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Summer time in the Pacific Northwest. There’s nothing like it. It’s not too hot, the rain is minimal and the views are out of this world. In the summer time, the snow capped mountains pierce the sky, the waters of the Columbia and the Willamette glisten, while water skiers, wind wailers and swimmers take full advantage of the warm weather.

Portland, Oregon in the Summer is also known for its festivals, especially of the music, beer, and food variety. But, the Columbia Gorge—maybe the most picturesque place in all of the Pacific Northwest, if not the country, is hosting a music and beer festival of it’s own this summer. I can’t imagine a better spot for music and brews in the summer time.

If you haven’t been to the Skamania County Fairgrounds, over in Stevenson, Washington, just past the Bridge of the Gods, that initial visit will drop your jaw clear to the bright green grass. Subsequent visits will do nothing to reduce the awe. Mountains jut up from every side of the Columbia River and on a crystal-clear day, you’ll swear that you can see all the way to Alaska.

It is in this ideal location that the Gorge Blues and Brews Festival returns for another year of twelve-bar tunes, five-star suds, and Zagat rated grub. Across two stages, local and national acts (some yet to be announced) lay down blues numbers, ranging from the calming to the raucous, the profane to the saintly. Meanwhile, as you enjoy these tunes, local breweries release their latest liquid remedies for the summertime blues. Remember it was Ben Franklin who aid that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. He forgot to add the blues and Columbia Gorge.

On June 22, make the trek out to the Gorge (and be sure to bring a blanket, a lawn chair and binoculars). Enjoy local brews from the likes of Thunder Island, Jester & Judge, Backwoods and Walking Man. A variety of food will be on hand as well, from gyros, to Filipino faire, to tacos. It’s getting better already. You had me at the blues, kept me interested with the brews and sold me at tacos. The music headliners are Johnny Wheels and the Swamp Donkeys. Others on the bill include Rich Layton & Tough Town Kenny Lee & The Sundowners Franco & The Stingers, Many more are sure to come. This is a can’t miss event. And, it’s so close to Portland that you really have no excuse not to go.

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Unless you have been living under a rock (which, here in Portland wouldn’t be super unusual anyway) for the last two decades, you are probably familiar with the music of The Decemberists. What you may not know, even if you’re familiar with their music, is that they were formed and live right here in Portland, Oregon. The Decemberists are a Grammy nominated indie rock band from Portland, Oregon consisting of Colin Meloy as the principal songwriter, lead vocalist, and guitarist, Chris Funk as guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, Jenny Conlee on piano and keyboards, Nate Query on bass and John Moen on the skins.

The quintet formed in 2000 when Colin Meloy left his band, Tarkio, in Montana and moved to Portland, Oregon. The band’s name refers to the Decembrist revolt, an 1825 rebellion in Imperial Russia. Meloy has said that the name is also meant to invoke the “drama and melancholy” of the month of December. 5 Songs, the band’s debut extended play, was self-released in 2001. To raise money for the recording, the band played all night at a McMenamins Hotel the night before the recording, which was ultimately recorded in under two hours. Already, the Portland DIY aesthetic was strong.

Musically, the group’s songs range from upbeat pop to instrumentally lush ballads, and often use instruments not normally associated with rock bands, including the accordion and the upright bass. Lyrically, The Decemberists prefer the title of raconteurs over the brooding, with songs often touching on historical themes and events and folklore. The lyrics range from the quirky (“The Sporting Life”, “Apology Song”) to the epic (“The Tain”) to the dark (“Odalisque”, “The Rake’s Song”) to the political (“16 Military Wives”, “Valerie Plame”).

On their website, The Decemberists claim that their official drink is Orangina, that they love the video game BioShock and “adore” the bands Norfolk & Western, Explosions In The Sky, The Postal Service, The Long Winters, Death Cab for Cutie, Dokken, Tycho, El Ten Eleven, Siouxie and the Banshees, R.E.M., The Shins, The Octopus Project, Electrelane, Camera Obscura, Clearlake, The Thermals, Modest Mouse (another Portland band), Swords, XTC, Earlimart and British and Irish Folk music. In, keeping up their reputation for pomposity, the bands’ bio describes how they met in a Turkish bath. A footnote following the biography claims, “The Decemberists travel exclusively by Dr. Herring’s Brand Dirigible Balloons.”

The Decemberists are also well known for their heterogenous live shows. Audience participation is a part of each performance, especially during encores. The band stages fanciful reenactments of sea battles and other centuries-old events, typically of provincial interest, or acts out songs with members of the crowd. A Decemberists show is an event, not just for the idle listener.

Very few bands exemplify the Portland aesthetic like The Decemberists. If you haven’t experienced them, get out there and do so. You will thank me later.

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The sun always comes out in Portland, Oregon.

I know that that they may seem like an oxymoron, what with our reputation for rain and gloom out here. But, a bright, warm, sunshiny day in Portland? There’s nothing like it—and they’re not quite as rare as many would lead you to believe.

Though the warm weather is relatively short-lived, with the hottest time of the year being mid-June through early September, Summers in Portland are warm, often arid and sunny. The annual rainfall totals in Portland is about 36 inches, but during these hot months, only about four and a half inches fall. So, while most of the year it’s wet and damp, these Summer months are dry and warm. These are the months when, as a kid, my dad would lay on our back deck without his shirt on and soak up the sun his California upbringing accustomed him tool. These are the months when the smell of freshly mowed grass and barbecue permeate the air and the lakes and rivers fill with boats and people.

In Portland, the warmest month is August, with an average high temperature of just over eighty one degrees. Because we lie seventy miles from the Oregon Coast, Portland summers are less susceptible to the moderating influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean. As a result, Portland experiences heat waves on rare occasion, with temperatures rising into the nineties for a few days. In fact, I remember some summers as a kid, where the heat was so intense and constant that I counted the days back to the gloom and rain and occasional snow of winter. However, these heat waves are rare. On average, temperatures reach or exceed eighty on only fifty-six days per year, of which twelve days will reach into the nineties, with one or two days reaching triple digits. Most of the time, though, the Summer temperatures in Portland are warm enough to enjoy the plethora of outdoor activities available here, yet still comfortable and fairly moderate.

The most ninety plus days ever recorded in one year is thirty-one, which happened last year, in 2018. The highest temperature ever recorded in Portland was a sauna-like one hundred and seven degrees, on July 30, 1965. This temperature reached on two other occasions on August 8 and 10, 1981. The warmest recorded overnight low was seventy-four on July 28, 2009. However most summer nights drop into a cool enough temperature that the nights can be enjoyed and sleep will not be disturbed.

In Portland, you may not need an air conditioner very often, but during those warm, summer months, you’ll find yourself dipping in the Willamette, soaking up the sun, or just enjoying brews and burgers in your backyard. There’s nothing quite like Portland in the Summer time.

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I don’t talk about Sherwood, Oregon much but, I really should. If you’re into the suburban life, it’s a perfect spot to live. Nestled between Tualatin and Newberg yet still close enough to Portland to enjoy the big city life when you want too, this upper middle class neighborhood has great schools lots of parks and plenty of terrific jobs.

But, those aren’t what brought me to Sherwood last week. What brought me to Sherwood was the promise of beer and food.

Sure, we can get these things in abundance in downtown Portland, but, my when buddy offered to treat and he didn’t want to make the trek into Portland. He wanted me to check out Smockville Brewhouse.

After my visit, I have to say that this was a terrific experience.

For starters, the Smockville Brewhouse looks really bad ass. It’s like an urban brewhouse in the middle of suburban America. It opens up to a wood-filled interior, with modern style exposed piping in the ceilings that reminds me of the boiler room at the Mcmenamins Kennedy School location. The bar area is super cool, too, overlooking the brew-making area. You can watch the magic happen while you taste the magic. I drank my beer while I watched the big batches being created, each engineered with love and care by the trio of co-owners who permeate the bar with a desire for socializing over beer comfort food.

“Come for the beer. Stay for the food,” My friend said.

I opened the menu as I sipped the Flooded Basement Pale Ale, an easy to drink light beer infused with refreshing tropical and citrus fruity essences. My buddy drank the Go Time IPA, a light brown with strawberry red colored beer flavored by local, mosaic hops.

My buddy opted for the hummus nachos and I went for the Smockville Burger—a delicious sandwich topped with bacon, sharp cheddar cheese and caramelized porter onions. It was like bar food, but fancier. “And let’s switch to the Weebitta Wheat Beer.” I’ve always adored wheat beers and this one if an unfiltered American flavor, a trivial floral taste and scent.

There’s so much more I could say about Smockville Brewhouse. I’m really glad I found it and It made the trek to Sherwood worth it. Delicious food, a cool spot and terrific beers. It’s hard to find a better option or a better way to spend an afternoon.

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Admit it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We’ve all been at a concert, held our lighter or cell phone devices up high in the air and yelled “Free bird. Play Free bird!”

Imagine if you will, for a moment, shouting out “Free bird” and the having the band on stage actually busting it out. Well, if you are in Ridgefield, Washington—about an hour north of Portland—on July 26th for the Lynrd Skynrd Street Survivors Farewell Tour, this could happen I’m not saying it will happen. I’m saying it could.

Even a tragic plane crash in 1977, which killed original vocalist Ronnie Van Zant , Guitarist Steve Gaines and his wife, backup singer Cassie Gaines, couldn’t stop the band. After a ten-year hiatus, the band returned to the stage with Johnny Van Zant, Ronnie’s younger brother, and continued to delight audiences around the world. Lynrd Skynrd has sold more than thirty million albums worldwide, and USA Today has called them Southern rock’s “most popular and influential crew.” Indeed, Lynrd Skynrd is synonymous with a good time, with Southern Rock, sunshine, and with longevity and endurance.

But, but like all good times, this one is coming to an end.

Cheer them on as the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Lynyrd Skynyrd put a bow on an illustrious, five-decade long career, with one final tour looking back at the band’s biggest hits. You know the songs. “Sweet home Alabama”, “Simple Man”, “That Smell”, “Gimme Three Steps” and, of course, “Free bird.” You’ll be singing along and joining with the throngs of Skynrd fans paying homage to one of the greatest rock n roll bands to ever perform.

The Sunlight Supply Amphitheatre in Ridgefield will house this final Pacific Northwest Show and, if Skynrd (named after their high gym teacher Leonard Skinner) is on your bucket list of live performers to check out, the 26th of July, 2019 will be your final chance. I’ll be there. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And, yes, I’ll be yelling “Free Bird” at the top of my lungs.

It will be hot and sticky. The beer will be flowing and the tunes will be blasting. An outdoor concert is the perfect farewell for a band that frequently plays barefoot. A band that loves to get sun scorched and have a good time outdoors. It’s sure to be a good time for all.

For more information on how to get tickets for the show, https://www1.ticketmaster.com/lynyrd-skynyrd-last-of-the-street-ridgefield-washington-07-26-2019/event/0F00563DCF5C39F1. I hope to see you there!

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Funk Music. I never really appreciated it until, ironically, I took a music appreciation class at Clackamas Community College about ten years ago. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t appreciate how difficult it was to write and perform it. I knew that I could shake shake shake my booty to it, but I didn’t know it went deeper.

Now, I can’t get enough of it and, on May 4th and 5th this year, Funklandia, Portland’s Funk Music Festival will be in full effect at the Goodfoot Pub and Lounge. If you have never experienced the full joy of good funk music, this will be your chance.

The Goodfoot, one of the premier live music venues in Portland, Oregon, is hosting this inaugural event. Funklandia kicks off in a big way with a tribute to James Brown, and then follows with two days of funk and soul and a special kickoff jam. Funklandia was founded by Trumpeter Farnell Newton to showcase the past, present, and future of the Portland, Oregon, funk scene. I didn’t know there was one. I knew it existed, but I didn’t know it was a legit scene.

Newton is one of the most versatile musicians in the Northwest—if not the world—playing straight forward jazz, bebop, smooth jazz, Latin music, soul, hip hop, funk and more. Recently, Farnell toured with 3-time Grammy winning singer/songwriter Jill Scott and Legendary Bassist Bootsy Collins. In earlier years, Farnell performed with other legends of funk and soul, including Stevie Wonder, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, The Nth Power, Lettuce, Karl Denson, Fred Wesley, and others.

Farnell also seeks to raise up a new generation of funksters with his NW Soul Academy. This artistic brand is devoted to the expression and investigation of music for the soul. With a provincially specific focus, the academy specializes in music, education, culture, and fashion that is pertinent to our community of artists, musicians, thinkers, and supporters.

Farnell has earned the right to host and found this festival.

Stressing community empowerment, the revelries will highlight high quality, live musical performances from talent mostly bred and raised right here in Portland, Oregon.

Funklandia will feature acts by local favorites including funk legend Frankie Kash Waddy (Bootsy Collins, The JB’s, James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic), Arietta Ward (Mz. Etta’s World), Ultra Van Krome, Sarah Clarke (Dirty Revival), , Brian Foxworth (Linda Hornbuckle), DJ OG One (Official Portland Trailblazers DJ), Tyrone Hendrix (Swatkins Positive Agenda), , Kyle Molitor (Bootsy Collins), and myriad others.

Swing by for some terrific music, great food and drinks and great company. Funklandia is going to be a funky blast and I hope to see you there. For more information, please visit http://thegoodfoot.com/

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Portland, Oregon is weird. If you don’t know that, you’ve been living under a rock for a long time. It’s known for its weirdness. It takes pride in its weirdness. It even has bumper stickers imploring Portland to stay weird.

So, if you have guests in town—or even if you’re looking for a nice staycation, why not stay in one of the weird hotels around Portland? There are plenty—probably several blog pages worth but, for the purposes of this blog, we are going to focus on three of the weirdest and most unusual lodgings available in this fair city.

The first one is The Mcmenamins Crystal Hotel. In all honesty, this blog could be made up completely of McMenamins hotels. Weird is the name of their game, what with their penchant for refurbishing, rebranding, and refabricating old buildings for their own purposes. The Crystal Hotel pushes up against the edge of the Pearl District and sits across from the Crystal Ballroom, which is weird in an of itself. It’s a triangle shaped building in downtown Portland, Oregon complete with a salt water soaking pool, pet friendly rooms, and a hotel bar with frequent live music, you will surely get the Portland vibe staying here for a night on two.

But, for something really different, check out Caravan.

Tiny houses are all the rage, what with their penchant for efficiency and forced Marie Kondo-ness. So, it only makes sense that there would be a hotel in Portland that would pop up using this aesthetic. Enter: Caravan. The Tiny House Hotel, in the heart of the Alberta Arts District. In this one-of-a-kind hotel, explorers can experience what it’s like to stay in a custom-made, local built, charming tiny house. Each tiny house features imaginative elements, space-efficient furnishings, flush toilets, hot showers, electric heat, a sitting area, a kitchen, a plethora of locally made art and sustainable, Fair Trade products. Very Portland indeed.

But, if that’s too cozy for you or your guests, maybe Ace Hotel is more your speed.

Ace Hotel is centrally located and based in a historic building in downtown Portland. The open rooms are affectionately ornamented by local artists and come complete with free WiFi, minibars, flat-screen TVs and you can enjoy home-cooked locally sourced food and drink in the Clyde Common restaurant and bar. The Ace Hotel is an artistic and unique experience that is sure to make you feel like you’re experiencing Portland to the fullest.

Check out these hotels for a rousing, Portland experience for you and your guests. These hotels are on of the best things about Portland.

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I love beer. I love spirits. That’s something I’ve said repeatedly in this space. Maybe I should title this blog that. “I Love Beer. I love spirits.” It has a nice ring to it.

Okay. Maybe not so much. Nonetheless, it’s the truth.

So, loving libations, Portland, Oregon is a great place to live. Not only do we have an insane amount of breweries and distilleries, but we also have some of the best tasting beers and spirits and most creative crafters anywhere in the world.

If there is a downside to all the plentiful libations here in Portland, it’s that sometimes the options can be overwhelming. Too much of a good thing? Maybe. But, it’s a nice, First World problem to have.

So, in order to solve this problem—or at least aide in solving it—many breweries offer tasting packages where you can sample a number of beers and spirits to find the one that you like. I’ve found this to be one of the best ways to discover new and scrumptious flavors.

One such brewery is Eastside Distillery, located at 1512 Southeast 7th in Portland, just off of Hawthorne.

Eastside Distilling has an appetizing roster of spirits that are the talk of the town—and even the world.

Specializing in small batches, Eastside Distillery has taken home a number of awards, including a gold medal at the 2012 MicroLiquor Spirit Awards, SIP Magazine’s runner-up in the Best of Spirits section for Best Brown Liquor for their Burnside Bourbon, Portland Mercury’s 2011 Readers’ Choice award for favorite distillery, and a silver medal from the 2011 World Spirits Competition for their Below Deck Coffee Rum. Eastside Distillery prides itself on quality and, with each sip of each libation, you can taste the care with which it is crafted.

Within the tasting room, spirits connoisseurs can sample brews such as the Portland Potato Vodka, their Below Deck rum line, Cherry Bomb Whiskey or Oregon Marionberry Whiskey. Each spirit brings with it an air of familiarity plus a down home flavor unique to Portland.

With tasting packages starting at $42 for two or $84 bucks for a group of four, you can get a sampling of some of the finest spirits that Portland, Oregon has to offer without breaking the bank.

Centrally located, start your evening with a tasting at Eastside Distillery before moving along Hawthorne for a night of revelry.

Eastside Distillery is just one of dozens of Portland based outfits creating some of the finest spirits anywhere in the world. Pop on over for a taste. Your taste buds will thank you.

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Music Millenium is fifty years old. Fifty. This is absolutely incredible. Not only are record stores a dying breed, but for any small goods business to stay open fifty years is absolutely astounding. This Portland, Oregon mainstay is filled with memories, music and the sweet must of vinyl.

I remember as a kid that Weezer played an acoustic show at Music Millenium. Weezer. At my hometown record store.

I would go as a teenager, right as 94.7 KNRK was in it’s heyday and flip through the alphabetically arranged records and CDs. Wall to wall. Packed with glorious sounds that I loved and would discover. I remember that I would walk out with ten records for $20. It was a hall, paid for by my McDonald’s salary.

The walls were lined with flyers and posters from local shows at now defunct venues like the Satyricon and the Ash Street Saloon. It’s a walk down memory lane. Local bands like Pond and Heatmiser, Skiploader, Hazel and Crackerbash all played shows here. All had their wares and posters here. Still do. I can walk in today and see those memories. You can hear the music. You can thumb through the racks and find the music.

MP3s are great and convenient. They don’t scratch or skip. They don’t take up shelf space. But, there’s something about holding an actual record or compact disc in your hand. The art work, the liner notes, the feel. The tangibility of it. I still have boxes and boxes of CD’s stored at my mom’s house. They’re mostly all converted to digital format, but I can’t part with them.

Plus, the music just sounds better. More alive, more real, more soul. It’s the way that music was meant to be played and listened to and consumed. Music Millenium captures that. That moment in time, that snippet of history that’s fading into oblivion. Will the next generation even know the joy of flipping through a record rack and discovering new music? Maybe even just picking it out based on the cover art? Not through Spotify making suggestions, but through your own nimble fingers. There’s nothing like it.

Oh, and in true Portland retro weirdness, according to owner Terry Currier, Music Millenium sold 893 cassettes last year. Yes, Cassettes.

Music Millennium is a Portland staple. As Portland as beer, coffee, and Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Here’s to another fifty years!

Music Millenium is located at 3158 E Burnside in Portland, Oregon.

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“I want to ride a pony.” This is my daughter. This is her response any time I ask her what she wants for her birthday. She doesn’t want to own a pony. Too much responsibility, she says. She just wants to ride one for awhile and then give it back. “I just want to ride one.” She says again.

Every year I’ve had to deny my tiny angel this request. “Where am I going to find a pony?” I lament to my wife in bed. “Why can’t we just get her a bike or something?”

“Well, she wants a pony,” My wife always says. “Good night.”

After this most recent insistence on getting a pony ride and realizing that she wouldn’t be a little girl with such simple pleasures forever, I had trouble sleeping so I hopped on ye olde Google machine and researched my options.
Boom! Viola! Done and done. This year, I would make my little girls’ dreams come true. Oregon Dream Ponies in Newberg, Oregon—not too far from Portland.

Founded by Cowgirl Kim and her hubby Cowboy Bob, though they weren’t always known by such monikers. Cowgirl Kim grew up in the city, she was a country girl at heart. As a child, she scoured Oregon far and ride and rode every pony therein. She even tried to convince her mother that their garage could house a pony. No such luck.

Then came Cowboy Bob riding along on his noble steed, so to speak. The two hit it off, got hitched, and ultimately realized their dream of living out in the Oregon country, purchasing the five acres in Newberg, Oregon that now hold Oregon Dream Ponies.

In addition to eighteen ponies and horses, the all inclusive ranch also has a bunch of ducks & chickens and other farm critters. The ranch hosts birthday parties and pony experiences, providing children from the city ample time to learn about rural life and to ride ponies. To ensure safety on the pony rides, guides hand lead each pony ride.

Oregon Dream Ponies will be a way for my daughter to fulfill her lifelong wish of riding a pony, but will also give her (and us) a break from the hustle and bustle of city living and experience the fresh air and quiet of country living. I can’t wait for my daughter to have this experience and to tell you all about it. She’s going to have a blast, and so will you.

For more info, please visit: http://oregondreamponies.com/

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