Tag Archives: McMenamins Al’s Den

Laryssa Birdseye Finds Common Ground and Unites Us in a Song

Laryssa Birdseye is unstoppable. In September she released “So What?”, her brilliant debut full length album. In December two days before Christmas she released an inspired new song, “Can’t Cry on Christmas”, and music video. Then on Feb 14 she released another new song and music video, “Save Us From Us.” It was an unplanned coincidence that “Save Us From Us” was released on the same day as the Parkland, Florida school shooting. She had actually written the song more than a year prior, as a response to the 2016 election, and had planned to release the video as a Valentine’s Day love song to all of us. The song and music video have ended up being symbolic as the whole country mourns the loss of 17 people and engages in a debate over the right to own automatic rifles. Great art reflects the world we live in, as this song does.

Link to video

Laryssa’s lyrics and her own thoughtful description of the song best convey what this song is about and what it means to her.

The world looks darker today, what a strange sky.
It’s nothing we’ve not seen before, another day another headline
So listen up now, and hear who’s to blame, or who to fear, or who to kill, or who to hate this time around, and we grow full on information. Lies are tainted, laced with malice and we’ve fallen to the ground. We’ve fallen down.
So where do we go from here? How do we change?
In a heart filled with fear, what still remains?
Maybe I’m not sure right now. Maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s cliche to say, but maybe it could be love.
Maybe it could save us from us.
Give a man a dollar
Give another man a billion
Teach a man to be a scholar
Teach another man to kill, and
We end up with a mess that we cannot contain
We’ve been tricked into thinking we are not the same
So where do we go from here? How do we change?
In a heart filled with fear, what still remains?
Maybe I’m not sure right now. Maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s cliche to say, but maybe it could be love.
Maybe it could save us from us.
You are not my enemy
You are not my enemy
You are not my enemy
And I am not yours
Maybe I’m not sure right now. Maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s cliche to say, but maybe it could be love.
Maybe I’m not sure right now. Maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s cliche to say, but maybe it could be love.
Maybe it could save us from us
From us, from us, from us
Save us from us
Save us from us

“I wrote Save Us From Us around January of 2017. After the stress and fatigue of a long election year gone terribly awry (or perfectly predictably, depending on who you asked), I was tired. It seemed like every day you heard a story of another person of color gunned down in the streets by the police, another muslim immigrant getting beaten or bullied because of their culture and religion, or another woman having to fight her hardest to bring her rapist/abuser to justice, all while getting torn down in the public eye for being too flirtatious, too drunk, too anything. It also seemed like the place I lived in, this political bubble that Portland can often be, was truly not immune to what the rest of the country was experiencing. I began to realize that Portland is not the haven that I had once thought it was. This country has some real issues. If one group does not have justice, then none of us have justice, none of us have peace. I began writing this song as something more politically overt, I wanted to truly rage against what I thought was unjust, but then something happened. I had felt so hopeless about the world, about the situation we have found ourselves in, that I realized I could not contribute more to that message. The chorus just came out of me, in a shy way, as I realized that I am truly hopeful about the future. Is love the answer to all of our problems? Not in any practical sense of how to fix racial/gender/socioeconomic disparities in this country. I truly think it’s about redistribution of wealth and radical reform in our education system so we know what this country was founded on. Not this narrative we get served in public school, but the REAL history of this nation. We have to rip the bandaid off and look deep at that wound in order to figure out how to heal it. But I do think that radical love, radical understanding and radical compassion is necessary in order to bridge these gaps that divide us. I understand my place in this country as a white woman; that I benefit from many privileges given to me merely by my skin color. I want so much to spend my life using that privilege for good, in any meaningful way possible. It is my aspiration as a songwriter, as a musician, and as a person to speak out about injustice, to be the best ally that I can be, and to listen. I think, at the very essence of it, we are all people that want love, that want to be understood, and that want to be safe. That is what unites us. It is up to all of us to ensure that we are all given the same opportunities, that we fight for what is right, and not to react, or hate out of fear. Fear divides. Love unites. I know it all sounds cliche in a song, but that’s all I have figured out at this point.” -Laryssa Birdseye

Catch Laryssa’s residency at Al’s Den during the week of March 4-10 and at the Old Church on March 15. She is amazing to hear live and makes the world a better place. Keep up with her upcoming events on fb and her website.

Al’s Den Resident Jeff Campbell: Portland takes care of her own!

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Jeff Campbell is visiting from San Francisco, but he says Portland feels like his hometown of Philadelphia. Both cities are full of love for their residents – supporting local artists and creating programs that encourage creativity in the community. Campbell is not technically a local (Portland) musician, but he is playing alongside some of our city’s familiar favorite faces. For example: Nathan Earle of The Get Ahead, Wil Kinky, Redwood Son and Tyler Stenson have, or will be joining Campbell on stage this week, providing a common theme with a unique twist every night of the residency. In the audio interview, Campbell discusses his writing process, the journey that led him to accept an Al’s Den residency, and what inspires him to keep growing as a musician.

Als-Den-Resident-Jeff-Campbell-03Campbell has a very balanced approach to writing – sometimes a lyric gets him going, but sometimes it’s a drumbeat or a particular melody. He follows his heart when writing, and that’s his advice to growing musicians. Campbell’s friend and fans say that he has a signature sound, regardless of the initial inspiration. He says, “write when you feel like it, pay attention to what inspires you, and go where you are led.: He loves the entire process of making music – from the initial brainstorming to the studio recording sessions. If it’s creative, Campbell is enjoying it.

Als-Den-Resident-Jeff-Campbell-02In fact, Campbell enjoys most of what he does – he’s got a light-hearted and positive approach to his “job”, citing such influences as handshakes and the Beatles in the same sentence. He’s been very wise to invite like-minded guest artists to join him every night. The stage banter is guaranteed to be hilarious! Campbell is a musician who appreciates that all artists have a different process, but he just happens to have chosen guest artists who complement his personality perfectly…or maybe he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Als-Den-Resident-Jeff-Campbell-01Campbell is totally devoted to his music, and he tends to work with equally persistent artists – he has formed a new rock project in the Bay Area, Static and Surrender is a group of mates who have played together off and on for years, always hoping for a chance to combine efforts on a project. They are looking forward to being active and developing their ideas in a timely manner because all the members are fully committed to their music! They are just getting started, but definitely a band we will be following!

Als-Den-Resident-Jeff-Campbell-04For now, you can find Campbell on Facebook and on the web by googling him. He encourages seekers to look past the ads for Jeff Campbell shoes. He says the shoes are high-end, but we say the music is better. He’ll be at Al’s Den tonight through Saturday 6/4. Shows are 7-10PM and totally free, in McMenamins Al’s Den. Come early, and expect to stay late, as Campbell and his guests are very responsive to their audiences.

Check out Jeff’s video on his Facebook Page.

McMenamins Al’s Den Presents: The Garcia Birthday Band!

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The Garcia Birthday Band pulls off an amazing feat at McMenamins Al’s Den this week! Starting last Sunday night and going through this Saturday, the band is playing solid 3 hour shows 7-10PM every night without repeating a single song! There is no setlist, the band members seem to read each other’s minds, and the staff and audience cannot get enough!

Garcia-Birthday-Band-at-Als-Den-in-May-2016-01Having been playing for almost 20 years, The Garcia Birthday Band has created an extensive playlist including such artists as Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Cliff, Traffic, Dr. John, Merle Haggard, The Meters, Neville Brothers, Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, James Brown, Warren Zevon, Rev. Gary Davis, Marty Robbins, Bruce Cockburn, Phish, and Peter Tosh, just to name a few… No two shows are ever alike and the band always strives to bring a true-to-life traditional vibe to each and every performance! The band focuses on their very loyal audiences, playing all around the Portland area, and serving up music that is danceable and designed to foster community spirit.

Garcia-Birthday-Band-at-Als-Den-in-May-2016-03The staff at McMenamins absolutely adore the band, made up of Arthur Steinhorn (drums), Scott Gillan (bass/vocals), Justin Pacuska (guitar/vocals), Peter Bach (guitar/vocals) and Adam King (keyboards/vocals). The men are skilled and capable with equipment, talented and communicative on stage, and beloved by their audiences. Concert listeners come with the intent of having a great time, eating and drinking, dancing and listening. The mood is energized and mellow at the same time.

Garcia-Birthday-Band-at-Als-Den-in-May-2016-02In this interview with Garcia Birthday Band drummer Arthur Steinhorn, learn about the origins of the band, the motivation behind their project, and how the band manages their seemingly effortless non-verbal communication on stage. This band is tied into the heart of our community,creating connection ,through deeply meaningful music, across age and social boundaries. Enjoy the interview, and please check out the band’s webpage, Facebook and Soundcloud sites. You can also catch them tonight through 5/28, 7-10PM at McMenamins Al’s Den.

Heartwood – Heartwarming Music to be released May 27!

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The scene on a memorable Thursday night in April 2016 was intoxicating from start to finish – I was lucky enough to catch Jack Dwyer before he began his mid-week residency show at McMenamin’s Al’s Den. Then, I hopped on a bus down to Portland City Grill for their delicious Happy Hour and saw a rainbow flirting, then fully displayed, then doubled – all within an hour!

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Grabbing my umbrella, I flew back to Al’s Den to catch Jack’s show…whew! Just made it! And then came Gordon Keepers and Elisabeth Pixley-Fink with their duo EP release: Heartwood! The rainbow paled in comparison to the natural beauty these two created with their perfectly blended vocals. The room literally vibrated when they gently slid from some chords into unison or vice versa. They sang as two people with one voice, one breathing pattern, one manner of phrasing. Perfectly in tune in every way!

Heartwood-Heartwarming-Music-03Elisabeth and Gordon opened up with her singing alone over his bass playing. The contrast between her pure high tones and the deep resonance of the bass completely silenced the rest of the room. Then, they quickly moved into more animated pieces, adding drums and mandolin, inviting the audience to stomp, clap and dance along. Staying true to folk roots, Heartwood reflects the spirit and ambience of Portland, Oregon, and the Northwest. Every song on the CD references something we can all relate to: naturally occurring tangibles like water and dust, or natural feelings we’ve all had. The music is in and of the Great Northwest, with songs that reference even specific intersections in Portland. The song “Burnside and 17th” was about a spot within very easy walking distance of where we sat to hear them perform it!

Heartwood-Heartwarming-Music-01The songs are based upon themes we can all identify with – coming from a variety of emotional birthplaces. Gorgeous vocals blend beautifully with classic instrument choices. The EP was engineered by Evan Mersky at Red Lantern Studio in Portland. Joined by string genius Jack Dwyer on electric guitar and mandolin, and Sam Weiss on fiddle, the combination is absolutely stunning.

Heartwood-Heartwarming-Music-02What a lovely night – I wasn’t expecting to hear anyone other than Jack and his band. Gordon and Elisabeth’s Heartwood was a treat, and I’m so happy that I was able to hear this fresh project! You can find the band online at Facebook or on Gordon’s homepage. Look for the new Heartwood CD, available for pre-order on Earthwork Music’s website.

The American West at Al’s Den – Matthew Zeltzer

The-American-West-at-Als-Den-FIThanks to McMenamin’s for continuing to support a true artist residency program at Al’s Den and Ringler’s Annex! Every week, Portland residents can sit shoulder to shoulder with visitors to our city and enjoy a personal musical experience with outstanding artists. This program allows a resident to create and host a week of events with special musical guests who fit a theme or an idea that is echoed throughout the week. This current week was hosted by resident Matthew Zeltzer and The American West. In this thought-provoking interview, he speaks to the purpose behind his music, some events and stories that have influenced him, and shares his perspective on the state of the world today.

The-American-West-at-Als-Den-03I think what I love about most singer-songwriters is the way they put their experiences into a form that is accessible for all. Songs touch us with melodies, tone, lyrics, dynamics – but what really does it for me is an honest story that I can relate to. It’s hard sometimes for an artist to share experiences or observations that are painful or perhaps difficult for a listener to process. However, it seems to be that the musicians who are willing to take risks by revealing the core of their passion communicate most deeply with their audiences. Music that goes in one ear and out the other without affecting the artist or the audience seems empty somehow. Zeltzer is all about laying it on the line and telling the truth. He realizes that his songs are a way to share what really matters, and not to just gloss over the pain and obstacles that exist in the world today. In an effort to give back to the community, The American West is working with Portland’s Outside In, an organization that works to assist homeless youth and other marginalized people in moving towards health and self-sufficiency.

The-American-West-at-Als-Den-02The American West actually gets slightly political – in that the band takes responsibility for their world footprint. Having spent time both on farms in the United States and in Europe, with a vast amount of travel experience, Zeltzer is familiar with national and world challenges. He wants to use his musician’s voice to call attention to things we can affect for the better. The songs are artful, not preachy – and some are completely metaphorical. I loved the story he told in song about the girl who could bring dead animals back to life. She was afraid to share her ability until she met a boy who could communicate with his dead relatives. Where that story goes in my mind creates a whole series of questions about power and responsibility – but during those few moments, I just enjoyed Zeltzer’s voice and guitar.

The-American-West-at-Als-Den-01Finding a woman who might have restarted his own heart, Zeltzer formed The American West with Maria Maita-Keppeler and is back in his hometown of Portland creating an album, hopefully and to be released this year. With help from fans and a Kickstarter campaign, they are off to a good start. You can catch The American West now through Saturday 5/21/16 at Al’s Den. Joining them throughout the rest of the residency week are Austin Quattlebaum from Crow and the Canyon, Lewi Longmire and an American Forrest, Moody Little Sister, Young Elk, Mike Coykendall, and Dead Men Talking. As the week progresses, videographer Nate Garcia is posting nightly videos on the band’s Facebook page. Next week, the band plays with The Sam Chase and the Untraditional, MAITA, and Brad Parsons at Alberta Street Pub. For now, please enjoy the audio interview and the official “Heart of Stone” video.