Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On tour with Ha Ha Tonka- Day 1; March 29, 2011; The Doug Fir Lounge, Portland OR

It kind of started as a joke. Well, at least they probably thought I was joking. After filling in at the merch table last fall in DeKalb I said that I would love to go on tour with them sometime. I explained that no, I wasn’t going to quit my job, but I was thinking maybe a week or so. With their new CD Death of a Decade (which is awesome by the way) due to be released the first week in April, I picked the week leading up to its release, a series of dates out west. The drives were going to be long, but this was a lot of country I’d never seen and venues I’d always wanted to visit.

The first of these was the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland. I flew in on a dreary Tuesday morning. I’d heard that usually it just rains for a little bit every day, and the rest of the day is sunny. Not today. The grey pall hung over the town the entire day as a friend drove me around pointing out the sights, telling me stories and explaining that the Willamette River that runs through town inexplicably rhymes with dammit. Even though I didn’t get out of the car, I could see how this would be a very appealing place to live.

Luckily the crappy weather and the fact that it was a Tuesday night didn’t keep people home, and it was a bigger crowd than I think anyone expected. The night opened with Kasey Anderson, a Portland resident with a Seattle based band. Despite the fact that he was a seasoned performer with a strong stage presence, nothing from his set stuck with me other than his drawn out three part joke (which was funny, but didn’t quite justify the build-up) and the fact that he ended his set with Chip Robinson’s “Mylow,” neither of which I had heard of before sticking around the Guitartown party to see Andrew Duplantis play with Robinson in Austin. I’d heard of middle opener Hoots and Hellmouth before, but this was the first time I’d seen them. They had been touring with the boys since California and were with them through Denver, just like me. I could tell it would be a good match. Not only do they have a great energy, but they have an enthusiastic and dedicated following.

The Doug Fir Lounge had been high on my list of venues to visit for a long time, essentially ever since I bought an awesome Guy Burwell poster for a Pernice Brothers show that had been there. It was nearly as cool as it looked in the online photos, the tastefully lit dining room and bar, and the music room in the basement, all looked like they were rooms in the biggest log cabin ever. Their crowds definitely come to party and this was probably the most people I’d ever seen dancing at a Ha Ha Tonka show, though no doubt the infectious songs from the new record might have something to do with that.

And the end of the night I packed up the merch (something I would get faster at each show) and helped load out. No one had offered a convenient place to stay tonight, so we headed out of town and checked into an Econolodge, five of us sharing one room and trying not to get caught. Yep, this is pretty much exactly like I thought it would be.

Kasey Anderson

Hoots & Hellmouth

Ha Ha Tonka

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