Thursday, April 26, 2012

Event Horizon, 5/1: May Day at Slabtown

I'm gonna try to be serious for a minute.

I have some very strong political and ethical beliefs. I run a business. I grew up in the 80s where the concept of combining those two was foreign, a time when having standards and morals and values was seen as a liability. In the years since, I've had a chance to meet a metric shitton of people who run businesses in accordance with their beliefs, who take the idea that you don't have to fuck people over to survive and use it as the foundation for earning a decent living. I'm doing my best to take that to heart at Slabtown with the ways I treat the staff, the bands who play here, the people who keep our doors open by taking a seat at the bar.

One of my core beliefs is one that I picked up from the movie It's a Wonderful Life. There's a scene where the evil Mr Potter is about to take over the Savings and Loan which will allow him to basically own everything in Bedford Falls; if you aren't paying him rent, you'll be paying him a mortgage. Jimmy Stewart loses his shit and goes on this rant where he talks about how the people Potter wants to own do "90% of the working, living, and dying in this town." As a business owner, I think about that line often, especially with how it applies to the staff here.

I may spend a lot of time in my office setting up shows, paying bills, and making decisions that will effect the business as a whole, but the staff are really 90% of what makes or breaks Slabtown. They're the ones who'll make you feel welcome or make you feel like an idiot for not knowing that martinis get served in buckets here. They're the ones that will give you one of the best sammiches you've had in ages (Seriously, try the grilled pastrami and eggplant on rye.) or serve you up something barely edible. They wield insane amounts of power over how the bar smells on any given day. Think on that one.

So, next Tuesday, I'm gonna do what I can to give them a little extra, and net bar sales from open to close will go to the staff. I'm not trying to be dodgy here--note the use of the word "net." That means what they sell (ie., the booze) will still get paid for out of the till, but the day's profits will go to them. We'll do it again for Labor Day.

Jamie set up a show for that night with HABITS, TSEPESCH, and BOORS. Three metal bands for $3. It's a Tuesday, so SIN specials will start at 8, and we'll have our regular Happy Times specials from 2-7. I'd really like this to be big for them, so come on in and have a drink or two. Bring a friend. Tip yr bartender.

And, if you own a business, I hope you'll take my cue (the same I way I took the cue from the Lusty Lady Clubs in SF and Seattle from whom I stole this idea) and do something for yr staff next Tuesday.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

World Famous Urinals

Just days after the Willy Week heaped praise on Slabtown for the welcoming aroma of our urinals in its Drink Guide 2012, photographer Kelli Mellilo came in to take pics of our soon-to-be-world-famous mens room urinal trough for an upcoming coffee table book on bars and their piss receptacles. The book, tentatively titled "Portland's Funk and Fabulous Bathrooms," will feature photos and writing about over 50 of PDX's crappers and piss tanks.

You can bet yr ass we'll be holding a book release extravaganza and open viewing of the fabled trough when it hits the shelves, so stay tuned.

Follow Kelly on twitter at @PDXbathrooms
Dig her "Girl on the Go" blog
The WW review of Slabtown in its Drink Guide

Friday, April 13, 2012

What You Missed, 4/12/12: NEKKED BONZ

Guy walks into a bar and starts hassling the new owner about getting a show for his urban crunch (Is that a musical style?) band. New owner has had too much energy drink and a shouting match ensues.

"I'm telling you, man, we gonna pack the place. Make you a lot of money."

"Look, when I have a SHOW, I gotta pay the SOUND guy, DOOR GUY, bring in extra STAFF!!! OVERHEAD!!!"

"Gimme a date. We'll do three sets, even bring in our own PA so you don't need yr sound guy."

Sold. "Allright. YOU WANNA SHOW!?! I'll GIVE you a SHOW!!! BUT this is what you're GONNA DO!!! You're GONNA bring yr OWN PA, AND!!! You're gonna play THREE 45-minute sets, RIGHT!?! And, some GAP BAND!!! YOU'RE GONNA PLAY SOME GAP BAND!!!"

The "bring yr own PA" idea is almost as stupid as some of the writers for the Willy Week's drink guide, so I eventually tell him to nix that idea. But Nekked Bonz does things right, so they still bring in their own lighting and stage set up.

Yep, 11 pm the night before the show, Da'Mone from NEKKED BONZ shows up with a full effin' truck load of equipment. Drum riser, stage riser, lighting trees, stage curtains. Spends over two hours giving the Slabtown stage a full make over. You wouldn't have recognized her. Seriously, it's like that scene from Breakfast Club where Molly Ringwald puts make up and clean clothes on Ally Sheedy and that Jock Emilio Estevez gets an immediate erection. (Of course, every punk boy I ever knew thought she was way hoxxxtter when she was dressed up in sackcloth and ashes and dusting her drawings with dandruff snowstorms. Our Slabtown stage doesn't need less eyeliner or to wear its hair out of its eyes.) When Chris the sound guy saw the whole get up, he was worried Slabtown wouldn't have enough power for all those lights.

This ain't a picture of them at Slabtown, but I swear on the Holy Diver, our stage was more fandangoed than this:

NEKKED BONZ didn't bring out a lot of people last night, but they still brought an awesome show. Da'Mone comes across like LENNY KRAVITZ with a haircut and some WILSON PICKETT thrown in. He's doing spins and dance moves, got his shirt buttoned down to the navel (or, as we at Slabtown like to call it, "the Trail of Tears"). Between songs, he keeps asking us if we like chicken. I effin' love chicken, almost as much as I love tater tots, but when I yell that out, the rest of the audience started laughing. I think I might've missed the joke somewhere...

So, yeah, while you were home watching reruns of "Firefly" you downloaded illegally, NEKKED BONZ was bringing us three sets of urban crunch and covers (including the GAP BAND as instructed). But, hey, you'll get another chance to catch them on Thursday, 5/24.

Event Horizon, 4/15: Joey Ramone Day

While all the normies in the world will be fretting over taxes, we're gonna be remembering Joey Ramone down at Slabtown with pizza, live music from Wormbag, Bloodtypes, and Jabronis, and Rock n Roll High School showing in the back after the show. Dress up as Riff Randell, Tom Roberts, Eaglebauer, or Kate Rambeau and you can win free shit.

Joey Ramone Day is something Erin Whupass got me celebrating every year, and if you aren't coming down for the show, there's a metric shitton of other things you can do:

Hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach.
Hang out on 2nd Avenue.
Lie awake at night.
Think of you and me.
Eat vindaloo.
Remember rocknroll radio.
Have something to do.
Hang out.
Look at her close.
Be against it.
Watch Get Smart on TV.
Don't go.
Don't be learned.
Don't go down in the basement.
Don't be tamed.
Chase the night.
Sniff some glue.
Have a real cool time.
Hang out in LA with nowhere to go.
Howl at the moon.
Cuss & fight.
Steal a car for a joyride.
Want the airwaves.
Be well.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The World Outside, 4/6/12

If you aren't at Slabtown on Friday night to see Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil, Antique Scream, and Holy Children, you better be here:

Slabtown loves all of the members of the NEEDFUL LONGINGS (They were on the bill of our second show since reopening.), and hope this is a successful event for both Sean and the Jeremy Wilson Foundation.

From their press release:

Friday April 6th, Portland, Or - The Jeremy Wilson Foundation (JWF) proudly presents a night of high energy rock’n’roll featuring a cast of Portland native sons including Dharma Bums, The Needful Longings, Ugly Flowers and DJ HWY 7. The concert’s proceeds will help relieve longtime Portland musician Sean Croghan (Crackerbash, Jr. High, The Needful Longings) of expensive medical bills he accumulated from an emergency hospital stay late last year, and The JWF Musician’s Healthcare Fund, which assists musicians in times of medical crisis. 

It promises to be a special night of music uniting old (and new) friends together, not only for a worthy cause, but also as a true testament of what the spirit of the Portland music and arts culture is all about. The relationship that has manifested over the years between the collective members of Dharma Bums and The Needful Longings can easily be described as a close-knit “family.”

Inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame last November, the members of Dharma Bums grew up together in the Willamette Valley playing in bands since their very early teens. They found regional fame around the valley, partially because they could play hundreds of songs at concert level from such young ages. In 1986, when the Dharma Bums moved to Portland from the Silverton area, they played many of their earliest Portland gigs with Sean Croghan’s first band Crackerbash. It was during this exciting time that both bands honed their sonic crafts and garnered stellar reputations as ferocious live and touring acts. For several years together, before most of the members were even of legal age, the Bums and Crackerbash played area clubs such as The Pine Street Theater, The Long Goodbye, Blue Gallery, and the legendary Satyricon. Croghan and Dharma Bums bassist, Jim Talstra, originally conceived of a Wipers Tribute “flip 45” single to be released as a dual effort between both Crackerbash and the Bums. This project quickly blossomed into a compilation vinyl 45 box set tribute to Greg Sage & The Wipers, including tracks from Poison Idea, Hole, and Nirvana. The release of this box set and the expanded CD that followed helped put then powerhouse indie Portland label T/K Records on the map; a label that launched the biggest Portland acts of the 90s. 

In all aspects of life, these guys have been brothers for one another onstage and off as they came of age. From helping each other move apartments to painting and creating art on front porches to playing on each other’s records over the years, these guys became lifelong buddies and collaborators. Heck, Sean Croghan even appeared as “The Face”, on the front cover of the Dharma Bums third album, Welcome, back in 1993. Twenty years later the members of these bands still play with the same vitality and emotion that sparked their mutual admiration back in the day. From the 2010 triumphant reunion shows of the Dharma Bums’ foursome to Sean’s latest and greatest group, The Needful Longings, these dedicated musicians are making the best music of their careers as they continue to collaborate on each other’s projects and adventures. For instance, Dharma Bums’ bassist Jim Talstra plays for The Needful Longings, whose guitar player, Chris Slusarenko, also plays in Boston Spaceships with Bum’s drummer, John Moen (now in the grammy nominated Decemberists) and singer Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices). Guitarist, Eric Lovre of the Bums produced records for both John Moen as well as Talstra’s bands, Perhapst and Minus 5. Lovre, Moen, and Talstra all appear on Dharma Bum’s frontman, Jeremy Wilson’s upcoming solo album, Empty Through Empty Space---and the list goes on. As this close-knit circle has done in the past, they will reunite once again to raise revenue for The Jeremy Wilson Foundation to assist their fellow musicians in times of emergency. 

It is no question that the “family” would come together now when Sean Croghan needs some assistance. A stint in the emergency room last September was no small setback for the hard working Sean when he passed a kidney stone and found himself uninsured due to a recent job change. But Croghan’s situation is, unfortunately, not unique. Like millions of people throughout the United States, even some of the biggest names in music are hit hard by medical emergency, which can quickly turn into financial disaster. Jeremy Wilson’s struggle from his own stressful medical condition prompted him to form The JWF Musician’s Healthcare Fund to benefit the well-being of the entire Northwest music community. The Jeremy Wilson Foundation is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit that recognizes that many musicians do not have individual access to healthcare and functions as a resource center whose revenue funds musicians like Sean Croghan in their time of medical crisis. Those who wish to contribute to JWF Musician’s Healthcare Fund and support the well-being of area musicians are encouraged to donate online at Donors can also contribute directly to Sean Croghan’s Relief Fund at are 100% tax deductible. 

The Jeremy Wilson Foundation Presents – Friday April 6th 2012 - Dharma Bums, The Needful Longings, Ugly Flowers, DJ HWY7 @ Dantes - 350 West Burnside St. Portland, OR 97209 (503) 226-6630 $10.00 in advance$13.00 day of show Doors 8 pm Show 9 pm

There is an absence of relief organizations which assist uninsured and under-insured musicians who, as members of the creative class, are at high risk of serious financial harm in times of medical crisis.

The mission of The Jeremy Wilson Foundation (JWF) is to support uninsured and underinsured musicians and their families in times of medical crisis. Sixteen months since its inception, The JWF has generated $52.000.00, and granted $20,000 in assistance in 2011 alone. The JWF has started JWF Studio and Learning Center’s program, Blue Room Music Lessons, which provides secure jobs for music educators while granting access to affordable, discounted or free music lessons to children of low-income families. In its ninth month of operation, Blue Room’s educators have taught over 90 students. The JWF’s November 2011 fundraising concert, The Next Waltz, rallied over 60 area musicians and 20 volunteers for a sold out recreation of The Band’s The Last Waltz, held at the Alberta Rose Theater in Portland, Oregon. The JWF’s survey results have provided valuable insight for the Local 99 Musician's Union, the Health Association of Austin Musicians (HAMM), and at hearings regarding the cost of insurance for small business owners in the Oregon State Senate.

Musicians are twice as likely as the general public to be uninsured. They are considered self-employed and do not receive employee benefits from the record companies they serve. The artists individually absorb 100% of the costs (from paying the doorman to releasing the album), while the record companies receive up to 90% of revenues. Although demand for music is increasing, the advent of the 360° record deal has drastically decreased the artist’s profits through the label’s appropriation of each and every revenue stream. Due to a lack of fundamental financial security, stability, and business structure, many artists simply cannot afford basic health insurance.

The JWF, in its second year, is trying to build and expand its non-profit 501 (c)3 organization dedicated to assisting uninsured and under-insured musicians and their families. It is developing multiple streams of revenue to subsidize a musician’s medical crisis fund. JWF is developing programs to provide incentives and financial fitness education specific to this unique industry to help individuals proactively establish and maintain adequate health care coverage. By developing and implementing a new music licensing model the JWF empowers the artist’s own enterprise and contributes to the well-being of other musicians. They are trying to provide an essential safety-net and proactive training to vital members of the creative economy, and by doing so hope to enrich and sustain our community’s cultural identity.

The Foundation’s namesake, musician Jeremy Wilson (The Dharma Bums, Pilot) formed the foundation because of his personal experiences since being diagnosed with a serious congenital heart condition called Wolf-Parkinson-White. He has learned, by what Wilson calls “his education by fire,” all about the need for adequate health care for our community of musicians. And because of the great outpouring of goodwill he experienced from those that have helped him through his own trial these last many years, he wants to pay forward the same goodwill to others.

With the help of an incredible cast of friends, well-wishers, music fans, industry professionals and others, Wilson has formed this Foundation. Let’s raise the quality of life for all by helping those that make the sound tracks of our lives be healthy and happy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Barfly Prom Bus, Bachelorettes

This one's by Dave...

While you were at home wondering if you should actually read the Game of Throne books or just watch the first season again, you missed another epic night at Slabtown. Barfly was coming in around 7 for some woman’s birthday and it was a 90s prom theme. I went to work immediately to create a playlist of 90s hip hop and pop music that reminded me of all the times I got locked inside my locker. We’re talking Sir-Mix-A-Lot, MC Hammer, Boys II Men, Bell Biv DeVoe, Wreckx-N-Effect along with Jesus Jones, Pearl Jam, 4 Non Blondes and that 500 Miles song by the Proclaimers. I can tell – you’re really excited.

Dietz came in to help me out and we made sure we were ready. The bus pulled up and the people came piling in. It looked about 50 people were waiting for drinks. I had the barfly hostess, Natalie, show me who the birthday girl was, and I had that gal stand on the bar as I crowned her Princess of the Prom. Natalie was wearing the best prom dress with sequins and everything, though, so I gave her the King of the Prom crown.

They were a cool crowd and I watched them play some sort of scavenger hunt. One woman did a handstand in front of Dietz and I at the bar in her skirt. Dietz and I were impressed. Then I tried challenging them to breakdance contest, but luckily for me they did it themselves on the stage. I saw the worm, the Robocop and a little popping from these two girls.

As they piled out a group of young ladies came in with nametags on. Dietz and I looked at each other and smirked: Bachelorette party. I told them that Dietz and I would strip for them, but they were a little shy, even after I offer to do it for no tips. They obviously wouldn’t be able to handle such Adonis’ as Dietz and I, so they went nude-bartender-free for the evening.

You guys should check out to see about their buses, because they look like they know how to have fun, and you get to stop by Slabtown.

Game of Thrones: We Lost the War

Well, it looks like we won't be showing Game of Thrones here at Slabtown after all. HBO does not allow businesses access to HBO through Comcast. I could switch to another service or pretend Slabtown is a residence, but I'd still have to pay a $2200 early termination fee to get out of my Comcast contract. fml.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What You Missed, 4/2/12: The ClydeFest

Last night, while you were at home watching "How I Met Your Mother" on TV, the staff of Clyde Common (aka, the Common People) brought the motherfuckin' ruckus to Slabtown. Five bands, each with at least one member who works at Clyde Common, including PALE HORSE, WHALES, ATROCITY EXHIBITION, DEFECT DEFECT, and AUTISTIC YOUTH. Sorry for yr loss...

I'll say from the beginning that my sleep's been off, so I walked into this one so tired I was already clumsy, a little grumpy. And, things didn't start well. The turntables weren't working and the DJ didn't show. There are five bands and they all show up at once. I want to be friendly but it's excruciatingly boring to have to hand out that many drink tickets.

But bands like PALE HORSE always manage to get me out of myself a little bit. This was probably their third or fourth show, and they're still coming into their own as a band. That makes me smile because I remember going to see AUTISTIC YOUTH when they were still that green, and having them on the same bill kinda highlights that potential. Which isn't to say that they aren't already good, because they are. I'm just really looking forward to seeing who they become as a band after they've been playing for a while.

WHALES were up next and played a solid set. Heavy, hard rock, overdriven bass, screaming vocals. Dave really got into these guys because they're such awesome musicians. I got into their cool equipment (some one-of-a-kind bass amp fro Seattle), and their guitarist (who was apparently playing just his third show with them). But I don't really think they got me. After their set, as they were unloading, someone mentioned that the drummer was one of the meatcutters at Clyde Common, and I was like, "Cool. I used to be a meatcutter. Maybe this guy can answer some of the nagging questions about meat that I've had for the last 18 years." So, as he's loading out I ask him, "Hey, what's the difference between a steak and a chop?" But I don't think he realized I was serious because he just kinda looked at me and walked away.

This was also when I decided that if I had a bunch of employees of the CC at Slabtown I could maybe get some pointers from them about how to make my business more successful.

"So, what's Clyde Common's greatest strength?"

"Precision and volume. I've never worked anyplace where a kitchen could be so busy and still do everything perfectly."

"Yeah, but this is fucking Slabtown. We don't do that shit here."

I'm not sure what was taking ATROCITY EXHIBITION so long to get set up (It's a very small keyboard, after all.), but by the time they were ready to play I was getting bored again and was seriously asking myself what's the worst that could happen if I set off a bunch off firecrackers inside. But, thank the effing gods for bands like ATROCITY EXHIBITION. There was a time in PDX when on any given night you could go see incredible indie rock live--HEATMISER, THIRTY-OUGHT SIX, HAZEL, QUASI, SKIPLOADER (Okay, I was kidding about that last one.). That's where we are with the post-punk right now, and I'm loving it. ATROCITY EXHIBITION, ARCTIC FLOWERS, THE ESTRANGED, DEAD CULT, CONFESSIONS, BLANK STATION. God, I can't wait for Ian Curtis Day.

And, I think ATROCITY EXHIBITION's set was the watershed moment of the night. Because, while the post-punx and punx were standing around staring at their feet, the Common People started getting a little loose. They're out on the dance floor in heels and jeans or a tie and a blazer, spilling drinks and pogoing. They're taking photos like they're on vacation in Thailand. By the time DEFECT DEFECT plays, a miniature pit keeps appearing and disappearing, led by a lady in a low-cut silk shirt. When AUTISTIC YOUTH start come on, the Common People go fucking apeshit.

I love the chaos, those unpredictable moments when everything is about to fall apart. The absolute highlight of my night was when all the Common People started slam dancing and throwing each other around the dance floor. I'm behind and at the side of the stage, and as I look out I realize that they are careening back and forth between two tables full of empty glasses. I jump into the crowd and start grabbing armfuls of glasses and handing them to random people. "Get them out of here!!!" I love the sound of breaking glass; I don't love pools of blood on the dance floor.

After the show, I got the chance to meet one of CC's owners (I'll take a stab at it and say it was Matt, but I missed the introduction.). He tells me about Colin's work ethic, and I tell him about the time I attacked Colin during an OBSERVERS show, biting him and trying to tear his clothes off. I don't tell him that I almost made the staff clean the bathrooms twice before the show because our wealthy neighbors were coming over to visit.

Blake from AE is buying rounds for his coworkers, and I set them up with line of Bulleit rye shots when someone yells at me to set them on fire. Those are the magic words to start Slabtown's "Two-Minute Coyote Ugly." I'm immediately up on the bar, dancing across it and spilling more rye into their shot glasses. People start yelling at me to take it off, and there's a very brief moment when I could've walked away from what happened next. But then Jodi waves a dollar at me, puts it in my pocket, and we've gone over the water fall.

I'm shaking rump and peeling my shirt off. "Is this what you want, baby?" (Truth be told, in my mind, I'm hoping it is what they want; I'm the only guy at Slabtown who isn't getting paid right now, and a dollar's a dollar.) I do my best to dance my way down from the bar and towards the dollars, shirt off but still hiding my b-b-b-b-boobies. Melody from CONFESSIONS tells me to "make a cleavage" for her to put her dollar in. I corner some poor schmuck who wants to give me a dollar but can't bring himself to actually put it in my belt. I'm yelling "C'mon, baby, put the dollar in the hole!" at him repeatedly and rubbing my belly while he backs away from me, one hand over his eyes the other waving the dollar.

Afterwards, I ask Mikey from DEFECT if maybe I'd crossed the line into creeper.

"Knowing you, I'd say no. But if someone came up to me and said, 'Wow, that was a little creepy.' I'd have to say, 'Well, yeah, I guess you're right.'" Fair enough.

The signature drink, the Autistic Youth, was a well whiskey-and-ginger with lime. De-li-cious.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I tend to think in metaphors when I'm putting bills together, and the one that kept coming to mind for this show was nighttime coming on, the mood and the music darkening with the hours.

In this metaphoric vision, LEAFEATERare the musical equivalent of one of those warm August evenings we get here. Catchy, lyric-driven pop with dual male/female vox. For those of you who've been around PDX forever, they remind me a lot of RATTLECAKE (who were another of my favorite PDX indie-pop bands). All smiles and talking with the audience between songs. I always get a kick out of seeing them play live because they're so . . . charming.

FELECIA AND THE DINOSAUR is primarily Felecia Campbell, also of GHOST OFFICE. Singer/songwriter folk music with some rockabilly elements here and there. Usually, it's her, her guitar, and drums, but for this show, she'll be sans drums and accompanied by cello for most of the set. Her latest full-length, "Hand Me Down God," is brilliant in a dozen different directions, containing several songs that can make me cry if the timing's right. She's our sunset.

AEON NOW call their performances "Dreampunk Cabaret," and they are our moments between waking and sleep for this night. Armed with accordion, the saw, horns, and at times a washboard, they look like gypsy troubadours that just walked out of Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Vaudevillian, theatrical, somewhat creepy.

If I'm going to take my metaphor to its conclusion, ELECTRO-KRAKEN are what's on the other side of that dreamscape. They absolutely fucked up my world the first time I saw them. Booming, improv jazz centered around a sax run through effects that clings to punk the way that the NATION OF ULYSSES' first album did.

Our signature drink for the night, the "Dreamscape Cabaret," is an absinthe/gin concoction...

AEON NOW video on youtube
AEON NOW's site
ELECTRO-KRAKEN's bandcamp page

Game of Thrones

I fucked up. I didn't get HBO hooked up in time to show the Game of Thrones season opener last night, and some folks came by Slabtown to watch and we didn't have it going. You get a group of friends together to go out, and when you get there, it ain't happening. That's irritating. Whoever you are, I apologize, and I hope it didn't screw up yr night too much. Come in and introduce yrself. Let me grovel in person.

We have shows the next two Sundays, but I still need to find a way to show GofT in the back without people having to pay the cover if they're only coming in to Slabtown to watch TV. In any case, starting next week, we will be showing GofT in the back room every Sunday at 9, no cover.

Sorry again for the fuckup.