’m talking about ending within at least two measures of each other. I’m reminded of the keening and wailing that accompanies the funeral rites of some tribal cultures, particularly the Oomaomao people who are, as a race, totally deaf.
Thursday, January 7, 2009
Roots Organic Brewing Company
No Admission Fee, Cover Charge or other Consideration
Ross McKeen (aka The Mighty Toy Cannon): Singin’, guitar slingin’ and harmonica blowin'.
Alan Cole (aka The Perfesser): Six string fireworks and harmony yelpin'.
Matthew Jones (aka Matthew): Upright bass thumpin' and gravitas.
If you don't want to miss out on the best items, you really MUST drop in for the Sneak Peek event after work on Friday. For a mere $10 entry donation (kids free), you'll not only get first crack at the merchandise, but you'll have access to the all-important free beer, wine and munchies, and can snap your fingers to the cool sounds of a live jazz band. I'll be there, looking suave in my new hairpiece:
Simultaneously, I've developed a thirst for a nice refreshment during this hot weather, and even though my preferred happy hour cocktail would usually be a gin and tonic or a glass of pinot grigio, I find myself wondering what would be the most delicious beer option this evening. And with that, I'm launching Culture Shock's first reader poll. Weigh in, won't you? Seriously. I'm thirsty.
As I wrote in my inaugural post just one year ago, I seized upon the "Mighty Toy Cannon" sobriquet after reading an Oregonian article by Sara Perry. To accompany her interview with the bartender at El Gaucho, Ms. Perry printed the recipe for one of his favorite drinks: The Mighty Toy Cannon. Liking the way that name rang and sang, I promptly added it to a growing list of potential band names.* Shortly thereafter, I adopted it as my blog alias and the rest is minor history.
Legions of followers have subsequently asked for the recipe. (Really just one, and he's forgotten by now). Alas, I could neither remember it nor find it in the Oregonian's online archive. Thanks to Ms. Laura's diligent digging and Ms. Perry's impeccable record-keeping, I now have the secret of this magical elixir that shares my name.
If you have refined tastes, a pre-depression pocketbook, and a powerful thirst, you might try the official recipe during this hot July weekend. For the more impoverished of our brethren, I've provided a less costly substitute.
Mighty Toy Cannon (Elite Edition)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
1/2 ounce gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire
1/2 ounce Chambord (see Note)
Champagne, preferably brut, or Prosecco, chilled (see Note)
Long lemon zest for garnish
Rinse the inside of a champagne flute or stemmed glass with fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle the inside with powdered sugar. Add the gin, followed by the Chambord. Top with champagne and garnish with the lemon zest. Voila!
Note: Chambord is a French liqueur made from raspberries and cognac. Prosecco is the sparkling wine made predominately from an Italian white grape grown in the northern Vento region.
Mighty Toy Cannon (Great Depression II Edition)
Splash of lemon juice (use plastic lemon rather than a bottle if serving guests)
Sugar packet (from coffee shop or gas station)
½ ounce gin (whatever brand falls to hand)
Sham-bord (see Note)
2 more ounces gin
Lemon-Lime Soda, preferably 7-Up or Sprite. Tonic will do in a pinch.
Rinse out water glass and swish a little lemon juice around to disinfect. Vigorously shake the sugar packet before dumping the contents in the glass. Add ½ ounce of gin. Muddle the Sham-Bord slurry and set aside. Add the rest of the gin. Top up with 7-Up. Better add some ice too. Add gin to taste. Kazaam!
Note: Sham-bord is a tablespoon of raspberry jam (Smuckers preferred, but generic is fine) muddled with an ounce of vodka.
Here are a few other substitutes to consider during these hard times:
Depression Bloody Mary = V8 juice and flat beer
Depression Mimosa = Tang and beer
Depression Champagne: Beer and lemon-lime soda. (This might be a good time to use the Sham-Bord slurry).
* The newest addition to my band name list comes courtesy of a phrase recently used by the estimable Mead Hunter: Ink, Angst & Entropy (a trio).
Further News: The Mighty Toy Cannon is now moonlighting as a short-form improviser at the Twitter Lounge. Think of it as MTC-Lite: All the erudition and wit you've learned to tolerate, packaged in 140 characters or less. If you Tweet, please follow @mightytoycannon. Be sure to tell me that I sent you.
In previous posts, I stuck my neck out with a few predictions and/or recommendations, though this list is far from complete and is not based on careful consideration of the competition.
Best Costumes: Sarah Gagahan, "James & The Giant Peach"
Best Ensemble: "Biloxi Blues"
Courage in Full Frontal: Tim True, "Dead Funny"
Actor: Bill Christ (“Frost Nixon”)
Actress: Sharonlee McLean (“The Receptionist”)
Direction: Rose Riordan (“The Receptionist”)
Choreography: Amy Palomino (“Fabuloso”)
Sets: "How to Disappear and Never be Found"/"Frost/Nixon"
Who do you think deserves recognition for "Outstanding Achievement" this year?
Here’s the official announcement:
WHAT: 30th Anniversary Drammy Awards
WHERE: Crystal Ballroom
1332 W. Burnside St.
WHEN: Monday, June 8
6:00 PM Social hour and slide presentation
7:00 PM Awards presentation
COST: FREE ADMISSION, no-host bar and pizza
DRESS: Theatrical, elegant, innovative. Costumes are encouraged.
Welcome to the biggest all-theatre cast party’s 30th anniversary celebration. Mark your calendars and spread the word. Last year’s ceremony, featuring theatrical exuberance and flamboyant décor, drew well over 600 attendees. So plan to attend this year, because even if you don’t come with a group, there are sure to be people you know to sit and chat with.
The Masters of Ceremonies this year will be Portland favorites, actor/director Philip Cuomo and actress Maureen Porter. Expect a fun, joke-filled evening. The ceremony includes a slide show retrospective of the 2008-2009 theatre season. This year, in honor of the 30th year of the awards, we will be honoring 30 “unsung heroes” of the theatre scene, who have been suggested by area theatres.
PATA will present their “Spotlight Awards” in the main ballroom during the Drammy ceremony this year. The Spotlight Awards honor the important individuals who work behind the scenes to create great theatre. These awards are nominated and voted on by the theatre community.
The ceremony is free and open to the public, young and old.
The Drammy awards, a program of the Portland Civic Theatre Guild, are organized by the all-volunteer Drammy Committee, a group of theater artists and administrators, journalists and academics who review well over 100 productions in a season that ends May 24. In order to be considered for a 2009 Drammy Award, a production must be locally produced and has to have run at least eight performances (not including previews) by May 24. Because the awards are presented for “outstanding achievement” rather than “best of”, there is no list of nominees and from 0 to 4 awards may be presented in each category in any given year. Award categories are flexible in order to reflect the work presented in any given year.
(1) Finally watched “No Country for Old Men,” and was blown away (a distasteful word choice, I know). The best Coen Bros. film ever? Quite possibly … if you have the nerves and stomach for violent action. Javier Bardem is incredible as the psychopathic killer, but Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones are his equals. The cinematography is as stunning as a blow to the forehead from a cattle gun (again, sorry). I’ve put the Cormac McCarthy novel on reserve at the library.
(2) Drank beer and ate a huge Black Pepper and Beer Sausage over an extended happy hour at the Hopworks Urban Brewery (aka “The HUB”) on SE Powell. Being our first visit, we started by sharing the beer sampler (8 x 3 oz tasters), before settling on the Hopworks IPA; its delectable hint of crisp citrus was a perfect fit for the sunny afternoon. We met up with a colleague and long-time friend who is now part of Profile Theatre’s management team. If we’d poured a few more pints into him, we might have been able to break the secret of which playwright Profile will feature next year. He stayed mum, so we’ll have to wait for the official announcement later this month.
(3) Read the NY Times, including a review of the Nines Hotel which concluded: “Fashionable and comfortable, the Nines provides a chic haven to guests who might need a breather from Portland’s grittier scene.” That led to discussion of where exactly is that gritty scene in Portland?
(4) Politely asked the busker wailing under our window to move along to another location so we could enjoy the spring evening with our windows open. So much for supporting the arts. Oh … there’s the gritty scene—literally under our noses!
I need to apologize to our readers, to artists and to all who support the inclusion of arts funding in the economic stimulus package. Like you, I’ve been reading about how the “batshit crazy” rightwing anti-culturalists have been maligning arts funding as non-stimulative pork. I was just as disappointed as you to learn that Senators Wyden and Merkley voted for a stimulus bill that included this egregious amendment from Senator Coburn:
None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.
I was dismayed to learn that a recent editorial in the National Review sarcastically opined that increased funding for the NEA would mean that "the unemployed can fill their days attending abstract-film festivals and sitar concerts."
Then it all started to sound vaguely familiar. I got a sinking feeling that I may have inadvertently contributed to the problem. A quick scan of my files brought the memory back and verified my complicity: Just last year I wrote a grant proposal to the NEA on behalf of a regional arts organization. (Professional ethics and common decency bar me from revealing the client's name). The proposal must have been leaked to the Republicans by a disgruntled grant panelist! Since the project is unlikely to be funded, I will share a synopsis of the proposal:
Describe the Project: [NAME REDACTED], Oregon’s leading collective of multidisciplinary dance, theater and abstract film artists, seeks NEA funding for a project through which it will engage the community in dialogue that will inform a co-creative process of examining, exploring and explicating the multidimensional intersections and interstices between consumer culture, Wall Street fraud and organized religion. The site-specific, time-based performative project will draw upon influences as diverse as Andres Serrano, Karen Finley and Robert Mapplethorpe. Seminal materials will be used. We mean urine.
The project’s artistic collaborators will construct a temporary public art installation on the eighteenth hole of the Bandon Springs Golf Resort. This site was selected to provide opportunities for broad-based cultural access to underserved rural communities. The installation will consist of two vitrines to be fabricated, in situ, by 48 glass artists using recycled wine bottles melted in massive anagama kilns. Each vitrine will measure 20’ x 20’ x 20’ (8,000 cubic feet) and will be filled with liquid.
The first vitrine will represent the primeval ocean from which all life evolved. It will be filled with sweat collected from 800 dance artists commissioned to perform an extended choreographic masterwork in a giant dry heat sauna to be constructed in the abandoned warehouses of Laika Studios. At risk youth from inner-city neighborhoods will be employed to scrape the sweat from the dancer’s bodies over the course of the 18-month dance performance.
Once the vitrine is filled with the salty fluid, hundreds of chinook salmon will be released into it. Their futile attempts to migrate and spawn will be accompanied by a techno-industrial score performed by a 32 piece sitar orchestra and four dozen unemployed construction workers with jackhammers. The salmon will then be slaughtered by marauding sea lions in a bloody orgy of classist oppression.
A live video feed will be sent by fiber optic cable to a state-of-the art Imax theater to be constructed at a remodeled Oregon Aquarium (
The second vitrine will be filled with urine. Members of
Once this vitrine is filled, a figure of Jesus Christ suspended in a zero-gravity chair will be smeared with dung and chocolate and submerged. The vitrine will be lit by more rotating pastel lights (or perhaps primary colors this time). The artistic co-creators will initiate intra-, extra- and inter-community dialoguing sessions to find, create and shape meaning.
The link to the article is here:
But of course, once I finished reading this (and was exhausted just thinking about how many miles of pavement pounding he did to avoid the tube fares!), I of course thought about how you could do this in Portland. The equivalent amount of money in US currency is $100; but I don’t think you’d need that much to have a great week in Portland culture! I think $50 would be a great test.
I just think about the past 10 days I spent in Portland without even consciously trying to make it a cultural junket experiment. I attended 4 free play readings; three were part of the JAW Festival at PCS, where I happen to work, but the readings were FREE to all and everyone. Of the three workshops I attended at JAW, one was a preview of Storm Large’s autobiographical piece Crazy Enough, slated for full production next spring. And hey, people lined up around the block to get in, and it was a free performance by one of Portland’s hottest singer/actors. And the fourth was a fascinating new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens presented at Artists Rep by the Upon these Boards company. It featured 17 amazing actors (and was practically a family reunion of people who worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the 1980s and 1990s), and was a resonant and relevant reworking of one of the Bard’s least known plays.
In addition, I enjoyed two happy hour evenings (one at Fenouil, one at the Deluxe Hotel) where cocktails and some delicious happy hour snacks didn’t break my bank, and would have come in well under the experimental budget.
Then there was the free Music on Main concert offered by the Portland Center for the Performing Arts which, admittedly, I just strolled by, pausing briefly to enjoy the music. But if I HAD been on a culture experiment…well, you get the picture. I could have also attended a performance of the free Shakespeare in the Parks production of Two Gentlemen of Verona which just got a pretty nice review in the Oregonian; and with our abundance of public art, picking up a public art map guide and taking a walk around the city (much more compact than London, and much less traffic!) to view it would save even more dollars for…another happy hour.
Now, I happen to think culture is worth spending my money on, but I also love to think that the option is abundantly present to enjoy Portland's cultural offerings even when the wallet is feeling a little bit thin...
Ain’t art grand?