Category Archives: Notable Performances

Show reports

Jacob Westfall at McMenamins Kennedy School on 02-25-16

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Portland Notes stopped by McMenamins Kennedy School last night to catch Jacob Westfall‘s “Be Right Back” show. ​This is his last Portland show for a few months because he’s taking off for Nashville to hone his craft, do some networking, and see what’s next.

Jacob is a young man who seems much older and wiser than his chronological age, with a music background that started at the age of 7 when he began playing the piano influenced by his older sister’s music tastes. Actually, the entire Westfall family has varying degrees of musicality, and his father still plays guitar every day at home.

Jacob-Westfall-at-McMenamins-Kennedy-School-on-02-25-16-01Describing his music, Jacob says, “My music is a conversation with the audience—like I’m telling them a story.” He counts Ben Folds as one of his greatest influences and spent many an hour studying Folds’ albums and songwriting style. His soulful vocals have been compared to singers like Jeff Buckley and Sam Smith but with the character and songwriting style of John Mayer. With “more than a nod to Ed Sheeran,” Jacob’s solo performance is “animated by astute guitar and kinetic live looping.”

Jacob-Westfall-at-McMenamins-Kennedy-School-on-02-25-16-02Jacob’s musical talents are many. At 9, he wrote his first song, “Midnight Bloom,” about watching the Leonid Showers with his Mom, thinking that the stars looked like flowers. In 6th grade, he took up the sax, Grades 9 -11, trying to meet girls; he picked up the drums and bass guitar, and at 17, began playing guitar. It was at this time that his father gave him his prized Takamine which he plays to this day,

Jacob-Westfall-at-McMenamins-Kennedy-School-on-02-25-16-05Haley Johnsen, playing a solo acoustic set, opened the show. Family obligations prevented hearing her entire set, but having seen her many times, she put on a great show that was appreciated by the crowded room, and led to many album sales. Her lyrics speak of love found and love lost, feeling and overcoming pain, suffering and triumph. Haley was featured on American Idol in 2012, finishing in the top 24. After touring and coming home to perform locally, she gives back to the community by offering vocal and guitar lessons to children at the Lake Oswego School of Rock. Much like Jacob, she is in a transitionary stage, with open arms to receive that next direction for her music, while continuing to perform, and perfect her craft.

Jacob-Westfall-at-McMenamins-Kennedy-School-on-02-25-16-04Jacob played as a four piece band, joking that members; Dylan Sundstrom, Andrew Magnuson, and Mark Muusse are available for hire. He started off his set with “What If,” the title track off his latest album. His setlist included original material sprinkled with a few popular covers. His music touches on relationships gone bad, the need for love in this political climate, to an angry response to Kesha’s current trial against Dr. Luke in a #FreeKesha song. Playing many few favorites, “Second Chances,” a song that speaks to a romance, but could actually apply to getting a second chance at most anything in life, and the beautiful and heartfelt, “Lonely,” written for his lovely lady. Addressing a time when he was bullied as a child, is the anthemic, “Movin On.” With Andrew on Mandolin, and Dylan on upright Bass, the three performed a beautiful rendition of Lorde’s, “Royals.” Bringing Haley back onstage, the two of them performed a moving version of Elvis’, “Fools Rush In”, with the band joining them for the final chorus. This was the perfect song to end the set, but like all shows, the audience demanded an encore, so the finale was a rousing, “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes.

Jacob-Westfall-at-McMenamins-Kennedy-School-on-02-25-16-03In a recent conversation with Jacob, he reminisced about a time when his Dad told him that the latin roots of the word, enthusiasm, are God In Us, Jacob believes that no matter what “God” is to you, if you live your life with enthusiasm, you are going to be happy, and he strives to do just that. When you see a Jacob Westfall performance, you will get enthusiasm, passion, and honesty, along with a connection between this talented musician and his audience. He may be a young man, but he is an old soul in his convictions and talents. Portland wishes him a fond farewell, for now, because he will be back, and we will await his return with baited breath!

The Whiskey Darlings at Grand Lodge on 02-13-16

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Rob Rainwater and Michele Van Kleef are both popular, local, singer-songwriters. One evening last year, they were both booked for the same show! Instead of flipping for it, they decided to make it a duo songwriters-in-the-round kind of thing. That is when they discovered they both have a great love for singer-songwriter music of the 1960s and 70s. Not long after, the Whiskey Darlings was born and they instantly began crafting original music with the same vibe that brought them together.

The-Wiskey-Darlings-at-Grand-Lodge-on-02-13-16-01When I heard that they were booked to play a Valentine’s eve show at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge, I wasted no time getting it on my calendar. This was the perfect show to take my wife to. The room was full when we got there, so we sat in the overflow section. Normally, the dinner crowd leaves when the music starts, and the music lovers stream in. This night, nobody left! I have never seen this room as full and as quiet. The overflow section just grew.

The-Wiskey-Darlings-at-Grand-Lodge-on-02-13-16-02Michele and Rob did mostly original tunes with some covers tossed in. Simon and Garfunkel is providing much of their listening enjoyment and inspiration these days. And, of course, since it was Valentine’s weekend, they rolled out some lovely, sappy songs for us as well. The Whiskey Darlings are playing several McMenamins venues in February and March, before the Spring and Summer festivals begin, which they will frequent. If you’re looking for sweet downhome acoustic music with guitars, mandolin and stunning harmonies, be sure to look these guys up!

Skybound Blue at Hotel Oregon on 02-12-16

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I love this couple. They are talented, funny, entertaining and inspirational. I’m talking about Matt and Jenny Behnke, the married duo that fronts Skybound Blue. They gave up careers to take jobs so they had time to make music. This is a sacrifice similar to a couple deciding there is more value in one of them staying home to manage the house and be there for the kids, than having extra things or a more-comfortable retirement. As they were going through the decision-making process, they both heard – ya gotta go to know.

Skybound-Blue-at-Hotel-Oregon-on-02-12-16-01Much of their music is about taking risks, facing the adversities, craving the adventure and seizing the moment. You should always write-what-you-know, so from these guys you will hear songs about selling everything and sailing the Caribbean, surviving cancer, and raising a family. When you attend one of their shows, you will not only hear great music, skillfully delivered, but also great stories in and around the songs.

Skybound-Blue-at-Hotel-Oregon-on-02-12-16-03I had the pleasure of catching a hometown show for them at Hotel Oregon in McMinnville Friday evening. They played the Cellar Bar, a very intimate venue, which was packed mostly with people who had seen them before. Their sets are mostly original songs, with a few covers sprinkled in. Of course, on the Friday leading into Valentine’s Day, they put a few mushy songs out there too.

Over the weekend, they packed up their camper and are headed South in search of real sunshine and the woods. When they return in a month or so, look them up and get yourself a chair in front of their stage. You will be glad you did.

Norman Sylvester at Prime Time on 02-06-16

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After 30 years of gigging, and with over 4000 shows under his belt, Norman Sylvester (aka The Boogie Cat of the Northwest) was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall Of Fame on October 8, 2011. The award didn’t give him a reason to retire, though, quite the opposite. He is still out a lot, sometimes multiple times a week!

Norman-Sylvester-at-Prime-Time-on-02-06-16-01In addition to being treated to some of the best Rockin’ Blues you’ve ever heard, he will also dazzle you with some of the fanciest threads you’ve ever seen. With Norman, there’s always an excuse to throw a party. On Saturday, February 6th, it was Marti Gras at Prime Time Sports Bar in Forest Grove, complete with masks and beads. In addition to his guitar, he brought a drummer, keyboardist, trumpeter, saxophonist, and his daughter Leanne on vocals. This band had people on their feet starting with the first song, and every one there after. While that made shooting some video a challenge, check this out to get a good taste of what a Norman Sylvester show is like, and a reason to catch one soon!

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.