Sunday, October 31, 2010


Olympia. !!!! This town is AWE-SOME! I first arrived in Olympia with Hermit Thrushes in the summer of 2009. It was the first any of us had played there. We somehow wound up performing in Kimya Dawson’s backyard. It seemed random at the time. But in retrospect, it may not have been that weird, as she is very inviting and open, like a lot of the Oly/K Records crew. Oddly enough, the police shut down the show very early on in the afternoon when our friends from NY, Turbosleaze, started. Kimya’s House is located in the middle of the woods and it was a weekend afternoon. Crazy.
(Turbosleaze @ Kimya's Stretch Pants Party)
We then played Le Voyeur and were blacklisted when the whiney bartenders decided the show was going on too late. Turbosleeze announced over the mic that even with the 3 hour time difference, bartenders were still working in NYC and proceeded to play three long songs woven together. That- along with trying to sneak our underage friends into the show- may have ultimately done us in. Oh well.

Lucky for us and Olympia, Oly has no shortage of DIY spaces/houses throwing incredible shows.

Orincredible record labels. Or Zines. Or cheap, awesome pizza. Or mind-blowing burritos. Or beautiful temperate rainforest. Or crazy volcanoes. Or friendly people that want to hang out and make things. Or awesome coffee!

Notice a trend?

I guess the point is, after my first run through that town, I knew that this town was a great one to visit. But I always thought that visiting was where it stopped. Coming from Philly, I had always believed that if one likeda large city it would be a tough thing to get used to a small town. The idea is that one could get bored fairly easily in such a repetitive landscape.

NOT THE CASE! Especially, when the town is constantly reinventing itself through cooperative excitement.

Whether throwing shows at a new bar, a house, the Northern All Ages Project, the parking lot behind the Northern, or in the Evergreen State college forest, kids are rocking out in new and innovative ways all the time. So with that, I guess I will discuss how I wound up in Olympia.

(Jared and Robbie of Oly Coffee/EP respectively throwing down on Arts Walk)

At the end of July, Sara and I decided we needed a change of scenery. Besides my job, I found myself becoming kind of bored in Portland. And homesick for everything I missed so much in Philly. I guess the plan had always been we will eventually wind up in Philadelphia. I opted for going there right away since I knew places we could live, whether with friends or family. Above all of that, Philly’s coffee scene had grown a lot. Knowing this, I was certain that a barista of Sara’s caliber could find a position, there. And at the very least, I could prepare for the upcoming HT tour.

After a lot of discussing, we decided Olympia made the most sense. Sara, after all is from Oly. We both have tons of friends up there. And it didn’t hurt that both of her parents had businesses that were looking for extra help. For me, leaving a month later meant marginally cheaper airfare. So off we were to Olympia.

(Prince Rama @ the Northern)

I knew Oly was going to be kind of awesome. But yowzahs!, Oly was a great time. I got back to Philly, a place I couldn’t wait to get back to and automatically felt kind of whatever compared to Oly. As soon as we got into town, I managed to go to a few shows that were easily some of the best shows I had witnessed all summer. While in town, I got a chance to check out Christopher Francis’ latest band, Legs the Crab, Oly all stars Outdoor Voices, Prince Rama (awesomeness from Boston, not Brooklyn), and the math/drum-fill styles of Fall of Electricity. Oh, and I saw the Melvins at the Capital Theatre thanks to Sara’s pop, Terry. (There’s allegedly a scene on a Melvins concert that can be found on Netflix Instant Watch where Terry, as younger fellow, sitting with his brother on the stage facing the audience, involuntarily vomits and clears the area… keep an eye out… and Kudos to You, Terry.).

As I hinted above, food in Oly is off the hizzy. For such a small town, they sure know how to pack it in where it matters: Great Thai food, great Vietnamese food, great burritos, great slices of pizza, increds Japanese food, good co-ops, and probably more. I didn’t have enough time or money to do it all. I mean, I sort of had enough money. But when you know you’re going on a self-funded tour in the near future… you don’t have enough money. Top picks: Old School Pizza (duh! $1.85 for a slammin’ slice of "cheese." They must not know about the premium the rest of this dumb country charges on the costs of importing pizza from the East Coast.), the Burrito truck (both of ‘em! You know the one I’m talking about. Carne Asada or Bistec burritos with avocado!), and Little Danang for yer’ Vietnamese!

Coffee in Oly: …It’s good! At a certain point, I began to ponder how Portland could financially support a burgeoning and ever-growing third wave coffee movement. In places like New York City,it makes sense: the sheer population density in that town could always support new shops. (Fock New York? Eat it here). But in a service industry town like Portland- where everyone’s working the same types of jobs and rely on tips- it just doesn’t and didn’t seem sustainable. And as Sean Z says, live sustainably. All I’m getting at, it seems to make even less sense that Oly has four major coffee companies (maybe five?) seated in the downtown and they all seem to be doing alright! More power to them, right!?

There’s an obvious advantage to being the state capital and having an important college in town. But you consider a company like Espresso Parts (EP), who are servicing coffee shops all over the world and innovating the field of coffee brewing and cleaning; or K records (and perhaps formerly KRS and 5RC), who put out albums to which all of world’s “indie” communities takes note, maybe Oly’s “success” is not that crazy. It’s not that either of these example are lucrative companies like Pepsi or Apple, but they are doing something besides hashing out the same stuff- and only locally at that. They’re not the only ones. B&B, for better or for worse, has a roastery in Atlanta. Café Vita, ya know. Whatever. The point is, companies like EP and K are creating awesome products, keeping them local, harboring and nourishing a local community, and letting the world vie for the fruits of their labor.

Top props, and I’m slightly biased, go to EP for mixing it up and helping the community out (both local and coffee) and Oly Coffee who thanks to Kelly Zand Oliver Stormshak are roasting TRULY BADASS COFFEE. And I mean it. I’ve had some great coffee and it is always a pleasure to get a shot of Big Truck. Like any blend, it changes seasonally, but it is consistently delicious. It always tastes like some kind of awesome chocolaty/strawberry creamsicle to me. Past coffee’s I’ve enjoyed have included the Amaro Gayo from Ethiopia (holy blueberries!), Finca La Florida from Colombia, and La Mirella Perla Negra from Costa Rica. DUDES!, KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK, OKAY?

One day, I will be back in Olympia. It will be awesome.

(also, hug your evergreens, ferns, and appreciate a madrone tree every once-in-a-while!)

13 KaRmA bReWeRs (spooky)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Holy snykeez, this is long overdue. I’ve been a busy little monster! Sooo, I moved out to Portland, OR from Philadelphia this spring to hang out with this wild one.
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I met her while

I was on tour with

these ones. More about that...

Here’s a lotta' background: When I was a sophomore in college, my family learned that my dad was not related to his father. He grew up in a small town in Massachusetts where people made it their business to tell him that. People in that town sucked sometimes. Finally, after years of asking, my grandmother wrote him a letter confirming this.

We later found out that I had some “half-aunts” in Portland- nothing new, I suppose, in retrospect. My mom being a nurse wanted to know my new family’s medical history. Along with that, we were obviously curious to meet these people that we were related to now.

Portland, four years ago blew my mind. It seemed to be everything Philadelphia was not: An incredible coffee scene that was noticeably better to the layperson, a booming beer scene, a totally bike-friendly city that everyone wore helmets in, and …well just way friendlier in general. The bus drivers all seemed to know Spanish, as well “correct” English (SEPTA?). And on a whole, Portland was squeaky clean. It still is!

When I graduated from college, I decided I wanted to move out there and work for Stumptown. I set up an interview and it bombed. I felt heart-broken and crushed. I flew back to Philly and very happily discovered Aaron Ultimo, Betty Ortiz, and Counter Culture Coffee. In no time, Philly (as well as NYC) had the makings of a coffee scene. Not only that, but people got crazy into biking, good beer, and different types of artisan foods and crafts. Philly got a whole lot more local and it was totally awesome.

Around this time, I joined a band called Folklore. I got the invite through my friends in Hermit Thrushes, as well as Scott Churchman, who were contributing ideas, along with Jimmy Hughes, Mr. Folklore himself and a member of radical E6 band Elf Power. Shit was awesome. Soon after in 2009, I joined Hermit Thrushes and started to tour a lot.

Along the first tour I met my GF and we decided to embark on a really fun long distance relationship. It didn’t seem so crazy because my band seemed to be perpetually on tour. If they had it their way, they would be perpetually on tour. Needless, to say, over the last four years, I’ve visited Portland more than ye average East Coast’r.

Portlandia and Living There

It’s been an interesting experience: I first viewed the town as a wide eyed kid, than a "less wide eyed man-child," followed by a professional touring musician, a week-long resident, a month-long resident, and then an actual full fledged resident: paying Portland taxes, living on one side, commuting to the other side, and working as barista in a recently re-invented coffee mecca.

In some ways, living in Portland was better than I thought it was going to be. In some ways, it was exactly how I expected it to be, gaining said knowledge through constant touring. And then, in other ways, it was worse than I thought it would be.


Upon arriving in PDX, I was lucky to land a job at Case Study Coffee, a new shop on the verge of being opened by Christine Herman and Wes Russell, formerly fulltime espresso caterers. It was a pretty wild experience working there. I jumped onboard a little before CSC was open and had a chance to help get it off the ground. While working there, I was able to work on a 3 Group La Marzocco Mistral, that had individual boilers, pumps, paddles, and foot-switch activated steam wands... Actually, everything was foot-switch activated. If it is possible to put a foot switch on something, Wes Russell will attach a foot switch to it. Foot-switch activated ketchup packets on sandwiches? In all seriousness, he and Christine have some neat ideas and while there, I saw Portland take note of said ideas. For instance, Stumptown is about to mod out some of their shop gear with foot switches. Case Study, upon opening, has made it their mission to feature only locally roasted coffee. A few months after opening, BARISTA decided to do a month-long focus on local roasters. Exciting, huh?

As touched on before that, PDX has no shortage of locally roasted coffee happening and it’s totally awesome to see how companies like Coava, Water Ave, Sterling, and Courier are pushing each other (and Stumptown) to get their “crazy on.” The spirit is amicable and cooperative. No one seems set on screwing the other out of business, which is at times a hard feat to conquer. Getting back to the point, it was just great to experience espresso on that level. It was what I needed. I feel like, in certain ways, espresso will always be a bit of a mystery to me, especially as the industry becomes more and more innovative every day. I almost have more questions than answers. But a year ago, it had never even dawned on me to consider and question some of the newer and popular espresso ideas I had JUST learned. I feel like I’m better off because of all of this, regardless. And, Faaaaulk, it was just a lot of fun to taste everything. Anyway, I hope this continues.


Biking in Portland sucks. This might come as a shock to most people, as it is the most “bike friendly” place in the world and certainly the easiest bike ride on the mountainous West Coast. But this is a lie. Mark my words: Portland is full of passive aggressive drivers and uptight tools, disguised as bike nerds. Gross. I am from Philadelphia. People are crazy in Philadelphia. People are outwardly aggressive and straightforward in Philly. I like to talk about Philly as being a sort of contained chaos. I mean, there’s order out here… an order of chaos. At best, common sense reigns supreme. The light’s red- you should probably stop. If you don’t, you might get hit. BUT if you stop and there’s no traffic coming… does it really make sense to wait until this arbitrary light turns GREEN…I gotta say, I don’t think that it does. It rejects the notion that we can be individuals… considerate and conscientious individuals. In Philadelphian, “this how roll, baby.”

But that’s not how Portland rolls. The latter situation repeated in Portland will get you a nagging “Neh Neh Neh Neh Neh.” Snurfin' vloh me*. Seriously- but not literally. You wanna say something? Then say something. Yeah, I just broke a law created by a legislature that never wanted to know my opinion on the matter anyway. I’d like to believe that as a society, we can make educated decisions with consideration to others. Biking in Portland was supposed to be awesome. In turn, oddly enough, I just felt very stressed- in a manner only I could ever feel really stressed about.

And don’t get me started on “J walking.”


Perhaps, the most disappointing thing about my stay in Portland was the sad state their DIY music scene. For a town that has awesome record stores everywhere, Sleater-Kinney, the Wipers, Dead Moon, and the now relocated Kill Rock Stars record label, besides the Artistery, there really is no steady source of DIY music and I can’t explain why. 90 minutes north, not the case at all. And while I don’t really love Seattle or Tacoma, houses like the 808 House, Healthy Times, the New Crompton, and the all ages Vera Project are continually churning out local and national DIY sonic gems.

So what gives? I don’t really know… probably a lot of things. But in general, kids just seem lazy and uninterested on another level to go for something that’s not endorsed by Pitchfork or Pepsi. More often than not, when I would invite people to my apartment for beers, games, and outside the established neighborhood/neighborhood bar, I would find myself sitting at home, with my girlfriend, her cat, and maybe a friend from Olympia who would happen to in town. And if kids weren’t interested in this (free booze and fun), maybe actually creating creative and independent music just isn’t “how they roll.”

All that being said, there are a few people in Portland trying to do something different despite the overwhelming mass of followers and they deserve your attention and I’m gratefully for hearing them: Lane Barrington and Shannon Rose Steele of the Ocean Floor are creating beautiful music that’s at once thought provoking, new, and slightly familiar, like your weird aunt or uncle that’s always off doing something crazy that your conservative family doesn’t approve of but love regardless, because that person’s warm and genuine. Their songs are extremely well crafted. Their performances are super tight. (I saw them perform on the back of a tow truck in Tulsa, OK. It was so cool). You NEED to hear them.

The Artistery is still throwing shows just about every weekend, despite pressure from ASCAP (tools) and it’s perhaps unfortunate location (it’s not exactly in the center of town, though at one point a lot of folks used to live out that way). And while, I’m not crazy about Dear Nora and Starfucker, they seem to be hitting the road enough.

The last thing I care to comment on is the food situation in Portland and I’ll make it quick: Besides pizza, Portland’s kind of awesome. Top picks in my time there: Café Velo (HOLY FAHCK!!! Mediterranean street food. The price is right for the quality, quantity, and creativity), Dove ViVi (I know what I just said about it sucking for pizza. And I still believe that…But Dove Vivi is different! It’s sort of like deep dish pizza that has an amazing cornmeal crust. Great for everyone, unless you’re poor, which everyone, myself included, is in Portland… so whatever I guess), AND the burrito truck at Interstate and Killingsworth (known most notably by their hand painted sign that advertises “Vegan Lovers Welcome,” get the carne asada with the green avocado sauce! Sara and my lunch every Tuesday.)


*keepin' it sort of civil. holler.

Monday, October 11, 2010

MCE3: Oh and stuff

Sooooo, ...I'm like people or something, right? People seem to like traveling- maybe? And when they do that, they usually like to kick it up a notch: not only go to THIS place that they've traveled to... they like to micro travel and go to little places. And not just to Safeways or Super Fresh Supermarkets. Sometimes people like to eat out. Or walk down the main street. It's fun... "What if I lived here?" "What if WE lived here?" Maybe they like to buy spoons that have town names.
And you know what, I like to travel. I like to observe how the natives do. BUT! who, in this day and age with gas prices up high like this and job shortages like that, can afford to travel. Well, awesomely rich rich rich folks.... and indie rock kids?
Well, the latter- not so much. But it kind of runs with the territory. We like playing shows. People sometimes like hearing us. Sometimes that yields $75 bucks. And that can occasionally get you to another town.
As it happens to turn out, I play in a band. We occasionally make gas money. And then we drive to a town and try to duplicate it, playing music that we like and hope that will resonate sympathetically- or not- with others there, BUT AT THE VERY LEAST will affect them if they'll let it.
It's not a bad deal, too, if you save a lot before hand, work very hard typing away to people, try to play everyday, and be nice to others- we want to enjoy life cooperatively with others since it's so awesome to meet awesome people-... well, the journey yields some cool finds.
So here it is: I enjoy to travel. I enjoy to play music. I enjoy hearing great music from bands that I'd never have heard before had I not been there right then. I wish others could too. I enjoy meeting people and checking out their take on it all.
I also really enjoy great coffee. I like the communal aspect of it. I like the creative nuances and sparkling beauty of natural things. Coffee, when grown carefully, processed carefully, roasted carefully, and prepared carefully... is AWESOME. Drinking it can be a brilliant experience. Ten years ago, I'd of thought that was crazy talk. Then, one day... unexpectedly, things changed.
Here's the thing: I love to travel, I love to hear music, I love drinking coffee, I love people most of the time, I love hanging, and I've ALWAYS wanted to document the things I have discovered for family and friends. I've blown chances for one reason or another before... I DON'T WANT TO BLOW ANYMORE CHANCES!
May I present to you,