Sunday, December 15, 2013

How the Black Crowes got their groove back (Portland concert review)

The Black Crowes are back! For a reunion world tour, anyway.  Last weekend's Portland show marked my 10th time to see my favorite jam band, and my third time to catch them at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Since discovering their captivating, energetic live performances in college, I haven't missed a local Crowes show since 1995.

Readers: Garth's Blog has previously featured the Black Crowes, most notably in my uber popular post, Do the Black Crowes Needtobreathe?  That blog link will seemingly live on as long forever, or at least as long as people continue Googling the Crowes' influence on Christian rock band Third Day.

Taking in the Christmas sights and sounds of downtown Portland, en route to the Black Crowes concert

Fans of the Crowes' most recent Americana/ folk leaning records (like me) were surprised to find that era completely ignored in last weekend's set list. No, this was a return to classic form. The Black Crowes were here to rock 'n' roll.

As seen the video below [Yet another video upload error. Thanks, Blogspot.], singer Chris Robinson was at his hyper, playful, and passionate best.  Chris spun and danced around the stage as his brother Rich laid down rhythm (and occasional lead) guitar licks, backing vocals, and lead vocals on the Velvet Underground's "Oh Sweet Nuthin'." Original drummer Steve Gorman was flawless as always. Sven Pipien and Adam MacDougal were solid on the bass guitar and keys, respectively. And new member Jackie Green soared on the lead guitar while filling out the trademark vocal harmonies.

Every song on the set list was either an extended jam or a punched up, re-energized rendition of a fan favorite.  The band charged out of the gates with rocking versions of "Sting Me" and "Twice is Hard," songs that most bands would save for an energetic finale.  Huge hit "Remedy" was also played early on, as if to remind everyone that the Black Crowes' song catalog is far too vast for a predictable withholding of hits for an encore.  Heck, I've been to previous shows where the Crowes have swapped out some of their biggest hits in favor of jamming away on fan favorite album cuts.

That being said, the night was chocked full of crowd pleasing moments.  Some of the Crowes' best ever jammed-out renditions of "Hi Head Blues," "Ballad in Urgency," and "Wiser Time" (over 15 minutes long!) were punctuated by their more radio friendly selections.  Though the sheer quantity of Greatest Hits-type selections was uncharacteristic for a BC concert, we fans showed nothing but adoration as we danced straight into their final run-up of mega-hits "She Talks to Angels," "Thorn in My Pride," "Soul Singing," "Jealous Again," and a joyous mash-up of Otis Readings' "Hard to Handle"/ Deep Purple's "Hush."

The Crowes encored with a double header of Rolling Stones tunes:  A laid back, countrified cover of "Torn and Frayed" (Blue Mountain's version is one of my all-time favorite covers) and a fun update of "Happy," featuring Jackie Green on the vocals.  Chris Robinson never stopped dancing.  Neither did we.


Notably missing from that evening:  The Crowe's ever-evolving "My Morning Song" jam (a concert highlight, typically clocking in at 10-20 minutes long).  Kathy also lamented that the Crowes' soulful backup singers were M.I.A. on this tour.

And it was a bummer to lose guitarist Luther Dickinson, who ended his stint with the Crowes to return to the North Mississippi Allstars (link to my review of one of the NM Allstars' previous Portland shows).  But there's always a silver lining:

Portland Waterfront Blues Festival: Lena I met Luther Dickinson and his brother Cody backstage this past summer, after the North Mississippi Allstars' electrifying set on the main stage.

Bonus Trivia, Concert Tour Edition-
Question:  Besides Luther, who is the only other musician who has toured with not one but TWO of my five all time favorite live bands?
Answer:  Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who shared a stage with the Black Crowes throughout a stadium tour featuring all Led Zep songs.  Double wammy!  If only Bono had made an appearance...

Coming up on Garth's Blog...

Surfing, pumpkin patching, and dairy farming!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our home's first Thanksgiving

At last... Thanksgiving dinner at our own house!  To sweeten the deal, the Dallas Cowboys took down the Raiders for a televised win.

Opening our home for our first ever Thanksgiving dinner in Beaverton has been a long time dream of ours. Kathy put a lot of effort into the preparation, and it really paid off.

I, on the other hand, woke up in the middle of the night to work the early shift like on any other Thursday morning.

Deicing a Delta 737 at PDX airport, just before the Thanksgiving sunrise

Thanksgiving morning at PDX was busier than in past years. Delta Airlines was generous enough to hand out meal vouchers for those of us stuck working on the holiday. Our Tokyo flight was a late arrival, giving my crew just enough time to rush upstairs to the concourse for breakfast at Beaches restaurant.

Five sides of bacon.  Ron Swanson would be proud of my man Rockee.

On the way home from work that afternoon, I picked up our friend Sarah (pictured at the top of this post). She was in between living situations and had no one to spend Thanksgiving with.  Our family welcomed her in.

Lena remains the center of attention after our Thanksgiving dinner.


Of course, the whole Vancouver family couldn't fit into our Beaverton dining room. So on Friday afternoon, the Brown, Davis, Hamilton, and Sorensen families gathered together at my parents' house in Orchards.

God has given us so much to be thankful for this year. Our cup runneth over with far too many blessings to list here. Most significantly, we have been blessed with a wonderful family, a vital student ministry, and a happy life.

And in less than four weeks, we'll be rushing Kathy to the delivery room for one more reason to give thanks!

Next up on Garth's Blog...

The Black Crowes rock downtown Portland!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Munra Point: Losing a climb, gaining a 14k frozen trail run

From last weekend:  The frozen, slippery trail that passes in front of Elowah Falls, Oregon 

Not Munra Point.  That was the name that my buddy Shaun and I gave to the 9 miles of Columbia River Gorge trail that we hurriedly covered last weekend.  In contrast to our intended climb, the newly crowned Not Munra Point trail was nothing more than a trail run.

My friends Carli and Jeremiah had both recommended a climb up to Munra Point on separate occasions.  Pity that I didn't seek out reliable directions to go along with those recommendations.  Our only source of info was from a climber who blogged about the short climb on his website.  No map, no estimated hiking times, and no reported distances between trail junctions.

The climber's blog had prepared us for an uneventful approach to our climb.  Uneventful is putting it lightly.  From the Wahclella Falls trailhead, Gorge Trail #400 runs parallel to I-84 with barely enough elevation variance to justify our hiking poles.  Admittedly, only here in the Northwest would anyone complain about an occasionally flat trail in the midst of all this accessible wilderness beauty.  We have it so good here!

The long approach to the Munra cutoff quickly became an exercise in impatience.  So tucking in our poles, we ran.

An iced-over section of Gorge Trail #400

A "Trail Not Maintained" sign along Gorge Trail #400 reportedly marked the turnoff to Munra Point.  We never came across that sign.  The next day, I would do more research and find out why: the sign is actually 30 feet uptrail, not at the junction with Trail #400.  We didn't see the sign because it's not even visible from the Not Munra Point trail!

We seriously considered scrambling directly up these rocks to reach one of the peaks.  Inconveniently, my inner tree-hugger nagged at my conscience instead.  That, and a sign below that I spotted from our newly elevated viewpoint.  The sign pinpointed our location but confirmed what we already knew-- we had overshot the Munra cutoff and were heading for the more family friendly hikes to the west.

Shaun conceded that our trip was "broken," but we both had way too much energy to just turn around.  We kept running.

Elowah Falls:

The bridge in front of Elowah Falls was completely frozen over. It was a short but treacherous skate across the slippery ice to the other side.

Next stop: Upper McCord Creek Falls.  I use the word stop loosely.

We continued up past the top of the falls and followed a deteriorating path along Upper McCord Creek.  The gnarly forest growth grew thicker, the trail petered out, and we eventually turned around to battle our way back to the main trail's end.  Rather than follow the trail back down to the previous junction with Trail #400, we made it a loop.  After all, backtracking is for chumps.

We ran (off and on) back to the Wahclella Falls trailhead, paralleling and occasionally overlapping the Not Munra Point trail.   On the drive home, we stopped at McMenamins Edgefield to thaw out, warm up, and celebrate the end of the hike.

Not that our low elevation escapades earned us the right to celebrate anything.  But we'll make up for that on our next hike, researching and double checking our sources.  No doubt we had followed that blogger's directions to get to the steep stuff last weekend, but we ended up with a trail that even Lena and Sheamus could've hiked (read: baby and dog friendly).

I guess that's what we get for trusting some random traveling/ hiking blogger.   Everybody knows one of those.