PDX Spotlight focuses on Brass Tacks – Oregon Country

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Fulfilling a musical bucket list dream, Oregon Country band Brass Tacks played their hearts out on PDX Spotlight last night. Their episode will appear in May, but Portland Notes can’t wait to share our excitement about this band of “brothers”, who are so earnest about what they do. The Brass Tacks are friends as well as bandmates, and most of their songs are actually fairly literal, describing experiences they have shared along their musical travels. These musicians connect with their audiences with relatable and recognizable stories – and they really do connect! They’ve been given priceless gifts from their admirers – listen to the interview below to hear two special stories that brought tears to my eyes. The passion to connect with their audience is evident even in the way these men speak about their music.

Brass-Tacks-at-PDX-Spotlight-on-02-03-16-06Oregon Country is a label that was casually applied to this band, but the band has embraced the name – it’s a little bit blues, a little bit rock, a lot of energy, and a complete transparency of expression. With their current musical influences being drawn from a variety of genres, their music is anything but basic. Oregon Country also means something more to them than just a style – the songs are about Oregon experiences, Oregon journeys, and Oregon hopes and dreams. Here is a link to one song about the Oregon Trail journey – “Pioneer.”

Brass-Tacks-at-PDX-Spotlight-on-02-03-16-10At a live show, a listener will be a friend by the end of the night because there is something to identify with in every single song. The Brass Tacks are releasing a new album soon – hoping to start revealing songs in March, they introduced the new songs on PDX Spotlight and shared the stories in an interview afterward. I particularly loved the song “Small Town Drunk!” Who among us hasn’t said, “You can’t cut me off”? Maybe not to a bartender, but perhaps to a partner or an employer…we’ve all been desperate at times. Bonding with audiences over common ground creates a comfort and familiarity that continues to draw crowds to see and hear Brass Tacks.

Brass-Tacks-at-PDX-Spotlight-on-02-03-16-08Portland Notes would like to thank Mike Burling for inviting us to witness the show – Mike and his impressive volunteer crew spend their time and energy to support and promote local artists, an effort that we appreciate and admire. Mike will appear on Portland Radio Project’s “Sounds of PDX” show to talk about his project, and why local music holds a special place in his heart. Luke Neill hosts Thursday night, February 11- 7-9 PM on www.prp.fm.

Have a listen to Kelly’s notable conversation with Brass Tacks and check out all the photos she took as PDX Spotlight was recording.

Tyler Stenson; A special tribute to the Counting Crows

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Star Theater was the place to be Saturday night because Tyler Stenson drew a packed house for his tribute show in homage to the band he gives credit to for his music styling. A listening party at a friend’s 14 years ago forever changed his songwriting approach. He counts himself as the love child of Josh Ritter and the Counting Crows, but Adam Duritz and Counting Crows came first. Without them, he might have ended up a country musician but instead he has forged his path along what he calls, “Elegant Folk.”

Tyler-Stenson's-Counting-Crows-Tribute-on-01-30-16-18Not only is Tyler a talented musician with a gift for vivid storytelling, he is also a savvy engineer of social media and through this has developed a massive group of devoted fans, often tagged, #TeamTyler. He is always looking for new and creative ways to reach an audience so in an effort to start off the New Year with something different, he decided to put his own music aside for one night in order to play the music of his all-time biggest influence. Thus, the Counting Crows Tribute Concert featuring Tyler and the Black-Winged Birds was conceived. The Black-Winged Birds, was comprised of members from his former Wyoming band, Lander, as well as other local musicians he has shared a stage with at times; Corey Kintzi, Matt Putnam, Ken Hess, Arcellus Sykes, Erin Adkisson, Jean-Pierre Garau, Peter Rodocker, and Ravi Gadad.

Tyler-Stenson's-Counting-Crows-Tribute-on-01-30-16-14His set list covered CC’s Greatest Hits from “August and Everything After,” “Recovering the Satellites,” “This Desert Life,” and “Hard Candy,” 1993-2002. Starting off with “Round Here,” the audience was instantly engaged by singing along to words they knew well. Portland certainly has a fondness for its tribute bands and it’s not hard to realize why when you go to a show like this one that is full of tight musicianship that does the name band justice. You could tell from the smile on their faces that performing this music was one of pure joy, with each artist putting their all into their role.

Tyler-Stenson's-Counting-Crows-Tribute-on-01-30-16-27Watching Tyler onstage throughout the night was like seeing the young Tyler that was smitten by his mentor Adam Duritz and band. His ear to ear grin never left his face, and his entire being was thrown into this performance. At one point leading up to the show, Adam Duritz retweeted Tyler’s tweet, endorsing the show. It was recorded live, so hopefully, Adam will get to watch it and see that Tyler did him well.

Tyler-Stenson's-Counting-Crows-Tribute-on-01-30-16-03It is often a guessing game to see how many will come out on any given night, and that was certainly the case here. Any fears of a small crowd were quickly put to rest as the theater filled to just under capacity. From the first bars of music to the very last note, the entire audience was captivated. Sometimes one can go to a show and feel that magic is in the making, and Saturday’s show was definitely one of those times. It didn’t take long to realize the night was a success, and one that bears repeating. Fortunately, for all those Tyler Stenson fans, we will be rewarded with another.

Find a bunch of pictures of this special evening in the Portland Notes Photo Album.

The Amazing Taco Crawl of January, 2016 – Hawthorne District

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Portland Notes successfully negotiated the first of many food crawls this past weekend. With over 80 years of combined taco-eating experience, San Diego-based John McKinnis and Austin-raised Kelly Jones covered 5 taco restaurants and food carts in a straight 16 block walk on Hawthorne. Following are reviews of the tacos, along with a photo album of our food adventure, average meal prices, and an invitation to participate in our next event!

The-Amazing-Taco-Crawl-of-January-2016-01Por Que No at 4635 SE Hawthorne opens for brunch at 11 AM on Saturdays, making it especially difficult to stick to our “Tacos Only” policy of the day. We started the day by asking servers and customers to recommend their favorite items.
Tacos average $3.50-$4.50 each – drink options are phenomenal. Por Que No offers a variety of freshly made juice-based beverages that can be combined with alcohol to create all manner of delicious naughtiness. The chips and salsa are made in-house. We sampled the Al Pastor and Pescado tacos. Al Pastor rub was full of flavor, that good balance of heat and flavor we were hoping for. The fish in the Pescado taco was breaded in cornmeal, and topped with a pineapple slaw. My favorite part of this experience was seeing other taco orders coming out of the kitchen – the garnishes on each style of taco are unique and carefully conceived to give a range of taste sensation in every bite. Mucho Gusto! Por Que No offers a seasonal vegetable taco and has vegan options.
Advice: Order before you are seated, as the dining room is very busy from open to close.

The-Amazing-Taco-Crawl-of-January-2016-03Pepinos at 3832 SE Hawthorne is an unassuming casual restaurant that reminds me very much of what I grew up with in Texas – extremely varied menu with a variety of daily specials, ranging from tamales to soup, tostadas, full meals, and more. Chips and access to the fresh salsa bar are complimentary.
We selected a 2 taco special for $5.95, which included a drink. Pescado again – fish tacos were interpreted differently in each restaurant we tried, but Pepinos served the most familiar style – a breaded portion topped with classic cabbage and a secret recipe sauce. Served in a grilled, double wrapped tortilla, this was also probably the most filling taco of the entire crawl. We also consumed the heck out of a chorizo taco, which was satisfyingly spicy. The best part about Pepinos’ atmosphere was the level of comfort – service was very friendly, and the roomy dining room hosted a variety of enjoyable conversations as strangers became friendly at the salsa bar.
Advice: Don’t rush – ask questions. There is so much variety, but everyone is very friendly.

The-Amazing-Taco-Crawl-of-January-2016-05Cha! Cha! Cha! at 3433 SE Hawthorne may be the best reflection of the neighborhood, with the emphasis on healthy, responsible, and sustainable choices. The menu educates customers about where the ingredients are gathered, and why they are personally and universally healthy.
Tacos average $3.50-$4.50 individually – margaritas are available. We were given a basket of warm chips and a few salsas to choose from while we waited for our tacos to be made-to-order. Pescado tacos here offer a choice of white fish or salmon. We selected the grilled wild-caught white fish (such a difficult choice!) and the Del Dia, which is a fresh, seasonal veggie taco of the day. The tacos are served in house-made, thick corn tortillas that taste like corn – every ingredient in these tacos stood on its own. The pickled red cabbage on the fish was delicious, but not overpowering – important, because the fish was delicate, flaky, and absolutely stunning. The veggie taco was one of many vegetarian and vegan options. What we like most about Cha! Cha! Cha!? A responsible restaurant that promotes local sustainability and focuses on our health – what’s not to love?
Advice: Have fun and try new things: you can feel good about yourself when you leave!

The-Amazing-Taco-Crawl-of-January-2016-07Neza is a food stand located in the 3300 block of SE Hawthorne, directly outside House Of Vintage. No seating, so be prepared to walk and eat. The tacos are compact and not overly messy, so it’s completely doable.
Most selections are only $1.50 each, and the canned drinks were just $1.00. Because these tacos were smaller, we tried 3 options: Grilled chicken, Al Pastor, and a basic vegetarian taco. Served in foil, and ready for mobility, these tacos were double wrapped in grilled tortillas, and the basic street food we expected to find, filling and simple. The veggie taco with whole pinto beans, rice, fresh tomato and monterey jack cheese was a reminder of home! Waiting for the tacos, we could hear the comforting sounds of meat sizzling on the grill – Pretty impressive lunch for $5.50.
Advice: No seating, so just be aware. Tacos are on the smaller side, so add an extra for good measure. When you’re finished – check out House Of Vintage.

The-Amazing-Taco-Crawl-of-January-2016-10Our final stop was La Morenita in the 3100 block of SE Hawthorne. There’s a small covered seating area attached to the stand, which was greatly appreciated on this cold, drizzly day.
Tacos are $1.75 each, for the most part. La Morenita offers a full menu of Mexican delights, but the tacos were definitely a popular item. We chose a chorizo taco with avocado salsa and a tilapia pescado. The tacos are full-size, double-shelled, and overstuffed (which is a good thing) with fillings. The fish taco was so full that we had to take a few pieces out before we could pick up the taco! For the price, these tacos were very impressive! I’ve had burritos here before, and had to share with a friend. No skimping here!
Advice: Ask the fantastically helpful person at the window for a recommendation. So many good options!

This was a great first attempt at a crawl – no one was injured, and we still love tacos! Portland Notes will announce the next crawl in advance – if you have a review or a comment, we’d love to hear and share it!

THE JUNEBUGS – “Home to Me” Album release 2/21/16

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HomeToMeAs someone who grew up listening to bluegrass, folk, gospel & true Americana music, the Junebugs have officially won over my heart. ‘Home To Me‘ is their latest release. Between the incredible harmonies & intricate layers of each instrument played on this album, it’s easy to hear the soul & honesty in each track. As a newborn fan of The Junebugs, and speaking to any other current/future fans of them, the best way I could describe them would be a cross between Neil Young & The Zac Brown Band. Frontman Moses Barrett delivers both soul & strength in his performance on the entirety of this record.

JuneBugsWhat captivated me the most from this record was their rendition of Foster The People‘s groundbreaking hit song “Pumped Up Kicks”. I loved this song many years ago, and this track has reignited all the feels I had all those years ago for this song, and then some. The title track “Home To Me” is an instant classic for The Junebugs. As soon as the guitar line at the beginning of the song begins, it’s hard not to feel the nostalgia & familiarity of growing up in The Great Northwest. The official release date on this album is February 21st at The Secret Society, which will be followed by numerous performances at venues such as Hotel Monaco & McMenamin’s Grand Lodge.

In anticipation of the upcoming release, Portland Radio Project’s Rob Rainwater will host The Junebugs for an interview regarding their most recent projects on Sunday 2/14 (Valentines day, lovebugs!).

FREE Marketing Help for Musicians – no “strings” attached!

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Sunday, January 24 was an historic day for Portland musicians! J-Fell Presents, Vortex Magazine, mogo Portland Music Festival, and Portland Radio Project hosted a free musicians’ marketing meetup (“meetup” is to “seminar” as “sellout rock show” is to “recital”) where the local music community joined to ask questions about social media marketing, where to invest marketing dollars, timing, venue cooperation and more. Portland Notes was there to get the scoop!

Frank Rinaldi
Frank Rinaldi

The expert panel consisted of music marketing mentors who volunteered their time and expertise to help musicians help themselves. Mike Walker of McMenamins Pubs, Breweries, and Historic Hotels, Ned Failing from Pickathon, Revolution Hall, and Mississippi Studios and Frank Rinaldi of the Doug Fir Lounge and The Bite of Oregon were very candid with their expectations and their willingness to cooperate with a band’s marketing efforts. Jason Fellman of J-Fell Presents, Harefest. and mogo Portland Music Festival offered his advice from a promoter’s viewpoint, stressing professionalism and straight-up good musicianship. In fact, the general message from all panelists was, “Be Brilliant!” – a motto we may hear often from attendees over the next few months.

Jason Fellman
Jason Fellman

Mike Burling from PDX Spotlight and Chris Young from Vortex Music Magazine both stressed the importance of creating content – building assets that can be shared with venues and the general public. This content can come in many forms. Once it is shared, it is a contagious and powerful force to propel a band’s image. Portland Notes spoke regarding content, communication, and cross-promotion. Audience members openly described their personal experiences – successes and failures.

Ned Failing
Ned Failing

So much was shared in the meeting, that it is impossible to cover all the topics in a short article. We’ve gathered two snippets of panelist instruction regarding social media, which was definitely a hot topic of the day. For more information, follow the PDX Musicians’ Marketing page on Facebook. These seminars will be happening at regular intervals, and will cover a variety of topics related to successfully marketing a band or solo project.

Sharing local artists with Portland and the world