Sometimes you look at a corner and say, “Someday I’ll play a show there.” And with news of Slabtown’s impending closure, I decided it was time to finally play one of those shows, on the corner of NW Marshall and NW 16th Ave, right outside of Slabby.
The bar is owned and operated by old pal Doug, and another old friend Mike runs the restaurant-in-a-bar Falafel House (best falafel in Portland, no lie). Because they’re at the bar all the time, they’d not yet had the pleasure of seeing El Demasiado in the flesh. My plan was to bring the show to them.
So at about 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon, I packed up my gear into my bike’s trailer, and pedaled over the Broadway Bridge into the Pearl, and over to the bar. Doug offered me a beer, but I declined: the demands of performing forbid pre-show intoxicants of any kind. Instead I accepted a tall glass of ice water, and began to set up.
I’m usually at Slabtown in the evening, and the neighborhood is pretty quiet then. A few cars go by, and you hear a truck or two on the 405 overpass. I didn’t count on afternoon rush hour, and LOUD cars and trucks whizzing by overhead, plus stop and go traffic on the street in front of the bar. But then, as it always does, rush hour got ironic on us, and traffic on 405 slowed to a quiet crawl. So by the time I played the first note, I was pretty audible to anyone nearby.
The best part of playing on the street is getting people to stop and hang out a while, and in addition to Doug and Mike, a few other people lingered to take in the show. I believe this is in no small part due to the picnic seating now in front of Slabtown, and it’s got me wondering about bringing some kind of seating to all sidewalk shows. Maybe a lawn chair or two?
Around 4:30, just as fatigue began amplifying my late-afternoon hunger, a couple of guys sat down and broke out a picnic including French bread, bleu cheese, and apricot jelly, among other things. I salivated. My stomach growled. I kept playing.
After going through everything I could think of, I remembered that Doug and Mike had missed my world debut so I played the “Bear Suite” to some of the biggest smiles of the day. I closed with Addiction, which is one of Doug’s favorites, and called it a day.
After the show, I took Doug up on his beer offer, and Mike brought me a delicious falafel plate, which I devoured. After draining the beer, I got back on my bike and pedaled home. It felt like uphill the entire way, but I was glad I finally got to rock somewhere on that side of the river. (But in the future, for the sake of these weary legs, I’ll probably drive!)
Incidentally, this is another show where I solicited donations for my friend Priya’s quest to obtain a handicap-accessible van. If you weren’t able to donate on the street, please head over to her campaign and make a donation there.