My Broken, Portland Punk-Loving, Heart

It’s been a rough year for my Portland Punk-loving heart. Over the weekend I learned that Fred Cole, the lead singer/guitarist for one of my all-time favorite bands, passed away from complications related to cancer. Fred, Toody, and Andrew were the fucking BEST. They loved their fans as much as we loved them. Fred always had time and a smile for you. Dead Moon disbanded several years ago, and Fred and Toody went on to form other bands, including Pierced Arrows. Andrew Loomis died last year, also from cancer (seriously, FUCK CANCER!), and with Fred’s growing list of health issues, he and Toody retired from touring and playing live shows.

I send love and light to Toody in these difficult days.

In celebration of Dead Moon, and Fred, I’ve dug up my old blog post from 2004, from when I finally got to see Dead Moon live again, after several missed attempts (I was really beginning to wonder if somehow a portal had closed and I’d never get to see them again!)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

It’s a Dead Moon Miracle!

After more than a decade away from Portland, Oregon, I must say that there isn’t a lot left up there that I miss. Aside from friends and family, I can count those things that I miss on one hand.

First and foremost on that list is the music scene. For all of the press that Seattle got in the 90’s, I think Portland had the better scene (even though it did spawn Nu Shooz and the band we knew as Seafood Mama but became known as Quarterflash when the record labels came-a-callin’). Alas, nearly all of my favorite bands like the Dharma Bums, and the Obituaries (who broke up and later morphed into M-99) have gone, but Dead Moon is still rockin’ after all these years.

Dead Moon tours constantly (their motto–or one of their mottos–is “keeping one gig ahead of a day job”); they criss-cross the United States, they’ve toured Europe and even Australia/New Zealand. And even though they’ve come to San Francisco several times in the eleven years I’ve been in the Bay Area, I haven’t seen them play since I lived in Portland. I’ve always meant to go see them, but something always came up and I ended up not going. Even on a visit to Portland, I was going to go with a friend but she got sick so we ended up not going.

A few months ago, I saw that they were coming to San Francisco again and I marked the date on every calendar I had, AND I kept a post-it note stuck to the iMac. I was determined to see my Favorite Portland Band! As the date came closer and closer, I kept checking the tour page of their website to make sure they were still coming. During the week leading up to the show I not only checked their site, but kept daily tabs on the calendar page at Bottom of the Hill, just to cover as many bases as I could.

Yesterday was The Day. Well, OK it was The Night. Well, to be even more precise today was The Day as they went on after midnight. Knowing that Dead Moon has a large and loyal fan base, and just to be sure I’d have a ticket in, I bought mine in advance on TicketWeb.

I got to Bottom of the Hill just as the first band was winding up their set. As the first band tore down their set and the second band was setting up, the lights went out. “Uh-uh!” I thought to myself, “This can’t happen!” Then the lights came back on, much to everyone’s relief. About a minute later, they went off again. It turns out that a transformer nearby blew and the whole area was out. I finished my Sierra Nevada and wandered outside and looked up and down 17th Street. It was totally dark, and I was totally NOT HAPPY.

I went back inside repeating to myself, “I do not accept the curse! I deny the curse!” I saw Fred wandering around and went over to say hello. (An aside: One of the reasons Dead Moon has such a large and loyal world-wide fan base is because these are three of the coolest, friendliest, most approachable people on the face of the earth!) Fred greeted me with that ever-present smile and I shook my head and said, “You know, I’m trying really hard to not take this personally, but I’ve been trying to get to one of your gigs for more than ten years now and SOMETHING ALWAYS HAPPENS.” I told Fred that when I left Portland, no one told me that I’d have a curse put on me that I’d never get to see my favorite band, ever again! He laughed and said that in all the years he’s been doing this, this was a first.

One thing you learn about Fred Cole very quickly is that he always has a great road story for every occasion. He told me about the guy in Melbourne, Australia who hated rock music and got into the basement of the club they were playing and kept shutting off the power during their set and some guy in Nuremberg, Germany who thought he’d stage dive (off of a 6″ stage!) but ended up tripping over the power cord that ran the whole stage.

He also told me about how they weren’t even sure they were going to even make it from Los Angeles to San Francisco. After over 15,000 miles put on their van this tour, it was giving out Big Time. But, miraculously, the van made it…then this. About that time, Andrew came over and he hasn’t changed, either. He doesn’t remember, but I do: He’s always been one crazy joker and he did the eyeing-me-up-and-down bit (again…he had done that in Portland years and years ago) waiting for me to act befuddled or something. I just looked at him and smiled, and he broke into a grin and said, “I’m just joking!” Yes, Andrew, I knew that!

Pretty much everyone stuck around through the outage. But time was dragging on and it was looking more and more like there wouldn’t be a show. “I DENY THE CURSE!” I repeated furiously to myself. Fred took to the stage and shouted to everyone that they were told it would be another hour or so before the power would come back on and that if it did come on by 1:00 a.m. they’d be able to play (unfortunately, it looked like the second act was S.O.L.).

About ten minutes later, the power was back, and there was much rejoicing!

The second act did manage to get in and rock, though with an abbreviated (and fast-paced) set. Then Dead Moon set up…and it was as if we hadn’t even passed eleven minutes, much less eleven years! It was so familiar, right down to Andrew’s Jack Daniels candle holder on his drum kit (which is front-and-center…Dead Moon perform all at the front of the stage together, no one “sits back”). Andrew came over and lit the candle and I thought, “OH MY STARS! I’M REALLY GOING TO SEE DEAD MOON!!!”

At the risk of sounding like those dorky fans, they played every song I hoped they’d play (they started the set with my two favorites: “Poor Born” and “It’s OK”). The place was packed and rockin’ and I was dancing my fool head off! I was shakin’ things that ain’t been shook in a long, long time (and am paying for it today, lemme tell ya)! For a good hour or so, I was transported back to the much happier times I had in my 20’s in Portland (those times just before my world collapsed around my head).

By the end of the set, I was sweaty, I was exhausted, my ears were (and still are) ringing…and I was so damn happy! I went over to the side of the stage where Fred was dismantling his gear and he saw me. “You broke the jinx!” he shouted. “Yes,” I said, “the curse is lifted, hallelujah!” We shook hands and I wished him and the band a safe journey back to Portland and to hurry back to San Francisco…and that I would definitely be there when they did come back!

2 thoughts on “My Broken, Portland Punk-Loving, Heart

  1. Your writeup from 13 years ago is fantastic – I feel as if I’m standing right next to you. Sending your broken punk heart and you a big hug.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.