Monday night was the penultimate performance of the SoulMates at the Candlelight Cafe on SW 5th Street in Portland. There is only one more Monday night to go before the wrecking ball destroys what has been a West Coast landmark since the late 1930's. Soon to be in the location, a new stop on Portland's Tri-Met Light Rail line. Ahhh, "imminent domain."
With all of that in the future, it was nowhere to be found in the present. There was no feeling of gloom or sadness in the air. Quite the opposite. There was celebration in the air. There was excitement. But it was something different for everyone.
The SoulMates hit the ground running. The usual instrumental opening was like a meteor shower; something to see wherever you looked into the Candlelight sky. Jay "Bird" Koder launched into an early and impressive guitar solo. Keyboardist Jarrod Lawson kept looking over in admiration and played a brilliant solo himself at his turn. Then Reinhardt Melz entered with a blistering drum solo and when all was finished Kris Magaurn smiled brightly and exclaimed, "And this is the first song!"
They came out breathing fire and why not? They had not performed together in two weeks. The week's rest was apparent to all as the SoulMates burned the night away. That burning took all shapes and expressions.
It burned in the light of birthday candles for Lance Giles, everyone's favorite Seattle sojourner who makes the 2 1/2 hour trip to Portland just to see his SoulMates. He got birthday wish after birthday wish granted and granted again. Bird sent out three songs in honor of Lance, and the SoulMates granted an extended encore request from Lance in the form of She's Right (and I'm Wrong, one of his favorites.
As I have said before, everyone calls Lance the Number One Fan of the SoulMates. And he is a huge fan. We are all huge fans of the SoulMates, but it is fair to say that we are also fans of Lance Giles. He is a kind man and a gentle man. He makes room for others and simply enjoys the presence of those who share a love for this remarkable trio. He hugs like he means it. He is not false and he makes you glad to be around him. Happy Birthday, Lance.
But celebration was not the only interpretation of the night. Sweet Monica Miller, the theologian-in-residence at the Candlelight came back to the table after the SoulMates had played their own composition Fly Away and said, "Travis! You know what this is? This is a revival!"
And she was right. In the face of demise, in the shadow of termination, there was that feeling of jubilation. Even the set selection set that mood. From the high-energy first number to the tonality of the second, a movement was established. By the third song, it was scratchy then growling. It was down-right dirty. The song was another original number called French Quarter and I once described it as slow-dancing with a toothless, old voodoo queen. Intoxicating and nasty.
This was followed by the soaring and uplifting and refreshing Fly Away. So smooth and satisfying. Bird strolled through the audience like Jesus walking among the multitudes, handing out forgiveness and free healthcare. Wait... what?
The follow-up was another instrumental (the fifth straight such) and it was punctuated by drummist Reinhardt's punch and counter-punch with Jarrod's keys. It reminded me of Muhammad Ali's "shoe shine" combination; a rapid-fire series of punches that worked the opponent's body from waist to ribs. Devastating.
This was Monica's revival-- punishing body blows against sadness and despair and the feeling that the SoulMates were looking out for you in the best possible way. Soul chasing the blues away. Oh, yeah. It was a revival.
And it was a reunion. Not only was Lance in attendance, and Monica and her man Jonah, and Michael and Theresa G, and Michael and Kris Magaurn, and Barney and Kasandra Early and all the rest. But Miss Connie Koder and daughter Michelle were there as was the Bird's sister, Deedee. In fact, it was Deedee who received the dedication for the above-mentioned Fly Away.
Without announcing the song Man 4 U, Jay "Bird" simply said "This one goes out to Connie." The audience cheered at the opening chords because the regulars all know that this song was written for Connie and it is a delight to see it played to her. In the following number, Bird walked back to where Connie was sitting to give a little wolf-call with his guitar. Cheers again.
For Michelle, who was there with her boyfriend, Bird pointed to her and said, "This is for YOU." The song... Can't Hide Love. Apparently, she decided to take the song's advice and she took her boyfirend out to the dance-floor. Sweet.
All this was in the first set.
After the break, Chris Matthews sat in on drums for a number and later the trio was joined by Arietta Ward. Tim came up to her as she took the stage and kissed her on the cheek. He was mirroring what everyone feels when she joins in. J.D. came out from behind the bar at Jimmy Mak's jazz club to see the second set, as he always does. A lover of great music, J.D. expressed the thrill at seeing Arietta play with the SoulMates. One of the songs she performed with them was Fly Like an Eagle and after Bird's solo shredding, Arietta shook her head and said "I get all discombobulated when you do something like that."
It was a night of triumph and sheer joy in the face of an ending. But possibilities present themselves when respect and joy and a will for love are the crowning virtues of any family. As one young woman told Bird at the end of the evening, "Your guitar tore a hole in the universe." If there is a new hole in the universe, anything can happen. Just step in...