Nineteen years after legendary Portland indie band Hazel broke up, Hazel will again play together at Mississippi Studios on Oct. 2. But three weeks ago, Hazel's Pete Krebs also played his own birthday party, alongside Jeremy Wilson (Dharma Bums) and Sean Croghan (Crackerbash, Jr. High). Following their solo(ish) sets at a backyard concert two weekends ago, the indie icons shared memories about meeting one another when Old Portland was young.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, down a sleepy side-street on the outskirts of Mt. Scott-Arleta, three legends of Portland music played a small concert for about 60 friends, family and regulars of the Deer Lodge home venue.
If not the founding fathers of an ascendant early '90s Portland indie scene, Jeremy Wilson, Sean Croghan and Pete Krebs—the former frontmen of Dharma Bums, Crackerbash and Hazel, respectively—would comprise three-fourths of its Mt. Rushmore. (As for that fourth essential figure, Elliot Smith's old bicycle ordinarily occupies the same stage they played on.)
The Deer Lodge—residence of Americana producer Ezra Meredith—encompasses a garage saloon, basement studio and record-label headquarters.
There's also a backyard bandstand for monthly live gigs. And, this year, Meredith and In Music We Trust impresario Alex Steininger brought the cream of old Portland together again—for, perhaps, the first time on one stage.
As far as the performers could recall, their bands had never before graced the same lineup even once during their salad days.
"There were so many shows," Wilson says. "Lotsa, lotsa gigs. Many, many years ago. When we were young."
"It was always us two," Croghan says, "or those two, but … all three of us together? Maybe never?"
In any event, their talents meshed flawlessly. Augmented by drummer Micah Kassell and pedal steel doyen Paul Brainard, Wilson's stirring twilight set gave way to a spellbinding acoustic (a capella, in part) performance from Croghan before Krebs capped the evening with a medley of tunes drawn from throughout his varied career. If the showcase was, indeed, the local mainstays' first onstage summit, the longtime comrades certainly seemed amenable to further shared bills. Krebs joked they may even consider playing as a trio.
"Yeah," he deadpanned, "we're called The Police."
How Pete Met Jeremy
Pete Krebs: How did Jeremy and I meet? This is a true story. I lived above the Uptown Beanery in Corvallis—a really cool, old, '20s or '30s building. There were four apartments up there with a coffee shop below, and in the neighboring apartment, there was a woman named Alice who for a very brief amount of time was working with the Dharma Bums—
Jeremy Wilson: No, Perfect Circle. I was still in high school.
Krebs: —and Alice was like, "I gotta go to class. Would you mind hanging out with Jeremy until I can come back and grab him?" I was his handler, basically. This is 1985. I'm 19, maybe. We're in my living room. So, I'm, like, "I write some songs," and I played this one song about 40 times while Jeremy sang backup. I have a cassette of it somewhere.
Wilson: The next morning, I get up, walk to the campus area of Corvallis, and write a 20-page poem based on me and Pete hanging out all night long.
Krebs: You and I were?
Wilson: Yes! You and I were talking! And I wrote this really long poem. Actually, the Dharma Bums CD of self-recordings that we put out in 2010 has a song called "Impression Sunday," a two-minute, 30-second pop song consolidated down from this epic poem. It was seriously huge. The only thing that we were imbibing was probably coffee, maybe some weed, but I don't even remember the weed.
Krebs: I don't remember staying up all night and talking. It was a long time ago.
Wilson: Well, I don't remember playing your song 40 times.
Krebs: It's called "Tragedy".
How Sean met Pete
Sean Croghan: I met Pete because Pete was in Thrillhammer. I was starting Crackerbash, we were playing shows together at the Blue Gallery, and I was just, like, "Let's hang out sometime and drink beer and talk about music and shit and [drops tone], yeah, you're a cool guy."
We had a long, hours-long conversation about the future of underground music. At that time, Portland was really invested in blues-based junkie-rock. It was all Napalm Beach, which at the time I hated but now totally love. I was just, like, let's get past all this dark rock. We have to create something new – something that's not based on old sounds but still rock'n'roll.
I still loved rock'n'roll, but I wanted an amalgam of '60s rock and garage rock and punk rock and hardcore and industrial music and all these other things that I liked. It ended up, though, like, "Oh. Now, I kinda miss Dead Moon and Napalm Beach and blues rock." All the things that we were trying to do became tropes and passé.
How Jeremy met Sean
Croghan: The Dharma Bums were first, a long time before Hazel or Crackerbash.
Krebs: I remember sitting in my apartment in NW Portland on 19th & Everett when someone brought home the first 45 that the Dharma Bums put out, and I was like, "I can't believe that some of my friends made a fucking record! It's on vinyl! This is so rad!"
Croghan: For me, their record was such a big deal because it wasn't hardcore. I felt like all the local bands were hardcore or punk rock or the Wipers.
Wilson: You know the documentaries about Satyricon being this kind of place where people would converge? Sean and I probably met pre-Crackerbash in, like, '86. He had his Satyricon nights—Sean's and my and everybody's bands. We would draw people on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday night. They wouldn't give us Friday or Saturday at Satyricon, but we were all a crew. And, my band was a couple years ahead so we gave them the exposure.
Pete and I met two years prior to us even playing Satyricon. We were younger, but there were a lot of freaks. The Bums were coming out of a scene very akin to what's going on right now. It was fucking Donald Trump, man. It was Moral Majority crap. I know for myself, I was actually having physical altercations.
With people like me and Sean and Pete, there are some real stories that run deeper—and not in some sort of shallow, "here's to keeping Portland weird" crap. I mean, stories about our parents moving to the West Coast and then landing here in this kinda Appalachia of the Northwest. And then, a person like myself kinda coming through the blue collar scene that there was in Portland. I'm not trying to expound on the myth or anything, but at the same time, it's deeper than people realize.
The Deer Lodge next hosts Sarah Gwen (October), Gabe Rozell (November), and Drunken Prayer (December). Complete fall schedule forthcoming from deerlodgepdx.com.
The Jeremy Wilson Foundation's (thejwf.org) benefit supporting the Lisa Lepine Musician's Relief Fund will be helf Sunday, November 13th at the Crystal Ballroom.