Rocket Queen: The Last Rose of Summer

A Nina Simone séance at MusicfestNW and some Damm fine prints.

Good things and bad things always happen to me in tandem when I visit Portland, usually as a result of legally sanctioned nudity, lusty late nights, and a shit-ton of quality live-music experiences. I almost always manage to have such an enjoyable time that I don't want to leave, which says a lot about my love of our sister city to the south.My Friday-night experience at MusicfestNW was nothing short of splendid, even though watching Monotonix periodically disrobe and toss garbage cans around the largest venue I've ever seen them play—opening for Bad Brains, no less—was anticlimactic. Watching them whip out their weirdness in a 1,480-seat theater made it clear that seeing that reliably rambunctious band in such a large venue dilutes the visceral thrill of their performance. This was a minor disappointment; plenty of viscerally thrilling performances involving more tasteful disrobing could be had later that evening, thanks to the fine ladies employed at Magic Gardens and Sassy's.My car has been towed twice in Portland. This first was several years ago, during an entirely unplanned and unforgettable jaunt to catch an in-their-early-prime Hold Steady gig at Berbati's. It happened again this past Saturday evening, about an hour before I was supposed to head to the Ash Street Saloon to catch Rabbits, Saviours, and Red Fang. The sting of handing over a couple hundred bucks to the proprietor of a dimly lit, industrial-area tow lot began to subside as soon as Saviours took the stage. Red Fang drummer John Sherman was certain I'd love the Oakland-based band's brand of thrash-laced stoner rock, and he was on the money. The twin attack of Austin Barber and Sonny Christopher Reinhardt's guitars would make any Iron Maiden fan's heart skip a beat, and even though the sound at Ash Street was frustratingly muddy, the smile was impossible to wipe off my face.The highlight of my weekend, however, came closer to 2 a.m., when I walked into the Caffé Vita–hosted One Pot dinner at the Woods, an antique and ghost-filled funeral home recently converted into a music venue. I missed Throw Me the Statue's purportedly stellar performance, but I arrived just in time to have ringleader Michael Hebb hand me a grilled lamb chop and a bottle of tempranillo before introducing his friend Tahoe Jackson, a thoroughly stunning Portland soul singer so witty and powerfully charismatic that she almost induced tears and laughter simultaneously. Spookily channeling the brash spirit of Nina Simone, she belted out an improv number with backing from the Nick Jaina Band, playfully associating Hebb with culinarily shameful Hot Pockets and decrying a lover who tossed her on the floor like forgotten spare change. All the spine tingling taking place could have been attributed to the unconventionally morbid setting, but Jackson is an undeniable talent whose voice evokes spirits all by itself.Back here in Seattle, the talents of local artist and Akimbo drummer Nat Damm will take center stage for a very brief 24 hours when he celebrates 10 years of "living well below the average income for his passion" with a show of his work this weekend at Capitol Hill's Cairo Gallery (507 E. Mercer St.). "My friends Joel Leshefka and Justine Ashbee own Cairo, and I really wanted to have the show there," explains Damm. "I didn't want it to be a long-running show; short and sweet works for me."Damm got into the poster-design business in his teens via an internship at Bellevue all-ages space Ground Zero. "I'll actually be showing the first poster I did. It was for a show at Ground Zero in 1996. It was collaboration between [Akimbo bassist] Jon Weisnewski and myself. Our band in high school [the Dissidents] played a show with Sicko; it was awesome. We were 16."In the intervening decade, he has silk-screened memorable images to promote live performances by the Shins, Robyn Hitchcock, Death Cab for Cutie, the Minus 5, and the Jesus Lizard, along with show posters for Danzig, the Meat Puppets, and Jello Biafra. He's also responsible for recent album art for Monotonix and the forthcoming Mico de Noche/Brothers of the Sonic Cloth 10-inch."I sort of just fell into it," muses Damm on his accidental career path. "Though it's sort of in my blood too; my grandfather owned a printing company called Damm Fine Printing. Ground Zero hired me part-time while I was in high school. After I left, I started approaching venues in Seattle, and got enough work to live off of. It's just been growing ever since." More than 100 of Damm's posters will be on display and for sale, 6–10 p.m. Saturday and noon–6 p.m.

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