Simon Widdowson conquered Portland music against the odds...and his better judgment.
Just about any way you slice it, Simon Widdowson shouldn't be here. Start with the fact that he grew up in Leeds, England. Then, his six years of living in the Twin Cities, followed by another six or so outside Santa Fe--the right side of the Greenwich Meridian, maybe, but both thousands of miles from our fair city.
Finally, factor in the immediate, visceral dislike he took to Portland.
"The first time I was in Portland it was, like, five days," says Widdowson. "I hated the place. A while later, I went back to England, and I was trying to figure out what I should do. And I kept thinking to myself, 'My God, I think I'm supposed to go back to Portland. Why? I can't stand the place!'"
And yet here he is. After about three years in town, Widdowson runs the recording studio Are You Listening, the sound lab responsible for some of the shiniest gems in Portland's recent pop past: He's recorded Papillon, Little Sue and the Decemberists, among others. The studio is the heart of a quasi-collective of graphic designers, artists and other creative types who share a converted industrial space down by the tracks in inner Southeast's warehouse zone.
"I had this vision of this urban situation, a recording studio with all these bands and artists and creative people all working in the same space," he says. "I was half-delusional, I think. For the first six months, all I did was paint and hammer up walls."
Construction complete, Widdowson found time to return to the songwriting career he once pursued with hard-touring pop bands the Rainjackets and Spearfish. The result is Sweeper, a brooding, romance-damaged pop album that can summon either Nine Inch Nails or Leonard Cohen as needed. On disc, Widdowson is a bruised yet refined presence, a guy who's been around but still has the energy to put his words across with muscle.
With the album about to drop, a possible return to the road on his mind and his studio going strong, it would seem capricious fate did Simon Widdowson a favor by landing him in Portland--whatever the odds may have been. (Zach Dundas)
Simon Widdowson plays Friday, March 28, at Berbati's Pan, 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. Jonah, Little Sue and DJ Roger Campos also appear. $7. 21+.
It's Our Special WAR + MUSIC Quiz
Answer these questions within 48 hours OR ELSE.
BY ZACH DUNDAS
War has always inspired musicians, either to patriotism, cynicism or protest. In fact, it's safe to assume that armed conflict ranks just behind enjoyable premarital sex and the art of getting hideously drunk as a popular song topic.
With that in mind, here's our 12-question WAR+MUSIC quiz. Anyone who answers all 12 questions correctly and emails their brilliance to email@example.com NO LATER than 10 am Friday, March 28, enters a drawing for a fabulous gift certificate to a locally owned record store. Be sure to include a phone number or email address with your entry.
Use the Internet if you want, but know that you are a complete loser and failure as a sports(wo)man if you do.
1. What band inverted the geography of Erich Maria Remarque's famous World War I novel on a 1981 album?
2. Who fronted the British rock band Ugly Rumours?
3. What two intoxicants do the Beastie Boys urge Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush to share in the song "In a World Gone Mad"?
4. a) Who released the song "Singin' in Vietnam Talkin' Blues" in 1971?
4. b) According to the lyrics, what was the singer eating when he decided to go to the Orient, namely Saigon?
5. Who was originally a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way?
6. A 1917 hit urged protagonist Johnnie to show someone he was a "son of a gun." Who?
7. a) What group noted, somewhat cryptically, that "a system built by the sweat of the many creates assassins to kill off the few"?
7. b) Name the song and album.
8. What stadium hit is set to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven"?
9. What is the name of Trail Blazer Dale Davis' record company?
10. What is the name of the Iraqi pop star who toured the United States this February?
WRITTEN TO WHAT WE CAN ONLY PRESUME ARE THE DULCET SOUNDS OF COMBAT AIR PATROLS
HISS and VINEGAR
Bands and musicians in the self-declared Portland Autonomous Zone have until noon this Friday to sign up for FREE listings in WW's second annual Music Directory. Make all kinds of fame happen just by registering at www.wweek.com/pdxmusicproject/addyourband.lasso. Hundreds of bands have already done the deed; ya don't wanna be left out, do you? Once you sign up, you can mail a photo of your band to 822 SW 10th Ave., PDX 97205, or email a JPEG to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PACIFIC SWITCHBOARD: AT HOME IN ALBINA
Pacific Switchboard, one of those endearingly oh-so-Portland "arts collectives" that won't rest until it stages a rock show-cum-gallery opening-cum-performance art happening, found new digs recently. A few months after shuttering its original Southeast Clinton Street locale, P-Switch is moving to 4637 N Albina Ave., into a just-remodeled 2,100-square-foot space that was formerly home to Tidbit Gallery. The Pacificans promise the move will allow them "to bring an even broader array of readings, performance, film and video screenings, visual art shows, workshops and discussion groups, all with a focus on innovative, unconventional and underexposed work...." We are friggin' exhausted just thinking about it. If that weren't enough, they're partying with indie legend Lois Maffeo's new band, The Owl and the Pussycat, this Friday, March 28. The show starts at 8 pm, carries a $5 wallop and also features local musician/ designer Rebecca Pearcy. Highly worthy, highly cool.
LIVE REVIEW: LYNCH LAFFZ
Comedian-songwriter Stephen Lynch brought his vulgar shtick to the Aladdin Theater last Wednesday night, sparking raunchy sing-alongs. The sell-out crowd at the venue Lynch described as a "gay porn theater" delighted as the Comedy Central vet took the stage with a MacTarnahan's in one hand, guitar in the other, wicked grin plastered on his face. The crowd barely had time to come up for air, what with all Lynch's fantasies of altar boys and best-friend's-sister fornications. Lynch created a troupe of...unique superheroes according to audience suggestions, a salacious Justice League including Butt Sex Man, Porno Guy and Blow-Job Girl. During a pre-show interview, Lynch admitted that, yes, "There's always a Blow-Job Girl." Predictably male, perhaps, but funny as hell.
BRING US THE HEAD OF ADRIEN BRODY
Hiss & Vinaigrette took time out from watching CNN with the TV muted and old Iron Maiden cranked to watch the Oscars. On the way to seeing Chicago snag the Eunuch for Best Picture (That Wishes It Were as Cool as Moulin Rouge), we watched in horror as Adrien Brody deep-throated Halle Berry and then promptly stole Halle's crown for most amazingly annoying acceptance speech. That shock and awe paled in comparison to the slow, creeping death that was Paul Simon's live performance. This was dullness elevated to an almost mesmerizing level. U2 proved once again that they are the pompous lords of rock, able to achieve previously unheard-of levels of egotistical bombast in tight, television-friendly time frames. Caetano Veloso tried to class things up with his near-operatic duet from Frida, which was sort of like watching Michelangelo trying to teach a tribe of baboons to paint from life. In the end, of course, the Oscar went to Eminem, most mercifully absent.