At noon today, I drove by the Midtown Ballroom in Bend and noticed one kid sitting in a lawn chair by the door, presumably waiting to get into tonight’s Tyler, the Creator show.
Doors to the show open at 8 p.m.
At 2:30, I drove back by and the kid was still the only person there. So I pulled over and chatted with him.
His name is Grady MacMillan. He’s 14 years old and a student at Cascade Middle School in Bend. In part because he missed a previous Tyler show thanks to an appendectomy, his parents, Terry and Courtney, let him skip school today to get in line for the show, which he did at 10:30 a.m.
(All photos by The Bulletin’s Joe Kline. More of his excellent shots ran in today’s edition of GO! Magazine in The Bulletin. See them here.)
Note to self: Don’t wait almost a full week before writing a review of one of the biggest indoor shows in Bend this year.
Reason 1: Readers don’t want to wait that long. It’s 2012, bro. Internet.
Reason 2: I can’t really remember the more nuanced thoughts I had in the moment about Friday night’s Macklemore & Ryan Lewis show at Midtown Ballroom in Bend.
Here’s what I do remember: Passion. Effort. Sweat. The skyrocketing popularity of the Seattle-based rapper Macklemore — aka Ben Haggerty — has been, as I wrote in my story on him, “fueled by passion: the passion that permeates his songs, and the passion of the people who adore his music.”
Add to that Haggerty’s passionate live performance and you have a pretty clear idea of what’s pushing this guy beyond his grass roots into major mainstream success. He seems to put everything he has into his shows, which is a striking thing in the frequently ho-hum world of live hip-hop. I’ve seen lots of rap shows over the past several years, and too often, they end with a phoned-in 45-minute set by a headliner acting like they can’t wait to get back on the bus.
Friday’s show couldn’t have been any further from that. For 90 minutes, Haggerty bounded around the stage, throwing his whole body into his verses and working the sold-out crowd — 1,200 people, the vast majority under the legal drinking age — into a lather. With Lewis stuck mostly behind the decks and offering the occasional shout, Macklemore was, in essence, his own hype man.
That’s not to say he was alone under the lights. Besides Lewis, there was a female cello player and male violin and trumpet players on stage all night, plus four guest vocalists who joined the party throughout the set. It was a pretty interesting thing to see: The presence of the instrumentalists was an immediate indication that this was not your typical hip-hop show, while the parade of singers (not to mention the sweet Macklemore-branded tour bus parked on Hill Street) made me wonder just who’s paying all these folks to cruise around the country. (Dude is famously doing this without record-label money.)
Macklemore's trumpet player, Owuor Arunga.
Anyway, on to the music: After a dramatic entrance and the loudest crowd-scream I can remember in the Midtown, the set started off a little slow, I thought. The soundman seemed to still be dialing things in during “Ten Thousand Hours,” while “Crew Cuts” and “Life is Cinema” were both a bit muddy and lacking in oomph. (Haggerty did compliment our town’s collective facial hair at this point, however. As a bearded Bendite, this scored points with me.)
Then, the whole tenor of the night changed when Haggerty borrowed what looked like a vintage fur coat (may not have been vintage, may not have been fur) from a fan and the beat and bass for “Thrift Shop” buzzed through the Midtown, laying the foundation for one of the night’s highlights. People went nuts. Just nuts. Here, through the magic of video, you can watch for yourself. Sorry about the sound quality, but … yeah, the bass was loud:
From there, Haggerty and his crew ran through a bunch of faves: “My Oh My,” a sentimental tribute to the late Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus; “Otherside,” a cautionary tale about drug use; “Same Love,” the touching pro-marriage equality anthem that elicited a huge, approving roar and sing-along from the audience. The manic house-music beat of “Can’t Hold Us” was another high point; the song’s bass hit me in the chest like a medicine ball, traveled down through my toes to the floor, and, I assume, on to the center of the earth. It was devastatingly thunderous.
Along the way, two video screens flanked the stage and showed footage of bears, martial arts, Mariners highlights and lyrics. About halfway through his main set, Haggerty soaked his own Macklemore-branded tank top with sweat, before switching into a Seattle Supersonics jersey for “The Town,” an ode to Seattle and its hip-hop scene. He ended the main set with “Wings,” a commentary on consumerism built around adolescent obsession with fancy sneakers, and “Gold,” a poppy, celebratory tune about being on top of the world.
After a very short break, the group returned for a three-song encore — “Castle,” “And We Danced” and “Irish Celebration” — that didn’t live up to the energy of the main set, in my opinion. But the show came to a serendipitously appropriate ending when the light show shorted out during the encore’s second song and Haggerty performed most of “Irish Celebration” with the house lights on, hazily illuminating both the crowd and the stage.
That was not planned. I know, because I watched the guy controlling the lights completely lose his mind when he realized he’d lost his show during the night’s climax. But in a way, it was perfect: Right now, the music career of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis is reaching new heights every day, thanks in large part to the devotion and support they receive from their fiercely loyal fans. The makeshift light situation during “Irish Celebration” gave the final song of the night a sort of communal feeling, as if these fans had been purposely drawn into the show as a way of acknowledging their role in this story, and/or to reflect the humble, man-of-the-people persona of their pale leader.
“I f–king love you guys,” Haggerty said, before raising his hands to the sky and slinking off stage, on to the next sold-out show in the next town.
I’m a big fan of the Street View feature on Google Maps, which allows you to virtually plop down into the middle of a place and, through the magic of street-level imagery, see what’s happening there, or at least what was happening when Google’s funky little camera car rolled through.
I use Street View all the time for all kinds of reasons, from simply trying to get a better idea of something’s exact location to touring cities I’ve never visited. It’s fun. So for the past several years, Bend’s lack of Street View was frustrating. At first, there were no roads highlighted in blue when you dragged that little yellow dude across the map. Then, it was just our town’s traffic arteries.
But last night, I noticed that Google has finally blanketed Bend in Street View! And the second thing I thought to do — after look at my house, of course — was to check out some of our town’s busiest music venues. (Weird, I know.)
Anyway, I ended up grabbing screenshots of several, and when you line ‘em all up, it’s kind of an interesting view of a group of buildings that many folks may know and love and/or tolerate, but because of the blurry, nighttime nature of their business, have never really looked at before. (The Tower Theatre and Les Schwab Amphitheater being obvious exceptions here.)
Domino Room and Midtown Ballroom. In case you can't read the marquee, it says "ROACH GIG CANCELED" ... which is funny, because the rapper's name is Roach Gigz, but it still works. The Roach gig was canceled, after all.
You may have seen this already, but it’s worth posting to make sure as many people see it as possible and are keeping an eye out. Copied directly from a post on Random Presents’ Facebook:
This is our first official MANHUNT brought to you by Random Presents and Midtown Music Hall!
Sometime between the end of Floater’s set on Friday (midnight) and sound check Saturday afternoon (5pm) the building was robbed. Whoever it was hit our sound company (Sonic Solutions) for roughly $4000 worth of Mics and DI’s and Floater for their two electric acoustic guitars. Come on party people of Bend let’s not leave one rock unturned and find the soulless bastard that did this.
Midtown management has put an $800 reward on the guitars and an $800 reward on the audio gear for its safe return. Here’s a list of equipment that was stolen from the venue /
AUDIO GEAR: AKG 451 Stereo Pair, Shure KSM137 Stereo Pair, Two Sennheiser 421’ DI Boxes: Two Radial JDI Radial JDI Duplex.
FLOATER’S Guitars: Takamine Electric Acoustic Guitar (Peter has had this guitar since he was 12 years old) and Michael Kelly acoustic bass, jumbo body with custom abalone inlays.
Before we get too far away from this article, in which I listed my hopes and wishes for the Central Oregon music scene in 2010, I want to add one item to it.
This addition is actually prompted by not one, but two e-mails I received from readers who expressed disappointment in the number of local concerts geared toward an older generation. Let’s call them … Baby Boomers. (I just made that term up. OK, not really.) Take it away, bummed Boomers …
A not-so-great photo of the Midtown taken from its abandoned MySpace profile.
One of Bend’s most prominent music spots — the building on Greenwood Avenue that holds the Midtown Ballroom, Domino Room and The Annex bar, heretofore known as “the Midtown” — is in for some changes in the coming months. Time will tell, but the changes are almost certain to be improvements.
Here’s why: Co-owners Rhoda and Creig Jones and Duane McCabe and Lise Hoffman-McCabe are taking back control of the venues. The quartet ran the Midtown for years until 2007, when they leased its operations to a new team. (They had put the property up for sale in 2006. It never sold.)
That new team — JT Taylor, Chris Fought and Jim Dickey — is now out of the picture. The Jones/McCabe team has hired a new manager, Roy Nowell, who will handle most of the booking duties for the venues, though I just got off the phone with Rhoda Jones, and she said she and her partners will have some say in the acts that perform there.
“We will be suggesting,” she said with a big laugh. “We’ll have something to do with bringing back our old favorites. It will be very familiar, I think.”
Before the Jones/McCabe partnership quit managing the Midtown, it was a bustling nightspot that featured a steady stream of blues and roots-rock acts (the Jones’ favorites) as well as shows by other promoters, most notably Bend-based Random Presents. Back then, the two venues — this was before The Annex was open — hosted concerts at least weekly, and sometimes several nights per week.
In the 2-1/2 years since, though, the Midtown’s live-music offerings have dwindled. Random Presents continues to host shows there regularly, but the Taylor/Fought/Dickey team never established a consistent slate of shows. The Midtown Web site has been “under construction” for months. These days, the venues are quiet most nights.