Best Multicultural Sports League
The former British Empire can be criticized for a lot of things—plunder, slaughter, incest—but at sporting fields around the greater Portland area, you can also witness one of the few great contributions (next to IPA, of course) Mother England has made to the world: cricket. Since 2005, expat South Africans, Jamaicans, Brits, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Afghanis, Australians, New Zealanders—and yes, even a few Americans—have been playing the world's second most popular sport under the auspices of the Oregon Cricket League (oregoncricketleague.org). It's basically baseball for nerds: less physically demanding and more strategic, with cable knit sweaters and periodic breaks for tea. Despite the sport's relative obscurity in the U.S., the league hosts eight teams, seven of which are based in the Portland metro area—that's more than we have roller derby teams. Head down to John Deere Field in Gresham some Saturday, and clap politely for them. RUTH BROWN.
Best Portland Tattoo
In a town as overflowing with civic pride as Portland, there's no shortage of citizens eager to show their dedication to the city by branding it into their flesh. We've seen Portland etched across knuckles and lower backs, silhouettes of bridges from the Hawthorne to the St. Johns, multiple renditions of the White Stag sign, outlines of Oregon in rainbows and bike chain and countless tributes to the Trail Blazers. Nob Hill studio Art Work Rebels offers two dozen Portland-themed designs, and earlier this year The Portland Mercury even persuaded some poor schlub to get a tramp stamp of the paper's logo. But Andrew Wightman's Portland-themed sleeve beats even Nickey Robare's beautifully rendered Benson bubbler that we featured in last year's Best of Portland.
Created over the course of eight months by Amy Cole (formerly of Hollywood's Tigerlily Tattoo, who will soon open Little Tattoo Shop at Northeast 13th Avenue and Fremont Street), Wightman's montage of Portland icons includes the Hawthorne and Fremont bridges, KOIN and Wells Fargo Centers, US Bancorp Tower, Pioneer Courthouse Square's "Allow Me" statue, the "Made in Oregon" sign, Union Station, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall's "Portland" marquee, Mount Hood and trees and cyclists winding through it all. Wightman, a 26-year-old native of Eagle Point, Ore. who made the trek to Portland at age 18, says his tattoos celebrate the things he loves. "My sleeve on my right arm is just about me. On the top I have where I grew up in Eagle Point, and I have my football team, the Packers." A former cook (he worked at Taqueria Nueve, D.F. and Hood River restaurant Nora's Table) and current civil engineering student, Wightman says he devoted the lower portion of his sleeve tat to the city because, "ever since I moved to Portland, I've felt like it was home." BEN WATERHOUSE.
Anyone who has played a show in the main room at Rontoms (600 E Burnside St.), or just sipped a beer near the fire there for that matter, has found themselves spacing out and looking upward, hypnotized by the slow-spinning death machine suspended from the vaulted ceiling above by a thin, fragile-looking metal bar. For five years this ominous, medieval-looking device (what is it made of, fucking stone!?) has spun, and for almost five years I've envisioned it snapping loose and crashing down on the patrons below, dismembering and crushing them in a jumble of bloody and deafening violence. Sure, this monstrosity technically qualifies as a fan (rotor: check!; blades: oh, Jesus, check!), but I prefer to think of Rontoms' giant fan—a retired propeller, it turns out—as a death clock, winding its way toward the final reckoning hour. The Stones at Altamont? A mere scuffle. The Great White fire? Child's play. When the fan falls at Rontoms, the date shall be written in blood in every Moleskine planner in Portland, and all shall bow before a new metal god! CASEY JARMAN.
Best Eastside Elvis
Like his idol, Milwaukie-based Elvis Nagel has burst back onto the scene after more than a decade of retirement, and he's chosen a rather unlikely place to do it: The Pink Feather (14154 SE Division St., 761-2030, pinkfeatherrestaurantandlounge.com), a charmingly divey restaurant with a tiny, boomer-populated bar plopped in outer East Portland.
But on Friday and Saturday nights at 10 pm, it's Vegas, and Nagel, a dead ringer for Presley in image and voice, is the King.
A successful impersonator who spent years touring the globe with a 25-piece band and whose moniker is his birth name, Nagel packs the bar each weekend. His act, custom built by nightly audience requests from his catalog of 489 songs, lights up the floor and keeps the patrons swooning, particularly the ladies.
Nagel says it's all about giving the audience what it wants.
"It brings me great joy to bring joy to others. I see someone who's hurt, or it's her birthday or anniversary, and I want to see them smile," says Nagel. "I treat them as if this were their last day on Earth."
Nagel boasts a wardrobe of more than 60 outfits, including a $32,000 jumpsuit and glasses worn by the King himself. Each night, he slow dances with a lucky lady and doles out 10 scarves, 16 roses and one teddy bear to audience members.
Nagel, who dedicates his show to his late mother, Elvira, plans to take his show back on the road soon. For now, though, he's happy to sit on his throne at the Feather, creating a time warp that has become legend at the tiny bar.
"I feel that somehow, when Elvis passed away, his spirit was transported into me," says Nagel. "A metamorphosis occurs. It's like when Superman puts on his cape. I put on the sunglasses and change." AP KRYZA.
Best Anonymous Public Art
Were they the sole remnants left behind by the raptured few on May 21? Or did a few World Naked Bike Ride enthusiasts strip a bit early? The potential explanations could be listed out forever—all we know is that clothes laid out in the shape of a person started popping up on benches around downtown Portland in May. The empty outfits, complete with classy shades and blue camouflage shoes, sat carefully placed as if a 2-D invisible man were resting by the PSU farmers market, and later down at the waterfront during the Rose Festival. The effect was both eerie and humorous, and the outfits became a sort of performance art as passersby snapped photos of themselves with the piece or uncomfortably glanced back as they walked on, lives momentarily interrupted. NATALIE BAKER.
Best Kid Rock
Put a cork in that baby beluga, Raffi. Portland musicians Johnny Keener and Jason Greene have a message: Just because you're making music for kids doesn't mean it needs to be lame. Parents should not be driven to insanity by the repetition of your goo-goo-ga-ga bullshit.
Under the moniker Johnny and Jason, Keener and Greene have released Go, Go...Go, Go, Go, a "family rock" album catering to parents who don't want their kids to listen to pablum. Keener and Greene, who are two-thirds of poppy space-rock trio Yoyodyne, have crafted an ambitious, genre-hopping indie-rock album with traces of country, folk, Jim Croce-style storytelling anthems and old-fashioned rock. But the songs are about pets, toys, wagons, counting, family, eating pancakes and other goofball topics.
(On second thought, that doesn't sound too far away from your typical Portland band's subject matter.)
"There's a song called 'What's Your Pet's Name?,' that kind of thing, and you might ask, 'Is that a kid's song, or is it an absurd, surreal, slightly psychedelic folk song?'" said Keener, who performs regularly at the Portland Children's Museum. "There's a place in the world for music everybody can dig."
For the two stay-at-home dads, writing music for kids was natural in a city where the hip are entering mid-life and the next generation of Portland musicians is growing up right beneath their noses and tattooed forearms.
"I'm at a party and I look around and there are 10 kids, and I don't want to have to pick up the guitar and play 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,"' said Keener. "I do that, but I don't want to do it all day. I find myself more and more in situations where I'm in a group and there happen to be 30-year-old hipsters and 3-year-olds all around, so my own life is dictating this progression. That's why I make these records."
Go, Go...Go, Go, Go is available at Johnny & Jason shows, and at the Portland Children's Museum. AP KRYZA.
Spike Kinsey hasn't spent a lot of time in Portland, but he feels more strongly about the city than some who have lived here their entire lives.
"Portland is one of my favorite cities ever, especially when it doesn't rain," Kinsey says.
Kinsey originally hails from Turtle Ridge, Minn., a town that he describes as "having no one in it." Kinsey is a dancer, and an unconventional one: Self-taught through dance videos and aerobics classes and influenced by Paula Abdul, he describes his style as "great and based off of animal movements and emotions." It's an eccentric equation, but Kinsey's moves have been met with considerable success and a very supportive fan base. After flexing his dancing chops at last year's MusicfestNW, Kinsey says he felt supported enough to take his dancing to the Internet (spikecandance.com). In just a week, his YouTube videos had over 300,000 hits; they now have over 1.3 million, all in less than a year. Kinsey has even been touring, recently returning from dancing for a DJ show in Amsterdam.
"Dancing at MusicFestNW is what gave me the courage to dance in Amsterdam, to dance in public," Kinsey says. "It really changed my life forever." NATASHA GEILING.
Best Squeaky-Clean Strippers
Most businesses require their employees to wash their hands before returning to work. The dancers at Sassy's (927 SE Morrison St., 231-1606, sassysbar.com) wash their entire bodies on the storied club's shiny new (well, two-year-old) patio area. In addition to keeping smokers who are banished to the outdoors aroused with a patio stage, Sassy's upped the ante by also installing a shower outside, where the voluptuous vixens can cool off while heating things up with the clientele. A shower show at most strip joints costs an arm and a leg; at Sassy's, it's just part of what makes the bar great. Making it rain at a strip club has never been so inexpensive—or hot. AP KRYZA.