Best Portland Sounds

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Best Game Scorer  

The best-known DJ in Portland got his start in a middle-school gym. Way before he took the Rose Garden/Moda Center decks in 2008 as the Portland Trail Blazers' first-ever DJ, David "O.G. One" Jackson's first big gig was a monthly party thrown for high-achieving eighth-graders. One of the attendees was a promoter with a good ear, who booked Jackson into an early-'90s Roseland gig opening for Naughty by Nature and Run DMC. From there, Jackson parlayed his talent and ambition to enter the rarefied realm of celeb shindigs—Jay Z after-parties, a Justin Timberlake Super Bowl bash, and events for Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire.

Now, he takes requests from the Portland Trail Blazers. "They'll throw out suggestions," says Jackson. "For the most part, Dame [Lillard], Wes [Matthews], LaMarcus [Aldridge]—they like hip-hop. It just really depends on their mood, but if they ask me to play a particular song during warm-ups, nine times out of 10 it's something not on the charts, underground or on a new mixtape." Steve Blake, on the other hand, liked Eminem.

But Jackson's real skill is DJing to the flow of the game. "Offensive possessions can switch as soon as someone steals the ball," says Jackson, "and that means I have to cut off the music. To be able to play spontaneously, to be that quick in the exchange, it's a totally different experience than any other type of events I've DJed."

He loves taking requests from fans—including "Master of Puppets" by Metallica, which pumped up the crowd against Memphis recently. "Once the game is in play, it's all about the energy of the fans, and I have to react to them," Jackson says. But there are some requests he can't conscionably honor, like long slow jams: "I have this one fan who always tweets me about 'Pony' by Ginuwine. I think he does it just to crack me up." JAY HORTON.

Best Place to Meet a Rock Star 

If you have been to Revival Drum Shop (2045 SE Ankeny St., 719-6533, in the past few years, chances are you were buying sticks next to the drummer from one of your favorite bands. Since Jose Medeles (the Breeders, Ben Harper, Donavon Frankenreiter) first opened his drum shop in North Portland in 2009, he’s had to upsize it twice, most recently moving to a beautiful, warehouselike space at Southeast 21st and Ankeny. The shop has sold gear to Jack White, Glenn Kotche of Wilco, Josh Klinghoffer of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Les Claypool, Isaac Brock and dozens of others. How cool is Revival in the drum world? When it celebrated its sixth anniversary last year, Jon Theodore of Queens of the Stone Age DJed, declaring via Instagram, “6 years of tite tubs and solid hangs…have a beer, bang stuff, and buy things.” 

Catering to the needs of professional-level local and national drummers, Medeles has built himself a castle of rhythm filled with only the finest rare and old-school gear. Oriental rugs on the floor, vintage hardware, beautiful drum sets for sale, and lessons by real touring indie and jazz players, not to mention occasional live shows—there aren't many places in the world where drummers get to nerd out quite this hard. PARKER HALL.

Best Record Collection

When you meet Dirty Dave the Record Slave, it's hard not to look over your shoulder for the real Dave. With a name like that—the handle he used on-air at classic Portland oldies station KISN, and the only name he'll divulge to the press—you'd expect an outlandish morning shock jock who drops sound effects into casual conversation. Instead, he's plainspoken, not all that unkempt and, for someone who's been doing radio for close to 30 years, deeply private.

One thing about his name is accurate, though: He owns a shitload of records. 

Ninety thousand of them, to be exact. Beginning in the 1970s—around the time he befriended local radio personality Pat Pattee, who christened him “Dirty Dave” because he worked in his parents’ auto-wrecking yard—the now-62-year-old Portland native committed to buying every single that entered the Top 40. Then he worked backward. A good chunk of the history of American popular music now sits in his basement, though good luck getting a glimpse of it: He’s not too keen on allowing photographers into his home. You can hear it, though. When KISN relaunched on a lower-power signal in May, his collection—much of it now digitized—became the station’s library.  

His collecting slowed in the '90s, as vinyl production decreased, and he stopped altogether once he relented to the download era. For someone who, at the height of his obsession, couldn't drive past a secondhand store without stopping to rummage around, the physical object doesn't hold much sentiment for him. He insists he'll never sell any of it but suspects that, when his son eventually inherits the haul, it'll wind up on eBay. That doesn't seem to bother him. 

"I've met people who talk to me about their collection, and they absolutely start shaking. I'm thinking, 'This is insane,'" he says. "It's not life or death here. It's just vinyl." MATTHEW SINGER.

Best Summer Camp for Musicians

The Rock n Roll BnB (Northwest Sauvie Island Road, 971-275-6795, definitely has the bells and whistles one would expect from a modern recording studio—a clutch of high-end microphones from Neumann and Sennheiser, preamps by API, and a vintage Hammond organ. Sean Flora, the studio's owner, has an impressive résumé to boot, with engineering credits for work with the Shins, Stephen Malkmus and Cake to his name. But what makes the Rock n Roll BnB special is the view. Situated on Sauvie Island, Flora's residential recording operation has been gaining acclaim both regionally and nationally as a go-to getaway for musicians who want to get lost in the Pacific Wonderland and live free of distraction for as long as they'd like. When they come to record, they just stay there, amid tree-lined paths and a patio-top grill. "It was such a great way to work that it always stuck with me," says Flora, who worked with the legendary White Horse studios in the '90s, and has more recently put in work at Larry Crane's Jackpot Studio in Southeast. "You're working and you're in the head space and you don't have to commute or leave. It's definitely more efficient—people work better this way and get more deeply into it because there aren't the distractions. It certainly doesn't hurt that it's a beautiful place to be." PETE COTTELL.

Best Compendium of Musical Knowledge

The elevator pitch for Discogs ( is pretty straightforward: a website like IMDb, but for records. "People had talked here and there about how cool it would be to have this database of information," says Kevin Lewandowski, a programmer and amateur drum-'n'-bass DJ, who created the site in 2000 while working in Hillsboro for Intel. "A couple people had tried to do it, and it didn't really take off. I spent about six months toying away at it, and came up with something really simple that worked." Initially a prime resource for electronic music, Discogs now contains information on over 6 million records, in every genre imaginable. The format remains simple: Users upload information much like Wikipedia, entering the year of release, label and catalog number. In 2005, after noticing a backdoor trading system had developed among users, Lewandowski added a marketplace element. But while it's been around for 16 years now, the site remains somewhat obscure, at least in America—about 70 percent of its traffic comes from Europe. Lewandowski has finally started a marketing push, throwing record fairs in various parts of the world; the next in Portland is scheduled for August at White Owl Social Club. "You talk to strangers in Europe, and they know about Discogs," he says. "Talk to strangers here, and not as many people know about it." MATTHEW SINGER.

Best Pied Piper

Say you're shopping at New Seasons and you hear the distinctive, high-pitched squeals of a toddler. Temper tantrum over Veggie Booty? Possibly. Or the child may have just spotted Ben Thompson in the frozen-food aisle.

Better known to young children throughout the city as Mr. Ben, Thompson is to toddlers what Sufjan Stevens is to moody 30-year-olds. It's not uncommon to see tiny tots with Mr. Ben tees digging in the sand pit at OMSI or running wild at the Oregon Zoo.  

Six years ago, when the now-39-year-old former district sales manager for Fender Musical Instruments casually started playing kids tunes at Posies Cafe in Kenton, only a handful of local musicians catered to kiddos. Thompson had no clue he was about to become Portland's toddler troubadour. Now he plays six regular gigs a week, performs at birthday parties and gives private ukulele and guitar lessons—meaning he's actually making a living at this. This year, he's set to perform at Pickathon, and dozens of other musicians have joined him in the "kindie" music scene.

“Portland is the kind of place,” Thompson says, “where if you find the thing that you love to do and do it unabashedly, Portland will lift you up and support you.”    

Mr. Ben fandom even extends to mommies. “Mr. Rogers meets Ben Affleck,” one adoring mother called him. 

Thompson says he's flattered by the affection, but it's the connection with kids through music that keeps him going. "If I had set out to do this, I wouldn't have been able to," he says. "But to have been able to have arrived at this place feels magical." BETH SLOVIC.

Best Echo Chamber

If you stand in the center of the small amphitheater behind the Starbucks at Pioneer Courthouse Square and read the plaque underneath your feet, something magical happens: Your voice is amplified back to you, like you're standing at the bottom of a well. Face out to the square, your voice is normal. Spin back to face the bricks, the sound reverberates around you. On the surface, the amphitheater gives no hints to its sonic secondary purpose; instead it's all about history. The plaque proclaims, "This amphitheater honors two pioneers who worked on or near this block, Harrison J. Gray, a carpenter, 1851 [and] George Neuner, US Attorney, 1925-1933," and a pictographic timeline in metal plates runs along the rim. But clearly the history lessons are just a ruse to get you into the amphitheater reading funny names out loud (Neuner? Is that pronounced "Nooner"?) so you can hear them booming back at you. LIZZY ACKER.

Best Tribute to a Musical Mentor

Just after Portland's American Music Program took the stage at this year's Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center—the most prestigious high-school jazz competition in the nation—it was met with a standing ovation. Because director Thara Memory called for it. 

“If you are within earshot of me at this moment,” he declared, “I want you to stand up and give these bands an incredible round of applause.” With that, his band and the audience stood, clapping loudly. Then his students, wearing black evening gowns and white dinner jackets with bow ties, sat down to empty music stands turned sideways to play an intricate 10-minute piece by Duke Ellington called “The Tattooed Bride” from memory. 

"There's an emotional commitment to playing 'Tattooed Bride' from memory. No professional group does that," said famed trumpeter and head judge Wynton Marsalis of the performance. "A group of kids stood on that stage and played from memory, for a director. They played with that type of feeling and desire and want. It hit us so deep."

That performance, with soaring solos and perfectly executed large-group interactions, was the best love letter the group could send to their director. Memory has mentored generations of Portland jazz musicians—and won a Grammy with former student Esperanza Spalding—but his health has suffered recently due to complications from diabetes. The performance was dedicated to him.

Needless to say, the kids won. PARKER HALL.