Crystal Ballroom

iTunes describes the AWOLNation as “A solo project of Aaron Bruno…” who “built a kind of creative free-for-all for himself, mixing genres in a style reminiscent of Beck…”.  Which is why we like the group that formed in 2009.  The concert consisted of three bands, culminating with AWOLNation.  The first band was Irontom, followed by Nothing But Thieves and, basically, the concert was a rock and roll lover’s paradise!  Didn’t take long for everyone to catch up to Robert who started dancing to the background music before the concert.

Although in a small venue, the McMenamins’ Crystal Ballroom is a delight!  Because of the size, the concert was more intimate and almost everyone was within a hundred feet of the stage.  The center of the main floor was divided into two section with one section the VIP’s and the Peon’s on the other.  We were on the Peon, center stage, about 50 or so feet back, with a gap between us and the other side (so security could wander back and forth).  We had an unobstructed view of the stage.  Sweet!  Don’t know who did the the light show, but, it was very good and tight for all three bands!


One of the things about the Crystal: it is a ballroom in an old building that has stood the test of time with many a shuffling feet.  Now, however, it seems the shuffling has gone vertical.  We noticed that kids of all ages would come into the ballroom, head for the center of the floor, then perform various leaps into the heavens and slam down on the old, creaky floor which gave, then rebounded.  It was great fun during the concerts; not to mention, easier on the legs, shins, and feet.  On the other had, it WAS disconcerting because this build IS old – although we’re sure it’s inspected often.  It won’t stop us from going back.  Nor did it stop us from dancing –  including vertical assents.

Leadoff was Irontom, a California band and we found them to have the rock and roll basics: exciting, energetic, and enthusiastic and where iTunes added “exuberant” to the “e” descriptions of rock and roll.  They were a good indication of what was to come.  Formed in Malibu in 2012, it features lead singer Harry Hayes, guitarist Zach Irons, keyboardist Daniel Saslow, bassist Dane Sandborg and drummer Dylan Williams.  Irons and Saslow both played with Irontom and AWOLNation.  And, Hayes’ antics on stage are an act in-and-of itself and fun to watch him work!

Next was Nothing But Thieves consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Conor Mason, guitarist Joe Langridge-Brown, guitarist and keyboardist Dominic Craik, bassist Philip Blake, and drummer James Price.  NBT was unknown to us, like many bands since 2000, and we enjoyed their stage presence and music as well.  Together with Irontom, they had the crowd already on their feet and dancing long before AWOL took the stage.

AWOLNation was everything we expected and more.  They played most of the tunes from their latest album: Here Comes the Runts.  They put on a great show – even with the size limitation of the stage and venue.  They didn’t play “Sail” in the set, but did as an encore.  This is where the timing of the lights with the music was most excellent.  At the repeat of “Sail!”, the backstage light would throw out a blinding flash of light.  The effect was brilliant in every way – as you can see on the page background.

We were not disappointed in the concert or the venue and well worth the expense and overnight stay with a drive of 300 miles each way!

The background image on this site was taken during AWOLNation's performance of "Sail".  This short video (35 sec), shows part of the light show.

The Rest of the Story - More than just the concert...

This is the first concert of the season and we had decided to rent a mid-size and drive up – cheaper than driving Silver (our truck) up and back.  After a false start with car rental compainies (sic), we picked up a Chevy Malibu at the Medford airport on Saturday morning and drove up to Portland.  We had decided to rent since our pickup with our portable home on the back doesn’t get very good mileage and renting a car that got some 40+ miles per gallon, beat the cost of gas up and back for the truck.

We’d scored a room in the downtown Courtyard by Marriott that was almost half price, checked in around 3:30 in the afternoon.  Naps and showers took us to the time to meet Robert’s cousin at Jake’s Famous Crawfish.

If there ever was as misnomer in advertising, it’s Jake’s Famous Crawfish.  We challenge anyone to find any dish, except ONE, that even has a hint of crawfish.  So, that’s what we ordered.  Mistake.  The spices were good, but the rest was terrible, according to Robert.  The only item on the menu to even mention crawfish was Jake’s Étouffée, but you’d be hard pressed to tell the crawfish from any other meat in the dish.  Robert ate about half, Peggy almost all (she was hungrier).  The service was much better than the meal.

We headed to the concert after that and soon forgot about Jake’s false advertising.

A short walk after the concert took us back to the Courtyard for a quiet and comfortable night; as it should be at these prices.  We were on the 15th floor with a look at the Wells Fargo/US International or whatever it is now, ornate building and wondered why most the floors were empty?  Daylight Savings Time changed overnight, so we awoke later than usual – round 0630 or so – and headed down to the cafe for breakfast.

Breakfast at The Original Dinerant was a disaster.  Robert order a common, simple meal of biscuits and gravy, which should consist of a white sausage gravy with some chunks of sausage on top of an open face biscuit.  Easy, simple, fast.  Peggy order your standard oatmeal.

The biscuits and gravy sucked big time.  A pile of a gooey, brown mess whose taste had nothing to do with sausage and gravy.  One bite and Robert sent it back and ordered a cup of fruit.  Peggy didn’t fair much better, but then home made mush can not be replicated in a restaurant.

All in all, the dining in experience was a complete loss.

Compensating for the terrible dining, the drive home on Sunday was incredible!  A beautiful clear sky, until we got down to Albany and the fog rolled in and lasted until the south end of the valley.  It was a pleasant drive without to much traffic, but the usual amount of morons.

Because we like to go to concerts and take photos, we bought a Sony RX100 after reading several articles online.  The camera is classified as point and shoot and, therefore, is allowed in most venues.  It’s not much bigger than a cell phone and doesn’t have a detachable lens – a main criteria for concerts.  We have much more control over the camera’s functions with the Sony and the first set of images were shot manually with very good (we think) for the first time out.  Shooting in low or changing light is a challenge, but using the manual with selected settings, turned out pretty good.  We hope we’ll get better as time goes by.

One thing we did see about recording videos and have found true: recording concerts with a point and shoot is not worth it because of all the extraneous noise.  We’ve found this true using other cameras and, thus, we only take videos to show the light show or venue and crowds.

Bottom line: AWOLNation was a great concert with smaller crowds and the kind we like to attend.

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