Sketchy locations, great performances, and undiscovered food

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Last night was a little bit bizarro. Kim and I ended up hooking up with [info]vectorb, which was cool! She got to meet him for the first time. As for the rest of the night, Vector was right in describing the place as a speakeasy.

So, basically, Kim's new dance troupe went to perform at this… place. I'm not going to call it a bar because no drinks were [legally] available — although there were a few people with glasses of wine. The place (at first) seemed SKetchy, with a capital SK. The entrance is an unmarked door next to Tube that opens to a long and narrow staircase. You follow that up to the second floor and around a hallway, past several doors. A couple were opened into what appeared to be shanty-apartments with not-quite-homeless looking people hanging out in the doorways. You then take a second equally long and narrow staircase up to the third floor, pass through a doorway, and end up in what could only be an apartment-turned-public-space. The graffiti-covered brick walls had couches pushed up against them. On one wall, a stove was being used as a table. The little kitchenette was a refreshment station, with a few bowls of potato chips. At one end of the room was a little raised stage and at the center of the room was a wobbily chrome dance pole on a pedestal.

We got there a bit early. At the time, the sort of people milling about were (a) bellydancers and (b) other. “Other” included a weathered man with big, bushy white beard and pointy mustache, who spoke a bit too loud for being indoors. He also seemed to be missing a few teeth as well as his right arm and insisted on being called Santa Clause. At random, he would whip out a harmonica and play a few bars, only to quickly put it away again.

Okay, so that's the setup for the night. I came into this scene with significantly different expectations, having gone to plenty of bellydance events in nice bars and dance studios before, so I wasn't quite prepared. Additionally, I had just come home from a long day of work and was perhaps not in the best of moods at the start of the night. I have to admit that the whole thing turned out to be pretty good, as you'll see.

The evening and from what I gather, the performance space itself, was a sort of open-mic event. Santa Clause, who was introduced as “Lefty,” opened the night. He had a harmonica holder around his neck and some kind of contraption attached to his arm-stump with duct tape and saran wrap, which later turned out to be a guitar pick holder. He got up on stage and played, simultaneously, the guitar and harmonica. He actually turned out to be a pretty good blues musician and all-around funny and likable guy.

Kim's group went on next. They started with a great candle dance, although that opinion may be a bit biased because I'm a sucker for any performance involving flames: candle dance, fire poi, fire dance, fire eating, fire juggling, Survival Research Laboratories, etc. After a few more dances, Kim came out with her giant wings. Space was a little tight for the full wingspan, but she pulled it off beautifully. Everyone loved her dancing and I have to attribute that partly to her excellent dancing and partly to the fact that she was on the floor, among the audience, and not up on stage like the rest of the performances. Her short, but good, dance was followed by a Bhangra dance–a sort of Indian techno.

After this, the dance troupe left, but we stuck around for the next act — a band with little Casio keyboard, bigass bass, and little [bongo?] drumkit. They performed improv songs, taking titles from the audience. Their only rule was that they didn't play existing songs — so no “PLAY FREEBIRD, MAN!” I'm not sure they made music I'd want to listen to later, again and again, but it was really fun to watch live. It was entertaining to have an audience member yell out “parking garages” and for the band members to huddle for a second, one of them starting out with a rhythm they think fits the title, then the rest of them joining, and trying to figure out lyrics on the fly. It was even a bit educational to see the songmaking process, live in realtime. The songs ranged from “snail love” to “hero for hire” to “broccoli and masturbation.”

We departed to the Doug Fir just as a standup comedian took the stage and started talking about Kramer and the N-word. I'm actually pleasantly surprised by the Doug Fir. I avoided going to it until now because (1) although I knew they have a restaurant, it never really registered in my brain that they do and (2) hipster concerts: bleh. As it turns out, they have a decent selection and quality of diner-style food, several good beers on tap (alongside the hipster favorites like Pabst), and they're open until 4am. Vector, Kim, and I dined and chatted and had a great time until it was past time to turn into a pumpkin.

Overall, it was a great night!

Posted in: Dear Diary Portland

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