A weekend with your barber (Unheavenly Skye)
March 27th, I get a text message from my buddy Jimmy who works over at 104.3 WOW Country.
Jimmy - Ok.. so I did a thing today.. I bought two tickets to the Coheed show in Portland
Chris - Dude that’s awesome, count me in! What level of seats did you get?
J - GA floor seats. Gold package
C - What does the gold package include?
J - Early entry. VIP laminate. One song acoustic performance. Early access to merch.
C - Oh shit, how much am I in for with your second ticket?
J - My treat.
Neither one of us had ever been to Portland, so we had no idea what to expect from the city. I asked Jimmy, “what kind of experience do you want to have?” and he said “I’m honestly up for experiencing anything that comes my way.”
“Are there any purchases you want to make while in Oregon?”
Now, Jimmy is not into the legal freedom of Oregon’s recreational dispensaries, he is a bit less nefarious in nature than where my interests take me. So while I immediately was thinking of what cool dispensaries I can hit up, he responds with,
“I’d like to find a nice hat that I wouldn’t be able to get in Boise, but other than that I just kind of want to experience whatever it is that Portland has to offer.”
In a previous life, I was a travel agent (it’s where I met my wife), so planning experiences for other people to have comes naturally to my skill set. There’s an old independent bookstore, Stumptown Coffee, some beer, and a haberdashery to fill his hat request were in our future. I was going to try and hit up a few barbershops while I was in town, but this was first and foremost, a trip about music, so we also had to make sure we checked out a record store I was told about while we’re there.
Yelp and a few other websites I learned about from the previous life were helpful in finding some destinations, but I relied pretty heavily on the opinions of the shop’s patrons who have spent a lot of their own time in PDX. Once the list of attractions was given the go ahead, our trip had been planned and the countdown began.
When talking about the drive from Boise to Portland, you would be amiss in failing to mention how gorgeous the landscape is. Six hours of lush forests, with The Dalles to finish off the drive. There’s even a bridge called “The Bridge of The Gods” How metal is that?
It may seem easy to explain through pictures, but you never really experience it until you’re standing in the midst of it. The beauty of road trips isn’t being stuck in a car, it’s the time you pull off the side of the road to spend two minutes of quiet time in a scenic lookout and appreciating the beauty of what we have in the northwest.
We arrive into Oregon City around 2:30 and meet up with Jimmy’s college friend, Sam (Go Nanooks), at her parent’s property. We dropped off our bags, changed, and headed out to the Moda Center for The Unheavenly Skye Tour. Yes, we were going to be incredibly early, but dammit, we were going to have the best seats in the house.
I fucking love both Every Time I Die and Coheed & Cambria. I’ve seen ETID live at least half a dozen times in the past decade, but I’ve only listened to Mastadon in passing a few times since finding out I would see them. Coheed & Cambria is the only band that I have a tattoo for. This is the single band that defined my love for conceptualized music built around stories instead of focusing on life experiences. Claudio Sanchez has a way of making fiction come to life, but I have only ever been able to see them perform live once. It was close to fifteen years ago in the parking lot of the Boise Town Square mall. Zumies was doing a skatepark concert series, so they set up halfpipes in mall parking lots and had a somewhat unknown band play music off of their new album “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3.” Seeing them live was magic, and every tour announcement after that has been filled with disappointment to realize that Boise would be continuously skipped over.
The Unheavenly Skye tour did not disappoint.
Now, before I explain the show, I need you to understand where my head is at. I haven’t been to Oregon since Easter, so it’s been a minute since I had last smoked, and my tolerance was simply absent from the situation. I will forever be convinced that the tour manager built this tour for this scenario.
As part of the package Jimmy got, we were able to get in for an acoustic performance from Coheed. It may have only been a single song, but it was definitely one of the highlights of the entire evening. After the acoustic performance, we stake our claim to the stage right railing that was available, standing guard (although it’s more like sitting for the 75 minutes until the show started.
Friends that were introduced to me by Jimbo visit The Barber Story when thwy are in Boise, but they live outside of Portland, and Jess was there for the show. She found me from her seat and sent me this.
Perfect placement. Two of my all time favorite bands that I’ve been listening to for 15 years, and an unforgettable introduction into Mastadon. What happened next is the single greatest concert I have been to.
Like I said before, I have never listened to Mastodon before. Related/Unrelated, my month long tolerance break ended in the moments between ETID finishing their set and Mastodon beginning theirs. After the first song finished, I whispered into Jimmy’s ear, “I have no idea what I just signed up for.”
Everyone I have since talked to has said that Mastodon typically puts on an insane visual show, but this tour was celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their album, Crack the Skye, so they played the album in its entirety, as well as, I am Ahab . After that unforgettable set ended, Coheed came out and melted what was left of our faces off and made all the time spent in a car worth the trip.
The show ended.
Without exaggeration, I have been going to shows since I was 13, and in almost two decades, this was the most insane tour I have ever seen. Three power house bands all put on amazing performances, and now we were starving.
Yelp showed limited options, so WedgeHead became our new course. It was burgers, beers, and pinball, but considering how limited our options were, I’m stoked to have stumbled upon it. The atmosphere reminded me of SpaceBar’s older brother. Die Hard was playing in the background, there were a ton of pinball machines to choose from, both new and old, as well as a damn fine burger and drinks menu. The Dangerfield (with it’s smoked bacon and smoked gouda) is the best burger I had in Portland, and the Pash Bandifroot CBD infused cocktail was exactly what my lower back needed to help me forget that I’m too old to be standing at the front of a show.
Day One - Complete
We wake up, and my wallet was significantly lighter because of last night’s visit to the march booth. I miss the days when $20 could get you a poster, 2 stickers, and a t-shirt, and you were satisfied with all of it. Not anymore, I want to get a poster from each band, and because I’m me, I want the signed options if they’re available, plus picking up things for people back home.
Regardless, I had planned ahead. My old boss from Maximus gets his haircut in the shop, and he grew up in Portland. When I asked him about places to go for our visit, he told me about Music Millennium, so I brought a small collection of my rare records from home to sell so we could have the excuse to visit.
One of the records was a signed first pressing of Take This To Your Grave, and the guy working the counter told me how badly he wanted to have it up on their wall, so with a reasonable negotiation, the weekend was funded.
I was a little bummed at first with parting with so many records from my youth, but music helped fund a weekend of music, so it seemed appropriate that they go to a pillar of the record scene in the PNW.
Off to Powell’s to make our ladies back in Boise fill to the brim with jealousy.
In my previous life as a travel agent, I learned there are two type of people. People who like to vacation with an agenda, and those who like to go with the flow. If you like to go with the flow, overplan your options so you can go with a list of things you feel like doing, and you’ll always have inspiration without feeling too bad if you don’t hit everything. We wanted to do typical touristy shit for our first visit and the only day in Portland, and everyone I have asked the question, “What should I do in Portland?” have said you can’t go to Portland without experiencing an actual city of books.
Powell’s is overwhelming in scale when you walk in the doors, and book lovers could easily lose themselves for hours.
We decided that we didn’t want to get lost, so we were going to work our way from the top and scale down.
On the top floor you can find the Rare Book Room, which holds exactly what you would expect, rare books. Only these are the kind of rare books that have historical and significant value. It’s a climate controlled room that is built to preserve the things that made me wish for $5,000 in disposable income.
After Powell’s, we had two missions. Jimmy’s hat, and I wanted to go see a few barbershops to get some inspiration for an upcoming remodel I’m planning. His option was easier because mine required a tram ride across the river, so we found our way to John Helmer.
Hats on and accompanied by the friends I ran into at the show, we decided to walk around and explore before we got on the tram. It didn’t take long before I turned a corner and found an art of shaving. I was stoked because most of them have a barbershop in the back of them, but the one back in Boise was never retrofitted to offer the service, so I have always wanted to check one out.
We also drove over to Union Barber Co. so I could visit one of my brother’s friends, but unfortunately they were closed, so I was only able to snap a quick picture while we drove by.
The best of my luck came from Bob’s suggestion. Bob is one of Chase’s clients that I’ve gone out shooting with. Simply put, Bob is a badass. Bob also used to live in Portland, and he said I needed to check out Brick & Mortar Grooming and Supply Co. This one was on the other side of the river, but we made it in a half hour before they closed for the day, and I was able to meet their shop manager. Isaac welcomed me to explore and welcomed Jimmy to a shot of whiskey. We talked shop while I took in their decor, and I’m glad Bob told me about them. It was an absolutely beautiful shop.
It had been a day of walking around, and we were walking back to meet up with Cord & Jess when we randomly walked past the Rogue Tap House. Not saying no to opportunity, we sat down for a beverage. Even though I’ve recently cut alcohol out of my life, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a nice craft beverage from time to time.
The day had been exhausting, we saw a lot of what we wanted to see, and we found a few reasons to bring us back to the area in the future, but we were done for the day.
Before I wrap up, there is one store that I want to point out, and that’s Boy’s Fort.
I have never left a store feeling like I was a kid again in the way I did after visiting Boy’s Fort. Their focus is decor for adults who are still kids at heart, and holy crap did they hit the nail on the head. I brought back an Archie City print of Boise for my wife and a pin for my board at the shop, as well as this great Star Wars Panoramic Postcard set that I had never seen before.
Definitely worth the stop.
As quickly as it began, the day ended and we headed back to the house for an evening of Oregon City’s hospitality.
Day Two - Complete
Tuesday morning we packed everything up in the back of the Jeep so we could head back to Boise. Sam’s family were the most incredibly kind people and welcomed me with open arms, and they were a huge part of what made the trip so fantastic. Her mom, Tammy, had asked me about how the trip to the record store turned out, and after telling her the story of negotiating the sale, she showed me her personal collection. All I can say is this;
I held these records.
Like I said, this trip was all about the music, and it lived that spirit from the beginning to the end.