Greg Brown -- May 16, 1997

Clinton Street Theater, Portland, Oregon


Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 00:43:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Portland, OR Review 5/16/97.....The Book

We had way more fun than we deserved this weekend. After all the anticipation, excitement and preparation, it could have been a letdown. Greg did not disappoint. After a restless, sleepless Thursday night, loaded the family into the van. Headed south to Poetland. One wrong turn, wife and I recreated the "You Drive Me Crazy" road atlas thing. Poetland was unseasonally hot. Crowbarred the kids out of the motel pool, cruised down to the Clinton Street Theatre district. Alternative, hippie, beatnik block. Used record store took my $13. Bought a Garrison Keillor LP with Greg in the credits and an old Van Morrison LP. My harem headed for the Mexican food sidewalk cafe and sent me to put the vinyl in the car. Got to the corner and said "Mr. Brown?". Shook his hand and introduced myself. He looked at my wax and said the Keillor thing SUCKS! The Van record excited him. Told me the Kansas City song is great. He went across the street for a cup of coffee.I put the vinyl in my car and went back to "Rich in Daughters" family eating Mexican food at the sidewalk cafe.

A van pulled up in front of us full of chairs. 
And we knew Greg was in the neighborhood
Like having coffee just over there.
Even my 12 year old wouldn't go get him on a dare.
So I ask these guys if the need some help
Next thing I know I'm carrying chairs 
in off the street.
I get to scope out the place.
It's kind of wide, but not too deep.
Slumping chairs sinking into painted concrete.
Poetland sticky, sticky heat.
First in line at 5:30
That's what we did both Friday and Saturday
The weekend I will never forget
That happened '97 in the month of May.
Met some nice people
Yacked with friends
Front of the line both nights
Not at the end.

When they let us in, we grabbed the 4 front row center stage seats. Kelly Joe Phelps opened the show with 4 incredible blues songs. He is an amazing lap style slide guitar A joy to watch and hear him make love to his Gibson 6-string. This 37 year old native of Washington State is a "must see". He took us with him to his spirit and soul. During the intermission my wife Moe, told the promoter we came from Seattle to see both shows. He said we could stay in our seats and did not have to go outside and get in line all over again for the second show. Moe was feeling like royalty. Now it was Greg time. He walked on stage in jeans, sleeveless black t-shirt, and a dark "Chappo" derby hat he bought at St. Vincent DePaul's 2 doors down from the theatre. He had logging boots on his 2 little feet and black rimmed sunglasses covering his eyes, his Lowden guitar in hand. The song list went something like this:

Song List -- First Show:

  1. Good Morning Coffee
  2. Just by Myself
  3. Mose Allison Played Here
    (Kelly Joe Phelps returned to the stage)
  4. Think Anout You
  5. Speaking in Tongues (with audience his humming chorus)
  6. Sadness Came to My House
  7. If You Don't Get It at Home
  8. Old Hippies
  9. China
  10. Backsliding (?)
  11. Maria
  12. Jesus and Elvis (encore)

270 seats jammed plus how ever many SRO tickets they sold. Felt sorry for those who didn't buy tickets for the second show. It was roasting in the Theatre. Greg said it was a new experience to sweat in Portland. I went outside for some air after the first show. The line outside was long. Show 2 was also sold out. I got in the back of the line knowing I had the best seats in the house waiting for me. Talked to some of the others in line about Greg's first performance and his music. Met Stephanie and Gordon from the list. Show 2 began at 10:15 p.m. with 5 different Kelly Joe songs. More beautiful music. He is a quiet, deep person, but joked around between songs. There was a short intermission, then Greg time again. He was wearing all the same stuff, except he had red rimmed sunglasses that looked like they came out of a cracker jacks box(he actually bought them at Revco's according to my informants). He also had one pant leg totally tucked into his boot. List went something like:

Song List -- Second Show:

  1. I'm This Blue
  2. Springwind
  3. Flat Stuff
    (Kelly Joe returned)
  4. Down at the Mill (written in OR earlier this year)
  5. Some Dusty Woods
  6. Poet Game
  7. That's Enough God Damn It (a great one that is hopefully on his new unit)
  8. One Wrong Turn
  9. Further In
  10. Mississippi Moon
  11. Not High
  12. Wash My Eyes
  13. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (Lightning Hopkins)
  14. Foggy Foggy Dew
  15. Play Some Music With You (Grandpa , Hacklebarney thing)
  16. Kind Hearted Woman (Robert Johnson)
  17. In the Dark With You

I have never heard some of these songs, so pardon me if the titles aren't all correct. Show 2 was better because it was so much longer. It came to a close at 1:30 a.m.. Our mission now was to speak to Greg and Kelly Joe. Kelly Joe was outside the Theatre. He spoke freely with us. Moe had him autograph his CD "Lead Me On". Kelly Joe loved Moe's slooooow soup shirt. Said he told Greg about it. He told Moe you have to show it to him. Greg popped out of the tavern with a Budweiser in hand. He talked with us for a while. He wanted to know how Moe did the shirt thing. He autographed my "A Greg High" poem and a couple photographs. He said he has never seen his home page, so we gave him a copy of my poem. The bartender took his beer because he was out on the sidewalk with us. We told them we were from Seattle and would see them tomorrow. Drove to our motel and were too pumped up to sleep. Lights out at 4 a.m.