Nuggets Night has been happening in Portland annually for over a decade, but this year was the first time I’ve attended. The two night event at McMenamins Mission Theater featured a huge lineup of local talent, plus a stellar headliner on Saturday night, LOVE Revisited. I was joined by promoter Luke Strahota in studio at 90.3 Freeform Portland, and he filled me in on the long history of this show. What started as a benefit show for some friends has now become a yearly event that raises money for various charities. This year the proceeds were given to Queer Rock Camp PDX.
When I saw the poster featuring the names of so many great local acts, I knew I had to attend. Each band learned songs from the 1960’s garage/psychedelic scene, and they each perform for just 15 minutes. The promoter supplied all of the amps and drums, so set up and break down time in between bands was minimal.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend on Friday night, which featured the local bands Black Fruit, The Lovesores, Fire Nuns, Hurry Up, Sacred Trees, The Furies, The Hauer Things, The Mean Reds, The Shriekers and The Von Howlers! Wow! What a lineup!
On night #2 of the show, I headed over the bridge into downtown Portland and discovered it was also the night of the Starlight Parade! I crawled through slow moving traffic for 30 minutes, and after a long search for a parking spot, I made it to The Mission Theater too late to catch the opening bands, Little Hexes and The See You Next Tuesdays. I did, however, make it just in time to watch one of my local favorites. Liquidlight!
Liquidlight has always amazed me with their technical abilities and their vocal harmonies. These skills made it possible for them to cover songs like “Eight Miles High” by The Byrds and “Village Green” by The Kinks among others. Guitarists Anthony Medici and Cory West have great on stage chemistry, and their voices blend seamlessly as they harmonize. Bassist Grahame Bywater holds down solid basslines while drummer Mitch Wilson delivers flawless percussion. The crowd erupted in applause and cheers at the end of every song, and Anthony reacted with an almost surprised look, as if to say “Wow, did we really sound good enough to deserve all that?” Yes, Anthony! You DID! Liquidlight wrapped up their 15 minute set, and I had just enough time to grab a cold beer before The Verner Pantons take the stage.
The Verner Pantons are a perfect fit for Nuggets Night as they already sound like a throwback to the psychedelic swingin’ sixties. Fronted by guitarist singer Tobias Berblinger, the band took us back in time with the song “Hurtin’ Kind” by the Bittersweets, “Bad Little Woman” by The Wheels and “Estan Cambiando los Colores” by a band called Los Chijuas, sung entirely in Spanish by drummer Eric Rubalcava. Keyboardist Emily Faas is a bold presence on stage, and delivered sweet vocal harmonies as well. Trevor Greely and Zacharia Whiton rounded out a band that brings a perfect blend of grit and groove. Although I’m unfamiliar with most of these songs, the energy and vibe mixed with the energy in the room was infectious. You can’t help but to be drawn into the positive energy that this band delivers!
Up next, The Reverberatons! I’d never seen this band, but by the time you read this, they will be one of the new acts added to the Radio Hot Tub library. Fantastic! Fronted by singer/guitarist Dave Berkham, you could easily forget that we’re experiencing this band in the year 2018. They truly captured the attitude and sound of the hippie generation. They flawlessly performed some of my favorite 60s tunes, including “Hot Smoke and Sassafrass” by Bubble Puppy, “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet” by Blues Magoos… but when Dave left the stage and returned with a huge afro wig, I had a feeling they were going to break into some MC5. They inspired the audience to revolt with their rendition of “American Ruse,” and then left us begging for more as the set was already over! Not to worry. There was still more music coming from The Pynnacles!
I’ve had The Pynnacles in studio with me, and the rumor even then was that this was one of the final shows for the band. Word floated throughout the crowd that it was the night they would say goodbye to the stage, but the word was unofficial. One of the band members is moving to San Diego, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t come up a couple of times a year for a gig. Right?
Singer Sean is the ultimate frontman. He is the embodiment of soul, a master showman. He strided confidently to the microphone and delivered an unforgettable performance. His band was tight and the energy was pushed to the limit. At one point during the set I watched keyboardist Tamar break out in an uncontrollable smile, and I could see that the band was having as much fun performing as we were as witnesses. They tore through “Pretty Little Thing” by The Deepest Blue, “You Never Had It Better” by The Electric Prunes, “You Burn Me Up and Down” by We The People and “Invisible People” by Hamilton Streetcar. Members of the other acts had all been drawn to the front of the stage, too. Everyone was ready for the main event.
Love Revisited was marking the 10 year anniversary of Arthur Lee’s passing with their commemorative performance. Original guitarist Johnny Echols still brought that guitar magic, and the entire band overflowed with talent. They transported the room back in time with songs like “My Little Red Book,” “Orange Skies,” “A House is Not A Motel,” and many many more. They kept the music going as a groovy light show behind them pulsated to the beat. They left the room exhausted and satisfied. Wow. What a night!
Huge thanks to Luke for spearheading this project and keeping it going. From the huge response and turnout, I’m sure we’ll be seeing many more of these over the years. Don’t miss the next one!
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.