Portland To Eugene – Cold Beer and Hot Springs (Part 1)

My first concert of 2017 did not disappoint. One of my 2017 goals (curious? Read them all here) led me to see the Xx in Portland. I was able to get a day off work, grab my little lady, and head up to Oregon for a brief trip that led to us finding new waterfalls, overpaying for a concert beers, and clogging our arteries with some amazing food.

Day 1 (Sunday) 

We made breakfast burritos as sustenance for the upcoming drive, and then head north on I-5, which seems to be the lifeblood of so many of our trips. For me, it’s the modern Mississippi River of the pioneer days, although there are many tributaries and adventures to be had, it is the origin of adventures, the point of departure, and the main thoroughfare for industry.

We drove nonstop to Portland, listening to variations of Aziz Ansari’s audiobook Modern Romance and music, and arrived at our little guesthouse for the night. We were to stay at the Bluebird Guesthouse, a small, green Victorian place which was essentially an AirBnB. We parked around the back, and walked into our cozy basement room and unpacked. I did feel odd, since there was no real check in, and we basically walked in (the front door was locked with an electronic lock) and headed through the little kitchen and down to our room, as if we were visiting some aunt who had just gone out shopping.

Next, we met up with my brother and his girlfriend who also happened to be in town. We looked up coffee shops near us, and found one a suitable walking distance and open late enough for us to meet. It turned out to be an eclectic little place that felt family run (indeed, a young girl brought us our coffee. Cute, yes. Blatant violation of child labor laws? Most likely). However, the art made me feel like I was in New Orleans, with a saxophone hanging from the ceiling, photos of belly dancers on the walls, and a semi-permanent small stage in the corner, perfect for soft-spoken guitarists or wailing salsa bands. It was a pleasant visit filled with introductions and catching up, and soon after we went back to the guesthouse.

We had a little time before the concert, so ended up going to a local indoor rock climbing gym called The Circuit. Even though the weather was the perpetual Portland drizzle, the place was largely empty and we were able to have most routes to ourselves. I loved the variety of challenges, and the low walls so we didn’t have to worry about harnesses or belaying. The routes varied in difficulty, and I found plenty that I was able to attempt.  After our hands were caked with chalk and our muscles taught from strain, we headed back to get changed.

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We had time before the concert, so we stopped for food at a little corner, where food trucks seemed to have put down roots and applied for a permanent residence. They surrounded a central eating area, that was covered and had heat lamps that protected us from the perpetual light rain. We dined on Hawaiian and Greek, and took a small wood-fired pizza for a late dinner. At the guesthouse again, we showered, drank a little wine, and got dressed.

We showed up a little late for the concert, nearly going to the wrong venue at first. Luckily, our Lyft driver knew better, though the two locations were essentially neighbors. After passing through security, we realized two things: 1) that we had missed the openers completely, and 2) that we hadn’t purchased ground level tickets. We could choose our seats in the amphitheater surrounding the stage and standing room. Although one day, I am sure I would rather sit in the comfort of stadium seats, as I am young and still have some fight in me, I would rather stand uninhibited with the swaying and sweating crowds below. Oh well.

We also wanted to get some drinks, so after waiting in line we discovered that we would pay $10 for one cup of Coors Light, which is more than a six-pack at the grocers costs. Still, we were paying concert prices, and somewhat expected to pay something like that. I wondered what kind of sucker would end up spending money on that a concert. I ended up drinking too many.

The Xx were wild in their own way. We sat across from them, in the stands without people around us, and could let their music envelop us that is only possible at a concert. They started slow, building, but impressing with their light show, which varied in color and content. Four large, spinning mirrors sat behind the band, and different colored lights were shown at various angles, allowing the lights to refract and spread and the musicians to be bathed in whatever light the song called for. At one point, stark white lights illuminated the stage, as if the musicians were in some noir film, at another a literal rainbow of lights could be seen (much to the applause of the audience). The music of the Xx is hard to describe; but it seemed to be dream-like, with heavy rolling base and lilting lyrics that are like whispers. As the beat of the songs seemed to crescendo, and the alcohol kicked in and I stood in my seat to dance, and the audience swayed and swooned, the concert ended. They came out for one encore song, but it left me wanting more.

The ride back was hazy. The wine and beer hit me and I got more emotional than I would like to admit. Back at the room, I refused to eat the pizza for some reason, and insisted I walk somewhere to get Kiva a toothbrush (since she had forgotten one). Luckily, she talked me out of it. Who knows where I might have woken up if she didn’t. Fell into a deep, inebriated sleep.

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