My friends often tell me how cool The Vern is. They say it’s the greatest old punk bar in Portland, and it’s staggering distance to my house. So why haven’t I been there?
Well, I finally had a reason. On Saturday March 3rd, local favorites, The Ransom were playing their last ever show there.
I enter the front door of The Vern and it is a party. There are wall to wall people, loud ones, laughing ones, pushing ones, drinking ones…long haired bikers, glammers, preppies, skinheads, punks, Moms, Dads, friends, and local celebrities all piled into this place. One of the opening bands has just struck the last chord, so I make my way to the bar to get a beer. It’s so crowded, the bartender realizes they’ve just run out of glasses, so I buy a can of beer and head to the other side of the bar where the live music is happening.
I see my friends from New Not Normals (who opened the show) near the Video Lottery machines, so I grab a spot next to them. The room is a mass of bodies. The air is filled with energy. A mishmosh of different tribes all converged in this room to say goodbye to one of Portland’s coolest punk bands.
The band plugs in, tunes up, the room surges forward. The owner of the bar walks to the microphone and delivers his farewell speech to the drummer of the band and his long-time employee, Faith Davenport, in front of a full house. She’s embarking on new adventures in Buffalo…and tonight, Portland is going to send her off in a big way.The room is emotional, excited, hot, and ready to rumble… Faith does a couple of rolls on the drum kit, and suddenly The Ransom is ON!
If there was any doubt about what kind of legacy this band is leaving behind, it was all made clear tonight. Every song is flawless, energized, and real. Singer/bassist Charley Nims belts out clever lyrics with focused intensity while sneaking amazing little basslines underneath. Guitarist David Nelson is masterful, showcasing a variety of talents throughout the set. This is much more than a punk band. This band knows how to play their instruments. We’re rocking full throttle, and then the band announces that a guest will be joining them on stage.
The room goes wild as Toody Cole from Dead Moon joins the band for a rendition of “Running Away From You” – an old song by The Rats (Toody’s band before Dead Moon). Soon after, the band is joined by Charley’s former bandmate, Jerry A from Poison Idea. They perform a song called “Psychodelic Nightmare” – by Dead Moon. In between every song there are hugs, smiles, drinking, and more hugging.
David strums a surf rock guitar chord, the band breaks into “Echo Harbor,” and the room lights up. As quickly as they started it, they ended it.
“That’s it,” says Charley. More hugging, drinking, and the crowd, slowly chanting, “one more, one more, one more…”
The band plugs in and rips through their song “Happy Hour,” unplugs, and that was the last song we’ll ever hear from The Ransom.
Or is it?
Let’s chat with drummer Faith Davenport.
Faith, that was absolutely incredible. I know you’ve got a lot of people to talk to and party with, but let’s take a second and talk about this band. Tonight was your last gig. What was the first gig for The Ransom?
We had a few songs pretty close to done and Charley booked us our first show at Star Bar. He was pretty resistant about singing himself, but I secretly wondered later if that wasn’t his plan all along! Anyway, not only did Charley step up to the plate, he hit lyrical home runs – one after another after another.
I know you’ve had lots of amazing times with these guys. What’s it like working with Charley?
My least favorite thing about playing with Charley is that I don’t get to watch him play from an audience’s perspective. He gets SO into it! He’ll dip clear to the ground with his bass tuning pegs aimed to the floor. He’s just so in the moment, intense, and straight up fun to watch! The other thing I’ll say about Charley is that he practices a LOT. Probably daily. Not only does he dig playing, he takes his role in the band pretty seriously. More than a few times I’ve been out with him having a can of beer somewhere, and he’ll eventually bow out saying “well, I’m gonna go home and play my fiddle.”
How about David?
David is the guy that everyone raves most to me about after our shows. I really can’t say enough about his guitar playing. I don’t play that instrument, but everyone I’ve known who does, says he’s AMAZING. And I completely agree. He can mimic almost any tone or song, but mostly comes up with really really unique original “David” sounds. He’s big on practicing too, especially if there’s a particularly grueling repetitive riff in a song. He’s also written a good number of our more catchy tunes. Throw Garbage, Go Electric, and Sidewinder to name a few. David has been a great reality check for me as a player over the years. He’ll suggest a beat or roll that maybe I can’t pull off, which challenges me to take another lesson, or spend more time wood shedding. It’s humbling. And good. I know that David will have no trouble finding another group to play with post Ransom.
What’s the Ransom’s best kept secret?
The Ransom’s best kept secret has got to be Charley’s lyrics. We’ve always had trouble getting any P.A. to keep up with how loud we are!
What will you miss most about Portland?
What I’ll miss most about Portland – easy – the friends I’ve made. Damn, you’re gonna make me cry!
Charley, David and Faith are breaking up the band, but there is a silver lining to this story.
The Ransom is in studio recording their music, including some new stuff, and even though they won’t be in the clubs, they’ll be in our ears. We’ll have more from The Ransom soon!
Scott “Uncle Scotty” Hammond has been a radio show host for over 20 years. He brought his internet radio station, Radio Hot Tub, to Portland and has been a strong supporter of the local music scene. He currently does live shows featuring local rock bands alternating Friday mornings on Freeform Portland.