Summer in the City: Storm Large at the Classical Chinese Gardens

We can place this event in the BV (Before Vacation) category. It feels like weeks ago that my friend LeeAnn and I took a quick trip downtown to take in our first concert at the Portland Classical Chinese Gardens.

Apparently these Chinese Garden summer concerts have been happening forever, but I was completely unaware of their existence until LeeAnn told me that Storm Large was going to be performing. I’ve been a fan of Storm Large since I saw her talk at a TEDx Portland event a few years ago. She was so eloquent and inspiring and, of course, her voice is amazing.

The Chinese gardens are an unusual place for a concert series. While the setup is quite intimate, the layout is a little awkward. LeeAnn and I weren’t able to get there very early so we missed out on some of the prime seats – although I get the feeling the season ticket holders filled those pretty quickly anyway.

A couple of things I’d do differently if I attended a future event at this venue – bring cash (the bar doesn’t take credit cards), bring a blanket or other soft thing to sit on (I lost some feeling in my tush after sitting on a concrete fence for two hours), pack the bug spray (lots of standing water) and get there early. Thankfully I packed an adult beverage for LeeAnn and I to share so we were able to bypass the no cash problem. I’m not sure if that was completely above board but it saved us paying $8 for a glass of mediocre wine and was a more refreshing option on a warm, humid night.

Still, despite arriving a little later than we’d hoped, we were able to find a spot with a good view of the stage.

And of the tea house behind us.

I can honestly say that Storm Large lived up to every expectation. She was funny, genuine and incredibly entertaining. She also acknowledged the weirdness of the venue, spending a lot of her time climbing the railing in front of the Gazebo/stage to get closer to the audience. I’m glad she didn’t fall in – but it would have made a good story.

It occurred to LeeAnn and I that we were amongst the youngest people attending this concert – something that you don’t experience very often when you start to approach 40. It made for some interesting (sometimes awkward) audience interactions. I wonder how many of the season ticket holders knew who Storm Large was before this concert.

Still, the venue was beautiful, the talent was amazing and the home-made cocktail added just the right amount of flavor.

And as the sun started to go down, it became a little more magical.

Highlights included of the night included a stalkerish version of Hopelessly Devoted to You (do yourself a favor and watch this live recording) and an equally stalker-friendly song, I Want You by Elvis Costello. The concert was three weeks ago and they were the ones that stuck with me which is perhaps a little concerning… 🙂

And when Storm ended on this song, it was the icing on the cake. (If you’re at work, best put on some headphones)

Such a fun night thanks to a wonderful entertainer. I’d brave the mosquitos again in a second.

A Sing-a-Long with Storm Large, Pink Martini and the Von Trapps: Aka, Just Another Sunny Sunday in Portland

I mentioned last week that I spent a sunny Sunday afternoon in Portland’s Pioneer Square for a free concert/sing-a-long. Well, I’m finally getting around to posting a few pictures.

First let me mention that this particular Sunday was the type of day that Portland likes to tease us with in April. It happens just once or twice during the month- the sun comes out, clouds disappear and temperatures are more Summer than Spring. People start packing their coats away for the season and bring out the sandals…. then two days later they bring out their coats when the rain comes back and we are, once again, plunged into darkness.

Still, for two days we are reminded why we own a pair of sunglasses, and it’s fantastic!

Here’s proof that blue skies do, in fact, exist in Portland.

The concert itself was a lot of fun, although it turned out to be more of a giant Karaoke party than a concert. Not that I don’t love Karaoke (you know I do), but I wish we’d heard a little more from Pink Martini and Storm Large.

I also wish the woman lacking any sense of personal space had not sat down right in front of me. Good thing the sunny weather contributed to my sunny disposition.

The almost 90 year old clarinetist (is that a word?) was great. You can see him sitting on the left. A few of the Von Trapp grandchildren are on the right. Their presence was a little random but I enjoyed it when they sang the yodeling song from the Sound of Music. It made me wonder, though, how tired they must get singing of those songs. And are they allowed to sing anything else or are they contractually obligated from birth?

I think the highlight for me was a passionate rendition of “I will Survive” near the end of the program. Nothing like a women’s anthem to get the crowd excited.

I was secretly hoping for this song (not safe for children or work…unless your boss is REALLY OK with the “V” word), but that may have pushed us way too far in to Portlandia territory.

Thanks for a great afternoon ladies.