One might assume when the United States' first- and second-ranked pinball pros hit the same tournament, it's all strobe lights and smoke machines and Zoolander-esque ego. Not so, says Seattle's Cayle George, who never quite grabbed the crown from fellow Seattleite Keith Elwin.

"I wouldn't say I was naturally competitive," George says. "But I'm the kind of person that plays better under pressure." To simulate that pressure at home, where George keeps about 15 machines, he sometimes holds tournaments...with himself. In the busy season, he practices for about two hours a day.

The 31-year-old Berkeley native, who honed his flipper fingers on pinball in bars and laundromats around the University of Oregon before finding work—somewhat scandalously—as a video-game designer, says he and the top-ranked Elwin have similar games with subtle differences. "Keith, I would say, plays a bit more of a relaxed game than I do. He has a better intuition about where the ball is bouncing…I usually take more of a proactive approach and brute-force the ball to get it to do exactly what I want."

At the end of the day, both players—and other competitors from Portland and around the world who will compete at this, the fourth annual Showdown—are monsters of a game whose glory days are behind it. Stern Pinball's new AC/DC-themed game premieres at the Goodfoot this week, but it's a blip on the radar compared to the Showdown, which focuses on the golden-era machines of the 1990s. "Every game that Stern has been releasing has been worse than the one that came out before it," George says. "The programming is awesome...but they aren't trying to be trendsetters. They have had a couple of gems come out, but most of them are a bit lacking."

George is currently building his own pinball machine. He estimates it will be completed in 2018.

SEE IT: Stern's AC/DC Tournament is Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Goodfoot, 2845 SE Stark St. 6 pm. 21+. The Rose City Showdown IV runs Friday-Sunday, Feb. 17-19, at Slingshot Lounge, 5532 SE Center St. 21+. See for info and full schedule. 

Headout Picks


[MUSIC] We wouldn’t be surprised if songs like “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO” and “My Favorite Mutiny” were played throughout Occupy camps across the country. All three acts on tonight’s bill are underground hip-hop royalty. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St. 9 pm. $18 advance, $20 day of show. 21+.

FRIDAY Feb. 17

[MOVIES] Through the lens of first-time director Djo Tunda Wa Munga, the Congolese capital of Kinshasa feels like Las Vegas—a wasteland glowing with seedy glamour—except the casinos and strip clubs are replaced with outdoor bazaars, whorehouses and crumbling domiciles. The centerpiece film of the Cascade Festival of African Films. Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 493-1128. 7 pm. Free.
[MUSIC] The terrific, local new-music ensemble’s John Cage concert features Oregon Symphony music director Carlos Kalmar intoning Cage’s famous Zen-inspired “Lecture on Nothing,” as well as the striking voice and piano piece “Litany for the Whale,” 20 harpists playing an improvisation based on Indian ragas, a chance-derived work for strings and winds performed by the Portland State University New Music Ensemble, the landmark 1942 “Credo in Us” (which uses Cage’s famous prepared piano, radio and various percussion), a work for conch shells, an audio installation, a work to be performed by the audience and more—including, of course, those notorious 4
minutes that are not really about silence at all. YU Contemporary, 800 SE 10th Ave., 236-7996, 8 pm. $12.50-$25.


On this day, breweries across the state will open their doors to beer lovers for tastings, classes, new releases, tours and other festivities as part of the Oregon Brewers Guild’s annual Zwickelmania brewery open house. For those who can’t find a designated driver and don’t wish to die in some horrific drunk-driving-related car accident, there will be several shuttle-bus services driving around the Portland area. Check out for a full list of events and participating breweries. 11 am-4 pm. Free. 21+.


[MOVIES] In this Israeli academic comedy, screened for PIFF, the dueling Shkolniks are basically the Archie and Peyton Manning of Jewish studies, if Archie kept running back on the field during Colts games. Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave., 276-4310. 5 pm. $7-$10.