Jun 03


In the several months before I moved out of Santa Barbara last October, a band emerged on the scene to reignite my hope for the rebirth of the local musical landscape. Not since Matthew McAvene teased me with a few smoking sets in early 2007 had I felt the spark of any new, home-bred talent. All it took was one performance by Howlin’ Woods on a Friday night at Cold Spring Tavern to convince me that these guys had the goods. They could jam fiercely, led by the sinewy guitar voodoo of Griffin Chetakian. The rhythm section of Matthew Farrington on drums and Brian “Solar B” Chandler on bass (and keys) was rugged and raw, yet with an intuitive grace. A lot of bands can jam. These guys came across as the total package thanks to the presence of a true frontman. Jordan Chetakian – a powerhouse vocalist with some acoustic guitar chops to boot, boasted a dynamic range. He could rain down with the back-alley blues, bust out a little Sly Stone soul and woo the ladies like a tormented indie rock icon. Offstage he was just an unassuming, plaid-shirt wearing dude with glasses which made his spotlight transformation all the more profound.

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May 24


By Tyler Blue (Website | Twitter)

For a live music lover like me, one of the best things about leaving a small town like Santa Barbara and heading to the big city of Portland is instant access to an extensive crop of diverse concert venues. When I moved to Santa Barbara in 1999, there were at least half-a-dozen clubs and bars which regularly hosted the sort of jammy music I wanted to see. They dropped like flies until SOhO became virtually the only place to go; at least for smaller shows. I’ve had plenty of memorable times there but one can only endure so much repetition before craving a change of scenery. Cruising the streets of Portland, I find myself frequently amazed upon discovering yet another theater which has eluded me up until that point. Practically every neighborhood has one and each is a unique entity with historical significance, style or both. It doesn’t hurt that they have cool names like Aladdin, Roseland, Groove Suite and Refuge. I just looked at http://www.jambase.com and there are a bunch more I still haven’t even seen, let alone been to.

Photo by T. Blue: Soulive’s Eric Krasno lays it down at The Wonder Ballroom

The first show I saw in Portland back in ‘99 happened to be at the city’s most famous venue - The Crystal Ballroom. Opened back in 1914, the ballroom’s claim to fame is its massive dancefloor which “floats” on ball bearings. I thought that was one of the coolest things ever and still do. Since my return back in October, I’ve been appalled to find that many locals don’t hold it in very high regard for various nitpicky reasons. Almost any other town would give its left nut to have a Crystal Ballroom. But in Portland, with so many other options to choose from, it’s understandable that people gravitate to other favorites. Several of my friends had been telling me that The Wonder Ballroom was at the top of their list.  I finally had the opportunity to check it out on Tuesday night when Soulive and Lettuce came to town. The 778-capacity venue, which opened in 2004, definitely lived up to the hype.

Zooming down from Camas, WA across the mighty Columbia River to make an 8 p.m. start time, I should have known better than to be in a hurry. Scrambling up to the box office, the schedule revealed there would be two DJ openers and Soulive wasn’t coming on until 10:15. Fortunately in Portland, there’s always somewhere close by to grab a pre-show cocktail and Secret Society Lounge is one of the best. Two martinis later, I strolled in to the Wonder; anxious to see what the place was all about. The building itself, which was completed in 1914 (apparently a banner year for Portland construction), started out as the Ancient Order of Hibernarians - an organization committed to immigration reform and preservation of Irish culture. In 2006 it was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Nestled near the happening North Mississippi neighborhood, it’s a little bit church, a little hipster hideaway.

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