September 8th, 2008 | by Matt Graham News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, Multnomah County

Carpenter, farmer...or guitar hero? New professions cross the Oregon Trail

oregon trail

Anybody who has ever moved halfway across the country—and there are more than a few of you out here in PDX who've done just that—knows that it can be a hell of a lot of work. You've got to secure housing, find a job, figure out what's worth bringing, find a way to transport it, and then spend days driving or riding across often barren landscapes, alternating weight from one butt cheek to the other in an attempt to keep them from falling asleep.
Okay, so maybe you don't have to get a job or housing, but you still have to pack and get your ass out here.
Moving yourself and possibly your family is one thing, but moving an entire company and a rock band is an ox of a different color. Vidoop, a software company from Tulsa, OK, arrived in Portland last night with 42 people, 4 RVs and 5 U-Halls after a five-day caravan. Fortunately, they documented the whole thing in text and video on their Oregon Trail blog.
Sam Alexander, a Web programmer from Vidoop, said starting the blog was a natural way for a bunch of techies to keep the folks back home in the loop. “We decided it would be the best way to keep everybody from calling every 15 minutes asking us how we were doing.”
The company hired Australian tour guides to lead them as they attempted to reenact the popular children's educational videogame (check out a free online generic ripoff of it here, and WW's recent bastardization of it in honor of the Oregon Brewers Fest, here), this time without slaughtering half of the country's wild game in a series of over-ambitious hunting trips. Though they weren't in their native lands, the tour guides apparently knew what they were doing as nobody on the trip died of cholera.
Vidoop bills itself as a “Web identity” company. Basically, they conglomerate all of your Web information in one place so that you don't need a separate identity for every Web account you have. Anybody who's ever forgotten their MySpace password can tell you just how much of a problem too many Web IDs can be, especially when you've also forgotten how to access the now-defunct email account that they're sending your new password to.
A rock band fronted by Alexander formerly known as Black Swan but recently rechristened Emigrant also tagged along with the company. Alexander said Vidoop knew leaving the band would be hard for him when they moved here, so CEO Luke Sontag offered to bring his bandmates along. Alexander was nervous the group wouldn't want to uproot simply because he had a job opportunity, but they were more than happy to become a Portland band.
“It's hard to be a band from Tulsa, because nobody really cares,” he explains. In their two years of existence they developed enough of a local following that Tulsa fans were sad to see them leave, but whenever they toured elsewhere the audience would turn away upon hearing where the band was from. “We'd be complete asses if we didn't take this opportunity.”
Alexander says he is fortunate to work for a company of mostly twentysomethings who were sympathetic to his musical endeavors. “This isn't so much a corporate sponsorship...I work with a bunch of really cool people who like good movies and good music.”

The band treated their traveling companions to a series of after-hour campsite concerts in repayment for their courtesy, one of which ended in a visit from the police (the law enforcement officers, not the musicians). "We thought they were going to pull the plug on us," Alexander said, "but they got out there and they were like, 'No, it's good, go ahead and finish your set.'"

Portland, as a young city with a burgeoning art scene and a growing tech sector, is a natural fit for both the band and Vidoop. “The entire culture of the city is a better fit for us as individuals,” says Alexander. “We sort of went as far as we could in Tulsa.”
While the company has hit the ground running in Portland, the band is still looking for a permanent place to live. “We're pretty much sleeping on floors,” Alexander said. But they're hoping to remedy that and start performing shows here by October.

Regardless of what happens, life's a journey, not a destination. Right, Sam?

"It was awesome," says Alexander. "This was really a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip."
 
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