Tae Won Yu’s Poses, Kicking Giant, and REMAKE: The World In Paper in one awesome weekend

Wendy and I flew into Portland, had dinner with my old college friend and his family, and then rolled up to the Land Gallery where we immediately ran into even more friends: artists transplanted from Los Angeles Souther Salazar and Monica Choy, musicians from Brooklyn Aaron Hartman and Alicia Jo Rabins. Portland may be a small town but I guess the world has become even smaller…

Like me they traveled to Portland’s Mississippi district to attend the opening night of Tae Won Yu’s art show, REMAKE: The World in Paper. As fans of his album cover art for Built To Spill and Versus might guess, Tae’s paper constructions are as whimsical as they are meticulously crafted. Wendy and I couldn’t not buy a print.

The art was amazing but the other reason we flew up from Los Angeles was to see Tae play in his new duo, Poses, with fresh drummer Victoria Salvador. As Paul Weller went from the harder-rocking Jam to the more soulful Style Council before finding middle ground in his solo career, Tae has gone from the art-punk Kicking Giant to the R&B-tinged KG to something in the middle with Poses. Fans will not be disappointed and, yes, he is still a rock ‘n’ roll animal. And who is that setting up in the top right photo?

Rachel Carns was in attendance and Kicking Giant played an unannounced reunion set. Incredible. Awesome. The much-loved duo last played together in 1996, so this was kind of a big deal. Naturally there was plenty of Olympia indie rock royalty at the gallery, including Lois Maffeo (in black, below) and Pat Castaldo (behind Rachel and me). After the show, Wendy and I had to take a photo in front of Tae’s prints with him and Victoria.

The art opening ended at a decent hour, so our hosts Jeff and Rebecca took Wendy and me to see Superchunk at the Crystal Ballroom. Bonus! Turns out they played a very different set that they did at the El Rey in Los Angeles, chock full of great new songs. Their cover of “Where Eagles Dare” with guest vocals by the singer of openers Titus Andronicus was especially rad, since he brought the New Jersey/Misfits vibe. Gotta love the cover of The Minutemen’s “This Ain’t No Picnic” just a few days after D. Boon’s birthday, too, and “Slack Motherfucker” never gets old…

Did I mention how cool our Portland hosts are? My fellow English major at UCLA just came back from teaching for a full year in England, where he took his family with him. (Check out the blog here.) He and Rebecca actually put up Eric and me way back, circa Giant Robot 3 or 4, when they lived in Seattle and we attended a zine convention there. That was the time we met Jim Goad from Answer Me!

After walking to breakfast with Jeff and Rebecca in the quite nice Alberta Arts District, we headed over to my friend Aaron’s house to spend time with him and his little girl. I’ve known Aaron since 1996 or so, when his band IQU would stay with me while on tour. Later on, he’d pay visits with Old Time Relijun, Girls in Trouble, or not even with a band at all. It was nice to catch him at his place for once without a show to rush off to–at least not one of his.

Next, we visited Souther and Monica’s studio. When the couple lived in Los Angeles, we’d really only see each other at art shows or maybe the Giant Robot shop. So it was nice to spend time in a mellow environment, talking about life, art, family, friendship… It seems like the two have made a real home in Portland and established a nice groove for themselves. I can’t wait to see the artwork that sprouts out of it. Souther showed us some works in progress and flat-file drawers full of raw material but I was most impressed by his collection of walking sticks.

Finally, Wendy and I drove up to Olympia to catch another Poses show, this one at The Northern, hosted by one of Tae’s oldest friends and stand-up comic Jason Traeger and opened by The Owl & The Pussycat featuring Lois and Greg of The Moore Brothers. Somehow, the two can make rawest of P.A. systems sound lush, dreamy, and perfect even 10 years after their original collaboration took place. Absolutely pristine and lovely.

The Maxines were next and brought great garage rock energy–somewhere between The Hi-Fives and The Cramps. A totally different set of fans rushed into the all-ages venue and danced like crazy for them, which was cool. Although the drummer had apparently just arrived in town from Vietnam–so I guess we weren’t the hardest-core travelers–but the duo was never less than tight and totally on. Super fun.

Of course, Poses were amazing. Stripped down and raw yet fully realized and always soulful. Tae always finds the coolest drummers and Victoria is no exception with her gum-chewing smile. Even when they veered off-course and she said, “Fuck!,” she kept on smiling and drumming. Love the energy she brings and look forward to hearing new songs continue to roll out.

And then Then Kicking Giant played again. How rad was it that I got to see Tae and Rachel reunite for two surprise sets in a row? And again, it was in a tiny, not-even-packed-yet-sweaty location where everyone seemed to know each other. It doesn’t get better than that, and I consider myself very lucky to have been there. What were you doing that evening?

More hanging out! Clockwise from top left: Wendy with drummers Victoria and Rachel, Janice Headley (KEXP, Fantagraphics), Tae with Kento Oiwa, who drummed for The KG and was in IQU. What, no Danny Sasaki? Heather Dunn? Actually, I didn’t really get to know Tae until Kicking Giant became The KG and they began staying with me on tour.

Afterward everyone went over to Lois’s place, where past and present Olympians talked about the old days in the cradle of indie rock as well as caught up with new life events. Wendy and I were merely visitors and fans, but Lois was extra nice to say how much she loved what we did at Giant Robot and how our magazine brought a big world to the little town of Olympia. How awesome is she? And do you think my knees might have been a little jittery right around then?

Huge thanks to Tae for suggesting we attend his opening when we visited him in New York last month, Pat for making the very cool art show happen, Jeff and Rebecca for hosting Wendy and me in Portland, Jason for putting on such a rad gig in Olympia, and Lois for inviting us to the after party. Extra hugs and pounds to all the old and new friends we saw, and please come down to Los Angeles so we can return the hospitality and introduce you to Eloise!